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Nearly 200 Emerson College students, alumni, faculty, family, and friends celebrated the diverse talent of Emersonians at the 15th annual Emerson Los Angeles (ELA) Film Festival on October 10.
The temperature approached 100 degrees, bringing heat to a jam-packed festival that included an animation workshop for children taught by the creative minds behind the Netflix series BoJack Horseman; a panel about the explosion of online comedy shorts featuring people from BuzzFeed, Funny or Die, and CollegeHumor; and exciting tech demonstrations.
Outfest panelists Our Lady J, Guinevere Turner, Wilson Cruz, Phillip J. Bartell, Ean Weslynn, and Jen Richards. (Photo by Darian Carpenter '15)
During the festival’s Out On Screen and Behind the Camera panel, actors, writers, and leading LGBT voices had a poignant discussion about why their fight isn’t over in Hollywood.
“When [Hollywood] tells trans stories, it is always the most narrow trans story possible,” said Jen Richards, a transgender activist featured on I Am Cait and the upcoming web series Her Story, during the panel. “Are we at a point where we can just create?”
Other members of the panel, which was sponsored by the nonprofit organization Outfest, included actress Guinevere Turner; editor Phillip J. Bartell; actor and writer Ean Weslynn; and Our Lady J, a transgender writer on the TV series Transparent. Wilson Cruz, the first actor to play an openly gay character in a leading role on television, moderated the panel.
Ean Weslynn, Guinevere Turner, Phillip J. Bartell, Lucy Mukerjee-Brown, Outfest's director of programming, Wilson Cruz, Our Lady J, and Jen Richards. (Photo by Darian Carpenter '15)
“I’m so excited to talk about issues in Hollywood that matter, progress that we’ve made, and change that still needs to happen,” said Our Lady J.
During a curated film program celebrating voices of diversity sponsored by the EBONI Alumni Association, a selection of shorts, not-yet-released work, clips, and student films that were written, directed, or produced by Emerson alumni was screened. A discussion afterward, moderated by veteran actor Brent Jennings ’74, featured actor, writer, and director Judyann Elder ’67 along with the filmmakers.
Felicia Pride MA '05 and Marlene McCurtis '79. (Photo by Darian Carpenter '15)
“People seemed to really like the selection of films and it really exemplifies the talent coming out of Emerson College,” said Felicia Pride MA ’05, who helped organize the program with Marlene McCurtis ’79.
Throughout the festival, attendees were able to get a glimpse of Hollywood’s future through various technology demonstrations. Wild Rabbit Productions, a commercial drone company, brought two of its drones to ELA for a discussion about the art of using drone technology in film. 3D Live, a pioneering technology company pushing the boundaries of live entertainment, set up virtual reality demonstrations, which enabled festivalgoers to experience a simulated roller coaster ride, 3D painting, and a virtual reality tour of ELA.
Festival attendees participate in tech demonstrations by 3D Live. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)
Hao Zheng ’15 said the demonstrations were his favorite part of the festival.
“I’ve been trying to do something with virtual reality for a long time because I feel like that’s the future,” said Zheng, an aspiring filmmaker hoping to bring VR to China. “It’s so cool Emerson is doing this.”
At the end of the night, Sofia Caetano, MFA ’16, and Jacquie Carriere ’16 won a special Dr. Marcia Robbins-Wilf Women in Film Production Award, splitting the $2,500 prize.
From left: Jonathan Ade '07, Felicia Pride MA '05, Benjamin Freiburger '99, Kevin Bright '76, ELA Vice President and Founding Director, Micah Levin '08, Quinn Beswick '10, Josh Margolin, and Amy Grill, Festival Director. (Photo by Darian Carpenter '15)
Jonathan Ade ’07, winner of the alumni Best of Festival Award, said the $2,000 prize would go a long way in helping him pay back some of the debt he accrued while making his short film, Lay in Wait. He described winning the award as meaningful.
“It feels full circle,” said Ade. “I premiered the film here at ELA.”
From left: Anna Feder, director of programming in the Department of Visual & Media Arts, Noah Aust '15, Jacqui Carriere '16, Cooper Vahceron '16, Sofia Caetano MFA '16, Kevin Bright '76, ELA Vice President and Founding Director, and Amy Grill, Festival Director. (Photo by Darian Carpenter '15)
Cooper Vacheron ’16 won the student Best of Festival Award for his documentary, Very Happy Life. He said he would use the $2,000 prize on future projects and to give back to the people who worked on the documentary. Vacheron said he was looking forwarding to calling ELA home for the spring 2016 semester.
“I’m excited to live in LA, be at the center, and see where I will intern,” said Vacheron, who plans to submit another short film he just completed for consideration at next year’s ELA Film Festival.