WVTF: Hollins Program Cranks Out Hopeful Filmmakers

WVTF Public Radio aired this profile of Hollins University’s graduate programs in screenwriting and film studies, featuring interviews with students Amy Roskelly –Shiovitz, Christie Collins, and Maisie Deely, and program director Tim Albaugh.

“We bring a piece of LA to the Roanoke area,” Albaugh said, noting, “I get a lot more satisfaction now helping a student launch their career than I do with any of the professional work that I do.”

Deely added, “You’re not only connected to your classmates in the current program, but also creating opportunities for alumni to come back, so it’s really exciting to see folks who did the same the same program of study I did who are now working in the industry.”

 

 

Photo Credit: Jeff Bossert, WVTF Public Radio


Film Major’s LGBT Short Is a YouTube Sensation

A Hollins University student filmmaker is generating impressive online buzz with her unconventional approach to the LGBT movie genre.

Collide, a short film written and directed by Hannah Thompson ’20, has been seen more than 510,000 times since it premiered on YouTube in December 2016.

“I wanted to do something original that I could relate to,” says Thompson, a double-major in film and psychology from Warrenton, Virginia. “A lot of LGBT short films are also geared toward a straight audience by featuring two fem lesbians and portraying sexual situations. They can make more money that way, but it has always made me feel uncomfortable.”

Collide is the story of two young women who dislike one another intensely upon their first meeting in a high school classroom. But when their teacher pairs them on a project that focuses on conquering their individual fears, a friendship blossoms and they ultimately fall in love.

“Coming out is not a main plot point,” Thompson explains. “There’s no tragic story where being gay is their downfall. Their sexuality is never mentioned. It’s just something that happens similar to any straight love story. I wanted people to watch Collide and say, ‘Wow, I’ve had this happen to me.’”

Based on the more than 1,100 comments that have been posted on YouTube since the film’s debut, Collide has clearly touched many. Thompson believes it’s because the story “ends happily. We’re excited for what’s to come, and people understand that the two main characters are going to be together. Often, especially in popular films, it doesn’t happen that way. I wanted something that was easy for people to latch onto, and I’m grateful they did.”

Thompson says she’s been humbled by what people have shared. Feedback has often been along the lines of, “I don’t really see happy lesbian stories. I’m so glad to find something relatable instead of watching a heterosexual romance and hoping I can find something that’s meaningful to me.” Viewers overseas have expressed this common sentiment: “This isn’t legal here, but I’m so glad to see something like this. It makes me feel that maybe one day I can have this life.”

The film has also inspired fan fiction and even prompted Halloween revelers to dress up as the film’s characters. In March, Unite UK: An LGBT+ Blog Uniting the Community Together, interviewed Thompson and members of the film’s cast for a feature story, and last summer, Collide was an official selection as a semi-finalist at Canada’s Our Voices Film Festival.

Thompson’s journey of artistic discovery that ultimately led to filmmaking was by no means pre-determined. She attended art classes and camps from an early age, “but I couldn’t find the thing I was best at. I did theatre, studio art, photography, and I was mediocre at all those things. I never really found what I loved until I took a film class at Hollins.”

Growing up, Thompson was familiar with Hollins because her grandmother is an alumna. In her early teens, at her grandmother’s urging, Thompson attended Hollinsummer, the university’s educational camp for rising ninth through 12th grade girls. “I was scared because it was my first sleepaway camp,” she recalls, “but I loved the campus. It was the first time I’d ever been away from home that I wasn’t homesick. I felt like it was sort of my place.”

That impression still resonated with Thompson when she was applying to colleges a few years later. “Even though I had been at Hollins a lot, I went ahead and did a real campus tour. I remember turning to my mom and saying, ‘This is it.’”

Thompson initially thought she’d major only in psychology, but her artistic drive persisted despite her previous frustrations. Since film was a genre she had not actively pursued previously, she decided to enroll in a video production class her first year. “I was nervous because it was the first film class I had ever taken. I worried, ‘What if this doesn’t go well for me?’ I don’t like not being good at things.”

Fortunately, Thompson quickly found an ally in Amy Gerber-Stroh, associate professor of film and chair of Hollins’ film department. An accomplished filmmaker in her own right, Gerber-Stroh helped Thompson build her confidence and realize film making was the artistic outlet she had been seeking.

“Amy has changed my life in so many different ways. Coming into Hollins, I was afraid I wasn’t going to find the thing I could pour my entire heart into. I felt like I had so much to say and I didn’t know where to put it.”

With guidance from Gerber-Stroh and other faculty as well as the support of her fellow film students, Thompson says she “has a home in the film department. It’s this place where I can be myself and share my art. Sometimes you have to do that when your work is incomplete and therefore at its most vulnerable, but I’ve learned that’s okay because students and mentors are always there to help, especially when you’re flustered and your ideas aren’t working out.”

Thompson now has four films available online. Another short, August and the Rain Boots (2017), is similar to Collide in that it tells the story of a friendship that grows into a romantic relationship and ends on a celebratory note. The film boasts more than 192,000 YouTube views and was recently selected to appear at the Oregon Cinema Arts Film Festival.

“Hannah has become such a superstar through our film program,” Gerber-Stroh says. “It’s remarkable how often she gets requests from advertisers, actors, and others from the film industry asking for a chance to work with her. She epitomizes this new era of how students make films and videos and how they show their work.”

Thompson plans to go to Los Angeles after graduating from Hollins. “I want to be a director for the rest of my life, telling my stories and working with amazing people.”

 

Photo caption: Hannah Thompson ’20 shoots a scene for her 2017 short film, August and the Rain Boots. 


Senior Thesis, Film Short Screenings Showcase Student Filmmakers

Over the past four years, senior film majors at Hollins have honed their craft through a variety of hands-on, on-campus opportunities. These students will conclude their undergraduate careers by screening their senior thesis films and screenplays on Wednesday and Thursday, May 2 and 3, from 7 – 8 p.m. in the Wetherill Visual Arts Center’s Niederer Auditorium.

“We teach a comprehensive curriculum for film studies and for film/video production. Other schools don’t always invest in all these disciplines under one roof,” explains Amy Gerber-Stroh, associate professor of film and chair of the Hollins film department. “Very few schools in the nation offer an undergraduate all-woman film program, particularly a program that includes film/video production.”

This year’s senior thesis screenings include:

Wednesday, May 2

Honey Bear’s Big Adventure by Rachel Harris (animation)
A young bear fails at her attempts to talk to a cute bunny who brings the mail every day. It’s not until Honey Bear saves the world that she can summon the courage to ask Bunny-Boo out.

Homeless in Bolivia by Annalise Kiser (documentary)
Shalom, an organization in Bolivia, takes in homeless and neglected children. This film reflects on stories about dedicated volunteers and the children who seek refuge.

Dust Buddies by Allison Moore (scene reading of screenplay pilot)
Maxa Thousand is an anthropomorphic armadillo who enjoys solitude in the Grand Stretch until he meets AcroBat, a girl bat who is trapped at a circus and begs Maxa to break her out.

In These Woods by Nia Orellana (narrative)
Kevin, a young cryptid, is ready to explore the human world, finding allies to help him and those who would like nothing better than to see him dead.

Conspiracy by Seph Reid (scene readings of feature screenplay)
On the anniversary of his sister’s death, an old friend shows up at Mark’s workplace with a shocking secret.

Thursday, May 3

The Souls Within by James Stewart (scene readings of feature screenplay)
Sarah is a new kid in school who is miserable until she meets a boy named Zim. When they discover a strange book in the library, their lives change forever.

Frankie & June by Leiana Valenzuela (narrative)
Amidst a surreal landscape of Los Angeles, flighty June must overcome her fear of love in order to accept herself and her feelings for her best friend Frankie.

Appetite by Delaney Walker (animation)
A boy named Johnny accepts a job as a groundskeeper’s apprentice. All he has to do is assist in routine trimmings, yard work, and orange harvesting. How bad could it be?

We Are Here to Stay by Sydney Williams (documentary)
A film that explores the meaning of transgender and the reasons why transmen students choose to attend single-gendered institutions.

 

In addition, the Hollins film department will present film shorts made by the Spring Term 2018 film production classes on Friday, May 11, from 7 – 8:30 p.m.

Admission to all three screenings is free and open to the public.

 


“Dallas Buyers Club” Screenwriter Craig Borten Visits Hollins

Craig Borten, the Academy Award-nominated co-writer of Dallas Buyers Club, is coming to Hollins University for an intimate screening of the film, a question-and-answer session, and a reception on Friday, June 23, beginning at 7 p.m. in Niederer Auditorium, Wetherill Visual Arts Center.

Admission to this exclusive event is free and open to the public.

Dallas Buyers Club is based on the true story of Ron Woodruff, who worked around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they needed after he was diagnosed with the disease. The 2013 movie stars Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, and Jared Leto.

“I’m eager to share a firsthand account of the process of screenwriting and my passion for the film industry,” said Borten, who joins the program at the invitation of Tim Albaugh, director of the Hollins graduate screenwriting and film studies program.

After the screening, Borten and Albaugh will discuss the difficult path to production for the film, Borten’s career, and the movie making business.

“Our students’ favorite part of the screenwriting and film studies program is our guest artist visits,” said Albaugh. “We are lucky to hear from Craig about the lessons learned from his experiences in the film industry, and we will pair this real-world advice with our faculty’s academic expertise to help students succeed.”

Each summer, Hollins’ program welcomes guest artists to campus to share their work and experience. Program faculty include professional film and television writers as well as professors from world-renowned film schools such as UCLA and NYU.

Dallas Buyers Club was the first produced screenplay by Borten. The film received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Original Screenplay. He also cowrote The 33, which is based on the true story of 33 Chilean miners trapped in a mine for 69 days. Currently, he is in production on an hour-long drama series for A+E Studios on the opioid epidemic. Borten has been writing scripts for more than 20 years.


Hollins Names Albaugh to Lead Graduate Studies in Screenwriting and Film Studies

albaughHollins University has named writer/producer Tim Albaugh as the new director of Hollins’ master of arts and master of fine arts programs in screenwriting and film studies, beginning in the summer of 2012. He succeeds Professor of Film and Founding Director Klaus Phillips, who passed away suddenly in early October.

Albaugh, who has taught in Hollins’ M.F.A. screenwriting program since 2007, is a graduate of the M.F.A. screenwriting program at UCLA and has taught screenwriting at UCLA, UC Irvine, Pixar Animation Studios, and Walt Disney Feature Animation. He wrote Trading Favors, a film starring Rosanna Arquette and Cuba Gooding, Jr., and his students have sold scripts to numerous studios, producers and production companies, including HBO, Showtime, Lifetime, Nickelodeon Films, the Coen Brothers, and all the major television networks. The film The Machinist, starring Christian Bale, was written by Scott Kosar, a student in Albaugh’s class at UCLA.

“While the campus community continues to miss Klaus’ presence, we know he would like nothing more than for the graduate programs in screenwriting and film studies to continue and to grow,” said Hollins’ Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeanine Stewart. “Tim is the person we believe is best able to take on this challenge. He has been a wonderful asset for the past four years and offers a wealth of experience as well as familiarity with our students and faculty. He will do an excellent job of leading these programs.”

Hollins has offered an M.A. in screenwriting and film studies since 1999 and an M.F.A. in screenwriting since 2005. The summer programs draw instructors from the ranks of Hollins’ permanent faculty as well as visiting screenwriters, filmmakers and distinguished scholars from other institutions. The Summer 2012 session will be held June 18 – July 27.


New Award Pays Homage to the Memory of Film Professor Klaus Phillips

phillipsTwo friends and colleagues of the founding director of Hollins University’s graduate programs in screenwriting and film studies are honoring his memory by establishing a monetary award in his name.

Hal Ackerman, co-chair of the graduate screenwriting program at UCLA, and Tim Albaugh, a member of the UCLA screenwriting faculty who was recently named the new director of Hollins’ master of arts (M.A.) and master of fine arts (M.F.A.) programs in screenwriting and film studies, have created The Klaus Phillips/UCLA Screenwriting Award in tribute to the professor of film and internationally recognized film scholar who passed away in October 2011.

“Each year, a $1,000 award will be made to a student participating in the summer M.A. or M.F.A program in screenwriting and film studies who writes a screenplay that best exemplifies the joyous, courageous, independent spirit that emanated from Klaus Phillips,” said Albaugh, who along with Ackerman has been a member of the screenwriting and film studies faculty at Hollins for several years.

“For nearly three decades, Klaus shared his passion for and vast knowledge of film with countless undergraduate and graduate students,” Albaugh added. “Thanks to his tireless dedication, the summer master’s programs continually feature noted scholars, filmmakers, and screenwriters from around the world.”

Born in Munich, Germany, Phillips joined the Hollins faculty in 1984 and started the university’s M.A. program in screenwriting and film studies in 1999. The M.F.A. program was launched in 2005. The programs offer courses of study in the writing of screenplays and the study of the history, aesthetics, and theory of the art of film.

Classes take place for six weeks each summer and students typically complete their graduate degree in three years.


Film Written by MFA Grad to be Broadcast Nationally

hopeSusie’s Hope, a movie written and produced by Dan A.R. Kelly M.F.A. ’14, will air on the UP television network August 3.

The film, directed by Jerry Rees (The Brave Little Toaster), stars Emmanuelle Vaugier (40 Days and 40 Nights), Burgess Jenkins (Remember the Titans), and Andrea Powell (Ender’s Game). It’s about the inspirational relationship between a pit bull attack survivor, Donna Lawrence, and Susie, an abused pit bull-mix puppy, who learn to heal and forgive together. The movie is based on the real-life story of Lawrence and a severely abused puppy left for dead that she found in a Greensboro, North Carolina, park.

With the help of the Guilford County Animal Shelter, Susie survived her near-death experience and was adopted by Lawrence. Susie’s ordeal eventually led to the passing of Susie’s Law, which allows stricter punishment for animal abusers in North Carolina.

Susie, who is this year’s Therapy Dog Finalist in the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards, portrays herself in the film.

On August 12, Green Apple Entertainment will release Susie’s Hope on DVD nationwide. The film has been given the Dove Family Seal of Approval.

Kelly received his M.F.A. in screenwriting and film studies at Hollins’ commencement exercises in May. He is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America.