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Emerson LA Film Festival Returns to Historic Raleigh Studios

More than 150 students, alumni, parents, internship providers, and friends experienced Emersonian creativity at the 17th annual Emerson Los Angeles Film Festival, which returned to historic Raleigh Studios in Hollywood on April 14.

The event featured three different programs: student, EBONI, and alumni showcases. Alumna Charvelle Holder ’13 emceed the event. The evening kicked off with a screening of short films by directors Yuval Shapira ’17, Bethany Spreadborough ’17, Pablo Vaca Orvananos ’17, and Marina Zang ’19 as part of the student showcase. Spreadborough was the recipient of Marcia Robbins-Wilf ’71 Women in Film Production Award.

Student filmmakers at the Emerson LA Film Festival.

From left: Marina Zang '19, Pablo Vaca Orvananos '17, Yuval Shapira '17, and emcee Charvelle Holder '13. Photo/Daryl Paranada

Zang flew out to LA from Boston to attend the festival. Her film was a documentary about a Chinese student in the US who comes to terms with what happened at Tiananmen Square four years before her birth.

“I’m surprised this documentary touched people a lot,” said Zang. “Letting people see my film and hearing their thoughts and meeting other filmmakers was fun.”

The theme for the EBONI Showcase was Creative Collaboration: Vision & Artistry. Works from Reyna Amaya Gillead ’06, Josie Campbell ’08 and Erial Tompkins ’06, Andre Joseph ’06, Lorena Manriquez and Marlene McCurtis ’79, and Flawless Brown Pictures were featured.

From left: Siku Thompson 06, Marlene McCurtis '79, and Felicia Pride '05. Photo/Daryl Paranada

McCurtis and Siku Thompson ’06 co-curated the EBONI Showcase. McCurtis said the theme was influenced by Flawless Brown, a TV film production house founded at Emerson College whose mission is to provide opportunities for women of color to develop socially conscious art while forming sisterly bonds.

“Seeing how Flawless Brown worked together as writers, producers, directors, actors, and collaborators was inspiring and we wanted to examine that,” said McCurtis, who screened a documentary she co-directed about immigration at the festival. “We don’t do solitary art. We have to depend on each other.”

Larianny Perez ’17 and Amber McCleese ’19 represented Flawless Brown Pictures and spoke on a panel that was moderated by Felicia Pride ’05.

Allison Youngberg '03 and Amber McCleese pose during the Emerson LA Film Festival reception. Photo/Daryl Paranada

“To see so many people of color out there in the world working together and sharing their experiences is amazing,” said McCleese, who estimated that 30–40 Emersonians worked on the Flawless Brown film screened at the festival, School Don’t Cost a Thing.

Alumni shorts featured in the festival were chosen by a special panel of judges, including Brooke Knight, chair of the Visual and Media Arts Department; Jim Lane, scholar-in-residence at Emerson LA; and alumni Kristen Murtha ’09, Harry Vaughn ’10, and Jae Williams ’08, MA ’16.

Shorts from Elizabeth Bates ’06, Sean Burns ’85 and Bill Jarcho ’80, Jhanvi Motla ’14, Alicyn Packard ’03, Erin St. Pierre ’14, Cooper Vacheron ’16, and Allison Youngberg ’03 were featured in the festival.

From left: Andre Joseph '06, Reyna Amaya Gillead '06, Marlene McCurtis '79, Lorena Manriquez, Amber McCleese '19, and Larianny Perez '17. 

Packard bought five tickets for the event and offered to sponsor students or alumni who wanted to attend the festival.

“I just wanted to pay it forward in the spirit of Emerson,” said Packard, who screened an animated music video to her song, Bigger Heart. “It feels good to be able to help somebody else because I was helped by a lot of people.”

The night wound down with a special message from President Lee Pelton and Allison Sampson, Emerson LA’s vice president and executive director.

“Storytelling is at the heart of the Emerson College experience,” said Pelton via video. “Congratulations to all of the artists who have made this festival such a cherished tradition.” 

From left: Allison Youngberg '03, Megan Brotherton, Elizabeth Bates '06, Jhanvi Motla '14, Erin St. Pierre '14, Henry MacLean '17, and Alicyn Packard '03, and David Michael Friend. Photo/Daryl Paranada

To close the evening, a party in the Raleigh Studios cafe featured alumna DJ XSSY. Guests danced the night away, sang along to Spice Girls hits, and enjoyed snacks and beverages.

“It’s exciting to meet other Emersonians, especially since I moved to LA a month ago,” said Sergio Uguet de Resayre ’02, who was preparing to pitch his project Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway at an event in Cannes. “I find myself in a position where I can help other alumni because we come from a similar place. It’s great.”

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