#ProfilesOfTenacity: Midori Jenkins

What are you passionate about? 

I am passionate about storytelling. It’s one of our only modes of making a world of conflict and turmoil into one of meaning and opportunity. Honestly, I’m so fascinated by stories themselves. They are powerful because they allow for us to experience a perspective entirely different than our own. 

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you? 

Tenacity is remaining persistent, pushing boundaries and never taking no for an answer. It’s refusing to limit yourself or settle for mediocrity.   

What was the hardest part about adjusting to COVID-19 in your life as a student and early career professional? 

The hardest part about adjusting to the pandemic was simply being away from other people. I took for granted how much interaction with peers and professors influenced my educational experience. Now with campus returning to normal, it’s clear the extent to which I missed the energy of other students.  

What is your favorite app or social media channel and why?

Letterboxd is definitely my favorite app. It’s so entertaining to log movies and see how my opinions differ from my friends and other movie fans. The app even totals how many movies you’ve watched; this year alone I’ve seen 153 films! 

What is your most memorable Grady experience? 

Last summer, I had the opportunity to attend the Summer at the Circus study abroad program. To say that it was an experience I will never forget is an understatement. I tested my creative limits, made lifelong friendships with amazing students from Grady and other universities, all while having the unwavering support of the university and Creative Circus faculty. Attending a program that was traditionally for advertising students forced me out of my comfort zone but, I will be forever grateful of the skills gained and memories made.  

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?  

 “You have nothing to prove, only to share.” I think it’s easy to compare yourself to other people or feel like you aren’t good enough, especially when trying to enter a competitive industry. This has definitely been an important reminder that what you bring to the table is valuable, and that despite challenges, mental and physical health matter. You have to remember your worth.  

What has been your proudest moment in the past year? 

My proudest moment in the past year was being nominated by my English professor for the Moran ePortfolio Award. Writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed but, this was the first time I had ever been recognized. With all of the challenges the pandemic brought to a normal school year, it meant a lot to me that my work was able to convey the message of who I am. 

Midori and her co-interns at the Ryan Seacrest Studio in Atlanta.
What would people be surprised to know about you? 

I’m obsessed with trivia. It allows me to know a little bit about a lot of different subjects and it fuels my competitive spirit. In the summer, you can find me at trivia every Thursday. 

Where is your favorite place on campus and why? 

The Main Library is easily my go to spot. I love that the upper floors have a great view of North Campus and it’s the ideal place to focus or think. Not to mention, the Einstein Bros. Bagels on the first floor is perfect for a snack break or an early morning coffee.   

Who is your professional hero? 

My professional hero is director and screenwriter Bong Joon-ho. He is an innovator and changemaker who is increasing the diversity of the film industry by telling important and unique stories to enact social change. 

Keith Wilson awarded Sundance documentary grant

Keith Wilson, a lecturer in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies, was named recipient of a grant from the nonprofit Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program.

The fund offers non-recoupable support for nonfiction projects that continue to elevate and advance cultural dialogue and break new ground in creativity and innovation from filmmakers with a distinct voice and vision, and a meaningful connection to the work they create.

Wilson is the producer of the film, “I Didn’t See You There,” a documentary about a disabled filmmaker who launches into an unflinching meditation on freakdom and (in)visibility when a circus tent goes up near his apartment. The film is directed by Reid Davenport.

“Receiving this grant is transformative for our project,” Wilson said of the grant. “Securing funding for independent, artist-driven documentary work is always an uphill battle, so the financial piece of the award is greatly appreciated.”

Wilson was named a 2021 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow for the same film project earlier this year. The Fellowship included participation in a week-long Producers Summit, as well as year-long mentorship, creative support and networking opportunities with industry professionals.

“In many ways, the intangible support the Sundance Institute has provided us in the form of mentorship, professional development, and access to industry networks, have been even more essential than the finances,” Wilson added.  

The Documentary Fund supports the work of nonfiction filmmakers from around the world. The fund has been a critical force in supporting work that has expressed the world in creative, complex, and provocative ways, and has created cultural and social impact around some of the most pressing issues of our time.

A total of $600,000 in unrestricted grant support has been provided to the projects in various stages of production and distribution, including eight in development, eight in production, three in post-production, and one in post-production and impact. The projects’ subject matter feature topics of disability, feminist history, globalization, grief and loss, and housing inequality, among other areas. A complete list of recipient projects can be viewed here.

Grants are made possible by The Open Society Foundations, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Kendeda Fund.

This cycle, eight out of the ten U.S. films granted are helmed by at least one BIPOC director. This statistic reflects the fund’s commitment to emerging artists whose voices have been historically marginalized in hegemonic Western societies.

“With this expansive cohort, the Documentary Film Fund is holding true to its commitment to independent storytelling. As we celebrate 20 years of funding hundreds of films, these films are a tangible representation of all that we stand for and value,” said Carrie Lozano, Sundance Institute, Director of Documentary Film Program and Artist Programs.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Alaina Booth

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Believe it or not, people that don’t know me are really surprised when I tell them that I’m in school. I never talk about it because I’m always shooting or editing videos for my company, and I travel so often (shoutout only Tuesday and Thursday classes) that people don’t really ever see me posting about school.

Where is your favorite place on campus and why?

I have a little personal office space for my business in the Entrepreneurship building in Studio 225. It’s such a vibe.

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

When I thought about answering this question, I realized it was never really a choice for me. I knew I belonged in Grady, and I didn’t really think about applying to any other school. Throughout high school, I knew I wanted to do something creative, and I started making videos of my life throughout my senior year. When I got to UGA, I started out as an advertising major, but ultimately the world of entertainment excited me more. I’ve always been making things into stories, and I’m a huge dreamer, and being EMST just makes so much sense. I remember sitting in the intro class for EMST and one of the slides on the board saying, “Move to LA” and I just knew these were my people and this was my program.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about telling honest stories and I want that to be my line of work, but nothing makes me more excited than connecting with people on an emotional level through video. Outside of this, I am really passionate about encouraging people that they can do it – whatever it is they want to do. I want to be the person people feel safe talking about their dreams with, and throughout my career, I want encouragement and inspiration to be a common thread. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?

My favorite piece of advice is “Do what you can with what you have and who you know” and I love it because I think people get really overwhelmed that they need to be making HUGE things with expensive gear and amazing taste as soon as they start, but really that’s just not how you learn. And it’s way too much pressure to put on yourself. You just have to start, and you have to let go of what other people will think about your work when you’re starting out. When people ask me how I’ve built such an extensive portfolio, I tell them I literally just started! I kept saying yes to things I thought I wasn’t ready for and showing up to them like I knew exactly what I was doing. People believed me, and then eventually, I believed me too! 

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

This past summer I spent two months in Los Angeles. Throughout the summer I got an internship, worked on a couple freelance projects, continued to run my business remotely and finally, had the opportunity to be a production assistant on a huge documentary shoot. Throughout the summer, I drew knowledge from every single course I’ve taken in the EMST program, and I was so grateful for my education that I sent Dr. Hamilton an email thanking him. I knew how to give proper script coverage because of my writing for digital media class. I could properly set up a C-stand because of production basics, and I could create really awesome pitch decks thanks to the producing for the screen class. It was a very rewarding summer to see how much my education is really showing up in my future career path, and I’m really grateful for the foundation Grady has laid for me.

What are you planning to do after graduation?

Well, I love Los Angeles, so the plan is to move there and start working. I really like pretty much everything, so I’m open to following the path that excites me most. I’m particularly interested in producing, because I’m definitely a sales-minded person and will pitch in front of people all day long. I like unscripted, because I like watching the story unfold itself rather than trying to control all the aspects of it. Lately, I’m also considering marketing, because I’ve realized I approach the majority of my work with thinking “how can we make people feel an emotional connection to this piece of work?” Before I move to Los Angeles, though, I might take a year or so to travel and live in different parts of the country. I think as a media creator, the more life experience you have, the better creator you will be. So, I could call it “taking a gap year” but in reality, it’s an investment in myself as a creative person. Who knows where I’ll be in a year — I just know it won’t be boring. 

What is your favorite app or social media channel and why?

Easily Instagram. I think it’s mind-blowing that one day in like 30 years, my kids will be able to scroll down and see pictures that I posted when I was 20 years old. I mean how cool is it that we all have an internet record of our lives? If I think about it too much, I will get emotional.   

Who is your professional hero?

It might seem kind of random, but Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal and GIRLBOSS. It’s not really what she does as a profession that I look up to, but rather how she does it and how she conducts herself as a professional. She just shows up 100% unapologetically. She uses humor and realness to connect with people, and she’s not shy about her failures. She’s bold, genuine and she just makes people feel like they can do anything they want. I love that. Even though my career looks different from hers, I want to show up similarly in professional spaces. 

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

Rather than one specific moment, I’m really proud of myself for moving to L.A. alone. It wasn’t easy at first and it took a minute to adjust, but I’m really proud that I believed in myself and trusted myself to take the leap. It was the most life-giving summer I have ever experienced. So, I think rather than one singular moment, it’s all the little moments I had driving on I-10 (or I guess, sitting in traffic on I-10) that I was like “oh wait, I’m really living my dream!” 

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Cate de Castro

What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

From the start  of my time at UGA, I was surprised at how many students would go out of their way to help me. In every organization I joined there was always someone who was willing and excited to see me succeed. These individuals inspired me every day through their servant leadership. They reminded me just how important it is to take the time to reflect on those who made an impact in my life. I think at times it’s easy to take for granted the small things people do that make such an impact in other people’s lives. Little things like taking the time to read over a script or giving professional advice really helped to give me confidence and encouragement. I hope to always pay forward the kindness and support shown to me by my peers.

Who is your professional hero?

As an aspiring producer, I really admire Kevin Feige and his ability to establish a longstanding franchise. What stands out the most for me is his ability to work creatively across numerous projects and manage them in a way that enhances each other. I also respect his clear long-term ambitions for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how they further a larger story without diminishing individual films.

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

To me, tenacity means pursuing your dreams with determination and perseverance. It means knowing what you want in life and having the courage and drive to reach for it.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

One of my favorite memories from Grady has been coordinating the speed networking event for the Entertainment and Media Studies club, The Industry. It reminded me so much of my freshman year when I was first trying to find my place on campus. The Industry really helped to connect me on campus and get my foot in the door professionally. It surrounded me with other passionate storytellers who went out of their way to encourage and help me develop my passions. Coming back this year, reflecting on how much I’ve grown, and seeing all of the new freshmen who are now in my shoes was extremely rewarding and heartwarming. The Industry has been extremely instrumental during my time at UGA, and as president this year, it means a great deal to me to have so many new and familiar EMST students looking to get involved and find their home on campus.

What are you passionate about?

Filmmaking and storytelling have always played an influential role in my life and have shaped me into the person I am today. There is such power in film to experience the world through someone else, and I am constantly moved by stories’ abilities to shape our identities and perceptions. For me, one of the most beautiful aspects of film is its ability to capture the human experience and express it in a form that can be shared around the world, making us feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

What is your favorite app or social media channel and why?

YouTube is my favorite social media channel. It’s a really great way for creatives to share their work and engage with viewers. It also provides opportunities to learn new skills — it helped me so much when starting photography and filmmaking. I am constantly inspired by everyone’s work and learning new things every day.

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

This summer, I had the opportunity to work for Manalive Media Group, a startup production company, and found myself frequently pulling from the skills and knowledge I gained from Grady. As an entrepreneurism intern, I managed the Guest Speaker Program, which provided a space for relationship building and constructive conversations with leaders from the worlds of business, finance, media entertainment, government, academia and nonprofit. On the creative side, I collaborated with the film development team to conduct script coverage, develop lookbooks for projects and engage in creative discussions. 

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

This year I was accepted into UGA’s Blue Key Honor Society, which recognizes students for their scholarship, leadership and service. It was extremely heartwarming to know that I had made a positive impact on my professors, peers and community. My professors and peers have played such a crucial role in developing my passions and professional goals. I am extremely grateful for all that they have invested in me and hope to always continue learning and growing to be the best version of myself.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I love horseback riding and have been riding since I was four years old! I haven’t been able to keep up with it as much in college, but in high school I worked three jobs so I could keep riding because I loved it so much.

Where is your favorite place on campus and why?

For the past two years I have spent at Grady, Studio 100 has been a hub for creativity, collaboration and innovation. It has served as a meeting place for me to engage with industry professionals and my peers, fostering a culture of encouragement and servant leadership. To me, Studio 100 represents all the best UGA has to offer and has been the heart of my time at UGA. It demonstrates the passion, commitment and dedication the students and faculty have for their community.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Ana González

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

I initially chose UGA to go into journalism, but after learning more about the EMST program, I realized that my passion for creative writing would be a better fit in the filmmaking industry.

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

For me, “tenacity” means persisting in spite of every struggle, big or small, that comes one’s way.

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

My proudest moment this year was when my classmate Taylor Potter and I won Best Original Television Series Pilot and later the Best of Festival Student Scriptwriting Award at this year’s BEA Media Festival for our project, “Buyer’s Remorse.”

What would people be surprised to know about you?

People would be surprised to know that I can lick both of my elbows.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

My favorite memory at Grady was being part of student film crews. I’ve had such a great time helping my classmates create movies and I also learned more about myself along the way. The opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in class as well as the chance to bond with others has been the highlight of my EMST career.

What are you passionate about?

I am most passionate about representation in the media. The characters we see, whether portrayed by an actor or drawn by an artist, mean the world to someone watching. As our society continues to grow, I hope to be a part of projects that tell audience members that they are seen and heard.

What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

My fellow EMST majors as a whole had a big impact during my time at UGA. I enjoyed getting to know so many other people who were passionate about entertainment. Their drive to create encouraged me to follow my dreams of one day becoming a screenwriter.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?

My grandmother has always told me as a kid, “every problem has a solution.” No matter what roadblocks attempt to hold me back, there’s always a way to keep moving forward.

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

For my film development internship at Manalive Media Group, I apply what I’ve learned in screenwriting classes to a fast-paced environment. I enjoy collaborating with others and do my best to help my fellow interns out however I can.

Who is your professional hero?

My professional hero is Guillermo Del Toro. I enjoy seeing his imagination come to live through his movies as well as how he incorporates aspects of the real-world into his stories. The fact that he tends to lean more towards the macabre also resonates with me.

What are you planning to do after graduation? What is your dream job?

I hope to one day move out to Los Angeles to pursue a screenwriter career in film and television. I also hope to travel the world so I can see new sights and gain new sparks of inspiration.

What has been the hardest part about adjusting to COVID-19 in your life as a student and future professional?

For me, the hardest thing COVID-19 has done is make all my internship experiences online. I have definitely learned a lot from these remote programs, but I am eager to begin working in-person as soon as possible.

What is your favorite app or social media channel?

My favorite app is Snapchat.

Where is your favorite place on campus?

My favorite place on campus is the turtle pond outside of the ecology building. My Dawg Camp group was introduced to it back in 2017 and it has remained my favorite spot throughout college.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Derek Walker

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

I wanted to study filmmaking in college, so Grady’s Entertainment and Media Studies program was the perfect match. I was excited that I would get to study writing, directing, editing, cinematography and even a little about the industry itself.

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

I’m proud that despite the pandemic, I took lots of opportunities to improve my craft and be creative. I worked on even more films and videos for myself and others than even outside of a COVID year.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’m a huge Pokemon fan! It’s the only video game franchise I’ve consistently played since 2008.

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

Tenacity to me means the constant pursuit of a goal or improvement. With each project I complete, I look for ways that I can do the job better going forward. I make note of the things I learn and find ways to apply it in the future.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

Going to the Virtual Reality lab was one of my most memorable Grady experiences. Fruit Ninja is a lot more exciting when it actually feels like you are swinging the swords and you can do that with VR. VR enhances gameplay and visual experiences in some exciting and interesting ways. It has so much potential that I can’t wait to see realized.

Who is your professional hero?

I admire Donald Glover and how he operates in music, television and comedy. He does not limit himself to one creative avenue.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor/mentor/family member?

This is not a piece of advice that I’ve gotten from one particular source, but through conversations with people and my own personal experience. I learned you will not be “you” forever. We constantly change as people and grow, hopefully for the better. I had a pessimistic feeling that if I didn’t already have a natural affinity for something by now, I would never be good at it. I think that mindset was born from a misguided thought that I wouldn’t continue to develop, learn and improve after a certain age. Yes, there are some goals that will be out of reach forever, but we have the potential to accomplish something great even if we don’t show signs of it when we want to.

What are you planning to do after graduating? What is your dream job?

I would like to create and show run an original fictional series on television or produce feature films. How exactly I will mark out those paths post-graduation is a mystery to me. Right out of college, I’m looking to work in post-production as a video editor or become a writer’s assistant.

What has been the hardest part about adjusting to COVID-19 in your life as a student and future professional?

Beyond the constant dread of living in a pandemic, it feels like my time in college is passing by too quickly and I’m not experiencing it enough. Spending time with people is a lot less spontaneous. There are fewer social events to be a part of and fewer memories to make. I’m going to be graduating soon and it feels like I barely spent any time with my cohort. The prospect that I will never make up this lost time is scary to me. On top of that, how the industry and job opportunities are going to look post COVID-19 is something I don’t want to even think about.

What is your favorite app or social media channel?

My favorite social channel is YouTube. The platform is full of so many creative people that I cannot help but be inspired.

Where is your favorite place on campus?

Indoors, it’s the Tate Student Center. If I’m outside, I like the green spaces on North Campus.

Jenna Milly (ABJ ‘95) to release first film ‘Golden Arm’ at end of month

Jenna Milly has always loved to write. After graduating from the University of Georgia in 1995 with a degree in telecommunication arts (now EMST), she wrote screenplays on the side while working reporting jobs at CNN and the Los Angeles Times. She eventually moved to screenwriting full time and received a master’s degree from UCLA.

Allison and Milly pose for a photo in Tate Plaza when they were students at UGA.

But it wasn’t until she wrote an article about her friend’s charity that she realized she might have a movie on her hands. 

The story begins in 2010, when Milly’s college roommate and screenwriting partner, Ann Marie Allison, got together with some of her friends in Washington, D.C., to give back to the community. They started a charity — a ladies’ arm wrestling charity, that is. 

The now-defunct Washington chapter of the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers brought together women from the district to raise money for different causes. They created character personas and dressed up in costumes to seriously compete in the arm wrestling ring.

Milly and Allison played around with the idea of writing this real-life event as a documentary, but they believed fictionalizing it would tell a stronger story. 

“Ann Marie always seemed so inspired by the journey that the women had, and kind of coming out of their shell, so that seemed very interesting to do from a fictional place, to take one woman and see how she changed through the experience,” Milly said.

And then came “Golden Arm.” The two women have worked as writing partners for years, and their production company is named after their college apartment in Athens, No. 8 Productions.

The movie documents the journey of Melanie, whose best friend Danny convinces her to train and compete at the Women’s Arm Wrestling Championship. 

Mary Holland (who plays Melanie), Allison (who plays Cleo-Smacktra) and Betsy Sodaro (who plays Danny).

When they pitched the idea to Hollywood in 2015, they were initially told the industry wasn’t making films about female sports comedies, something Milly and Allison were determined to disprove.

Jumping into such a competitive industry proved to be an “elite, closed-door process,” Milly said. She worked hard to make connections and find representation in Hollywood.

“Jenna was very tenacious… and we ended up getting our first manager that way, just basically beating down doors and being like we won’t be ignored,” Allison said.

By 2017 and the emergence of the #MeToo movement, films about female empowerment were in demand. Over the next two years, they found director Maureen Bharoocha, who helped them make a reel and coordinate a cast of female comics. They staged a script reading in Hollywood and began raising money for production.   

They started shooting in Oklahoma in 2019, and over the course of the year they “got it in the can and edited and completed the film,” Milly said. 

Despite her love of screenwriting, only one film class was offered to Grady students when Milly attended UGA. She wrote a screenplay and produced a short film, but that was the extent of her experience. In the class, her professor told her to check out library books and teach herself.

“That’s what Ann Marie and I had to do on this project, so I think that was a good lesson,” Milly said. “I think you have to be hungry and you have to want to figure out how to be successful, which was part of the thing that I think they were teaching at Grady.”

“Golden Arm” will be available to stream on April 30 on Apple TV, Amazon video and Google Play. It will also be released in select theaters.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Tévon Knight

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

When you have a goal, no matter what is thrown in your way, you find a way to succeed. Tenacity is all about persisting when things are tough, uncertain, scary or down right impossible. Growing as a human is all about leaving your comfort zone and pushing past the things that make you want to quit. That’s tenacity.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

People would be surprised to know I’m a big professional wrestling fan! I never talk about it, but watching professional wrestling from a young age is what got me very interested in storytelling and video production.

What are you passionate about?

Storytelling has always existed, but in the last 20 or so years, the technology and access to quality storytelling is extremely abundant. My goal as a filmmaker is to use that abundance to give voices to minority groups who have been underrepresented and unheard throughout history. We can’t fully love and accept each other if we don’t understand each other. Everyone has baggage, everyone has challenges and everyone has a voice. I want to help move to a place where everyone’s voice is not only equally elevated, but we can also accept each other’s individual experiences. I want my art to convey that just because someone’s path doesn’t reflect our own, we do not have to be in opposition.

Who is your professional hero?

Ava DuVernay, who is the director of several critically acclaimed films that educate on the African American experience up to this point in history. Some of her films include “When They See Us” and “Thirteenth.”

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

Coming into college, I knew I wanted to learn how to effectively tell stories. Grady is predicated on telling meaningful, impactful stories. Whether that be through a branding campaign, a movie screen or a newsroom. I decided on Grady because I knew I’d be able to gather tools and network as I learned my craft.

What is your favorite app or social media channel?

I like to post my photography on Instagram, but I like Vimeo and YouTube as well.

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

My proudest moment in the last year would have to be purchasing my first professional camera, the Panasonic GH5. Having this camera has allowed me to continue creating in my free time and apply things I’ve learned in Grady to more of my personal work!

What are you planning to do after graduating? Do you have a dream job?

After graduating, I plan to grow my freelance business in the Atlanta area. From there, I hope to expand into other large cities around the United States. Ultimately, I one day want to own a nonprofit that focuses on educating children of color in low-income neighborhoods in the subject of media production.

Where is your favorite place on campus?

The Main Library study rooms

What has been the hardest part about adjusting to COVID-19 in your life as a student and future professional?

Things being online can be challenging, but I think the hardest thing (especially for Entertainment and Media Studies students) is searching for opportunity. The film industry and videography industry is seeing difficult times right now. However, having tenacity is all about creating your own opportunities in any way possible. That’s what I’ve done, and what I’ll continue to do.

Director of Screenwriting Neil Landau in conversation with Andy Siara, screenwriter of “Palm Springs” on Hulu

Learn how “Palm Springs,” the summer hit movie starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti now streaming on Hulu, was created in this conversation with screenwriter Andy Siara. The conversation will be led by Neil Landau, associate professor and director of screenwriting.

Andy Siara graduated from UC Irvine, spent several years touring the country with his indie rock band, The Henry Clay People, then studied at the American Film Institute, where he frequently collaborated with director Max Barbakow. Andy and Max teamed up again to make the 2020 film, PALM SPRINGS, starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. On the television side Andy is a Co-Producer on UCP/Peacock’s upcoming series ANGELYNE produced by Esmail Corp, starring Emmy Rossum and Martin Freeman. His series, THE RESORT, is set up with UCP, also with Sam Esmail and Anonymous Content producing. Prior to this, he was a Writer on AMC’s critically-acclaimed series LODGE 49.
 
 

EMST professors create and collaborate outside the classroom

Many university faculty members collaborate with one another on research or projects for the good of the community, but for Booker T. Mattison and Garland McLaurin, their collaboration draws on more creative elements—those of filmmaking.

Mattison, an assistant professor, and McLaurin, a lecturer, each are relatively new additions to the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies at Grady College, and the two graduates of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts knew that they wanted to work together on projects not just in the classroom, but outside, as well.

If their first collaboration, “Ungubani (Who Are You?)” is any indication, this is just the start of more films to come.

“It’s been a great relationship,” said McLaurin who worked as the cinematographer and a producer for the movie. “It’s been good to work with someone in the department who’s in the same creative space that you’re in and have that collaborative effort with a friend but also a fellow faculty member.”

“Ungubani” is gaining a lot of attention thanks to its acceptance at numerous film festivals, which are mainly virtual events since the pandemic. Festivals that the short 15-minute film has been accepted include the Harlem International Film Festival in New York City; the Deep in the Heart Film Festival in Waco, Texas; the Roxbury International Film Festival in Boston, Massachusetts; and the Cineodyssey Film Festival in Charlotte, North Carolina, among others.

There are also two Academy Award qualifying festivals that have accepted “Ungubani”—the St. Louis International Film Festival and the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival—which means if it wins best short film at either festival, it will be eligible for an Academy Award nomination.

“Ungubani” won Best of Competition in the Narrative Category of the BEA Festival of Media Arts last spring.

Mattison and McLaurin explain that the film festival circuit provides extra visibility for films through added viewers and also a juried competition. Most importantly, it’s a showcase of what the filmmakers can do individually and collectively.

Booker T. Mattison (dark blue shirt) and Garland McLaurin (light blue shirt) discuss a scene during the filming of “Ungubani.”

“It’s a business card that utilizes sound, performance, imagery and story,” according to Mattison. He also likens it to the NFL Combine: “The power brokers come to discover new talent.”

Like many other events in a pandemic world, Mattison, the director and a producer of the film, has been connecting with festival viewers over Zoom to discuss the messages of the film and answer questions.

“Ungubani” focuses on a young Black man who puts himself at risk to help a young white woman.

Mattison said he had been looking for a project to direct with McLaurin and when he read the script, he knew he wanted to be involved.

“The film is about identity, perception and race,” Mattison explained. “At the end, the characters are not who you think they are in the beginning. Viewers are constantly peeling back layers of the characters and come to realize that they can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Other advantages of the collaboration between the two faculty members are the benefits it brings to students. For instance, former students and now alumni Jacob Hale (AB ’18), Natalie Garcia (AB ’20) and Sheldyn Moore (AB ’20) served as the gaffer, director’s assistant and production assistant, respectively, on the film. Moore is now in the inaugural class of the MFA Film program.

Department of Theatre students Leah Merritt and Robyn Accetta acted in the film.

“I like to extend my pedagogy beyond the walls of the classroom. It’s one thing to tell the students how to make a film, but another to be able to show them how it is made. It’s really a great opportunity for them and us.”

“Ungubani” will be distributed early 2021 on the Urban Movie Channel.

Mattison and Garland’s work together is expected to continue. Mattison, who is known for his work as the screenwriter and director for the film adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s story “The Gilded Six Bits,” which aired on Showtime and McLaurin, who won a Peabody Award for “180 Days A Year Inside an American High School” and “180 Days Hartsville,” are currently working on a television series pitch.

“I’m basically Robin to his Batman,” McLaurin explained with a laugh.

In addition to teaching undergraduate film production classes, Mattison and McLaurin are also professors in the new Master of Fine Arts in Film, Television and Digital Media program.