Bard College at Simon's Rock: the Early College
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Alumni in Film

by Hannah Lienhard ’13, Georgian Janko A’15, Katie Boswell, Faculty in Social Studies
July 5, 2016

As a liberal arts college, it’s part of our DNA to encourage students to explore their own creativity.

Rockers, by nature, are risk-takers, and when they find their voices on this unconventional educational path, it carries a bit of gravitas. When they leave, they leave with stories. We don’t always have the opportunity to see how their careers unfold, or what parts of their Simon’s Rock foundation served them best. So we interviewed four alums who are making a name for themselves in film, and asked them just that.

Eva Sollberger ’89

esEva Sollberger earned her BA in 1993 during a time when film equipment wasn’t readily available. Instead, she pursued seemingly unrelated coursework—studies that inform her work today. Wendy Shifrin’s dance class deepened Eva’s understanding of movement and stage presence. In Pat Sharpe’s literature class, she learned to dissect stories, and discover what makes them compelling. And working with Floyd Robinson in the Snack Bar taught her the fine art of conversationespecially with students from different backgrounds—a skill that has come in handy for her video series “Stuck in Vermont.”

I embrace my own subjectivity and am up front about my voice…

“I studied anthropology with Fran Mascia-Lees and often apply my ethnographic studies to documentary filmmaking. We discussed how impossible it is for ethnographers to report objectively from the field,” Eva says. “In my work, I embrace my own subjectivity and am up front about my voice in my videos. I never claim to be telling the truth. This is my version of truth, and its highly edited and produced.”

Evas unique skills are paying off; She earned numerous awards from the New England Newspaper & Press Association (NENPA), and her YouTube views are in the millions.

David Felix Sutcliffe ’98



Filmmaker David Felix Sutcliffe, a Sundance Award–winning director and producer, spends most of his time working in documentary filmmaking. His movies explore narratives overlooked by mainstream media. David’s past films—ADAMA and (T)ERROR—focused on issues of national security, specifically the plight of innocent Muslim Americans affected by counterterrorism initiatives.

David studied at Simons Rock for two years before transferring to Vassar College. He recalls Simon’s Rock professor Audrey Kerr, who taught African American studies, English, and folklore from 1997 to 2001. Her class changed David’s life, and inspired him to look at his childhood growing up in a biracial family through a different lens, strengthening his compassion for his sisters. He brings this critical examination of life to all his workincluding a recent project about racial disparity as perpetuated by the right wing and white extremists.

Ben Pender-Cudlip ’01

Documentarian Ben Pender-Cudlip feels that Simon’s Rock equipped him for the spontaneous nature of his genre of filmmaking, giving him the liberty to direct his own path.

Simon's Rock prepared me by encouraging me to take ownership of my education.

“Simon’s Rock prepared me by encouraging me to take ownership of my education,” he said. As it turns out, much of documentary filmmaking involves making it up as you go along.


This fluid philosophy is nothing new. Ben entered Simon’s Rock focused on math and science, but his path shifted when an art requirement led him to Larry Burke’s Art of Film class. His filmography covers a variety of topics, including quirky artists, charter and district schools, and stories from my family." He continued, Sometimes Im aesthetically attracted to a story or the methods I might use to represent it, and sometimes I make films about stories that I think are important.”

Reflecting back on Simons Rock, he said, “Not only was Larry Burkes mentorship influential, Nancy Bonvillain’s Anthropology Goes to the Movies taught me a lot about the troubling ways that indigenous peoples are represented on film. The lessons I learned there have been really helpful in my current project: a feature documentary about Native Americans who were taken from their homes as children and raised by white families.”

Lisa Myers ’02

lm best



Set designer Lisa Myers primarily studied art history and studio arts at Simons Rock. Joan Del Plato's tutorial in museology and visual studies changed her perspective, I started to think more about art as it is presented to the viewer, the spaces in which we view and experience art, and how expansive the possibility of different mediums actually is.”

Lisa credits Simons Rock for helping her to synthesize and collaborate between mediums and departments and to creatively approach set building as an interactive process, With our sets, we establish the first layer of the story, to be built upon by the other departments,” she explains.

Don't miss Lisas upcoming releases: Manhattan Night, starring Adrien Brody; My Blind Brother, starring Adam Scott, Nick Kroll, and Jenny Slate; and The Land, featuring Erykah Badu.

More Alumni in Film

Simon’s Rock alumni hold a wide variety of positions in the film industry, including directors, producers, writers, visual artists, and camera operators.

Joel ’71 and Ethan ’74 Coen are Oscar award-winning filmmakers of Fargo and No Country For Old Men. The critically acclaimed Coens work includes Raising Arizona, cult favorite The Big Lebowski, Bridge of Spies (screenwriters), and most recently Hail, Caesar

Perry Hall ’84 has worked with four Academy Award-winning filmmakers (John Gaeta, Nicholas Brooks, Eugenio Zanetti, Thomas Knoll) and has lectured as an invited artist at Industrial Light and Magic. He also works as a screenwriter currently under contract with Light Cone Pictures in New York. Perry’s unique “painting films” can be seen in the Academy Award-winning “painted world” sequences of the 1998 Robin Williams film What Dreams May Come and more recently in actress Scarlett Johansson’s eyes in director Luc Besson’s 2014 film Lucy.

Rockers have a way of looking at life and actively engaging with the world that keeps things interesting.

Ambika Leigh ’93, an award-winning director, editor, and producer, has worked with Academy Award-winning producer Mark R. Harris (Crash and Gods and Monsters) as a development executive and creative producer. As the owner of On Purpose Pictures, she has directed, produced, and/or edited dozens of films, including in-depth interviews with over 30 Emmy nominees.

Kate Twomey ’08 finished her studies in Cinema Studies & Documentary Film at NYU and is currently at the Copenhagen Institute for Interaction Design focusing on transmedia storytelling and interactive documentary.

Zev Vel ’12 moved to New York City to continue his career in film working with Camera and Lighting departments. He has worked on a variety of films and commercials with clients including AT&T, Aeropostale, Chevrolet, and notable individuals, including Al Gore. Zev continues to work as a director of photography.