Extra Curricular

by Holly Willis

  • The Diagetic Prototype

    “I want an app like Tinder that we can use to end genocide,” said Luis Moreno Ocampo, former first prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), in fall 2019. The Argentine lawyer was visiting the University of Southern California from Harvard, where he was a Senior Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. He was in town to coteach a class with USC professor and documentary filmmaker Ted Braun, perhaps best known for his 2007 film Darfur Now, on the ways in which storytelling can affect our understanding of political issues.  I first met Ocampo in 2008 when…  Read more

    On Oct 28, 2020
    By on Oct 28, 2020 Columns
  • In My Room

    The big question for film educators this summer is how to prepare for classes this fall. Some campuses will host all of their classes online; others, like mine, are figuring out a hybrid model, with some production classes held on the sound stages with careful social distancing, masks and lots of hand sanitizer. In the meantime, many of us have been figuring out ways to inspire our students to keep making film and videos, even within the confines of their bedrooms, apartments and family homes. Luckily, there’s an exciting history of projects that demonstrate the power of a small space.…  Read more

    On Jul 7, 2020
    By on Jul 7, 2020 Columns
  • Messing With the Medium: On the Textured Pleasures of the Handmade Film

    Last summer, filmmaker Jennifer West and I were invited to talk at Femmebit, an LA-based triennial celebration of media made by women. I had been thinking about materiality and mediamaking practices, and Jennifer is known for a stunning body of work centered on physically manipulating strips of film. We decided to call our event “Messing With the Medium: Radical Materiality in Feminist Media” and challenged each other on stage in a battle of clips, each of us presenting a visual example of some sort of feminist creative intervention, along with a two-minute argument for its contributions to an expanded history…  Read more

    On Mar 17, 2020
    By on Mar 17, 2020 Columns
  • The Inner Reaches Out of Space

    “I think one of the things I am most concerned about is how we interact with space in a bodily way,” says LA-based video and VR artist Kate Parsons, who will co-teach an undergraduate studio class, “The Inner Reaches of Outer Space,” next spring at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, with VR veteran Ben Vance. The pair was asked to teach in the Immersion Lab by professors Jenny Rodenhouse, a faculty member in the graduate Media Design Practice (MDP) program, and Maggie Hendrie, chair of Interaction Design. Parsons, who teaches a basic video production course for first-year graduate…  Read more

    On Dec 10, 2019
    By on Dec 10, 2019 Columns
  • Creating Community Through Cinema: The Echo Park Film Center and MONO NO AWARE

    I love the way Paolo Davanzo jazzes up his emails with exclamation points! He almost never uses just one; instead, he lines up two, three, sometimes four in a row, and if his ardor is not evident through prolific punctuation, he’ll apply all caps: “SO GLAD to reconnect!!!!” or “The kids created a BEAUTIFUL FILM!!!!” This cheery trait is pure Paolo, and it completely infuses the Echo Park Film Center, a small nonprofit space at the corner of Sunset and Alvarado in Los Angeles that he cofounded in 2001. EPFC packs a microcinema, filmmaking classroom and equipment rental house all…  Read more

    On Sep 4, 2019
    By on Sep 4, 2019 Columns
  • The Most Valuable Lessons: Filmmakers Remember Their Iconic Instructors

    Teaching is a complex act, but most of us standing in front of students in film classrooms have never been taught to teach. Instead, we recall the teachers who impressed us, then try to repeat some part of that practice and hope for the best, often never quite realizing the impact we are in turn having on our own students. Here, three current faculty members recall iconic instructors from their college experience, and the lasting effect of key ideas and behaviors. Cauleen Smith on Lynn Hershman Leeson and Trinh T. Minh-ha Interdisciplinary artist Cauleen Smith earned a BA in creative…  Read more

    On Jun 19, 2019
    By on Jun 19, 2019 Columns
  • Breathe Deep

    “I prefer placing the perceptual, intuitive, emotional and spiritual growth of the student at the center.”  That’s the succinct teaching statement of Pablo Frasconi, a soft-spoken, thoroughly grounded filmmaker and faculty colleague of mine in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. He has developed a three-course sequence that helps students engage in a form of creativity based on quieting the mind. “Mindfulness and meditation are central,” Frasconi explains. “It is where these classes begin: by looking inward to discover the ’moving visual thinking’ and ’song of the cells’—as Stan Brakhage called these experiences—that is our…  Read more

    On Mar 14, 2019
    By on Mar 14, 2019 Columns
  • Expanding Horizons: How Film Schools Are Adjusting to a More Diverse Future

    I’m just going to say it: Every film student should know how to light and photograph a full spectrum of skin tones. But do they? Let me back up a bit. One of my current tasks at USC involves working with a team of faculty members to comb through the websites and resources of other universities to see what they’re doing with regard to equity, diversity and inclusivity (aka EDI). Why? So that we can build USC’s infrastructure, research agenda and programming to better reflect diversity and inclusiveness. I also serve on another committee called Race, Arts and Placemaking (a.k.a.…  Read more

    On Dec 17, 2018
    By on Dec 17, 2018 Columns
  • Reboot By The Sea

    It might be hot. There are several quarries for swimming. It might be cold and rainy, and we’ll be in a non-heated, non-air conditioned barn. There will be mosquitoes. So began a long list of somewhat unsettling particulars describing conditions for the six-day DesignInquiry residency that took place at the end of June 2018 on Vinalhaven, an island halfway up the coast of Maine. I had applied six months earlier, intrigued by the year’s theme, “Rewrite,” and was delighted when I was accepted. I was stepping down from a decade-long leadership stint, having cocreated and chaired a new department in…  Read more

    On Sep 17, 2018
    By on Sep 17, 2018 Columns
  • Creative Critical Writing

    In 1993, I was a graduate student in a Critical Studies Ph.D. program studying independent, avant-garde and feminist film and video, figuring out how to write about them, and thinking about what it meant to write at all. I adored high theory—the thickness of it, the heady political ambition, the philosophical complexity. But I liked zines and the wild world of alternative publishing, too, along with the community of readers eager for experiments that these publications augured. My advisors discouraged involvement with Filmmaker—a career-killer, for sure—and when I was offered a short-term job at Variety one summer, they rolled their…  Read more

    On Jun 11, 2018
    By on Jun 11, 2018 Columns
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