APRIL 2021

Virtual Mason Film Festival 2021 Starts Today!

This year's Mason Film Festival will take place virtually, featuring work from Film at Mason students created during the Spring 2021 semester. There will be an array of short films as well as pitches and panel discussions with filmmakers.

Watch the Films from April 29 - May 6, 2021 | Click here to watch on Vimeo
Participants have a week to watch films and presentations by advanced directing students in fiction, beginning video production students, documentary filmmakers, screenwriters, graduating seniors, and more.

Participate in Q&As - May 1, 2021 | Click here for Zoom link
Live discussions with our student filmmakers and faculty will take place on Saturday, May 1st. 

Saturday, May 1 Schedule of Events
11:00 AM – FAVS 255 Video Production with Prof. Barger
11:20 AM – FAVS 300 Global Horror with Prof. Alkassim
11:40 AM – FAVS 365 Documentary Directing + FAVS 260 Editing with Prof. Wingert-Jabi
10-minute break
12:10 PM – FAVS 375 Fiction Film Directing with Prof. Steger
12:50 PM - FAVS 496 Screenwriting Capstone with Prof. Britt
1:10 PM – FAVS 497 Editing Capstone with Prof. Kraus
1:30 PM –  FAVS 497 Producing Capstone with Prof. Thrasher
10-minute break
2:00 PM – FAVS 498 Pitches with Prof. Jusu and Jury
2:20 PM –  FAVS 499 Senior Projects with Prof. Steger
2:50 PM –  Awards Celebration
3:10 PM –  End
From left to right: Radha Blank, Elissa Moorhead, and Joyce Sherri with a surprise guest.

Visiting Filmmakers Series Online

Thank you to everyone who participated in our Visiting Filmmakers Series Online this semester. We will be posting the recordings of our conversations with filmmakers on our website here.

Our staff will be brainstorming over the summer to plan events for next semester. As soon as information becomes available, we will be updating our Facebook, Instagram, and website. Be sure to follow us and we look forward to seeing you soon.
Film at Mason's KJ Mohr and student Taj Kokayi joined by our guest filmmakers Mason alum and TV writer Hank Jones with Stefon Bristol, director of See You Yesterday.

Young Alumni Commissioning Project

Congratulations to Jada Salter (’20), recipient of the $5000 grand prize for the CVPA Young Alumni Commissioning Project! Jada is making a feature length documentary film titled Just the Two of Us, based on her grandfather William Salter, a three-time Grammy award-winning songwriter, composer, and musician.  His hit songs include "Just the Two of Us", "Where is the Love", and "Mister Magic".  With her film, Jada hopes to share the legacy of her grandfather’s work and show fans some unheard pieces. Taylor Spears (’20) is working with Jada as the producer of the film.

Faculty Achievement

Professor Nikyatu Jusu’s latest project was covered in Deadline this month. Professor Jusu has written and will direct her debut feature film, Nanny, and secured financing from Stay Gold Features and Topic Studios. In her interview with the industry newspaper, Professor Jusu underscores the importance of her project and creative goals, “Nanny is my attempt to make sense of the displacement, the nostalgia immigrant women carry as they forge inexorably new lives in America. Our mothers sacrificed so much in order for us to essentially create ourselves, and though the real life horror of that sacrifice manifests in the form of living breathing monsters in Nanny, my goal is for audiences to leave our film with a sense of hopefulness.” Congratulations to Professor Jusu and her producing team.

Professor G Chesler - During the pandemic, as the university urgently closed in-person offerings, and professors and staff immediately pivoted to teaching from home, parents of young ones were particularly challenged. They suddenly faced double-duty as full time caregivers and educators to children at home and instructors transitioning to online instruction. Last summer, Professor G Chesler interviewed parents at universities around the US (and at GMU) to document their struggles at the start of the pandemic. Their essay “Professoring and Parenting in a Pandemic” was just published in Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media. Professor Chesler writes, “Together, these interviews reveal increased labor, extraordinary problem solving, collective sorrow and anger felt during the beginning of the pandemic and the 2020 uprising for racial justice. In academic units and institutions, we must support university employees impacted by the Coronavirus shut down. My hope is that in reading these stories, administrators and senior faculty will do that work over years to come. For the detrimental impact on professional careers, trajectories, and the physical and emotional well-being of our colleagues who parent will last beyond the administering of vaccines."
Professor Samirah Alkassim spoke at a panel at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference (March 17-21). She presented her talk, "Found Footage as Counter Ethnography: Scenes from the Occupation in Gaza and the Films of Basma Alsharif," on a panel entitled “Reading the Neocolonial Device: Confronting Contemporary Arab Film Studies.”

Professor Tommy Britt chaired the "Science Fiction" roundtable at the 52nd Northeast Modern Language Association Annual Convention. He also contributed the concluding chapter, "Human After All: The Irony of Black Mirror" to the new book Isn't it Ironic? Irony in Contemporary Popular Culture, published this month by Routledge.

Alumni News

Film at Mason alum Michael Kamel has a new and impactful job! He now works as a Video Fellow at Buzzfeed. Kamel’s productions will focus on Arab representation and unpack bias through humor. His first Buzzfeed video “Arabs Try Dessert Hummus for the First Time” has already garnered over 100k+ views! He visited Professor G Chesler’s course Interactive Storytelling for Social Change to talk to students about how this class informed his practice, how he works for social justice for Palestinian communities through his films and festival work, and his job at the Smithsonian prior to Buzzfeed. Commenting on his Buzzfeed video, Kamel says, "Life is absurd, so I find humor to be an accessible and fun way to dive into issues that impact our lives. In the grand scheme, dessert hummus isn't a big deal per se, but it raises questions of cultural appropriation versus fusion!" Learn more about Michael Kamel’s work at
MAIS alum Brian Boenau’s film, West Virginia – Covid and Hunger Collide, was recently selected for the Bethesda Film Festival. For more information, visit Bethesda Film Festival’s website

Student Spotlight

Francisco Mejia is currently interning with the City of Fairfax, shooting and editing videos to create a stronger sense of community. Some of his videos are in response to COVID, while others highlight events and extra-curricular activities happening in the area. In his spare time, Francisco works for Dead Talk Live, a horror talk show in which they bring guests on to talk about their experiences in shows, films, or anything related to horror. Recently, Francisco was presented with an opportunity to work as assistant editor on a new Lego movie to be filmed next summer in Arizona. In the meantime, he is applying for full feature length films that are being shot in Georgia and New York. To check out Francisco’s reel, watch here.

Taj Kokayi’s film Woken From a Dream won the Best Student Film Award at London Web Fest. In addition, the film has won Best Experimental and Best VFX at Kosice Film Festival, Best Experimental and Best Student Short at RWFA. Taj made this film last semester in the course FAVS 399 Afrofuturism and Their Kin taught by Professor Nikyatu Jusu. Taj also was recently awarded the John C. and Louise P. Wood Undergraduate Scholarship as part of the Celebration of Distinction presented by the Mason Alumni Association.

Staff Awards

Technical Coordinator Andrew Jorgensen won the 2021 Exceptional Support Award as part of the 2021 Outstanding Achievement Awards. The Outstanding Achievement Awards celebrate the hard work, dedication and achievements of Mason’s faculty and staff. We are so grateful to have Andrew on our Film at Mason team. With 140 films in production annually and hundreds of pieces of well-maintained film gear under his care, Andrew sees that industry-standard equipment is available to students. He maintains over 70 computer systems in our computer labs across campus. His work requires significant research, frugal budgeting, relationship-building with vendors and rental houses, and training student workers. Andrew Jorgensen’s careful stewardship allows our community to thrive together. Congratulations to Andrew on his well-deserved award!
Academic Advisor Lori Yi was named one of the Top 10 Academic Advisors for the 2021 V. Ann Lewis Advisor of the Year Award. Lori was nominated out of 130 advisors!

Fall Registration Now Open!

Students may now register for Fall 2021 courses. If you have not done so already, please meet with your academic advisor to discuss course options and review your schedule. We will be updating our website as more information becomes available for what to expect next semester. See below for a list of special topic course offerings.
FAVS 399 Curating and Programming
for the Moving Image
Professor KJ Mohr
Thursday | 1:30-4:10pm | Hybrid
Art Building Room AB 1007

This undergraduate seminar explores the rich and often overlooked history and current practice of independent exhibition of moving images. Through reading, writing, viewing, discussion and professional guest visits, students engage both critically and practically with ideas of venue and context, programming theory, curatorial ethics, distribution, and promotion for film and video. Student curators will learn to program, plan, promote, budget for, collaborate on, and host screenings, working with archives, distributors and artists, calling for submissions of work, and crafting programs that explore themes and subjects of interest to them. Events will include off-site screenings, on-campus programs and virtual presentations. Course is created and taught by KJ Mohr, a festival programmer and moving image curator. Mohr has served as the Director of Programming for the Tampa International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival; Programmer for the Maryland Film Festival's three-screen art house cinema, the Parkway; Film Curator for National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC; curator of the Conversations at the Edge series at the Gene Siskel Film Center; and she worked with Women in the Director’s Chair in Chicago for many years, in addition to three decades of international experience in microcinema production. This is a hybrid course, occurring online with some in-person meetings and events.

FAVS 399 Laughing Matters:
A Century of Film Comedy

Professor Rob Farr
Friday | 10:30am-1:10pm | In-person
Art Building Room AB 1007

Throughout this course we will be analyzing comedy, why it works, and what it says about the culture that produced it. However, we will strive to heed Mr. Benchley’s gentle witticism and not lose sight of the primary purpose of humor, which is to provoke the joyful response we call laughter.  

This is a special topics course which takes an analysis-history-theory approach. Slapstick, satire, screwball, musical comedy, rom-com, and raunch are just some of the flavors of film comedy that have flashed across screens over the past 125 years. This course will survey the history of cinematic comedy from Mack Sennett’s Keystone Cops to present-day comedies by Greta Gerwig and Jordon Peale. While we will be looking at films from the 19th Century to the present, our approach will be non-chronological.  

Comedy is always a reflection of the culture and time it was produced. We’ll explore a wide range of comic genres from different eras and parts of the world, focusing on their aesthetic, historical, and cultural aspects as well as their contributions to the evolution of the art form. As such, issues of gender, race and ethnicity on screen will be considered.  

The course will enable students to comprehend the evolution of the history of comedy in order to connect with the “outside forces” (i.e., the political and economic institutions, key figures, historical events and social issues) that produced that comedy and the films that commented upon it.  

Laughing Matters promises to be a journey full of discoveries and surprising revelations. 

FAVS 433 Advanced Sound
Professor Amanda Kraus
Monday | 10:30am-1:10pm | Hybrid
Art Building Room AB 2001

Students will learn about advanced fundamental theory, tools, and techniques needed to create and/or implement sound for film. We will utilize the industry standard software Pro Tools. Students will learn nonlinear sound editing, digital audio processing, frequency manipulation, synthesized sound techniques and mixing. We will focus on the power of sound and the contributions it can make not only in enhancing the visuals of a film but in contributing to telling the story within itself. This is a hybrid course, occurring online with in-person meetings.

FAVS 399 Music Video Production
Professor Russell Santos
Thursday | 1:30-4:10pm | In-person
Art Building Room AB 1007

This course is a complete, step by step guide to creating a music video. We will cover: creating a music video treatment, producing and directing, casting and locations, shooting and editing, learning VFX and color correction, and delivering a music video to MTV and YouTube. If you listen to music and you imagine stories that will make an awesome music video to share with others then this class is for you.

Filmmaker Fridays

Robin Thede is a comedy writer, comedian, and actress, best known for her work as the creator & star of the Emmy nominated show, A Black Lady Sketch Show. She was also the writer and host of The Rundown with Robin Thede, and head writer on The Queen Latifah Show.

Reinaldo Marcus Green is a Black Puerto Rican filmmaker, best known for his film Monsters and Men, which won the Special Jury Award for Outstanding First Feature at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. His next film will be King Richard, starring Will Smith as Serena and Venus Williams' father, scheduled for release later this year.

Jon M. Chu is a director-producer, best known for Crazy Rich Asians and Now You See Me 2. Chu attended the USC School of Cinema-Television, where he received the Princess Grace Award. His next project is the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical In The Heights, which will be in theaters and on HBO Max on June 18th.

Shaka King is a writer-director, best known for his recent film Judas and The Black Messiah. He was awarded the Writers Guild of America’s Paul Selvin Award, given to the script that "best embodies the spirit of the constitutional and civil rights and liberties which are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere and to whose defense Paul Selvin committed his professional life.” King was nominated for two Oscars for his work on the film, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture, the latter with Ryan Coogler and Charles D. King. This is the first All-Black producing team nominated for Best Picture.

Film Opportunities and Resources

Learning Resources
  • The Jerusalem Film Workshop is accepting applications until May 14th. 24 selected participants will participate in a six-week summer program in Israel, designed for talented young filmmakers from all over the world. For more information visit:

  • Nostos Screenwriting Retreat offers three-week intensive screenwriting workshops in the Tuscan Countryside and on Elba Island. Use discount code LASTCHANCE21 to save 10% off your submission fee. Deadline is April 30th. For more information, visit:

  • The Allstate Foundation Film Fellowship deadline is April 30th. Three fellows will each receive a grant of $15,000 to produce their film, as well as master classes with top filmmakers, screenwriters, and producers to help bring their vision to life. To apply, visit:

  • Viacom’s Writers Mentoring Program submission deadline is May 1st. For more information and to apply, visit here
Open Submissions
  • The Script Pipeline Screenwriting and TV Writing deadline is May 1st. Industry Executives will be reviewing scripts and will be awarding up to $55,000 to winners. Fr more information, visit their website here.

  • National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter sponsors a special award competition for excellence in student production of news and video projects produced and executed by students at a university, college, high school, or technical/vocational school in the NCCB region. Submit your entry: the deadline to enter is Friday, April 30, 2021.

  • Submissions for the Ubisoft Women’s Film & Television 2021 Fellowship Program are now open. Submission deadline: May 14, 2021: see the website here.

  • To support the community during the COVID-19 crisis, Outfest is offering complimentary all-access digital passes to Outfest Fusion 2021 for LGBTQ and BIPOC folks in need. Apply here.

  • Submissions are open for the Still I Rise Film Series and Fellowship. Submission deadline: May 15, 2021. See submissions site here.

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