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2022 Grads Pick Up Awards in Screenwriting, Documentary Film

Mary Egan in a tank top in backyard

What if Crime and Punishment were set in St. Petersburg, Florida? It would be called Hot Girl $ummer, and be named top feature screenplay in the ScreenCraft True Story & Public Domain competition last month for its writer, Mary Egan ’22.

“It was so exciting to win because this is the first contest that I’ve ever entered! And they told me while I was on vacation, which made it even cooler,” she explained.

And Egan isn’t the only member of Emerson’s Class of 2022 to see success with a film project shortly after graduating: Letao Chen ’22 won the Best New England Documentary at the Doc.Boston Documentary Film Festival for her film, A sentence that ends in a word that starts a new one.

Egan was inspired to write the adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel of nihilism and guilt after taking a Feature Writing Workshop in the summer of 2021.

“I knew I wanted to write a sexy, colorful Florida movie, but I didn’t have a plot or characters to go with that vibe. I started reading Crime and Punishment over my vacation and realized both of these stories could take place in St. Petersburg and it all fell into place!”

While at Emerson, Egan majored in Marketing Communication, with a minor in Comedy. She was also involved in many projects on campus. “I did a lot of acting, writing, and producing with [Emerson Independent Video],” Egan said.  She ran the show The Dish, a satirical celebrity news show, with Patty Tamayo ‘22 and Ron Marshalsea ‘21. She wrote, produced, co-directed, and starred in two audio drama productions with Full Fathom called Wonderland™ and Repeat After Me with Ryan Rock, and she acted in shows with Emerson Channel, Shakespeare Society, and Kidding Around.

In her last semester, Egan and producing partner Devin Davis-Lorton ‘22 wrote, produced, acted in, and co-directed KINGS, alongside Jack Callaghan ‘21.

“I then rewrote KINGS as a short play which was chosen as a part of the New Fest Short Works and produced by Emerson Stage this past March. I always wanted to do something with Emerson Stage, so it was fun to do that as like my last thing at Emerson,” she explained.

Letao Chen holding flowers stands next to man in front of step and repeat
Letao Chen ’22, left, won Best New England Doc at the Doc.Boston Film Festival. Courtesy photo

Chen was inspired to create the film in honor of her grandmother, who had recently died.

“I loved Grandma in a language I cannot speak. And the language you speak determines the dimensions of emotions you feel, so understanding another language is like unlocking another mixture of emotions,” Chen said. “The film is a string of thoughts following this realization, my stream of consciousness trying to mourn my grandma’s passing, without being able to articulate the language our relationship was built on.”

Reflecting on the filming process, Chen said she did everything in tandem, writing the film as it was filmed, making each scene a reenactment of a real-life event. She made sure that there was no actual footage of her grandmother.

“I wanted to preserve my thoughts of her in the present as time tore us apart. She lives on in memory and I see her in everything,” she said.

Chen also spoke about how her time at Emerson as an undergrad helped her morph her ideas into something more accessible.

“Because this is a very personal film, the challenge was to consider if my ideas would come across to an audience. My Advanced Media Projects class with Professor [John Craig] Freeman really helped with in class critiques. Everyone was very honest and it forced me to come to terms with my procrastination and overplanning.”

Outside of the classroom, Chen was involved with Index Magazine and was the co-founder of Ugly Magazine. She worked as an assistant photographer for the college’s Marketing Department, and was even a contributor to two radio shows with WECB, Pang Radio, and Saddle Ranch Radio.

Thinking back on her time as an undergrad, she is most appreciative of the community.

“I am most thankful for the people I was surrounded by. I’ve met some of my best friends and having such a collaborative environment has resulted in dozens of significant and memorable projects that wouldn’t be possible otherwise,” she said.

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