#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.

EMST students screen films at 136 Fest

Some of the best films created by students in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies this year were screened at 136 Fest on April 27, 2017, at Ciné in downtown Athens, Georgia.

The event featured projects made in EMST 5260 Advanced Production and Indie Studies, including:

  • “American Myth”- [director] Connor Pannell, [producer] Elise Fitzgerald
  • “Bodyguard”- [director] Andy Han, [producer] Kara Pemberton
  • “Don’t Shoot the Cat”- [director] Joe Youorski, [producer] Schafer Sirmer
  • “The Heckler”-[director] Kyle Rehl, [producerw] Gareth Kanter/Sean Smith
  • “Hey Mister”- [director] Patrick Bailer, [producer] Hamilton Way
  • “Skins/Entropy”- Maddison Griffin and Rick Adle
  • “Best Weekend Ever”- [director] John Buckley, [producer] Lauren Holliger
  • “Friendship”-[director] Emmett Cappi, [producers] Sam Armour/Christine Beldon
  • “Skins”- [director] Shelby Eggers, [producer] Rachel Beavers
Students discuss films while attending the 136 Fest.

Various other student projects were shown in Cine’s Lab, including some behind-the-scenes footage and documentaries.

“It’s always fun to see the outcome,” said Shira Chess, an EMST assistant professor. “I was really excited to come here tonight. Nothing is ever perfect at this point in their careers, but I think that (the films) always are great.”

Chess recalled working with the students early on in the process.

“They came to us with some great ideas and we all developed them as a group,” she said. “It was also the students workshopping each other’s ideas, which I think is really important.”

Patrick Bailer wrote and directed “Hey Mister,” which he described as a “musical coming-of-age comedy.”

“It was cool finally getting to see it on the screen, getting to hear the music that we all worked on and then seeing everything fit together,” he said.

The crew of “Hey Mister” celebrates the film’s silver screen debut at the 136 Fest.

A spring 2017 graduate, Bailer said he is thankful for the skills he’s developed, thanks to Grady faculty.

“Everything I learned about writing was with Dr. Chess—figuring out how the stories fit, making them personal,” he said.  “In all of (Jim) Biddle’s classes, it was helpful because I learned every different facet of production.”

Bailer will start his career as a replay operator at Turner Studios and aspires to become a show director while continuing to write.

Casey Hammons, also a spring graduate, produced the 136 Fest.

“It was a lot of fun to put it together,” she said. “It was a little rough there for a while—we had a bit of a recording issue with one of the dvds—but I thrive on running around like a crazy person. I loved it.”

In addition to her role in organizing the event, Hammons was associate producer of “Don’t Shoot the Cat,” a comedy/drama. She dreams of producing and will pursue opportunities in Los Angeles this summer.

“Grady helped in a lot of ways,” she said.  “The professors treat you like adults, like in real-world situations.  You’re not coddled anymore once you get into the major.  You have deadlines and you don’t have excuses. You just get things done.”

More photos from the 136 Fest are on the UGA Grady Flickr account.

EMST student films earn state recognition

Two films by Entertainment and Media Studies students won First Place in their categories in a statewide film competition.

“Pasta La Vista,” a short film written, directed and edited by Luke Webster, received honors as the Best Alfred Hitchcock Homage.

“Michael Davenport: The Armless Artist,” a short documentary produced and directed by Lindsey Smith, earned honors as Best Documentary.

Both films were recognized at the 13th annual BALD Shorts Film Festival 2017, which took place at Georgia College in Milledgeville.

Both also took shape as part of coursework in EMST 4250, Video Production, taught by Stephen Bridges (ABJ ’06) in Fall semester 2016. Bridges was a temporary part-time instructor and is Instructional Designer/Lead Media Producer for the Office of Online Learning at UGA.

“Pasta La Vista” tells a story about the consequences of changing the past. ‘

Christian Baum wrote the story, with Ryan Switzer, Sarah Kennedy and Graham Bohling on camera. Crew consisted of Piper Ruhmkorff (Director of Photography), Samantha Gorman (Gaffer and Assistant Camera), and Rachel Beavers (Producer). It was scored by Andrew Cleveland.

“Forgoing dialogue and sound effects, ‘Pasta la Vista’ pulls the viewer into an uncomfortable and surprisingly menacing place through emotive acting and unnerving audio cues,” said Bridges.

“Making it was an incredibly memorable experience,” said Webster. “I want to thank my friends for making it happen more than anything. This recognition is an added bonus.”

“Michael Davenport: The Armless Artist,” narrates the story of Davenport, who survived a tragic accident at age 13 in which he lost both his arms. Unable to draw even a stick figure before his accident, he found a passion for drawing with his mouth and has been a local inspiration in Athens for decades.

The student crew consists of Lindsey Smith (producer, director, camera, editor), Johnny Morgan (camera, boom operator, audio engineer, music composer), Henry Widjaja (camera), Josh Remmele (camera), Andie Leeds (audio assistant) and Sarah Guirguis (production assistant).

“I was very thankful for another opportunity to share Michael’s story,” said Smith. Earlier this year her film won Best Documentary at the Georgia Communication Association Film Festival.

EMST class project wins first place for documentary about local artist

A short documentary that started out as a class project won First Place in the Documentary Category at the 2017 Georgia Communication Association Student Film Festival.

The winning documentary, “Michael Davenport: The Armless Artist,” provides a sympathetic portrait of Davenport, an Athens, Gerogia resident who lost both hands in an accident but who recovered and has thrived as a visual artist.

A total of 41 entries from 13 universities throughout Georgia were submitted to the festival.

The student crew consists of Lindsey Smith (producer, director, camera, editor), Johnny Morgan (camera, boom operator, audio engineer, music composer), Henry Widjaja (camera), Josh Remmele (camera), Andie Leeds (audio assistant), and Sarah Guirguis (production assistant).

Their work was guided by Stephen Bridges (ABJ ’06) as part of EMST 4250 in Fall semester 2016. Bridges was a temporary part-time instructor and is an instructional designer/lead media producer for the Office of Online Learning at UGA.

 2017 Georgia Communication Association Student Film Festival.

Bridges said how “incredibly proud” he is of the students involved with this project. “Lindsey and her group tackled this task with an admirable work ethic and emerged on the other side of the course shining brilliantly,” he added.

Smith recalled how “that guy who draws with his mouth” remained a mystery to her and so many other Athens residents.  Upon meeting him last fall, she decided “he had a story that needed to be told.”

After surviving a tragic accident at age 13, Davenport had to adapt to life without his arms.  Unable to draw even a stick-figure before his accident, he found a passion for drawing with his mouth and has been a local inspiration for decades.

Smith said how grateful she is for “my crew, for all the support received from friends, family and faculty and for the Georgia Communication Association” for hosting the competition.