Most students will conduct extensive research and write lengthy papers for their senior comprehensive projects. Media Arts and Culture (MAC) seniors do comps a little differently. Because the major has three emphases — screenwriting, production and critical media studies — MAC comps range from video installation exhibits to feature-length screenplays to short narrative films. Over the course of three nights last week, students within each track presented their work to the Occidental community. The turnout for each night is a testament to the public and communal nature of film.
“L.A. Portrait Project,” Aaron Spoto’s video installation piece, opened last Wednesday in Weingart gallery. Hypnotically beautiful yet everyday images move in and out of split-screen displays, accompanied by intricate sound design, transporting the viewer from the gallery to the streets of east Los Angeles. Although MAC students have created installation work for comps in the past, Spoto was the only MAC senior this year to take this route. As an East L.A. native, Spoto wanted to showcase the area’s beauty, which he said often exists in everyday moments and sights. The installation is a tribute to Spoto’s L.A.: a city defined not by Hollywood ideals of glamor and stardom, but of family parties in the local park and freeway overpasses.
“A lot of the images presented are images stuck in my mind from living here — images worth documenting,” Spoto said.
The three MAC majors graduating with an emphasis in screenwriting — Scott Kulicke, Ian Bradley and Becca Ray — presented about 20 pages of their screenplays at a table read by casted actors Thursday night.
Kulicke’s “The Family that Plays Together” tells the incestuous ghost story of Mickey Mallory and his relationship with his brother and mother.
“It’s a more sympathetic look at incest than you will see,” Kulicke said.
Bradley’s “The Fairchild” ponders philosophical questions of life and memory in an apocalyptical world where the sun no longer rises.
Ray brought uproarious laughter in the reading of the opening scenes of her screenplay, “Contenders.” Ray’s screenplay deconstructs the familiar tale of a young, overworked Hollywood assistant with a uniquely raw and honest take on the absurdity of young women’s lives in L.A.
“A lot of the the stories were from friends of mine, but I won’t say who,” Ray said.
Seniors with a production emphasis spent months setting production schedules, filming and editing their comprehensive films. Thorne Hall was almost at capacity Friday night for the premiere of the ten production seniors’ thesis films. Within a ten minute time limit each, students showcased their technical, aesthetic and political prowess as directors.
Talon Gonzalez’s documentary short, “Mistizo,” features provocative and inspiring slam poetry pieces addressing the experiences of individuals of mixed race in the United States, shielding interview subjects with black and white silhouettes. Joey Massari’s “Day Job” brings uproarious joy with its music video style and energetic beats. The gorgeous blue and red lighting of Alex Keneally’s sci-fi film, “Humanoid,” are visually mesmerizing. And Cullen Parr’s uniquely drawn animated short “Planets” tells the charmingly sympathetic story of a man who can’t quite find his space in the universe.
Although each senior produces his or her own comprehensive project, it takes a team to bring it to completion. The credits at the end of each film are filled with the names of other senior MAC majors, as well as junior MAC majors who can take intermediate cinematography and production classes in the fall which to allow them to work on a senior film.
Occidental’s MAC major is not a traditional film major. The major’s combination of production and screenwriting, with an emphasis on critical media theory, is unique to Occidental. For a program that is based in critical approaches to film, the production and writing talent displayed by this year’s MAC seniors highlighted their dedication to and passion for the field.