The Concord Academy alums interviewed for the spring 2016 cover story, “Knocking on the Celluloid Ceiling,” have forged careers in many facets of the film industry. Here’s a spotlight on the recent work of a few of these filmmakers.
Rachel Morrison ’96 has been director of photography for seven Sundance premieres in the past six years, among them, Dope, directed by Rick Famuyiwa, and Fruitvale Station, directed Ryan Coogler, which won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize for best picture. Watch trailers for those and other of her recent films at Morrison’s website. Her cinematography has also been featured on most major TV networks, including HBO, Showtime, ABC, and CBS. She’s working with director Dee Rees now, in pre-production for Mudbound, based on the book by Hilary Jordan. Watch Morrison’s narrative reel below.
“If you want to shoot dramas and you want to shoot compelling stories, you have to stay true to that. I want to be able to use every tool in my toolbox to make a dramatic story.”
Catherine Saalfield Gund ’83 is currently at work on three projects through her production company, Auburn Pictures. Watch the trailer for Amor Puro y Duro: Love Hard and Pure below. The film examines the magnetism and power of the iconic ranchera singer Chavela Vargas and includes some interview footage Gund secured with her decades ago, as well as recent interviews in Mexico with some of Vargas’s musical heirs. Gund is also directing and producing another documentary, A Moving Body, about Cleveland as an organism in motion, focusing on local movements for social justice. She is also producing American Rhapsody, a series of 12 silent, black-and-white, 35mm films that take inspiration from never-produced attempts at interracial filmmaking early in the 20th century.
“If we can keep fanning this flame, we could have some real change happening. It’s not going to be overnight, and people have to believe that transformation is really possible, and not just re-formation — it has to be deeper.”
Sally Rubin ’95, a documentary filmmaker and editor, codirects the documentary filmmaking program at Chapman University. Her recent films have included Life on the Line, which follows a pre-teen girl who lives steps from the U.S.–Mexico border, and Deep Down, a story from the heart of coal country, which you can watch here. Watch the trailer below for a preview of her current project, The Hollywood Hillbilly, her third documentary filmed in Appalachia, where her mother grew up. “Many think that people from rural areas of the country are backwards and ignorant, and there’s very little reality that’s part of our view of people from that region,” she says. Learn more at Rubin’s website.
“I codirect. I prefer to work with a partner, and I coproduce my films too. In documentary, the editor is the one that’s really in charge of telling the story, in postproduction. I do a fair amount of the editing on my own films rather than farming it out.”
Emily Abt ’93 has cultivated a hybrid career as director, producer, and writer, and cinematographer, through her production company, Pureland Pictures. Watch the trailer below for her most recent feature-length documentary, Daddy Don’t Go, about four disadvantaged feathers in New York City as they struggle to beat the odds and defy the deadbeat dad stereotype. Her first narrative feature, Toe to Toe, premiered at Sundance in 2009. She’s at work on her second narrative feature, Audrey’s Run, about an African American woman, to be played by Paula Patton, who runs for mayor in Boston.
“There’s a lot of power to the pen. The way a lot of women filmmakers get ahead is by being self-generators — they generate their own material; they’re also writers. That’s certainly been true for me.”
Liz Goldwyn ’94 is a writer, filmmaker, and artist living and working in Los Angeles. She is working on adapting her most recent book, Sporting Guide, for television; watch a preview below. Goldwyn is also the writer and director of Pretty Things, based on her nonfiction book, Pretty Things: The Last Generation of American Burlesque Queens. Learn more at Goldwyn’s website.
“You have to go into the profession, especially in the film world, with a little bit of attitude, because all day long you’re going to have wear your armor and your shield. You’re going to have to be a warrior goddess. It’s just the way things are.”
Daysha Edewi ’10 is a producer at BuzzFeed, an Internet media company based in New York established to create and share viral social and entertainment content. The company provides producers the means to shoot, edit, light, direct, and act in their own brief online videos — each created on a shoestring budget — to address topics that matter to them, then test which attract the largest audience. Watch What if I Knew That I Was Beautiful below, or check out some of Edewi’s other spoken-word poems, such as Let it Out, or her biggest to date, What I Wish Someone Told Me About Having Sex.
“Part of Buzzfeed’s philosophy is that they’re never going to tell you what to make. They’ll guide you, you’ll have brainstorms, you’ll work with a team, but the seed of the idea is yours, and the minute you have it you can develop it and mold it into whatever you want it to be.”