Alumni Spotlight – Maria Kellam (’16) Mar 19, 2018

What Do Cinema Students Do When They Graduate?

From a post house in Alexandria to the Liffey River! Maria Kellam (’16) has done it all. As an undergraduate, Maria’s work ranged from Hair and Make-up to Post Production and she turned her skills and adaptability into a fast-paced and wide-ranging post-graduate experience. She is currently studying for her MA in Film at University College Dublin and plans to pursue a Ph.D.

She answered a few questions about working as an editor, graduate school, and shared some fond memories of her time at VCUarts Cinema.

What was your first job post-graduation?
I worked as an assistant editor in a small post house in Alexandria, editing election spots and promotional material and awards ceremony videos for nonprofit organizations. I also got to do a little bit of color correction?

Are there lessons you learned from Cinema that helped you where you are?

The perspective I gained working on Hollywood-style sets helped me a lot in class. All of the other students in my program have degrees in English and Film, so I bring something a little different to the table when we discuss the films we’ve watched.

What’s your advice on starting out in an unfamiliar city?
Don’t let the fact that you finished get in the way of building your life. job searching can be daunting. It’ll be hard, but put yourself out there and look for the jobs you want. Don’t be afraid to apply for something out of your comfort zone – when I applied to my first job I hadn’t worked on non-fictional material in years, but I learned a lot from that position.

What are some of your fondest memories from your time in Cinema?
I always loved going to Cinematheque screenings because of how beautiful the colors came across in the projection. I took [J.M. Tyree’s] class on Hitchcock and Intertextuality, which introduced me to intertextuality as a focus of study. His energy as a teacher and passion for movies also helped me decide what kind of professor I want to be in the future.

Any fun set stories that stick out in your mind?
I’ve done some pretty weird stuff for gore makeup. On A Will, a Wager, and a Gun, the squib in the wife’s nightgown didn’t have the desired effect, so for the next shot, I had to dump almost half a bottle of mint-scented fake blood on her to make the blood look red rather than an awkward watered-down pink.

Anything else that you would like to share with us?
There are some things I miss about home (like watching TV shows when they air, good pizza, and biscuits and gravy) but living here has offered me a new perspective on film. I’m taking a class this semester on Contemporary Irish Cinema, watching all sorts of films that I never knew existed. They’re really focused about placing films within their historical context here; Cinema trained me to think of films as art, whereas now I think about how artistic choices reflect the political ideology of when they were made. Though I will say it’s quite jarring to get exposed to so much Marxist film theory when we so thoroughly ignore it at the undergraduate level in the US. Honestly, if you’ve got the drive and don’t mind long flights, I’d highly recommend going for a graduate degree outside of the US, whether you want to get an MFA in Film or an MA in Film Studies like me. It’s well worth it for the cultural experience alone.

The ultimate goal of this whole adventure is to gain the skills to be able to write an academic book on the Intertextuality of Star Wars and to teach classes at the university level. I’m taking a break in between writing my thesis and going on to earn my PhD, but in the intervening time I’ve decided to work in publishing while I finish the screenplay that I have been writing off-and- on for the last three years. I actually wrote the first draft back when it was just a short film for Kirk Kjeldsen’s Advanced Screenwriting class.

Thanks so much for catching us up, Maria. We’ll see you in the film journals as Dr. Kellam!