For the past several months, Ashley Cavuto ‘21 has been hard at work trying to do justice to one of her favorite books: Donna Tartt’s novel The Secret History. For Cavuto’s undergraduate senior thesis, the Film, Television, and Theatre (FTT) major has written a screenplay adaptation of the 1992 novel, which has never been made into a film.
Alums in the News
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Matt Hawkins wanted to teach his students the value of resilience — and the power of performance art. At a time when nearly all live theatre has been suspended for more than a year, Hawkins found a way to safely bring back the musical his students had spent months planning for and rehearsing during spring 2020. Last month, he directed a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar at Notre Dame Stadium, featuring most of the original cast.
The University of Notre Dame’s Department of Film, Television, and Theatre (FTT) announces the 32nd Annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival: Quarantined, to be streamed on FTT’s YouTube channel at 7:00 pm on Sunday, May 2. In-person screenings in the Browning Cinema will be restricted to a limited number of Notre Dame students, faculty, and staff and will take place Thursday, April 29 – Sunday, May 2.…
The musical production My Heart Says Go has come a long way since Jorge “Jay” Rivera-Herrans ’20 began writing it in his dorm room at the University of Notre Dame. Rivera-Herrans had recently switched majors – from pre-med to film, television, and theatre (FTT) – and that became his inspiration for the production. But going from concept to a fully developed musical has been a winding journey.
By the time Conor Hanney ’14 sat down to start his senior thesis for his film, television, and theatre major, he knew exactly what he wanted to do for a living — write for live-action TV targeting the kids and family demographic. And within 16 months of graduation, that’s exactly what he started doing. Hanney, a writer, lyricist, and composer for Netflix, works on various family programming, including the live-action comedy series The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia, The Healing Powers of Dude, and Prince of Peoria. He is currently working on the upcoming Kenny Ortega musical series Julie and The Phantoms.
Naj Harrabi describes himself as someone who needs to create — whether it’s writing stand-up comedy, directing a play on campus, submitting original films in student film festivals, or even designing new courses. “There’s really nothing I can think of that’s pushing me, other than this inner impulse to do it — and that’s the most gratifying thing,” Harrabi said. A 2019 graduate who majored in film, television, and theatre, Harrabi is now headed to the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, where he’ll pursue a graduate degree in film.
Hesburgh, a critically acclaimed documentary to be released nationwide on May 3, tells the story of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C. — reaching far beyond the borders of the Notre Dame campus to tell an epic American saga. But the making of Hesburgh is very much a Notre Dame story. Documentary filmmaker Patrick Creadon ’89 has a history of hiring Notre Dame students and alumni — and sought out no less than 19 of them to help create Hesburgh.
Like the character he created, Jorge “Jay” Rivera-Herrans is exuberant and tenacious, but no one could mistake him for a cop out. A junior film, television, and theatre major, he has written the book, lyrics, and music for a new musical — Stupid Humans, in which he also plays the leading role. The show ran from Feb. 21 through March 3, sold out every one of its scheduled nine performances. An additional performance was added — and sold out online in less than two minutes.
Growing up in southern California, Jennifer Sharron Richardson ’01 knew she wanted to go into the entertainment industry. But she had no idea she would one day be co-executive producing an award-winning late night talk show like Jimmy Kimmel Live!. It took a Notre Dame liberal arts education, a passion for softball, and a little luck to get her there.
Notre Dame’s Department of Film, Television, and Theatre (FTT) announces Molière’s The Imaginary Invalid, adapted by Constance Congdon from a new translation by Notre Dame alumnus Dan Smith (’98), in the Patricia George Decio Theatre at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, November 14-18.…
When Sydney DeVoe came to Notre Dame, she was convinced she would be pursuing a career in broadcast journalism. But after various, wide-ranging internships at 21st Century Fox — focused on production, editing, marketing, finance, and legal work — and a valuable experience working in London with a Member of Parliament her junior year, DeVoe is encountering a problem that many students may envy. She has too many career paths she could pursue after graduation.
Christine Swanson ’94 has written and directed multiple award-winning films. Her husband, Michael Swanson ’93, is an Emmy-winning producer and studio executive who has worked on hit Universal Television shows. The married Department of Film, Television, and Theatre alumni also make movies together through their Los Angeles-based production company, Faith Filmworks. Grounded in their Notre Dame liberal arts education and inspired by their deep Christian faith, the Swansons use their skills to tell the type of uplifting stories they feel are missing from big Hollywood studios.
Crystal Avila's senior documentary, Beneath the Trees (Debjao de los árboles), recounts her grandfather's journey from his small village in Mexico to the United States border and his time in Yuma, Ariz., where he got a job picking cotton for 35 cents a day. The film premiered in February at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, where it was one of 10 films selected for the fest's Oscar-qualifying competition. It will screen this weekend at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, where it is nominated for best short documentary film and Avila is up for the best female filmmaker award.
Three documentaries. Three alumni directors. One University.
Season 4 of the always fascinating First Time Fans film series debuted on Notre Dame’s UND.com website February 28. A truly unique production model, First Time Fans brings together Notre Dame alumni filmmakers and pairs them with current students to tell inspiring stories about extraordinary people on an extraordinary campus.…
Notre Dame junior Alex Mansour admits he's not much of a sports fan. Yet, when confronted with a crunch-time challenge, he came through with a prime-time performance befitting any Irish athlete making a game-winning play. Mansour's assignment? Create the musical score for the 80-second video that would be shown on the Notre Dame Stadium video board just before the Irish team took the field. Three days before the 2017 Irish season opener against Temple, the video remained incomplete — and Mansour was on the spot.
The University of Notre Dame’s Department of Film, Television, and Theatre (FTT) announces Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, in the Patricia George Decio Theatre at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, November 8-12, 2017.
In Wilde’s “trivial comedy for serious people,” first performed in London in 1895, both ladies and gentlemen concoct elaborate fictions in order to evade the burdensome conventions of polite society – and hilarity ensues. …
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.
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.
Justin Mitchell ’95, Greg Kohs ’88, and Mike Canzoniero ’93—three Notre Dame alumni who became professional filmmakers—were invited back to campus last year to create short films about fans’ first time attending games at Notre Dame Stadium. Producing “First Time Fans” with Fighting Irish Digital Media, Ted Mandell of the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre wanted to give the alumni full access to a Notre Dame football game. But he also wanted to make existing students part of the project, so they could see what it actually means to be “on set.”
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.
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.
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.”