E. Patrick Johnson Talks Turning ‘Sweet Tea’ from Book to Stage to Film

By Joe Giovannetti

E. Patrick Johnson is the Chair of the Department of African-American Studies and Carlos Montezuma Professor of African American Studies and Performance Studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Science at Northwestern University. Try and say that five times fast! However, even bigger than E. Patrick Johnson’s title is his infectious personality, which he shared with the MSLCE cohort when he dropped by for their final Faculty Talk of the spring quarter.

With research interests in black gender/sexuality studies, performance studies, ethnography, oral histories, and spirituality, Johnson is a widely published author and founder/director of the Black Arts Initiative at Northwestern. However, Johnson decided to share his journey working on a project close to his heart: Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South. (more…)

Ellen Wartella Talks Children’s Media Research with MSLCE Students

By John Hounihan

In studying entertainment, many MSLCE students have seen the power that media can have in shaping young minds.

Movies, television, and live performance are so often in front of modern youth, that we must make sure that we are cognizant of the types of media we create for children. Ellen Wartella, our latest faculty talk guest, is a giant in the world of educational media, and her research has had wide effect in television and digital video content for children. (more…)

Sam Raimi, Director of ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Evil Dead’ Trilogies, Talks Storytelling with Northwestern Students

By Leslie Zhu

“Why not have a guy who made The Evil Dead for $350,000 do Spider-Man?” Bruce Campbell wondered jokingly from the the set of Spider Man 2.

This memory was one of many that director Sam Raimi shared with Northwestern students during a talk at Harris Hall on May 2. Raimi’s eclectic career has seen him directing small-budget cult hits like The Evil Dead to huge comic book blockbusters like the original Spider-Man trilogy.

As he discussed making independent films in Michigan as a kid, making blockbuster, big budget movies with huge film studios, or producing work to help budding filmmakers, one pattern became clear: What matters most to Raimi is telling a good story.

While Sam Raimi was first known for his horror film The Evil Dead, he told students that he actually didn’t initially like horror films because he was too scared watching them when he was young. But once he started making Evil Dead, he found the suspense sequence of a horror film similar to what he had done in comedies. That inspired him mix comedy into his horror films, which paid off at the box office.

When making the multi-million dollar trilogy Spider-Man, although Raimi felt like there was less creative control for him and had the added burden of comic book fan expectations, he still tried his best to focus on telling the story well. He blended in an indie production feel and kept comedy elements to make Spider-Man a successful hit during a “low time” of superhero movies.

A Simple Plan was also a turning point for Raimi’s career. After all the experiments with different action-sequence-oriented camera techniques, he took a step back and presented a story with the most basic  of camera languages. He also got help from his life-time friends, the Coen brothers, who had just released Fargo.

By working with different genres, mixing all the elements, collaborating with other filmmakers in the industry, Sam Raimi is putting every effort in delivering a good story to the audience. He shared very valuable experiences and suggestions to students for their careers in filmmaking, and encouraged them to believe that every idea is a seed to grow.  

The Film Arcade Co-Founder Talks His Career, Offers Advice to Aspiring Film Professionals

By Jacob Nelson

Andy Bohn had some straightforward advice for students aspiring to work in the film industry: learn as much as you can about movies.

At a recent speaker series event, the co-founder and managing director of The Film Arcade, a film production and distribution company, encouraged the audience to read everything relating to the film industry, from scripts to trade presses to history books.

“Read about the history of the business and current news, watch a lot, really become a student of film or television,” Bohn said. “You find yourself in meetings with writers, directors, producers, and you’re referencing industry history, it shows you’re knowledgeable. Having that context is invaluable.” (more…)

Kathleen Hudson Aspires to Bring Opera Back to Cultural Spotlight

By Miya Williams

Kathleen Hudson originally wanted to be the star of an opera, but over the years her interest turned toward running the show.

“I believe deeply in this particular art form,” she said. “I want to be on the ground floor of influencing the landscape of opera in America as it struggles to remain relevant and accessible to audiences.” (more…)

Art Institute of Chicago Social Media Manager Robby Sexton Visits MSLCE Marketing Strategies Course

By Leslie Zhu

While watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off recently, I thought about the famous scene at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC). I wondered, what if the museum launched a social media event called “A Day Off at AIC”?

I soon learned that the museum has already recreated the movie scene in a more genius way: when their president Douglas Druick retired after thirty years, the museum gave him a “Director Druick’s Day Off.”

Robby Sexton, who played Ferris Bueller in the tribute video, is the social media manager at AIC. On April 17, he came to our Marketing Strategies in Creative Enterprises course to talk to MSLCE students and reveal some secrets behind the social media management at AIC.

From Robby’s perspective, the AIC’s three social media platforms, which include Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, are in a relationship with their visitors. The relationship is built through content marketing, nurtured by community management, and honed through optimization and measurement. The three steps are the secret of social media strategy at the museum. Students received some great examples from Sexton about how he puts these into action, like how they used Twitter and Instagram influencers to deepen personalized engagement during AIC’s historic exhibition Van Gogh’s Bedrooms.

Social media specialists seem to be the most versatile staff at the museum. They must have a great aesthetic sense and a rich art knowledge, which they rely on to craft thoughtful, detailed posts. At the same time, it is also necessary for them to understand marketing, communication, data analysis, psychology, globalization and even crisis management. They work in an industry changing at an unbelievable speed, which forces them to work with high intensity in order to not fall behind. For example, since the Los Angeles County Museum of Art succeeded in using Snapchat for the first time, AIC is likely going to act on their own plans to launch a Snapchat account in the near future.

In addition to being a hard worker, Sexton has an amiable personality and ample humor and wit, which he puts on display on the AIC’s social media accounts. In this digitalized world, what he creates will become the image of the museum

Block Museum Hosts Conference About Socially Engaged Art

By Leslie Zhu

The Mary and Leigh Block Museum in the Arts Circle at Northwestern is always my secret place to rest and learn in between my busy study schedule. I immerse myself a lot in their different exhibitions and screenings each quarter. I always see visitors other than students and faculty coming to the museum.

As a campus art museum, though, how can they have visitors from outside the campus? The answer was revealed in their Open House workshop for Open Engagement on April 2. (more…)

A Season of Growth

For the third year in a row, students went on a week-long trip to a media capital in the United States. This year, half the cohort went to Los Angeles and the other half to New York. This trip is a critical moment in the curriculum of the program to make the connection between theory and practice. Even though we have industry professionals visiting the campus throughout the academic year, the intensity associated with having an entire week of visits to leading companies in the creative sector and conversations with distinguished practitioners brings the educational experience of the program full circle. In the pages that follow you will read the students’ own accounts of the treks as a major moment of professional growth.

This year’s treks were a moment of growth in another, complementary way. For the past three treks, we have organized a networking event that includes Northwestern alumni from different parts of the creative sector and also at different stages in their respective career development. For the first time in the short history of the program, the receptions in both Los Angeles and New York included MSLCE graduates who are starting their professional journeys in each of these labor markets. Additionally. we brought our own alumni back in during the Spring quarter, hosting two graduates who now have full-time jobs in creative enterprises for a session about their internship experiences and how they helped them secure positions after graduation. Bringing our graduates back in is a signal of major growth for the program. We are particularly proud of this development given that MSLCE is not even three years old at this point.

The growth in the learning of our current students, the continued success of our graduates, and the record number of applications already received for fall admission—even though this process is still ongoing—converge to make this Spring a blooming season for MSLCE. So, stay tuned for more updates about this growth in the Summer newsletter!

Pablo J. Boczkowski
Professor, School of Communication
Faculty Director, MSLCE

Zoe Skehan Wants to Create Something That Lasts

By Miya Williams

MSLCE student Zoe Skehan doesn’t want to be limited to one thing.

The University of Redlands grad majored in art history and media studies and still maintains an interest in both fields. While her exact job title may still be unknown, she is certain of her end goal.

“I hope to be in a creative field working in a position that challenges me,” she said. (more…)

Steppenwolf Producer and Jellyvision Manager Advise MSLCE Students on Internships

By Joe Giovannetti

On Monday, the MSLCE cohort entered their regular Professional Development class, taught by Mandi Glowen and Jonah Zeiger. However, rather than the usual lecture-format class, Glowen and Zeiger prepared an exciting panel with various guests in Chicago’s creative industries: Rebecca Adelsheim, a producer and dramaturg at Steppenwolf Theater Company, and Pat Niday, an implementation manager at  Jellyvision.

The MSLCE cohort is nearing the end of the spring quarter, which means that the students are working toward securing a summer internship in the creative industries. Every student must complete a summer internship or thesis in order to complete the rigorous Master’s program, and for the students that began in the Fall of 2016, the internship marks their final experience prior to graduation. Naturally, the cohort was excited to gain insight about internships from two Chicago leaders that oversee the internship programs at their respective companies.