Greg Hunter '09 recently published a review of Batman: Death of the Family in the online wing of The Comics Journal. The Comics Journal is a long-running publication dedicated to comics and graphic novel interviews and criticism. This was Greg's first contribution to the publication.
Batman: Death of the Family, by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo, was originally featured in DC's monthly Batman series. The story follows the Joker's return to Batman's home in Gotham and the Joker's attempts to reinvigorate Batman through assaults on the rest of the Bat-family. Greg examines how Snyder and Capullo's joker is coded as homosexual and the extent to which the Joker's implicit homosexuality is presented as a component of his larger villainy. Greg then goes on to discuss how these arguably reactionary modes of storytelling are received and enabled by some outlets in the comics press. One blogger, responding to Greg's review, remarks, "The comics press needs more of this: insightful, well-researched criticism of the superhero genre that isn't born out of blind fanboyism."
Since graduating from Carleton in 2010, Jesenia "Jessie" Ruiz has been working in media production. Her first job was interning for Reel Nomad Productions in Minneapolis, a media production company owned by fellow Carleton alum Aleshia Mueller. Reel Nomad Productions specializes in film and new media focusing on global issues and the common good. Jessie's work at Reel Nomad lead to a job as a full-time Production Assistant at Magnetic Productions, a series producer for national cable networks such as Discovery, Travel, History, MTV, TLC, We, Food Network, HGTV and DIY. While at Magnetic's Minneapolis office, Jessie worked her way up to Assistant Production Office Coordinator and Associate Producer. More recently she has made the leap to the Los Angeles office, where she is currently working as the Production Office Coordinator. Her most recent credits include Home Made Simple for OWN, I Hate My Yard! for DIY and Renovation Raiders for HGTV.
CAMS major Felicity Flesher presented her new film COLT at CAMS comps symposium last Saturday in the Weitz Center for Creativity. She tells CAMSZINE that she was inspired in part by the words of film critic Roger Ebert regarding the factual accuracy of Oliver Stone's 1991 film, JFK. Ebert writes, "I want moods, tones, fears, imaginings, whims, speculations, nightmares. As a general principle, I believe films are the wrong medium for fact. Fact belongs in print. Films are about emotions. All we can reasonably ask is that it be skillfully made and seen to approach some kind of emotional truth."
According to Felicity, "Ebert has a point, but I think stories based in historical fact can be the source of emotional truth in the cinema. With my short film COLT, based on the most notorious scandal of the nineteenth century, involving famed gunmaker Samuel Colt and his murderous brother John, I wanted to bring together the often-disparate fields of history and narrative film, shed light on a largely forgotten story that I find fascinating, and let the emotionality instrinsic to a factual story reveal itself.
COLT is now available for viewing on You Tube.
CAMS grad Sam Scherf '11 is developing a new documentary film called YOUNG PILGRIMS. The film is about a young adult's journey with autism. Traveling from a small town in Wisconsin to Tokyo, Japan, a young woman learns to live an independent life in the company of others.
My sister is the most remarkable person I know. Rowan has autism.
When you live with autism, interacting with others and the world around you can take an immense amount of effort. Environments can be too loud, conversations too intense, and things can suddenly become overwhelming. This story follows Rowan as she makes new friends, deals with frightening situations, and experiences moments of calm in places of astounding beauty. Her bravery and unique perspective are a wonder to behold.
1.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. Tragically, just over 50% of students with autism finish high school . The economic impact of autism is enormous, making up 60% of total costs in adult services . As the fastest growing developmental disability, it is estimated that in 10 years, the annual cost to the government will be more than $200 billion dollars. This says nothing of the emotional impact on friends and family struggling to move forward.
“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Since autism is a spectrum disorder, there are people at the low end of the spectrum who need help with daily living skills. On the other end of the spectrum are people who are so intelligent and gifted that people place higher expectations on them, even though they still need significant help with social communication.
Everyone with autism is different, but everyone with autism is most different from the people around them, as they frequently struggle with sensory issues and communication. How do you navigate through the world if you have difficulties with language, social reciprocity and behavioral flexibility? How do you interact with other people and live comfortably in community with others when you don’t understand what they mean?
This film is a labor of love and a documentary celebrating my sister’s journey. Rowan has traveled from her home in a small town in Wisconsin to a new life in a transitional program for young adults on the autism spectrum at Minnesota Life College. Her success there has taken us to Japan where we visited temples, shrines, rivers, forests and mountains, making new friends and learning more about each other and ourselves. Now, back home, she is getting ready to embark on a new journey of her own.
This is a personal story, but shares with all stories of autism common themes of personal growth, bravery, and struggle for personal connection. Whatever our background, our human experience is much the same. Through education and support we can work with those around us to live rich lives together.
Check out the details of Sam's Kickstarter campaign for YOUNG PILGRIMS here.
CAMS alumnus Henry Rownd '13 is currently pursing his PhD in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University. He reports on his experience of his first term in graduate school:
"Graduate school has been a lot like Carleton: everyone--faculty and students alike--are really committed to the learning and scholarly development that goes on in each course. At Stanford, we have the same 10-week hit-the-ground-running terms, where lots of reading and writing keeps me busy right upon until final papers are due. Carleton, and CAMS specifically, has been great preparation for graduate studies in film and media. This quarter I've been watching lots of Judy Garland films and reading many of the same thinkers I encountered in Carol Donelan's Cinema Studies Seminar junior year, which has been a savior for me. So far it has been really fun, and I'm excited for whatever comes next."
Laska Jimsen, Assistant Professor of Cinema & Media Studies, has produced a film, Beaver Creek Yard (2013, 5.5 minutes), now in wide release. The film is about a Christmas tree processing facility on Beaver Creek Road and the human impulse to control, exploit and profit from the natural world.
In January the film will be screening on Twin Cities Public Television (TPT), streaming from their website, and playing at the Walker Art Center as part of MNTV, for two decades an important showcase for the finest films produced in Minnesota, funded by The Jerome Foundation. The MNTV film series was broadcast on Twin Cities Public Television on January 12 and will be screening Tuesdays through Sundays at the Walker January 2-February 27 in the Lecture Room (free admission). Beaver Creek Yard premiered at the Ann Arbor Film Festival on opening night last March and has now also been selected for inclusion in the Ann Arbor Film Festival Touring Program (at St Olaf January 21-22) as well as the Rural Route Film Festival Tour (at Carleton February 1).
CAMS faculty Jay Beck, Ron Rodman (Music and CAMS) and Carol Donelan have essays included in a new anthology, The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media, edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog and John Richardson (Oxford University Press, 2013). The collection surveys the contemporary landscape of audiovisual media and is conceived as a series of dialogues and inquires by leading scholars from both image- and sound-based disciplines. As summarized in the editor's Introduction:
"In 'Acoustic Auteurs and Transnational Cinema,' Jay Beck tackles developments in new transnational art cinema from the perspective of sound studies. Beck identifies several sonic tropes that have emerged across the work of filmmakers form diverse points of origin, each crafting a personal sound aesthetics that up-ends image-sound reations typically associated with mainstream cinema. Alongside new approaches to subjectivity, architectural acoustics, and vocal culture, Beck locates changing renderings of ethics, episemology, and the sublime in cinematic uses of sound, signaling a signification challenge to the audiovisual status quo."
"In 'Lion and Lambs: Industry-Audience Negotiations in the Twilight Saga Franchise,' Ron Rodman and Carol Donelan map the negotiations between film industry and target audience that have ensued throughout the cycle. The Twilight films present an opportunity for the industry to woo a typically neglected demographic, females under twenty-five years of age, via the erotically charged yet ultimately defanged figure of the teen vampire. The soundtrack, both of scored music and compiled pop songs, contributes to the uncanny duality of these fantasy worlds, a vista of forbidden possibilities couched with a familiar, and highly marketable, formula."
Students enrolled in CAMS 210: Film History I (fall term 2013) have published an anthology of original research, The Majors and The Minors: Hollywood Studios Emerge. The essays in the volume were peer edited. The design team, in charge of cover design and layout, included Ava Burnham, Andrew Celly, Vincent DeZutti, Cathy Lee and Rebecca Stimson.
The American film industry was born not in Hollywood but in New York and New Jersey. In 1908, the major east coast film companies combined to form the Motion Picture Patents Company, known as “The Trust.” The powerful Edison-led Trust established a monopoly on all aspects of filmmaking, requiring licenses to make use of their patented equipment, to purchase film stock, and to distribute and exhibit their motion pictures. Independent producers who did not belong to the Trust were cut out of the action and began to migrate to Hollywood between 1912-1917, seeking good weather for year-round filming, not to mention distance from the Trust’s violent enforcers. These independent “moguls,” many of them first-generation Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, founded the organizations that would become the backbone of the golden-era Hollywood studio system, the vast industrial empire of popular mythology. By 1930, a series of mergers and realignments had concentrated 95 percent of all American film production in the hands of eight Hollywood studios, five “majors” and three “minors.” The majors in order of economic importance—Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount, Warner Bros., 20th Century-Fox, and RKO—were vertically integrated corporations, controlling the means of production, distribution and exhibition. The minors—Universal, Columbia, and United Artists—owned no theaters and were dependent upon the majors for exhibition.
Students researched the emergence of a Hollywood studio and its early years of activity, using primary documents—industry trade papers such as Film Daily and Moving Picture World—to read with and against secondary sources such as their textbook and other published histories. Hard-core historians, they wrote from the ground up, piecing together from myriad sources their own versions of the historical narrative, finding their own angles into this history. They were expected to document sources appropriately and keep in mind their target audience: students just like themselves, enrolled in a film history course, likely encountering this history for the first time.
Madi Emenheiser and Renzhi Wu set the stage by introducing the activities of independent producer Carl Laemmle and the emergence of Universal in 1912. Jhernie Evangelista, Hayden Tsutsui and Griffin Johnson cast new light on the ingenious business practices of moguls Zukor, Lasky and Hodkinson in the formation of Paramount in 1916. Isabel Carter, Jack Turzillo and Soo Hyun Lee detail the fascinating story of how United Artists came to be in 1919, with well-known workers within the studio system—Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith—in revolt against the system. Luke Reppe, Rebecca Stimson and Christopher Williams problematize the popular mythology associating the birth of Warner Bros. with the studio’s fortuitous early adoption of sound technology, adjusting the focus of the story to account for the activities of the brothers Warner leading up to the emergence of the studio in 1923. Vincent DeZutti, Sofia Chang, and Zoe Cohen get to the bottom of the audacious rise of Columbia in January 1924. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer emerges just five months later, the powerhouse among the majors, with a rich history surveyed by Andrew Cely, Brendan Richard and Brian Kremers. Henry Maler and Casey Short direct our attention to RKO, the last of the big five studios to emerge, in 1928, but by no means the least, in terms of storytelling interest. Ava Burnham and Ian Kpachavi tackle the broad historical sweep of 20th Century Fox, the last of the studios to emerge in 1935, but one which is deeply rooted in the activities of mogul William Fox and the establishment of the Fox Film Corporation in 1915.
Charlie Kilman '16 did a summer internship with Light Iron New York, a digital post-production company. The following is an excerpt from a follow-up paper he wrote for a CAMS independent study comparing film industry workflows in the analog and digital eras.
Light Iron New York officially opened on January 28, 2013. Although the company required help from its mother company, Light Iron Los Angeles, the employees have pushed the company into the New York post-production scene, competing with post giants Technicolor and Deluxe for high-end jobs. Light Iron epitomizes the efficient use of digital technology in a post-production workflow. The employees at Light Iron worked with the directors, producers, and DITs (Digital Imaging Technicians) of each project to perfect the digital media workflow of the post-production process. In this way, Light Iron has proven itself to be an excellent example for the future of digital cinema as well as a master at transforming the raw footage from the camera into the final product.
Digital media offers countless solutions to effectively speed up the workflow of production that had been hindered by the analog processes of developing photochemical film. One of the most important transformations that came from the birth of the digital camera was the revolutionary new way of creating dailies. Unlike the method of producing dailies in the 1940s through 1960s, the replacement of film with “magazines” (literal magazines that are placed in the camera and where the digital footage is held) allows the footage to be developed on set with ease. Light Iron NY dominates the dailies industry with their fleet of Outpost systems, which are in effect carts housing data storage, computers, magazine readers, and monitors. The Outpost systems are the core of Light Iron’s philosophy of producing the raw footage in the most efficient and clean way.
The Outpost is centered around the idea of “todalies,” a phrase coined by Light Iron, suggesting that instead of the usual 24 hour dailies process common to the analog workflow, the Outpost carts are able to produce dailies in a matter of hours. Because of the elimination of chemical baths and off-site labs, the raw footage of the camera can be converted into viewable media by plugging the magazine into the Outpost cart, quick checking the takes, syncing the audio almost automatically, and adding some crude color correction. So, with just one dedicated person and the help of new technology, the Outpost cart is able to replace whole film developing labs. This means that the post process of producing dailies can be brought back onto set, which lessens the gap between post and production. So, Light Iron has used the new technology to simplify the workflow on the post-production end while also putting more of the creation back into the DP’s and director’s hands.
CAMSZINE enlisted CAMS major Brit Fryer '15 for the following report on Mediadrome, also known as the "CAMS Event of the Century."
It was part dance party, part rock show, and part midterm assignment. The Mediadrome was an immersive live art show constructed and curated by students in CAMS 283: Site Specific Media, taught by Professor John Schott. The dome was engineered by Mary Begley ’14, Woody Kaine ’14 and Haley Ryan ’15. Inside the bulging plastic bubble were four amazing music acts: Prom Queef, Max Thunderdome, Ashantology, and djbritheartbeats, who played music in 45 degree weather, accompanying stunning visuals that covered three-fourths of the dome. Woody Kaine controlled the visuals via an electronic drum kit that splashed color over the dome. In combination with Max Thunderdome, he invited the audience to tilt their heads back and revel in the madness that was the dome. The night continued with a live hip-hop band, Ashantology, featuring the smooth sounds of Ashanti Soldier '15 and contrasting visuals by Schuyler Sher '15. Prom Queef annihilated the drome crowd with improv visuals from Haley Ryan. Lastly, djbritheartbeats invited the crowd to dance the night away while staring in awe at visuals by Andrew Cely ’15. Despite the threat of plastic bubble collapses, a competing dance event at Cowling, and high winds that almost turned our dome into the house from Disney's Up movie, the Mediadrome was a night to remember—full of color, music and fun. Check out more photos from the event on Flickr.
At Carleton's Career Center, the alumni-in-residence and 30 Minutes program brings students interested in a specific job or industry face-to-face with alumni experienced in that field. In just half an hour, Carleton networking magic happens. Senior CAMS major Hannah White '14 recently attended a talk with advertising executive Alex Leikikh and offers the following report on her experience:
After listening to Alex Leikikh's talk on Thursday, October 17, about careers in advertising, I was completely sold. I don't say that to be ironic or cliché, rather as a testament to his background in the advertising industry and how his position as President of Mullen, one of the most elite and innovative marketing agencies around, revealed the practice of conviction that goes into his work. His talk, focused on Carleton students and paired with a very easygoing and comfortable manner of speaking, could have persuaded any type of person from anywhere that there's a place for them in this profession. And this is an important message for Carleton students to hear. The interdisciplinary nature of our learning and scholarship at this school teaches us how to work in integrated environments such as the one at Mullen.
As he artfully used clips from the hit TV show Mad Men to demonstrate that, yes, the world of advertising actually is like what we see in the movies or on TV, he also presented us with concrete examples of professional opportunities for every type of person. As I looked around the room full of students, I saw fellow CAMS majors, Political Science majors, Geology majors, undeclared underclassmen, and many people I didn't recognize; all of us were brought together by the prospect of involving ourselves in the world of advertising, which is something that we all interact with, yet do not, perhaps, completely understand. While watching Alex's clips of successful commercial TV ads, I allowed myself to realize exactly how much of an impact advertising has in my own life. The innovative, cutting-edge marketing strategies that Mullen is implementing immediately turned my typical annoyance with, say, ads played before You Tube videos, into a recognition of 15 seconds of creative potential.
Communication, strategy, art, production, collaboration, and curiosity: these are all words I would use to describe the work that I've learned to undertake while at Carleton and the pitch-like talk given by Alex Leikikh and subsequent "30 Minutes" conversation made me realize that there is also a place for this kind of lifestyle after I've graduated, in the "real world." This newfound hope, combined with the tangible reminder of a free t-shirt, has made me grateful to Alex for coming to visit Carleton, and humbled to be at a place that allows for this kind of potential in myself and my peers. For now, I can say that I will be stepping into the world pursing a career in advertising, specifically doing animation and motion graphics, and I look forward to seeing where my journey takes me next.
Senior CAMS major Griffin Johnson recently learned that his film Mineralogy has been accepted to the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival 2013.
According to Griffin, Mineralogy was developed out of the first assignment he did in Laska Jimsen's CAMS 111: Digital Foundations class the winter of his sophomore year. The film he made for that assignment (in which students were not allowed to show human faces or use any sound at all) was extremely short and told a very simple, fragmented story about a woman's first girlfriend. He then produced an expanded version of the film in CAMS 370: Advanced Production Workshop, maintaining the minute focus and atomization of the narrative but giving the story a real world to inhabit and filling in that world with surreal details. In the process of working out the idea, the script morphed from being about falling in love and coming of age to being expansive enough to also address themes related to viewership and repression.
Griffin credits Jack Davis, CAMS grad '12 and current Fifth Year Educational Associate in the CAMS Production Office, with nursing him through the process of putting abstractions into concrete effect. He also wishes to acknowledge his lead actors, Caroline Roberts and Emily Shack, "for being incredibly patient and receptive as I made them go through bizarre and often unhelpful directorial hoops."
Production was full of weird experiences, reports Griffin. "At one point, Emily had to hold still while CAMS major Ashley Shaw attached crystals made of hot glue to her flesh. There were also a lot of shoots at Northfield High where we didn't have the combinations to the doors of the lockers we were using, so we lived in fear of slamming the doors too hard and having to call a custodian. There were a few days when we had to fish rose petals out of a toilet at Northfield High. During our one outdoor shoot, which only lasted about two hours, Jack and I both got stung by nettles. But really, production was pretty painless, even when it was stressful. I'm incredibly grateful that this film has turned out the way it has."
CAMS majors and other aspiring student filmmakers recently met with visiting film producer-director Noemi Schory to discuss strategies and practices for developing careers in documentary film production in international contexts. Schory started her career in the 70s as a television producer for British, German, Dutch and Israeli broadcasters. In the 80s she founded Belfilms, one of the leading production houses in Israel, producing dramas, documentaries, feature films and commercials for Israeli and foreign broadcasters, advertising agencies and co-productions. In addition to producing and directing films, Schory is a content advisor for the first commercial television station in Israel and serves as museum film director and producer for Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. She has taught film production at Tel Aviv University and the Sam Spiegel Film and TV School in Jerusalem and is currently head of Film Studies in the Midrasha Callege of Art at Beit Berl College in Israel. Schory offered practical tips to students for launching their post-Carleton careers in documentary film production.
Laska Jimsen, Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, has received a Jerome Foundation “Film and Video Grant” of $15,000 in support of the production of Deer in North America. This documentary essay film explores the contradictory and mythologized relationships between human beings and deer.
Laska and collaborator Jason Coyle have already undertaken extensive research and begun preliminary filming in Pennsylvania and Oregon. This past winter they also filmed bow hunters in Minnesota (including in Carleton's Arb) and Iowa. They are now prepared to expand the film from those early shoots to more broadly represent the diverse practices, landscapes, and ecologies of this country. The grant will cover production travel and professional post-production work such as color correction and sound mix.
The goal of the film is to document spaces where lines between artificial and natural, domesticated and wild, are blurred. People and deer encounter each other in the context of research, conservation, tourism, facilities management, agriculture, and hunting. Deer are seen as nuisances in our gardens, dangerous on our highways, and as majestic, elusive prey to be hunted with increasingly precise technology. Patented repellents promise to keep deer off suburban lawns; equally engineered attractants claim to lure them to hunters. Human beings attempt to manage and control the natural world, to separate ourselves from its unruly, messy, and unpredictable ways, and yet we also yearn for contact with nature. Ultimately Deer in a America is as much a meditation on what it means to be a human animal in the contemporary United States as it is about deer.
Mark Steele, Vice President of Production at Minneapolis-based Werc Werk Works, recently spent a day with CAMS faculty and students, discussing all matters related to contemporary film production, festival activity, and career opportunities in the industry. The day included informal career chats with students over lunch, a visit to Professor Laska Jimsen's Advanced Production class, and a faculty dinner. The series of events were sponsored by CAMS and the Career Center. Mark brings an extensive background in media, technology and operations to his position as leader of post-production at Werks. He began his career in engineering but with his life-long passion for film and media became both a core team member of Telluride and Sundance operations as well as a leader in interactive businesses. He eventually became the Director of Operations for Tribeca Film Festival. While there he directed the physical execution of the annual film festival and year-round projects – a multi-million dollar international arts and media brand. He also served as brand ambassador to broadcast and cinema industries, was responsible for physical production of all company and sponsor on-site marketing activation programs, supervised the production and post-production of non-profit filmmaker programs, produced special projects ranging from high-profile global events to quick-turn local programs, and expanded the brand internationally to Milan and Beijing. At Werks, Mark has Co-Produced Howl (Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, 2010), Thin Ice (Jill Sprecher, 2011) and Darling Companion (Lawrence Kasdan, 2012) and served as Associate Producer on Life During Wartime (Todd Solondz, 2009).
Abigail Han graduated from Carleton in 2012, in a field she did not expect to major in. A CAMS major from Singapore, Abigail says her "passion for film and fine art was allowed to thrive in the CAMS department," while her time at Carleton helped her "hone the technical skills and academic finesse that contributes significantly to my artistic practice." For her senior comps project in CAMS, Abigail produced a multi-media installation in a gallery white space exploring the significance of “home” for her as an international student, focusing especially on how language and education shapes personal identity. She asked fifty friends, strangers and family members from Singapore to use disposable camera to make images of what home means to them and then identified patterns and common themes in the images (ranging from the personal to the political). These photographs, in turn, informed two collage videos Abigail produced and “put into conversation” with each other in a gallery display. A visual artist specializing in photography and film, Abigail believes that hard work and bold dreaming has led her to pursue her wildest ambition: to be a practicing artist. This fall she moves to Southern California to pursue an MFA in Photography and Media at the highly competitive CalArts. See Abigail's films and photographs here.
Production still from 2-minute experimental film Make(ing) Magic (Abigail Han, 2012)