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Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Scholarship Essay Example

Short Answer Essays

If awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Arts Award, I will pursue an MFA in Film, concentrating on either Directing/Production or Screenwriting. Numerous industry professionals and the graduate programs themselves have advised me in this decision, as these two tracks are the best possible avenues to the knowledge, internships, and career opportunities that will get me where I want to be in my career: I want to be an independent filmmaker-- both as a writer and director-- and eventually a showrunner for a television program. An MFA program would allow me to hone my craft, gain valuable filmmaking experience, and network extensively (which is key for a career in film and television

Simply put, film is my passion. I have always enjoyed crafting stories, primarily through writing initially, but when I took my first film class, I fell in love with the challenges and capabilities of medium. I am the sort of person that can find joy and learn how to be happy in most situations, but with film, the joy comes effortlessly. For my shoot over the summer, I spent 16-hour days shut in a small, un-air conditioned apartment with a flea-ridden dog for no pay at all. None of it fazed me. I was just so happy to have the opportunity to make a movie. The satisfied exhaustion I felt at the end of each day made me realize that this is definitely what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Prompt: What are your long term career plans?

Even as I am in the process of completing my undergraduate degree and applying to graduate programs, my eye is on the future, and I am taking steps to ensure my success. Someday, I hope to direct feature independent films and perhaps break into television. Cable networks, like HBO and Showtime offer, opportunities to pursue a level of artistry and craft consistent with the medium of cinema, but operating beyond the restrictions of censoring entities such as the MPAA and FCC allows programs on these channels to develop content that pushes boundaries. I firmly believe that television has the potential to be great art, and I would love to play a part in its creation.

Many current showrunners are head writers and executive producers. This is a path I intend to follow. Over the summer, I wrote, directed, and produced a feature-length film which I will be screening as a part of CineSLAM/Pride of the Ocean, a week-long workshop for LGBT filmmakers, festival programmers, and development personnel. This will give me the opportunity to hear critique of my current work and, perhaps most importantly, allow me to network with individuals currently working in the field and glean important information regarding how to get future projects off the ground.

Prompt: Please explain why you have chosen each of the universities listed above as your preferred institution(s) for your graduate studies.

In addition to the schools listed, I applied to Chapman University in Orange County, CA and have yet to hear from them regarding acceptance.

The programs I have applied to consistently show up on industry lists of top film schools in the world based on the quality of their curricula and work churned out by their students and graduates. I visited numerous institutions to find the school that would be best for me. As a result, there are two conspicuous absences from my list: USC and UCLA. Although these are excellent programs that produce talented filmmakers, they simply did not feel like a good fit.

As far as the programs that did make my list, I believe that “iron sharpens iron,” and that in order to be my best, I should be surrounded and supported by faculty and peers who challenge me to achieve my highest level of artistry and skill.

American Film Institute is, arguably, the best film program in the world. Its conservatory environment and selectivity appealed to me. The same goes for Chapman, another highly selective school with extensive resources. Loyola Marymount’s program is new and very small, but it is definitely making waves in the industry. I had wonderful conversations with students and faculty from all three institutions, and they all seemed to embrace the ideals I sought in a program-- artistic freedom, hands-on experience, and integration into the professional world. These three programs are in and around Los Angeles, which is a key location for filmmaking opportunities. Conversely, although University of Texas-Austin is far removed from the LA/Hollywood sphere, their program is excellent, and Austin has a distinctive and truly independent film scene, and the graduate program at UT offers internship and employment opportunities in Los Angeles.

Prompt: Narrative autobiography.

I was born in a tiny town in Arkansas to dirt poor parents who divorced when I was five. My mother, who retained custody, suffered from an undiagnosed hypothyroid (that often left her bedridden) and borderline personality disorder (which is a separate essay in and of itself). My first stepfather was mentally and sexually abusive; my second stepfather tried to kill me. I was bullied throughout school relentlessly, both for being poor and for identifying as bisexual.

I left home of my own accord for the first time at 14. I did move back periodically, but rarely for more than a few weeks at a time, and I always maintained economic independence from my mother; in fact, sometimes, I supported her and my brother in addition to myself. I worked as a prostitute from the ages of 14 to 19 and used drugs through most of this time period. When I left the life, I latched on to the first man who would have me, got married, and had a son, thereby jumping from one unhealthy, abusive situation to another. I left my husband less than a year after we married and have been a happy single mother ever since.

I returned to college when my son started kindergarten. That was always my plan. However, whereas I had anticipated my education opening doors to career opportunities, what I found when I returned to school was so much more. I engaged with my community and became and activist and an advocate. I embraced the intellectual challenge of rigorous coursework. I re-discovered my passion for art and stories, and, more importantly, learned that a career as an artist was not, as my culture had led me to believe, a pipe dream. Rather, it was a feasible reality for someone with talent and drive and a work ethic; I have since found that the blue collar work ethic that nearly prevented me from pursuing filmmaking has made me an asset on a film set, as I take great pride in the long hours that go into film production.

I am set to graduate from Loyola University New Orleans in May of this year with degrees in both Psychology and English: Film and Digital Media. With valuable life and work experience under my belt and a tremendous amount of ambition and toughness, I find that for the first time in my life, my future is defined by my hard work and potential, not by limitations.

Prompt: Discuss why your art expresses you.

In a more physical sense, filmmaking, as a process, tends to demand organization, collaboration, adaptability, and endurance, all of which are traits that I feel I possess and that I like to put to use, like exercising muscles. As a result, I love every step of the filmmaking process, from casting to scheduling to creative decision-making on set.

More abstractly, I believe in the magic and the power of well-crafted stories—for both the audience and the storyteller. I find that as a filmmaker, I am drawn to creating stories that I can relate to. I like strong female characters who overcome obstacles and characters who subvert socially constructed sexual orientation or gender norms. I like creating stories that I find compelling and that reflect my values or sensibilities. I feel like the overtness of film, the audiovisual nature of it, provides a great forum for self-expression, but it also presents a challenge—how to create subtext or subtly in a medium where the “big picture” is all laid out for the audience—and I find the process of overcoming that challenge extremely gratifying.

Above all, I just love a well-crafted film. A film that is painstakingly constructed—from the screenplay to the cinematography to post-production—affects people, even those who watch movies casually, on a surface level, but for those of us who know about the work that goes into making a movie, a well-articulated film is like the inside of a watch—this wondrous compilation of bits and pieces, and even knowing exactly how the pieces interact does not detract from the magic behind a great film, which always seems to be greater than the sum of its parts. I feel like my expression, as a director, is that whole and its effect.

Prompt: What one thing about your art would you change and why?

It almost goes without saying that the film industry is highly commercial. As a result, funding tends to go to high concept projects that are widely marketable. I want to tell my story, informed by my experiences on the fringes. Unfortunately, I fear that my thinking in developing projects is unduly influenced by the knowledge that in order to secure funding or an audience, I have to include characters or events or humor based on appeal rather than their connectedness to the story, which undermines my artistic integrity. For example, when directing “Perry & Emile,” there was a scene where some nudity would have been completely appropriate, but I did not include any because I did not want to limit my potential audience. Similarly, when writing the screenplay, I felt like Perry’s vernacular was not reflective of her station, but for the sake of keeping the project PG-13, I limited her use of expletives. Frankly, I am not proud of these decisions, but I have learned from them and intend to stay truer to my instincts in the future, regardless of the potential financial or exposure limitations.

Original Source: Loyola University of New Orleans

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