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 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 conversation—especially 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 it’s highly edited and produced.”
Eva’s 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.
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.”
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!
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.