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Beth Balaban, '11

Graduate student in Media Art


Beth Balaban Broadens Her Skills in the MFA Media Art Program

Beth Balaban finds a deeper understanding of her passion of documentary filmmaking in the MFA Media Art program. (Filmed and edited by Emerson students.)

Beth Balaban

Q. Why did you choose Emerson?
I knew that I wanted to be on the East Coast. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do within the film world. Emerson seemed to offer me the ability to explore a range of topics and formats within a single program and to collaborate with students in all of these other disciplines.

Q. What do you love about your field/major?
I love that documentary can change the way you perceive the world. You see a vision of someone else's life on the screen, and when you walk back out into the light of day you might just see people around you in a different manner. Or the people seeing you might be looking at someone new. I think it's that powerful.

Q. What do you like about Emerson?
There's a "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" sort of feel to Emerson. You aren't coddled here. There is no golden path. You have to raze one for yourself, and when you do, you'll be all the better for it.

Q. How does the Emerson community help you thrive as a student?
It isn't necessarily competitive in the MFA program. I mean, there's competition, for sure. Everyone is talented. But the members of the community aren't out to trample one another. We're all here to help each other grow.

Q. Describe a typical day or week.
There is no typical day as a filmmaker or as a graduate student at Emerson. On a good day, I sleep very little, I edit an enormous amount, I meet with a professor or fellow filmmaker to discuss work, and I still have time for a screening at the HFA at night. On a bad day, I might waste hours traveling down a creative path that leads to nothing. But it's always challenging and exciting and therefore rewarding.

Q. How have Emerson faculty helped you?
It's funny - the faculty at Emerson has helped me in ways that I really didn't expect they would. It isn't always as directly related to my work as one would assume it would be. A lot of my instructors have mentored me in my outer and inner life, and that has spilled over into my work. I'm guessing that was the idea all along. I just didn't know that was how it would happen.

Q. How have you changed personally between your first day at Emerson and now?
Besides growing in technical and practical knowledge, I am, I would say, a more focused person than the first day I started at Emerson. I know what I want to do, what I need to do, and what kind of work will allow me to look back some day and be satisfied with a life well spent.

Q. What do you hope to do with your Emerson degree?
Well, it'll probably be sitting in the back of a closet collecting dust. I, however, will hopefully be traveling to the far ends of the earth to collect dying moments and preserve remnants of our existence.

Q. What advice would you give to an incoming Emerson student?
My advice is not to follow anyone's advice but your own. There are a lot of voices out there. Try to retain the one in your own head.