A documentary by two Notre Dame student filmmakers has been featured in 12 film festivals across the country and won numerous awards. It's the latest success story for documentarians from Notre Dame, a line that extends from How to Die in Oregon director Peter Richardson to The Great Alone’s Greg Kohs to Wordplay director Patrick Creadon. That tradition of excellence extends to 2015 graduate Dylan Parent, whose short documentary on a Holocaust survivor screened at the St. Louis International Film Festival, and Erin Zacek ’11 and Dan Moore ’11, whose film was chosen for the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival.
Alums in the News
For a talented group of students and young alumni from Notre Dame’s Department of Film, Television, and Theatre, the dream of having their film screened at a Los Angeles film festival was realized this summer. The showcase, hosted by the College of Arts and Letters, was held at the Directors Guild of America Theatre this summer. It featured six student films and a short documentary from the “First Time Fans” series, directed by alumni filmmakers.
Political science major Patrick Vassel '07 didn’t come to Notre Dame dreaming of a career on Broadway. But a path that began with acting and directing in shows on campus has led him to New York's biggest stage. He's now associate director of Hamilton, the blockbuster musical that's won Tony Awards, a Grammy, and the Pulitzer Prize. Vassel has been a key figure in the show's development, working with actors and technicians night in and night out.
The abandoned island of Inishark off the coast of western Ireland is coming to life again thanks to new technology—a multimedia book project by Notre Dame anthropologist Ian Kuijt and filmmaker William Donaruma ’89. Through an innovative collaboration, they’ve created Island Places, Island Lives, a guidebook detailing the heritage and history of Inishark and its neighboring island, Inishbofin. Along with text and photographs, the book incorporates short videos of the island that appear on a smartphone or tablet when readers, using a free companion app, hold their device over key images in the book.
When Jack Blakey was studying theatre at Notre Dame in the 1980s, he never dreamed he would one day be hearing legal disputes on the federal bench. But his liberal arts courses were preparing him for it nonetheless. Blakey was formally installed this spring as a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, following his nomination by President Barack Obama and confirmation by the U.S. Senate last year.
Eugene Staples has a vision: Entertainment can be more than a distraction—it can be an inspiration. It can teach kids how to be better people. It can make the world a better place. That sense of responsibility—the desire to make things that make an impact—was sparked at Notre Dame, and was recognized this spring by the Television Academy Foundation, which honored him with a Mister Rogers Memorial Scholarship.
Krysta Dennis majored in French and film, television, and theatre at Notre Dame and also has a master’s in Romance languages from the University. She is now associate lecturer at the University of Kent at Canterbury and is finishing a dual Ph.D. in theater and globalization. She also co-founded Through the Grapevine Performed Wine Tastings, a theatrical production company where each performance is devised based on the wine served during the show.
A series of three documentary films, directed by award-winning film directors who are also University of Notre Dame alumni, will be released on the WatchND app and the UND.com website during the last three weeks of this year. The series, “First Time Fans,” presents the excitement and wonder of some very different people as they experience a Notre Dame football game for the first time.
Rome. Bangladesh. An abandoned island off the Irish coast. These are just a few of the locations where William Donaruma ’89 has traveled as a filmmaker and teaching professor in Notre Dame’s Department of Film, Television, and Theatre (FTT). “Nothing beats experience and pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone,” Donaruma said.
“Imagine a kind of live, national GRE exam where students audition in open competition against one another, evaluated by representatives from the best graduate theatre programs,” said Professor Jim Collins, chair of the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre (FTT). Notre Dame had record success in 2014 at the national auditions organized by the University/Resident Theatre organization (URTA), with six of the seven FTT students who auditioned receiving offers from graduate programs in attendance.
Jeff Spoonhower ’99 has been appointed assistant professor of film and digital media production in Notre Dame’s Department of Film, Television and Theatre (FTT). A 12-year veteran of the video game and animation industries, Spoonhower shares with students the very same production techniques and tools he uses in his award-winning professional work.
Notre Dame College of Arts and Letters alumnus Peter Bevacqua ’93, was named Chief Executive Officer of the PGA of America in November. When Bevacqua considers the path that led him to a golf-lover’s dream job, the former English and film student credits his liberal arts education at Notre Dame, which gave him the freedom to let his career naturally take shape, he says.
“Being a film major, I knew I wasn’t going to be constricted to one way of learning or one way or thinking or one way of performing,” says Zuri Eshun, a junior film, television, and theatre (FTT) major in Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters. “You really get the opportunity to be your own person and to create your own education within that program. That’s why I chose FTT.”
As a documentary filmmaker, a faculty member in College of Arts and Letters’ Department of Film, Television, and Theatre (FTT), and a producer for Fighting Irish Digital Media, Ted Mandell ’86 quite literally sheds light on the University of Notre Dame’s traditions of social justice and student athletics. What unites his approach to these roles, says Mandell, is a commitment to show the human side of every story—and help his students learn to do the same.
Moneyball. True Grit. The Social Network. Black Swan. If you watched a trailer for any of these movies, then you’ve seen the work of Notre Dame alumnus Scott Mitsui ’92. A communications and theatre major, Mitsui has spent the past 12 years as producer and vice president of operations at Mark Woollen & Associates in Santa Monica, Calif., a company responsible for some of the most noteworthy and award-winning film trailers in Hollywood.
Jack Blakey B.A. ’88 J.D. ’92 has worked as a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and is currently chief of the Special Prosecutions Bureau of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Chicago—the second largest prosecution office in the country. He says his theatre major at the University of Notre Dame was perfect preparation for his future legal career. “Some people think it’s such a difference, going from the theatre world to the legal world, but it really seems like a seamless transition,” Blakey says.
Raise the curtain, cue the lights, and enter our scene: an actress who discovers a hidden passion for costume design, a dedicated designer who seizes a prime opportunity, and the department where it all happens. This is the true story of seniors Lucy Lavely and Robert Jenista, theatre students in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre (FTT), who played major design roles in the spring 2011 production of Proof.
Director Peter D. Richardson, a 2002 alumnus of the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre, won the prestigious U.S. Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
Lydia Antonini, a graduate of the class of 1997, took the basic film and television class to “check off” a fine arts requirement her first year at Notre Dame.