Filmmaker Reese Joins SCU Digital Filmmaking Program
“Thrilled” to bring diverse voices to film’s storytelling process
By Riley O’Connell ‘19
Professor Emily Reese, a social justice-oriented filmmaker and former member of the Peace Corps, joined Santa Clara University’s Department of Communication this fall. Now, several weeks into her first quarter, Reese is encouraging her students to use film narrative as a way to discuss the human experience, noting, “Narrative storytelling is the way I can create positive change that is more organic and also ingestible because it’s entertaining,” she notes.
Reese says SCU was her top choice when applying for teaching positions because of its compatible mission to create positive change through empathy. “I’m thrilled that it’s real,” says Reese, “that this whole teaching orientation has shown that the focus is to teach those principles. I’ve always been social change-focused even as a young person in high school, always really interested and frustrated in the haves and have-nots and how to even out that playing field.”
In 2005, while serving in El Salvador with the Peace Corps, Reese founded Gringuisimo, an educational theater group, in which she and other volunteers in surrounding areas created plays around topics like gangs, family planning, and what different families can look like. After being solicited by volunteers and schools to come to their communities and put on plays, a Salvadoran women’s group asked Reese to help them develop their own theater group for female-focused issues. She remained there for almost three years before leaving to start her MFA in Filmmaking at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Reese hopes that in her time at SCU she will be able to influence her students’ understanding of “the why” in what they create, saying, “Theater creates conversation rather than saying ‘this is the right or wrong way to do something.’ I want [my students] to be realizing that every choice they make is going to communicate something very specific, and if they want to accomplish their goal, which is creating a specific experience for their audience, then they need to be thinking about that ‘why’ and ‘how.’”
Admitting that filmmakers historically have been “an elite community,” Reese encourages her students to nonetheless love the process and shape their own voices. Further, she finds that the exclusivity of the filmmaking community changing rapidly. “I think [film] is becoming more and more accessible to different kinds of voices, and those voices become our media which become our social opinions.” Diverse perspectives and voices, she says, can change that world of media and thus public opinion — something she believes her students and younger generations are already doing.
“They are a very powerful generation,” Reese says of her students. “They’re really changing the way we experience the world, and I think it’s amazing. I hope they show me the ropes.”
Reese also acknowledges everyone wins in such interactions. “It’ll be an exchange — I’ll show them how to work a camera if they show me where to get a good bowl of soup.”
Reese provides lab support for most of the digital filmmaking courses and teaches Intro to Digital Filmmaking (COMM 30) and Digital Filmmaking Practicum (COMM 191).