This week we have an excellent conversation with documentary filmmaker Mary Robertson. Robertson worked on the Showtime series The Circus as well as the feature documentary Trumped. All of that is very grim, but she also delves into more uplifting fare in her most recent series She’s the Ticket, which follows women running for election in response to the 2016 race. She’s the Ticket is available online.

Scott Higgins talks with Robertson about her past and current projects, making political documentaries, and Trump rally footwear. DON’T MISS IT!


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Celebrating CFILM!

Congratulations to the class of 2018, and to all the CFILM students who made it through another school year. CFILM is busy with celebration!

On Friday and Saturday, we present our Senior Thesis Films in the Goldsmith Family Cinema. See them on the big screen while you can.

Saturday morning, we offer our annual Reunion and Commencement FILM BREAKFAST. Starting at 9:00 AM, the lobby will be given over to coffee, bagels, fruit, pastry, and conversation.

Then, on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 in the Goldsmith, we present Wesleyan and the Hollywood Connection. Distinguished alumnus, Paul Weitz; Writers Guild of America award-winning television writer, Evan Katz; and Academy award winner, Akiva Goldsman, talk about their work in movies and television and answer questions about the Wesleyan connection to the business of moving images.

Thesis Film Screenings!

Last weekend saw the final thesis presentations: screenings for both the 16mm and digital thesis films. THRONGS OF FANS attended.


Miss the screening? No worries– if you’re around for R&C, you can catch additional presentations on Friday and Saturday. Details below!

Friday, May 25:

Senior Films-Goldsmith Family Cinema

9am to 11am:  Digitals

11am to 1pm:  16mm and Digitals

1:30pm to 3:30pm:  Digitals

3:30pm to 5:30pm:  16mm and Digitals

Saturday, May 26:

Senior Films-Goldsmith Family Cinema

9:30am to 11:30am:  Digitals

11:30am to 1:30am:  16mm and Digitals

Be sure to check the Facebook page for additional R&C events. As always– congratulations to the seniors!

CFILM Podcast Episode 3! With Ben Sax!

This week, Scott Higgins sits down with Ben Sax, a Philosophy and Film major from the class of 2003. Ben Sax recently patented his invention Perceptoscope, an augmented reality device built to resemble an old coin-operated binocular.

Perceptoscope photo courtesy of Ben Sax’s website

Ben Sax envisions Perceptoscope as a way to connect us to the past of the device’s setting. Look through Perceptoscope at Gettysburg, for instance, and you can see a stereoscopic recreation of the Battle of Gettysburg. Sax envisions it as a device for connecting us less to events and more to physical space, however.

“What I’m interested in is the history of the built environment, and how cities come to be, and the things we lose in that process,” he tells Professor Higgins. Sax speaks about the development process of these sorts of projects, as well as how we can use augmented reality to tell stories. The convergence of old and new technology, as well as the narrative experimentation, fit Perceptoscope snugly within the pantheon of CFILM projects. And Scott Higgins calls it “steampunk!” As if you could want anything more!

You can learn more about Perceptoscope at

History, Theory, and Criticism Theses!

Monday saw our second round of thesis presentations– this time, the History/Theory and Criticism projects. The students and their work are featured below.


Left: Advisor A.O Scott

Claire Shaffer, Emotion Pictures: The Art and Evolution of Music Videos

We often take music videos for granted. Over their 40-year history, music videos have provided the TV background noise in our living rooms, the fun YouTube clip we casually share with a friend, the meme we scroll past on our phones. They’ve also been cultural touchstones, viral sensations and, at times, groundbreaking pieces of visual art that add to the legacies of pop stars and filmmakers alike. This thesis pays critical attention to those moments, analyzing what makes the music video a uniquely expressive art form and how it has altered the landscape of digital media throughout its existence.

History and Theory

Left: Ari Polgar, Plot, Participation, and Playing Pretend: Narrative Pleasure in Single-Player Video Games

Long relegated to low-brow pop culture for teenagers, video games have emerged as the hot new area of media studies. With many styles and systems, games form a confusing group that is part technology and part toy. They are accepted for their fun but their power to connect with audiences and tell compelling tales is widely ignored. In this thesis, I argue for the merit of games as a storytelling medium, highlighting the ways in which interactivity supports plot while looking toward their future as an integrated narrative form, one that uses play and imagination to craft immersive stories.

Right: Graham Brown, Beyond the Infinite: A Genre Study of the Hypothetical Space Film

Since the dawn of cinema, outer space has both fascinated and challenged filmmakers. Though space has been a subject of film since A Trip to the Moon (1902), concerns of accuracy and realism didn’t enter popular cinema until Destination Moon (1950). This film laid the foundations for a genre I call the Hypothetical Space Film, a tradition fueled by a desire to distinguish itself from mainstream science fiction. In this thesis, I trace the development of the Hypothetical Space Film by analyzing the genre’s conventions and elements that filmmakers have interacted with for the last 68 years.

Not pictured: Paul Partridge, Did He Do It?: Judging the Suspect- Protagonist in True Crime Documentaries

The recent mainstream appeal of series such as Making a Murderer and The Jinx has cemented the place of true crime documentaries as a popular genre in our cultural landscape. Examining earlier works crucial to its formation reveals the common characteristic of creating a participative role for the viewer, who is asked to determine the guilt of the crime suspect around whom the narrative is centered. This thesis traces the history of how the true crime documentary came to be recognized as a genre, offers an overview of its main techniques and their evolution into long- form storytelling, and explores where the genre is headed now.

Congratulations to the thesis writers! Presentations conclude this Friday and Saturday with the digital and 16mm film screenings.


Screenplay and Television Thesis Presentations

On Sunday, the campus gathered in the Powell Family Cinema for this year’s screenplay and television thesis presentations. The department’s senior thesis writers had the chance to present and read from their year-long projects. Here are the students (and Joe Cacaci) and their work:

Screenplay writers

Left to right:

Lealand Meade-Miller, Tsar Ian 

Ian is a twenty-something American thrown into an identity crisis by the death of his father. He finds the answer to this crisis in his father’s attic, where he discovers he is the last descendant of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and heir to the Russian throne. Spurred by a sense of destiny, he embarks on a journey to Russia to claim his birthright. On this journey he finds friends, foments mob violence, and gets involved in a mafia conspiracy, leading him to question his purpose in the world and what destiny truly means.

James Cureton, Seattle Story

Leah is a hardworking high school senior, who lives in Seattle with just her mother, Alma. Leah’s life is focused around finishing her high school career on track and getting a scholarship to college. A chance encounter on the streets of Seattle brings her back into the orbit of her estranged father, Anthony. Having lost contact with him and his new family years ago, she has to rediscover what family she really has and who she has to count on.

Jack Maraghy, Burner

Every year social outcasts flock to the desert for free love and free drugs at a weeklong, Burning Man-esque art festival. But Grayson, long time “Burner” and unofficial festival fixer, can’t relax after witnessing a murder on the first night of the fest. He spends the rest of the week unraveling a conspiracy that may ultimately unravel him. It’s a surreal decent into darkness as he learns what he’ll sacrifice to protect his way of life.

Jianna Xiong, Dot

Eight-year-old Dot and his father, Adam, live alone in a secluded, undeveloped valley that encloses an otherworldly land made of rough diamonds. Working with his colleague at the federal environmental agency, Adam is committed to shielding the diamond field from the profit-driven outside world. Meanwhile, trying to shelter Dot from the truth of his mother’s suicide, Adam comes up with a mythical story that leads Dot to believe that his mother is living in the distant, all-powerful ocean. However, when the diamond field is brought to the attention of a diamond-mining corporation, the company’s imminent encroachment threatens both the valley’s preservation and Dot’s idealistic worldview.

Television writers

Left to right:

Arianna Allegra D’Andrea, Syndicate

Do intentions justify actions? Set in NYC, Syndicate explores the psychological journey of two unsuspecting people involved in illicit activities, for moral reasons. The drama centers on Ginger, a 21- year-old business enthusiast whose future gets derailed due to foolish, heat-of-the- moment decision-making. What began as a quick fix to help pay family medical bills soon devolved into total involvement in nefarious activities that eat away at her daily. Lucky faces a similar situation. His now comatose brother, Dom, would use revenue from his marijuana sales to help the less fortunate. Struggling to upkeep this financial support, Lucky is launched into a business he never wanted part in. The two form an unlikely alliance, but their pasts are dangerously intertwined. The closer Lucky and Ginger grow, the closer everything comes to falling apart…

Matt Fichandler, Whisper Valley

Whisper Valley is a mystery-comedy that follows the Buckworths, a family of four, as they move from Philadelphia to the picturesque town of Bearskin Butte, Colorado. Every resident of Bearskin Butte is a member of Envirology, a nature-loving cult. Throughout their move, the Buckworths learn that Envirology is one week away from The First Day, and while attempting to discover what will happen on The First Day, the Buckworths learn that Bearskin Butte is not what they thought it was. Not only is Envirology moving the town towards self-sustainability without permission from the government, but the town of Bearskin Butte doesn’t even technically exist. They are actually in Whisper Valley, a town that Envirology has secretly been fixing up ever since its abandonment 25 years ago. What will The First Day bring?

Kaelin Loss, Zapp and Zodd

On planet Cardosso, the aliens working at Zarthorp Productions struggle to save their most popular television show: Earth. The Cardossians have watched the evolution of Earth, its species and cultures with disgust and morbid curiosity for 4.5 billion years. But the show’s location is nearing total destruction, and evolving technology poses the possibility of human colonization in space. Enter Zapp and Zodd: producers with nothing in common who must assume human form, travel to Earth, and determine whether humanity is worth saving. Zapp and Zodd, a half-hour comedy, is bursting with criticism and commentary on human nature through an “alien” perspective.

Zenzele Price, Blame

The Shore family moved to rural Watertown, Idaho in hopes of a fresh start. But on one Sunday morning at the supermarket, Alex, the family’s eldest son, commits a crime that erases any hope the Shores harbored of living a normal life. Alex’s act is caught on camera, capturing the attention of the news and igniting the indignation of the entire community. As the media spotlight threatens to unearth decades of family secrets, one question about that fateful morning remains unanswered – why did Alex do it?

Blame follows the Shore family as the consequences of that morning ripple through the town, thrusting a grieving family and a reeling community into public scrutiny.

Eli Sands, Tenement

Tenement is an hour-long historical drama series. By 1925, only the very poorest of the million and a half Jews who immigrated to New York City in the prior half-century still remain on the Lower East Side. One such poor family is the Nadelmanns: parents Abram and Devorah, and their children Menachem, Yaaakov, and Anna. Abram’s diagnosis of tuberculosis and subsequent hospitalization sparks great change in all their lives: Menachem becomes politically active as an anarchist, Yaakov becomes an assistant to a shady and wealthy banker, and Anna explores acting in Yiddish theater. Family friend Leah starts a garment manufacturing business. As they gain experience, grow in ambition, and face escalating obstacles, they reevaluate their goals and their relationships with their loved ones.

Will Stewart, Become Death

Become Death tells the story of two families brought together to survive the nuclear apocalypse. Fifteen years after the bombs fall, the Bates and Gomez families sit opposed over the remains of the State of Tennessee in the midst of a war between the United States and China. In the pilot, the various members of the Bates and Gomez families struggle to seize power after the President’s revelation that the Chinese army has developed technology which may end the nuclear detente. Bud Bates, the patriarch of the Bates family, wants to capitalize on this new technology, while matriarch Martina Gomez wants to reveal the secrets Bud hides on his estate.

Congratulations to all thesis writers! Be sure to catch the history, theory, and criticism presentations on Monday 5/7, and the thesis films on 5/11 and 5/12.

The CFILM Podcast Episode 2! We’ll Always Have Casablanca!

It’s back! Like The IncrediblesBreakin’Avatar someday, but notably not Casablanca, the CFILM podcast returns for part 2. In this episode, Jeanine Basinger and Scott Higgins discuss the beloved film with special guest Noah Isenberg. He’s the author of We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Legend and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Film, available now. Casablanca celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

The CFILM podcast will be updated biweekly on Wednesdays. Remember to check back in for new episodes!

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