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Emerson Alumnus Takes Top Prize at SXSW

Thunder Road, the feature film written, directed, and starring alumnus Jim Cummings ’09, was the Grand Jury winner in the Narrative Feature Competition at the SXSW Film Festival last week.

Adapted from Cummings’ 2016 short film of the same title, Thunder Road is about a police officer mourning the loss of his mother.

The short version of Thunder Road, produced by Mark Vashro ’08, won the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2016. It also won awards that year at SXSW (for acting), as well as the Anchorage International, Atlanta, Champs-Élysées, Chicago International, HollyShorts, Los Angeles, Palm Springs International Short, Provincetown International, and Rainier Independent film festivals.

This year’s SXSW Jury Awards were presented at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, at a ceremony hosted by comedian Jim Gaffigan.

This is Cummings’ second SXSW Grand Jury Prize. He was a producer on Krisha, about a woman returning to her family at Thanksgiving after a 10-year absence, which took the top award in 2015.  He also co-produced 2013’s Euphonia, which was nominated for a SXSW Audience Award, and directed the short film The Robbery, nominated for a Grand Jury Award in 2017.  

Also premiering at SXSW this year was A Vigilante, produced by new Visual and Media Arts affiliated faculty member Andrew Corkin, and Relaxer, written and directed by Joel Potrykus, a student in Emerson’s low-residency Writing for Film and Television program.

A Vigilante, starring Olivia Wilde, is about a once-abused woman who rids others of their domestic abusers while tracking down her own. It premiered in the Narrative Spotlight division.

In Relaxer, premiering in the Visions category, for filmmakers [who] “are audacious, risk-taking artists,” Y2K is approaching, but Abbie needs to beat an impossible level on Pac-Man before he can leave his couch




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