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Film Studies Program
Bryn Mawr College
101 North Merion Ave
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
610.526.5334

Sarah Mendell

CLASS OF 2005

Major: English
Minor: Film Studies
Hometown: Manhattan, NY

WHAT FILM CLASSES HAVE YOU TAKEN?

Intro to Film, Counter Cinema, Movies and Mass Politics, Documentary Film and Media, Film Theory, Feminist Film Theory, Video I and II, Documentary Video

HAVE YOU DONE ANY FILM-RELATED INTERNSHIPS OR SUMMER PROGRAMS?

I did an internship at Backseat Conceptions, a small newly formed production company. Each of the producers at Backseat had his own project but the group worked together on lots of different projects--the ones that made them some money to fund their more passionate ventures. Backseat was a great place because the producers assigned me work they knew I was interested in learning about and they always switched the work up for me so that I got a look at a lot of different aspects of producing movies/commercials/"bits." I PAed for them once in NY when they were working on Tool's DVD, accompanied them to various events in Philadelphia, helped out with their yearly film festival, and did a lot of work in the office, working mainly on a graphics program (Fireworks) which they took the time to teach me. With that program I created signs, fliers, and advertisements for Philadelphia newspapers and magazines. The group at Backseat was incredibly friendly and really welcomed me into the company. They also trusted me to do produce good material and never looked over my shoulder while I worked. I think the best lesson I learned there was that in this business, it's often necessary to produce work you never dreamed you would produce nor wanted to produce in order to get a chance to do what you really want. I mean not only that the group did certain projects to get money so that they could work on their own projects but that they needed to prove themselves to certain members of the community before they could embark on further filmic ventures.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A FILM STUDIES MINOR? WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT FILM STUDIES?

I became a film studies minor by accident. I took Movies and Mass Politics and was incredibly intimidated by the "film buffs" in the class until one day I decided to don some confidence and talk as if I were one of those film buffs. Professor Tratner took me aside after class and told me to keep talking. I guess I just kept on talking. I like the minor because it is in no way restrictive. You can focus on a certain aspect of film, incorporate your love of a certain language and venture off campus for classes in film offered by Swarthmore and Penn. Film isn't just a medium--it's a language. So being a film studies minor means that you're not just learning about certain films or periods in film history or certain directors or styles or genres (although you learn that too)-- you're learning how to read a different kind of text, you're learning new vocabulary, you're learning how to use that vocabulary as a critic and even as a practitioner (in fine arts classes). You're learning how to be an educated member of an increasingly visual society. That said, you are learning how to interpret the visual by employing non-visual specific tools of analysis.

DO YOU ATTEND ANY FILM-RELATED EVENTS ON CAMPUS? OFF-CAMPUS? ANY HIGHLIGHTS?

Some on campus, yes. Many more off campus. I go to screenings all over the city and I especially like the ones which are accompanied by the filmmaker and a Q & A session. I saw Citizen Kane the other week and listened to a great Q & A afterward with filmmaker, Nolan Walker. He was very straight with the audience and gave some great advice to young aspiring filmmakers (especially documentary filmmakers). "Ask the dumb question" he advised. "The more simple, the more obvious the question, the more clear and more animated the answer."

ANYTHING YOU'D WANT TO SAY TO SOMEONE CONSIDERING TAKING A FILM CLASS, OR CONSIDERING A MINOR IN FILM STUDIES?

I would recommend that everyone take one film studies class at least. And don't feel obliged to stick to Intro to Film. It's a great class but is actually more appropriate for those who know they'd like to be film minors. Take a class that sparks your interest and then worry about learning the vocabulary. Many more classes are open to those without film experience than you would think. Plus professors are often really good about giving you a sort of cheat sheet that will allow non filmians to familiarize themselves with the vocab that others might be using. These classes aren't intimidating! They are exciting and in my experience, stimulate a part of the brain that other classes neglect.

ANY THOUGHTS ON WHETHER OR NOT YOUR FUTURE PLANS WILL INVOLVE FILM?

I hope it will in some way. Well, of course it will. I'll always go to the movies, I'll always watch the news, I'll always be a visual person. But, you meant career wise. Yes, I hope film will somehow make it into my career. There are a million and one ways it can (film production, film criticism (written and spoken), video production (documentary, instructional, etc), television (shows, news, commercials, subscription service shows, etc), who knows maybe even the business aspect of producing film (not likely but it diversifies the list), and on and on.

IS YOUR THESIS FILM-RELATED? WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

Yes. I'm writing about the gaze in film. Theorists have often characterized the gaze by utilizing the vocabulary of the sadistic and masochistic. And there seems to be a real argument within film history regarding the impossibility of those scenarios (or gazes) to exist simultaneously. I suggest that Atom Egoyan's work shows how those scenarios (gazes) can exist simultaneously by looking at those of his films which incorporate the digital on a diegetic and intra-diegetic level.

HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE BEEN WITH THE FILM STUDIES PROGRAM AT BRYN MAWR?

Wonderful. The professors in the program are close and encourage closeness amongst the minors too. They are also genuinely interested in our individual work. I received many offers of help for my thesis and lots of encouragement along the way. The program also encourages its students to venture off campus, more, I would suggest, than most other programs.

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