Two Emerson College alumni, Alexandra Geller, MFA ’19, and Noah Graham ’19, were awarded grants to complete their student films from The Caucus Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 2000 to promote diversity in the entertainment industry.
“It’s very refreshing to see all the talented young people out there,” said Sharon Arnett, president of The Caucus Foundation Board. “We are very pleased to be doing what we are doing to help them have a future in the entertainment industry.”
The Caucus Foundation serves as the nonprofit arm of the Caucus for Producers, Writers, and Directors, which provides a forum for people in the entertainment industry to explore issues of the ever-changing landscape of content and exhibition. Since its inception, the Foundation has granted funds to 181 students from 17 accredited colleges and universities. It has provided grants and in-kind services totaling $2 million.
“Making films at a student level is certainly an uphill battle,” said Geller. “To have an organization as well-known as the Caucus recognize and support my work and story really meant a lot to me and my team.”
Geller used the money from the grant to complete post-production work on her graduate thesis short film, Uncovered, a coming-of-age story that follows an independent 8-year-old girl after she and her neighbor stumble into an uncomfortable situation. Thanks to the grant, Geller was also able to submit the project to various film festivals she wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. Her short played at the Montana Film Festival.
Graham used the money from his grant to complete work on his BFA senior thesis, OUTSIDER, a documentary exploring the religious, racial, and financial tensions between ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups and other communities in Rockland County, New York. It’s a personal story for Graham, who grew up in the area and has witnessed it change over the years.
“There’s such a division in Rockland and I think it represents divisions in many different ways across the country,” said Graham. “I’m hoping by telling this story as completely as possible, it paints a picture that shows things are not as black and white and [clear]-cut as they may seem.”
Graham raised money to complete production on the documentary via Kickstarter but had nothing left for distribution. The money from the grant will help make that possible.
“To grow talent in the industry and help provide for the next generation of producers, writers, and directors, we provide these grants so people can complete their thesis films in the way they like to see fit,” said Arnett. “Hopefully we establish a relationship with them, mentor them, and they become next content creators in the industry.”
As part of the grant, Geller and Graham, along with other grantee winners, were flown out to Los Angeles to attend an annual awards dinner and receive their awards. In LA, they had the opportunity to meet with members of the Caucus, including alumnus and Emerson Trustee Vin di Bona ’66.
Graham said meeting di Bona was a cool experience. He is currently conducting additional interviews for his documentary and re-editing it. He hopes to complete the film later this year and credits Emersonians for helping him find the story.
“A critical part of making this film was the ability to brainstorm and have my fellow Emerson students, friends, and advisors critique the film in the many stages that it went through,” said Graham.
Geller is completing post-production on another short and working on a documentary that’s in development. Both she and Graham work other jobs while pursuing their passions. Geller hopes she can continue writing and directing films in a sustainable way.
“The stories that I tend to tell are narratives that look at identity and how we may bend and change in the face of society,” said Geller. “I hope to continue to tell those stories with sensitivity and honesty.”
For more information on The Caucus Foundation and to apply for grants, please visit: https://www.caucusfoundation.org/index.html