JULY 2020

A Letter from Professor Giovanna Chesler

Dear Film at Mason community,
It is with tremendous gratitude that I step down as Program Director of Film and Video Studies. I will continue my work here in FAVS as a Professor and as affiliated faculty in Women and Gender Studies. 

For seven years, it has been the greatest honor and joy of my professional life to work in the role of Program Director. Film at Mason is a most diverse, vibrant, inclusive, and practical program graduating alumni into the field who shine brightly as artists with a voice. It has been thrilling to make things happen at Mason with brilliant staff and visionary faculty colleagues. I am humbled by many conversations with students, advisory board members, faculty, staff and friends of film in which you shared your passion for our craft and art form with me. These conversations inspired change and growth in our program.

While this announcement will also come shortly from our Dean, I am pleased to share the news that Associate Professor Cynthia Fuchs will become Interim Program Director. Professor Fuchs, recently awarded the Presidential Medal for Diversity and Inclusion, is an esteemed film critic and scholar. Professor Fuchs helped shape the FAVS program in its infancy and for thirteen years since, at every step of our growth along the way. Under her leadership, our beloved Film at Mason program will continue to thrive.

I look forward to reconnecting with you all in the theater or at the next ice cream social, once we are able to resume our vibrant gatherings. 


Professor Giovanna Chesler ::
pronouns: they/them

Welcome, President Gregory Washington

Film at Mason welcomes the 8th president of George Mason University, Dr. Gregory Washington. View his message to the Mason community.

Student Achievements

Film and Theater major Jordyn Caldwell organized a Black Lives Matter rally in Fairfax, Virginia. 
Read more about her work here.
Photo by Kevin Krisko

Film and Video Studies major Taj Kokayi helped organize the GMU Peaceful March held on Mason’s campus on June 12th. Other organizers included Mason students Deion Maith, Janell Armstead, and Marissa Strang. Students, alumni, faculty, and staff marched from the Field House to the George Mason statue for scheduled speeches and prayer. The event was held to commemorate George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and other victims, calling for an end to racism and police brutality. 

Photos by Christina Kaysone
Film and Video Studies student Sara Wolfley creates illustrations to raise money for charities related to racial justice.
Read more about how she spends her time during quarantine and the charities she is supporting.

Artwork by Sara Wolfley

Faculty Achievements

Congratulations to Adjunct Professor Sara Barger. Her short documentary "Little But Fierce" was recently accepted into the Breckenridge Film Festival in the "Human Spirit" category. This year's festival will be online September 17-20th. It was also accepted into the New York International Film Awards.

"Little But Fierce" is a film about a little girl in Hampton, Virginia with a rare disease whose mother is forced to turn to the black market to buy her medicine.
Watch the trailer and follow the film on Facebook and Instagram.

Adjunct Professor Rob Farr contributed a chapter to a recently published book: Chase! A Tribute to the Keystone Cops from BearManor Media.
In addition, he recorded the commentary track for Eureka Video's new Blu-ray edition of Buster Keaton's Our Hospitality.
Both the book and Blu-ray are available now. 

Alumni Achievements

A Friend Named Park, directed by Bryan Steger (’20), won Best Student Film at the Florence Film Awards in Florence, Italy. The film is about a young boy who learns the hardships of a friend who has leukemia. Bryan also won the Jack Kehoe award for Best Directing at the Spring 2020 Virtual Mason Film Festival. Great work, Bryan.

Recent Film and Video Studies graduate Christopher Malone (’20) has entered his short film Harra and the Donkey in over 30 film festivals. Harra and the Donkey won the Award of Prestige for Best Student Film at the Vegas Monthly Movie Awards, July 2020. The film was a semi-finalist for both Top Shorts and the Couch Film Festival in Toronto, Canada. It received an Honorable Mention at Top Shorts and Prague International Monthly Film Festival. In addition, the film is an official selection for the monthy Kosice International Film Festival, Berlin Flash Festival, and the Festigious Film Awards. Chris’s film also won several awards at the Spring 2020 Virtual Mason Film Festival including Best VFX, Best Animation, and Best Comedy. Congratulations, Chris. 

Film and Video Studies alumnus Lucas Muratore (’18) has founded an online film festival in Massachusetts called the Middlesex Film Festival. The goal of this student-focused film festival is to cultivate the next generation of content makers. The festival encourages submissions from Film at Mason students. Please do so via Film Freeway.
If you have any questions about the festival or would like to volunteer, please email Lucas at
July 25 - Regular Deadline
August 15 - Late Deadline
October 24 - Festival

Film at Mason alumni Erblin Nushi and Kaidan Blackmer share their experiences with Mason News in celebration of Pride Month. Read more here.

Double Exposure Online Film Festival

The Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival returns October 14-16, 2020, online. The program connects audience appreciation for creative output to the rights of reporters and filmmakers to pursue investigations in the public interest; it ties stirrings of artistic curiosity to practical consequences and groundbreaking storytelling to policy changes. DX 2020 will feature timely discussions, interactive workshops and master classes, pre-arranged one-on-one networking and pitch meetings, as well a pro bono legal clinic. The symposium will incorporate a limited film program. Visit to reserve your early bird pass.

Film at Mason special: After 7/31, get an exclusive 10% off on your pass using the code MASONDX20.

Upcoming Events

Stay tuned for news on the Visiting Filmmakers Series (VFS) Online in Fall 2020. Since 1995, the Series, curated by Interim Program Director Cynthia Fuchs, has featured a variety of films and guests at the Fairfax campus. Last semester, we offered the Series online. This coming semester, we will again connect filmmakers and audience members online. The program will include guests and works addressing social justice, racial equality, and Black Lives Matter. 

Online Fall Course Offerings

FAVS 399 Afrofuturism
Online | Sync Wednesdays 1:30-4:10 PM
Prof. Nikyatu Jusu
Students will explore the history and contexts of Afrofuturism, which has roots in African American science fiction and now refers more broadly to literature, music, and visual art that explore the African diasporic experience. The course will focus on creative aspects including short script-writing, filmic storytelling, and online discussions with working filmmakers.
FAVS 399 Elections, Issues, and Film

Online | Async

Prof. Samirah Alkassim

If you want to explore the nexus of hot contemporary issues and US presidential elections through film, then this is the class for you. To better understand how the concerns of election years are represented in fiction films and documentaries, we'll discuss how fiction films and documentaries investigate assumptions about equality, human rights, immigrants, and prosperity in the US. The films we’ll study include James DeMonaco’s The Purge: Election Year (2016), Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro (2016), Laura Poitras’s Citizen Four (2014), Ava DuVernay's 13th (2016), and Jose Antonio Vargas's Documented (2013). 
FAVS 400 Career Development
Online | Sync Thursdays 4:30-7:10 PM
Prof. Sara Barger
This course prepares students for a career in the film and video industry beyond the university. Students complete a professionally reviewed resume, cover letter, and experience a formalized interview. Students prepare a written grant proposal and pitch a film project with professional advisors. This class fosters development of a professional online presence and strengthens students’ communication techniques in public speaking. 
FAVS 483 Feature-Length Scriptwriting
Online | Async
Prof. Peter Kimball
This course is an introduction to the development and analysis of feature length screenplays. The approach combines lecture, discussion, screening and presentation of student work. By the end of the semester, each student should have a complete first draft of an original screenplay. Students will also complete story reports and coverage reports of screenplays by other writers. 

BLM & LGBTQIA+ Filmmaker Fridays

During this time, we reflect thoughtfully on US history and challenge our belief systems. As Mason Patriots, we're lucky to be part of a diverse, global and multicultural community. We can all work together to enrich our educational environment, promote mutual respect and civility, and develop as global citizens. We can take advantge of the technologies that grant access to a wide range of art and experience: educate yourself and become active in struggles for justice. 

During the month of June, we highlighted Black Lives Matter and PRIDE films and we will continue to do so via our social media. See our recent suggestions, below. 
Filmmaker, author, and military veteran  Elegance Giiavoni is the creator of the ballroom documentary series “My House” on Viceland and the documentary Pier Kids: The Life, which screened at Outfest 2020. In Pier Kids: The Life, Elegance films three gay and transgender youth of color who have become homeless on the same street the Gay Rights Movement began years ago. 

Storyteller and director Channing Godfrey Peoples wrote two episodes for Season Three of Queen Sugar. Her feature film debut, Miss Juneteenth, premiered at Sundance in 2020. This past June 19th, Governor Northam recognized Juneteenth as a holiday within the Commonwealth. The holiday commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas, the last of the former Confederate states to abolish slavery, and provides an opportunity to celebrate African American contributions to our nation and the world.
Filmmaker, poet, and gay rights activist Marlon Riggs (1957-1994) work continues to challenge conventional representations of blackness and sexuality in the United States. He produced, wrote, and directed groundbreaking documentary films, including Ethnic NotionsTongues UntiedColor Adjustment, and Black Is...Black Ain't.

Support a Student

Dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many students face financial burden. Some lack the funds to pay for rent, tuition, and food. University Life has established a Student  Emergency Assistance Fund aimed at providing students with immediate assistance. Please consider giving to this fund. Financial assistance is a major part of our students’ well-being and every donation helps.  

Resources and Opportunties 

Check your email every Monday for an expanded list of upcoming funds, educational resources, webinars, creative opportunities, and more.

BLM resources

Film festivals and funding
  • Mountainfilm’s Emerging Filmmaker Fellowship seeks non-fiction stories celebrating adventure, activism, social justice, culture, environment and indomitable spirit. Submission deadline: July 31, 2020. 
  • Democracy 2020 Youth Film Challenge, organized by the Civic Life Project, is partnering with JusticeAid on a new film and social media competition that urges youth to participate in civic life and vote in 2020. Filmmakers between 15-25 are encouraged to submit a documentary or social media campaign on issues important to you and your community. Submission deadline: August 14, 2020.
  • BIPOC filmmakers, submit to the Tide Film Festival, a festival for filmmakers of color across ethnicities. Discount code is “TIDE202FIDDY” for 50% the submission fee. Submission deadline: August 28, 2020.
  • The Jackson Wild Media Lab Digital Edition seeks applicants for its cross-disciplinary virtual science filmmaking workshop that brings scientists and media creators together. Submission deadline: August 2, 2020 11:59 PM PST.
Film resources 
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We want to hear from you! If you have news you would like to contribute, please send it to We are looking for regional film events and updates from Film at Mason alumni. Keep up-to-date on all the current Film at Mason news at

Film and Video Studies
College of Visual and Performing Arts
4400 University Dr. MSN 5D8
Fairfax, VA 22030
703-993-3287 |
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