Podcast: The future of video game studies with Dr. Shira Chess

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The Grady Research Radio podcast recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Shira Chess, an associate professor in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies at Grady College, a game studies researcher, and the author of books including “Play Like a Feminist” and “Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity.” 

Over the summer, Dr. Chess published an introduction for an article in the journal Critical Studies in Media Communication titled “The future of media studies is game studies,” which shines a light on the significance of video games in the broader field of communication studies. 

In the episode, Dr. Chess discusses her writing, why video games may not get the attention they deserve, and what the future may hold.  

Below is a transcription of the episode, edited for clarity and brevity.

Shira Chess holding up a cake designed to look like her book Ready Player 2.
Shira Chess cutting the cake during a celebration for the release of “Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity” in 2017. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)

Grady Research Radio: What is game studies? 

Shira Chess: A lot of scholars out there are studying video games and have been for a while now. It’s been an emerging field since around the late 1990s, when games stopped being considered toys and started really increasingly being considered media objects.

Grady Research Radio: You recently published an article titled “The future of media is game studies.” Can you explain what that article is, just a brief overview?  

Shira Chess: It was an introduction to a special issue. So, to back up a little bit, one of my academic heroes, Mia Consalvo, and I were talking about something we could work on together during the pandemic. And, you know, things were pretty glum during the pandemic, in general, for a lot of people. We were trying to think of a project that would really get us excited about what it was that we did again. 

The idea of the special issue wasn’t just about one specific topic in game studies, but was highlighting the potential in the future and looking to younger scholars and junior scholars to see where they see the field emerging. So, the article that I wrote was largely an introduction to that special issue. 

We did sort of have this provocation as the premise, you know, that the future of media studies is game studies. A big reason for that is, what happens in academic conferences a lot of times is that everybody kind of stays in their silos. You go to an academic conference or you read journal articles and you tend to stay in your little silos of what you’ve been studying and what everybody around you has been studying. And you sort of continually look at the same things over and over again. 

I’m making some broad generalizations. There are certainly academics who do not do that. But, at conferences, for instance, a lot of times what happens is you don’t end up seeing the scholarship and the changes in a specific subfield because you just haven’t been paying attention. 

So, we sort of started teasing out this idea — media studies folks could really learn a lot by stopping and looking at game studies, even if they’re not somebody who studies video games specifically or plays video games. And that is sort of a reflection of a larger problem, something that I’ve studied a lot, which is how people tend to be very dismissive of video games, you know, treat them like they’re a toy and like there’s no content there to study. Really, they are rich with content. They are overflowing with content. 

Part of my career has been trying to talk to people about video games, why they should reconsider them, and why we need to expand the market of video games. This article was very much trying to do the same thing within media studies, trying to convince people who are media studies scholars and maybe study television or film or other areas and say, “But wait, maybe you should look at some game study scholarship, some emerging scholars, and take a look at some things they’re doing, because you might be surprised.”

Grady Research Radio: So, why do you think there is this resistance to accepting game studies, or even video games in general, as a viable source of media and not just a game? 

Shira Chess: I mean, I think it’s changing. I think, in terms of resisting game studies, it’s just as I said. I don’t know that a lot of scholars are like, “ugh, game studies.” It’s more like, “That’s not for me.” 

But the problem is, with the way corporate conglomeration works and with the way that transmedia storytelling works, we all are studying digital games to some extent. Everything has gotten a little bit more fuzzy. That does matter, in the same way that television matters in a different way than it did a decade ago, with the advent of streaming services, right? Television is different than what it was. Video games are different from what they were.

In terms of why people are dismissive of video games — I started off by saying scholarship on games and violence, or scholarship on games and addiction, looking at those sort of salacious things creates a low-level moral panic sometimes. But the reality is that video games are a medium still figuring themselves out, and we’re only really just now starting to see what they are and what they can become.

Grady Research Radio: Absolutely. I don’t want to ask you to speculate too much, but what do video games have to offer that the general public may not necessarily see?

Shira Chess: So, a couple of things that I have written about in the past. 

This is not my specific area, but I know a lot of good scholars, such as Aubrey Anable and Katherine Isbister, have written about games and affect. Video games are particularly well situated to get us thinking about the emotions of others and put our subject in somebody else’s body. That’s pretty cool, right? It is in a way that films and television sometimes can do, but that reliance on action puts us in a place where we might empathize differently with different subject positions. 

One thing that I’ve written about a bit is video games and agency, or will to act. Video games are training machines. They teach us how and when to act on things and get us to think about our actions.

And then, in general, there are some video games out there that are just aesthetically beautiful. In the same way that books and film and television are beautiful, there are beautiful video games out there.

I am certainly not saying that somebody should dump all of the other media in their lives and replace it all out with video games. That would be ridiculous. But I do think that there are opportunities to play games in ways that will give us moving experiences similar to other forms of media.

Grady Research Radio: Great. So back to the article. You did touch on a lot of this already, but can you go back and explain your argument, the purpose of this article and where it’s all going? 

Shira Chess: The argument was basically, “Hey, look over here.” It’s not deep. It wasn’t meant to be deep. It was more like, you know, we’ve gathered together some young junior scholars that do have some interesting arguments, and we think that you should read them. 

We specifically asked the scholars to write things that were on the shorter side, to make it a little bit more accessible, to make it a smattering of a lot of ideas, rather than a couple of big thoughts. 

Basically, when we approached people, we were like, “What do you think is the future of game studies?” And everybody kind of took that assignment a little bit differently and responded to it in different ways. So, all of these people, collectively, created this tapestry of different ideas and thoughts, which was really what we were looking to do in the first place.

Grady Research Radio: This might be kind of a two-part question. Game studies is a relatively new thing. Video games are relatively new. But, do you believe that it has been on an upward trajectory in terms of people accepting it as a valid form of media? Do you foresee this article, this whole idea, having a positive impact on game studies? 

Shira Chess: I think that, in general, people are taking video games more seriously than they have. But I think that’s with a caveat, right? 

I think that there are more people playing video games than ever before, because mobile devices make games more accessible. You are hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t play any kind of digital game, whether that is a console-based game, whether that is Candy Crush Saga, or whether that’s Wordle, right? Once you start expanding your definition of what a digital game is, you realize we should all be in on this conversation about what they can look like and what they can be.

I think, though, that at the same time, it’s brought in new layers of anxieties. For a long time, people would come to me, you know, both inside and outside of academia, and they would say, “Oh you study video games. They’re so violent.” Or somebody would write a journal article talking about violent video games. And my first answer would always be, “Which video games?” Because, you know, I spent a large portion of my career studying Diner Dash and Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Other than some aesthetic violence in Kim Kardashian Hollywood, I would say that that’s not a very violent game, right? 

But the problem is, the industry and audiences often centralize the games that are violent, or the games that are big console games. We’re starting to see that breakdown a little bit. And with that comes a lot of anxieties within the industry, because the industry itself goes through phases of free fall, and there have been problems over the last couple of decades. But, at the same time, I would say that some of the anxieties about video games and violence have been replaced with anxieties by video games and addiction. 

And that’s not to say that those things aren’t real or not worth talking about. But this medium is still figuring itself out. And by ignoring the product, we don’t get to shape the medium.

Grady Research Radio: Thank you for joining us today.

Shira Chess: Thank you very much for having me here.

Alumnus brings documentary film to Tate Theatre

Michael Peroff (left) and co-writer Hal Rifken (right) shoot b-roll for film
Michael Peroff (left) and co-writer Hal Rifken (right) shoot b-roll for film. (Photo: Michael Peroff)

“Behind the Strings,” a Shanghai Quartet documentary film, will premiere at the University of Georgia’s Tate Theatre on Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m. 

The Tate Theatre screening will be free for all attendees and be followed by a live video conference Q&A with Grady College alumnus Michael Peroff (ABJ ‘67), who produced, executive produced and co-wrote the film, and members of the quartet. 

“Behind the Strings” dives into the lives of the members of the globally successful Shanghai Quartet. It follows them on their rise to the top and shows what it takes to stay there. It also reveals why China keeps inviting them back to play their once forbidden music. 

“The story is about how a successful quartet achieved success and what it takes,” said Peroff. “It is about the life they lead, how they became successful and the price they pay.”

The story takes viewers back to the time of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Four young musicians fled to the West, as classical music was banned in China. Isolated and dejected, the musicians overcame the language and cultural barriers against them to become one of the preeminent string quartets in the United States. 

The quartet studied with masters, attended Juilliard and began performing at major music festivals and well-regarded classical music venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and The Kennedy Center. Along the way, the original cellist decided to leave, and the quartet brought on a highly praised, young graduate student from Spanish Harlem with a “New York attitude.”

Rifken shoots video of the Shanghai Quartet.
Rifken shoots video of the Shanghai Quartet. (Photo: Michael Peroff)

The pressures of their immense success, spending 180 days each year on the road, and their teaching responsibilities created a host of new challenges. The quartet persisted, though, and has played a major role in helping Western classical music gain new acceptance in China, where they now regularly sell out shows.

The film, which originally debuted in 2020, has won and been considered for numerous awards, including being named “Best Documentary Film” at the Jarvis Classical Arts Film Festival and being nominated as “Best of Festival” at the Richmond International Film Festival.

“Beyond the Strings” is being brought to campus by the Center for Asian Studies, Department of Entertainment & Media Studies, Department of History, Department of Theatre and Film Studies and the Hugh Hodgson School of Music.

#ProfilesofTenacity: Xander Chiaramonte

Third year Xander Chiaramonte says tenacity is all about persistence. The entertainment and media studies major co-founded Clear Mountain Entertainment, LLC. with his brother, which he also serves as the chief creative officer.

Why did you choose your major?

Since I was very little, my younger sisters and I would create all sorts of short content on iMovie or take photos of flowers for hours. I feel that in a lot of ways, and because of the internet, digital media and our generation matured in extremely congruent years. This constantly emerging digital medium always captivated me, and the more I explored, the more enthralled I became. This curiosity led me into photography and videography as means of expression, philanthropy, and value I could provide to my community. 

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

I think my most memorable Grady experience has to be my first day of “Production Basics.” It was the first time I was able to work on tangible production work in an academic setting, whereas I would always seek those experiences outside of school throughout high school. Finally getting to experiment with this type of work in school with Professor Biddle and my equally excited classmates is so refreshing. 

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?

Professor Fortmueller provided me with an invaluable perspective into the landscape of the film and television industries, which allowed me to form a better understanding of where I wanted to fit in within that landscape. Professor Fortmueller is a fantastic and approachable resource for me to discuss my ideas and to learn about topics that I am excited about outside of class, especially Ciné! 

What does tenacity mean to you?
Xander films with a 360-degree camera at Classic City Jam. (Photo:submitted)

Tenacity, to me, is synonymous with persistence. Many people are smart, talented, or driven, but in the face of adversity or true challenge, none of that will ever matter. It is persistence and persistence alone that drives individuals through those experiences. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

The best advice I have received regularly is that “everything changes.” My mother always reminds me of this and grounds me in the reality that in life, just like in nature, everything is in a constant state of change. This advice has always helped me to not get hung up on the little things and keep on moving. 

Xander with his mom, holding up a Classic City Jam poster
Xander says his biggest accomplishment in the past year was organizing the Classic City Jam event he organized. Here he is pictued (middle) with his mom and Grady student James Hawran (right). (Photo:submitted)
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

My brother and I formed Clear Mountain Entertainment, LLC in 2021. In this past year, the biggest accomplishment has to be holding a day-long festival called “Classic City Jam” in downtown Athens. The reception from the Athens community and UGA students was unbelievable and has allowed us to begin working on much larger events and productions than we expected to produce at this point in our business.

What do you plan to do after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to pursue an MFA in film and television production and continue to work on Clear Mountain Entertainment in Athens and Atlanta. I hope to work on productions in the Atlanta film market and continue learning and connecting with driven individuals in the industry. 

What is an example of a time you used your skills in a real-world experience?

Almost everything I work on outside of school has been centered around these digital media skills, both within Clear Mountain Entertainment and Xander Chiaramonte Media (xanderchiaramonte.com). Through these two endeavors and constantly testing myself into different software programs, technical roles, and ideation has allowed me to constantly surprise myself as to what I (and anyone) can do simply with a computer or camera. 

Where is your go-to restaurant in Athens?

Chuck’s Fish on Broad. Some uptown chicken and a sushi roll or two from Chuck’s can change your whole life.

Keith Wilson to premiere new film ‘I Didn’t See You There’ at Ciné

I Didn’t See You There,” a new film produced by Keith Wilson, a lecturer in Grady College’s Department of Entertainment and Media Studies (EMST), will make its Georgia premiere at Ciné on Wednesday, Oct. 19. The screening is one of two upcoming local events involving Wilson.

The film, which had its theatrical opening at the Firehouse Cinema in New York City on Sept. 30, won the Directing Award for U.S. Documentary at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. It follows a disabled filmmaker who launches into an unflinching meditation on spectacle, (in)visibility and the corrosive legacy of the Freak Show, after a circus tent goes up outside of his Oakland apartment. 

“About three years ago, I saw some early footage the director had shot for the film, and it quite literally changed the way in which I moved through the world,” said Wilson, a director, creative producer and visual artist. “In 76 cinematic minutes, it manages to convey joy, anger, criticality, messiness and perfection while presenting a perspective that is new to most audiences. I’m grateful to Grady and the EMST Department — particularly Kate Fortmueller and Jay Hamilton — for making it possible to bring ‘I Didn’t See You There’ to Athens.”

Ciné Athens is located at 234 West Hancock Avenue. The screening is at 8 p.m.

Performative Lecture: Gangway

On Wednesday, Oct. 12, one week prior to the the screening of “I Didn’t See You There,” Wilson will be presenting a live documentary performance about a 106-year-old San Francisco gay bar called The Gangway. The event will happen at The Athenaeum. 

Before its closure in 2018, The Gangway was the site of police raids, community organizing, early HIV-AIDS activism and general joy-making. Combining archival material, 3D models and performance, this immersive piece explores new models for experiencing lost places and the creation of future narratives. 

“I am thrilled to present the Gangway in Athens at the Athenaeum, which is such an exciting, new venue for contemporary art in the Southeast,” said Wilson. “The live documentary piece not only introduces viewers to an important piece of queer history, it also questions the notion of what a film, a lecture, a performance is or isn’t.”

The Athenaeum is located at 287 West Broad Street. The event is at 6 p.m.

Campbell Johnson receives Southeast Student Award for film

Campbell Johnson, an Entertainment and Media Studies major, is the recipient of a Southeast Student Production Award for her film, “Hindsight.” She accepted the award at a ceremony at Trilith Studios July 30, 2022.

The awards are presented by the Southeast Foundation of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to prepare the next generation of television and content creators. The NATAS also presents the Emmy Awards.

Campbell Johnson with her parents, Kay and Dan Johnson in front of an EMMY step and repeat
Campbell Johnson stands with her parents, Kay and Dan Johnson at the Awards ceremony. Kay is a 1983 graduate of Grady College, and Dan is a 1984 graduate of Grady.

“I am so honored to have represented UGA and Grady at the NATAS Student Production Awards,” Johnson said. “I have had a passion for filmmaking and storytelling for my whole life, so it is so fulfilling to be able to accept this award for something I love to do.”

“Hindsight” is an extension of a film Johnson created in high school with the intention of highlighting the pressures that young girls face. “Hindsight” is about seven women in their early-20s discussing the unattainable beauty standards and pressures they face when it comes to body image and self-confidence. In “Hindsight,” these young women are given the chance to hear from their sixteen-year-old selves and share the growth they have seen and felt in the past five years.

“I wanted my film to shed light on the many insecurities we struggle with daily, in hopes that the girls’ vulnerability would help others know they are not alone,” Johnson continued. “This past spring, I realized it had been five years since this original film, and I knew it would be an amazing opportunity to show each friend of mine how far they have come.”

Johnson credits Laurena Bernabo, assistant professor, for helping her support and helping to prepare the entry.

“Not only did she help me with my submission to the Southeast Emmy’s Student Production Awards, but she has also always encouraged me to be confident in my work as a woman in film,” Johnson said.

Grady Summer Media Academies attract dozens of students from across US

This summer, a total of 52 campers from eight U.S. states and Puerto Rico traveled to Grady College to attend Summer Media Academies in Advertising and Public Relations (AdPR), Journalism and Entertainment and Media Studies (EMST). 

Akili-Casundria Ramsess of NPPA talks with students attending the Journalism Summer Camp.
Akili Ramsess of NPPA talks with students attending the Journalism Summer Academy. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)

The weeklong camps were run in partnership with the University of Georgia Summer Academy program and introduced students between the ages of 13-17 to the tools they need to become multi-skilled professionals in their desired fields.

“We were excited to return to hosting in-person camps this year,” said Stephanie Moreno (ABJ ‘06, MA ‘20), scholastic outreach coordinator at Grady College. “Participants explored our majors and learned about the variety of career paths available in the media industry. They also got a glimpse of what life is like on a college campus.” 

The AdPR camp was instructed by Tom Cullen (MA ‘18, MFA ‘21), a lecturer in the AdPR Department, and Cameron Shook (AB ’22), who graduated in May with a degree in Public Relations. They taught students how to become creative problem solvers, writers, decision-makers and persuasive communicators within traditional and new media. 

Students take notes during a lesson at Jackson Spalding.
AdPR Summer Academy students take notes during a lesson at Jackson Spalding. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)

Participants studied ways to reach target audiences and effectively communicate messages to the general public. They visited Jackson Spalding Public Relations and Marketing Agency to gain a sneak peak at life working for an agency, listened to guest lecturers, and designed an integrated campaign for a local non-profit organization, Project Safe. The camp ran from June 13-17.

“I highly recommend this summer camp,” said high school student MC O’Brien. “This camp not only teaches you the basics of AdPR but also life necessities and qualities about how to approach problems.”

Likewise, participants in the Journalism camp studied the art of interviewing, multimedia reporting, writing, editing, producing and social media storytelling. Instructors were Joe Dennis (MA ‘07, PhD ‘16), co-chair of the mass communications department and associate professor of mass communications at Piedmont University, and Heaven Jobe, a Journalism master’s student at Grady College.

Journalism Summer Academy Students sift through papers and stickers at the Red & Black headquarters.
Students in the Journalism Summer Academy visited The Red & Black, where Charlotte Norsworthy (AB ‘19, MA ‘20) shared details about what it’s like to work at a student newspaper. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)

The participants were also introduced to principles in visual journalism with a session led by Akili Ramsess, executive director of the National Press Photographers Association, headquartered at Grady College. They took a visit to The Red & Black independent student newspaper, where they caught a snapshot of a working newsroom. Throughout the week, they listened to guest lecturers, wrote articles and produced a news website, Rockstarwriters.blog. The Journalism camp also ran from June 13-17.

Ten days later, from June 27-July 1, a new group gathered for EMST camp led by Jeffrey Duncan, a third-year Ph.D. student focusing on entertainment media law, and Kimberlee Smith, a master’s student. EMST camp taught students interested in careers in film, television, radio, online, mobile and other new media industries valuable content production skills, from screenwriting to digital editing. 

Over the course of the week, the campers listened to guest lectures led by professionals in the field. A highlight was a screening of a short film and discussion with director Booker T. Mattison, an assistant professor in EMST. They also made short films, wrote scripts or designed posters for their portfolios.

Booker T. Mattison speaks to a group of students attending EMST Summer Academy in Studio 100.
EMST Summer Academy students listened to a lesson led by Booker T. Mattison, filmmaker and assistant professor in Entertainment and Media Studies. (Photo: Stephanie Moreno)

“I really love how we get hands-on presentations,” said Psalm Arias, a high school student who recently moved to Watkinsville, Georgia, from the Philippines. “Before this camp, I didn’t have a huge interest in filming. When I saw how cameras work and how lighting works, It got me very interested in it.”

This camp has given me more options and allowed me to see more spaces that I have to go into,” added Kristina Buckley, a high school student from Buford, Georgia. 

A showcase of projects is available at summermediaacademy.wordpress.com. Below is a slideshow of images taken during all three of Grady’s summer camps. For more images, visit Grady’s Flickr account

Information about 2022 Summer Media Academy opportunities will be available in late fall at grady.uga.edu/apply/high-school-discovery and www.georgiacenter.uga.edu/youth/summer-academy.

 

  • AdPR campers receive a lesson at Jackson Spalding Public Relations and Marketing Agency in Downtown Athens.
    Students in the AdPR Summer Academy took a visit to Jackson Spalding Public Relations and Marketing Agency in Downtown Athens. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)

Wunpini Fatimata Mohammed awarded 2022-2023 Sarah H. Moss Fellowship

Wunpini Fatimata Mohammed, assistant professor in Entertainment and Media Studies, has been named a recipient of a 2022-2023 Sarah H. Moss Fellowship. 

Administered by the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Georgia, the fellowship provides funds for travel and related expenses for tenure-track faculty pursuing advanced scholarship, research and study.

Mohammed’s research project is titled, “Media and Decolonization: Re-righting the Subaltern Histories of Ghana.” With this funding, she plans to travel to several cities in Ghana, including Tamale and Accra, to conduct archival research, ethnographic observations and follow-up interviews to supplement research already done which will become a scholarly book.

Wunpini Mohammed, assistant professor in EMST, teaches Entertainment Media Analysis outside in the Media Garden.
Wunpini Mohammed, assistant professor in EMST, teaches Entertainment Media Analysis outside in the Media Garden. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)

“In this research project, I am interested in examining the silenced histories of media in African communities that have historically been shut out of their own representations,” said Mohammed.

“I am going back to my community in Ghana to learn more about the media cultures of the country to satisfy some of the curiosities I had growing up as a child,” she continued. “I will be examining content on mediums such as radio and TV, focusing on how they have served as a tool for marginalization and a site of resistance within this community.”

Mohammed will be spending time at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation in Accra to sort through their archives and gather data to support the section of her book on technology and media development in Ghana.

Mohammed will also spend time at community gatherings to learn more about community relationships with media at the regional and national level. In Tamale, she will be hosted by the  Department of Communication, Innovation, and Technology of the University for Development Studies. 

“Growing up, I barely saw representations about me and my community in national media. This sparked my interest in media and the politics of media representation,” Mohammed said about what motivated her to pursue this research topic. “These experiences have inspired me to contribute to building knowledge in the field of media so that the people who come after me will have something to build on too.”

EMST major Abigail Clark earns industry honor

Grady College Entertainment and Media Studies major Abigail Clark was chosen as a multimedia journalist (MMJ) to work at the Broadcast Education Association/National Association of Broadcasters annual convention in Las Vegas, which happened April 23-26, 2022. Clark was one of four students across the United States to be awarded this opportunity. 

Abigail Clark holds a camera on her shoulder.
Abigail Clark, from Dade City, Florida, spent four days reporting on the BEA convention and NAB show. (Photo: submitted)

BEA Student MMJs are a select team of undergraduate and graduate students with the task of reporting on the BEA convention and NAB Show in real time by using and infusing a variety of storytelling methods, including text, audio, video, pictures and graphics (or infographics). Student MMJs are tasked to think outside the box while reporting on the events and bring their unique visual storytelling skills and training to life. 

 “When I was accepted into the program, I screamed with excitement for the opportunity to go to Vegas for work,” said Clark. “I never thought at this stage in life I could say I went on a trip for work-related purposes.”

Student MMJs were selected in a nationwide search by a pool of professionals and educators. Awardees received travel stipends, press passes and full access to the NAB Show Newsroom, while working under the guidance of two faculty advisors. 

Daily assignments introduced student MMJs to different aspects of media, entertainment and technology through a series of interviews and stories that cover sponsors, exhibitors, speakers, award winners and special events. The student-produced content was regularly posted on BEA’s website and through social media. 

Keith Wilson has mentored me and worked with me on all different kinds of facets of production,” said Clark. “Applying what I had learned from him through production basics and cinematography really benefited me in the MMJ Program while on site in Vegas!” 

“I was thankful to those who helped me along the way and to Dr. Hamilton for sharing the opportunity with me and to Dr. Chess for assisting me with the application and sending over a letter of recommendation,” she added. “I am also thankful to the university for all the opportunities I have had and for having the opportunity to represent such a prestigious school in a highly respected convention.” 

Content created by Clark and her fellow MMJs is available on the BEA website.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Sherry Liang

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

The only class I enjoyed in high school was newspaper, so I came into college as an intended-journalism major. I joined The Red & Black within my first month and became an editor the following semester. But I already felt stagnant, which is not a feeling you want as a freshman, so I sought a creative outlet with EMST. I wish I could reassure freshman me that both journalism and EMST would welcome (and continue to welcome) me with open arms — that pursuing both paths would change my life — but I think she already knew.

What are you passionate about?

A lot, sometimes too much. I’m passionate about independent student journalism and innovating the newsroom’s status quo. I’m passionate about people and our emotions — the way we interact and react — and finding the universal in the personal. The entertainment and journalism I grew up with rarely told the stories of my community. I never saw myself in the media industry, so I hope I can play my part in changing that for future generations.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

I hope I’ll remember the everyday moments like mingling with friends between classes, group exercises in cinematography, staying up until 2 a.m. finishing a script, sheltering from a tornado in one of the many windowless first floor classrooms, busting a kneecap open after class (unrelated to the tornado), table reads in Writers’ Room or watching film premieres at Ciné and University 16 … the list goes on. 

I also think back to when we planted seeds for ideas that would shape my college experience — like brainstorming web series concepts in Writers’ Room, pitching an AAJA chapter at UGA to Dr. Lough, the first conversations about the Backlight Student Film Festival, or the beginnings of what would become The Red & Black’s DEI Committee.

Liang served as the editor-in-chief of The Red & Black in spring 2021 (Photo: Taylor Gerlach).
What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

The students, by all means. From day one, I’ve been inspired by everyone’s dedication to each other’s work at The Red & Black, The Industry, in classrooms and on the screen. Members of Writers’ Room, for example, have exceeded every conceivable expectation of mine when I restructured the club. From first-time screenwriters to EMST veterans, everyone’s bonded over these characters and scripts that we’ve created. I’m also beyond impressed by students on the Selection Committee for the Backlight Student Film Festival, who have spent nearly 10 hours across three weeks watching and judging film submissions. This level of commitment and collaboration is a trademark of the students at this college.

As I round out my senior year, I feel like I’ve finally found my place with my people. Graduating and leaving UGA feels bittersweet and pre-nostalgic, but I am mostly relieved that given the volatility of the universe and its infinite possibilities, we all found ourselves here, together, if only for a moment. (Existential thoughts courtesy of Everything, Everywhere All at Once.)

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

Directing my first short film this semester was one of the most surreal moments of my college career. I’ve written a few scripts, so that part of the process was familiar. But as I watched actors bring the characters I created to life, heard people laugh at these jokes I wrote from my bed at 3 a.m., and witnessed an entire crew devote their many precious hours to execute my story — I felt a type of unbridled joy and gratitude that I had never experienced in a collaborative environment. I’ll chase that feeling and those people for as long as I create. 

(Bonus full-circle moment: The film is about student journalism!)

What are you planning to do after graduation?

Lots of soul-searching, a bit of traveling, and hopefully some revelatory experiences — but first, the Cannes Film Festival.

A behind the scenes look at Liang’s short film directorial debut (Photo: Jaida Green).
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?

Coming in as a beginner, I was intimidated by EMST before even setting foot in a classroom. But over the last two years, I’ve never had a professor who expected us to know everything. Professor Evans taught my first screenwriting class, and from day one, he emphasized improvement above all else. Your work doesn’t have to be perfect, it might never be, but you just have to do and improve. I’ve always had some level of performance anxiety, and reminding myself of that philosophy has been liberating. As a chronic procrastinating perfectionist, it’s what motivated me 24 hours before the deadline to write my first TV pilot that became a BEA Festival finalist. It wasn’t a perfect script — one judge’s comments made that very clear — but that’s one script (and an award) more than I had before I started. 

Who is your professional hero?

I have so many. UGA alumnae Kendall Trammell, Elaine Reyes, Samira Jafari, Alex Laughlin and Amanda Mull are just a handful of the journalists who inspire me. Editors at CNN and The Red & Black have shaped my confidence and voice as a journalist. The writer-director in me also looks up to the power-duo of Lulu Wang and Barry Jenkins (who share a dog-child with a hyphenated last name — talk about life goals). 

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I talk to myself a lot, entire conversations. Sometimes I’ll mute my podcast in the car just to hear myself talk … to myself. Most of these answers came from me talking to myself. 

Where is your favorite place on campus and why?

My body is actually solar-powered. Give me some sun, a few trees, maybe a sprinkling of fall foliage or spring flowers, and I’m there. I frequent Herty Field or the MLC stone benches for napping, and outside the PAF for a solid four-legged table to do some work. You can also find me gazing off into the sunset at Lake Herrick to inspire an aforementioned revelatory experience … been doing a lot of that lately.



Three students take home awards at 2022 BEA Festival of Media Arts

Work created by students in Grady College’s Department of Entertainment and Media Studies earned high recognition at this year’s Broadcast Education Association (BEA) Festival of Media Arts competition. 

Benjamin Otten, an EMST student from Athens, Georgia, earned an award of excellence in the competition’s narrative category for his short film “As it Lies.” Likewise, Sherry Liang, an EMST student from Johns Creek, Georgia, and MFA student Taylor Potter (AB ‘21), who is from Acworth, Georgia, both took home awards of excellence in the short narrative film/half-hour television category. Liang was recognized for her film “Cheater, Cheater,” while Potter received recognition for her film “Wheelhouse.”

Each year, this competitive challenge receives more than 1,500 submissions from students and faculty from around the world. The BEA, a nonprofit organization in Washington D.C., focuses on driving insights in media production and career advancement for educators, students and professionals around the globe. 

Otten’s “As it Lies” wins award of excellence, narrative category

Otten’s “As it Lies” tells the story of a grief-stricken golfer, Phil, who notoriously does not play it as it lies on the course or off. However, this habit is challenged with the arrival of a divot tool from Phil’s late father, and he has to decide whether to become the person his family needs him to be or to fall further into the bunker. 

Otten, who started writing his script in Professor Matthew Nolte Evans’ class, said that he found a lot of inspiration from both movies like “Field of Dreams” that use sports as metaphors and from his own experience playing with his dad on the golf course.

“I was really excited to see it selected as a finalist in the most competitive category of the festival,” Otten said about his film. “This really assured me that the amount of work that went into the project (from development to post) was worth it. It’s also encouraged me to produce more work to submit and possibly grab a top prize in the coming year.”

Liang’s “Cheater, Cheater” wins award of excellence, short narrative film/half-hour television category

Liang’s dark comedy series “Cheater, Cheater” follows a student journalist’s investigation of her competitive high school’s cheating scandals, which lead to webs of deception and corruption beyond control. 

Liang, who thanks Professor Evans for helping her find her voice and confidence in screenwriting, gained inspiration for the script by looking back at her own high school experience. 

“Writing a script about the absurdities of attending a competitive high school is much cheaper than therapy,” said Liang. “Four years later, I’m still processing my high school experience — mostly characterized by crippling academic pressures, but I also have fond memories of friends, family and growing up in a vibrant Asian community that I hoped to capture in narrative form.” 

This was the first time Liang has ever submitted a script to anything out of class, she explained. For that reason, Liang said she is flattered that people found the story entertaining. 

“There’s a long way to go for the story,” said Liang. “I’ve already rewritten parts of it. But I’m proud of myself for starting a script that I’ve been putting off for so long … two years, to be exact.”

Potter’s “Wheelhouse” wins award of excellence, short narrative film/half-hour television category

Potter’s script tells the story of Dani Brubaker, a failed screenwriter. After returning from Los Angeles to her humble origins in Georgia, Brubaker receives one last chance to prove herself—on a reality car show. However, there are three problems with her potential career saving opportunity: Dani knows nothing about cars, she is forced to move back in with her parents and the show is on the brink of falling apart. 

Potter, who thanks Constance Burge of the MFA Narrative Media Writing program for helping with the project, got the idea for the story after working on a reality car show in spring 2020. 

“It was an absolutely crazy time, and I thought to myself, this show writes itself,” said Potter. “This past fall, in my first semester of the MFA, I decided to write what I know and set out to pen this script, which incorporates a fictionalized version of my experience working on a reality car show.”

This is the second year in a row Potter has been awarded at BEA festival, splitting the last year’s top overall prize in the student category with Ana González (AB ‘21) for their television pilot “Buyer’s Remorse.”

Potter said she is “so excited and thankful to have a script accepted and awarded at BEA two years in a row.”

“Receiving an award from them really means a lot to me and helps affirm that I’m on the right path,” Potter added. “It’s also really fun to share this experience with another Grady student, Sherry Liang, who received an award of excellence as well. Here’s to writing the next one!”