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That's Hollywood!

In October, Film Studies Professor Emeritus Larry Benaquist traveled with KSC Sr. Major Gift Officer Sean Gillery ‘89 to reconnect with film studies alums in California. This gave Dr. Benaquist the opportunity to see what several of his successful students had done with their degrees, and how they’ve used the training he gave them.

In Hollywood, they met with Natali Pope ‘85, currently the set decorator for Undercovers, a JJ Abrams series on NBC. “Natali is at the top of her craft,” noted Gillery, “she’s incredibly well respected and well liked by her colleagues.” Pope took her guests on a tour of the Warner Bros. lot, where they got to watch the filming of an action sequence for this week’s episode, “Assassin,” that aired on November 3. (Missed it? - you can watch the episode on the Undercovers page.)

While at Warner Bros., Gillery got to play “As Time Goes By” on the very piano that Dooley Wilson, as Sam, played in the 1942 classic film, Casablanca.

Among the alums the pair also visited were Katie Hery ‘04, an executive assistant at Dreamworks who gave them a tour of that amazing studio; Hal Masonberg ‘91, writer/director of the 2006 movie, The Plague; and Roger Memos ‘79, who’s doing a documentary on Marsha Hunt, the actress that Hollywood movie studio executives blacklisted in the 1950s.

Not all of these successful film studies alums are in the film industry. Scott Jarema ‘95, for one, lives on a boat at the California Yacht Club at Marina del Rey and is the sales manager for a high-end marine-electronics business. He also writes for the company’s catalog and was one of several alums who credited Dr. Benaquist’s insistence on good writing for helping them reach the important positions they hold today.

What did Dr. Benaquist think of his former students? “The gauge of teaching in a successful program is when you’re jealous of your students,” he said. “I found myself seeing what these students are doing and thinking, ‘Wow, I’d love to be doing something like that.’ I’m so grateful that they are. When you can say that your students are doing something that you wish you could do, then you know you’ve done something.”

The benefits of the trip were many. The College is creating an endowed film studies lecture series to honor Dr. Benaquist’s service. The series will focus on the importance of film to the campus community, and it will promote film that deals with issues of social justice, which is so important to Dr. Benaquist’s career (e.g., his work on Here Am I, Send Me: the Journey of Jonathan Daniels, and his work with the Louis DeRochemont films, esp. Lost Boundaries). It was important, therefore, to get the word out among these professionals, and it was important to get their feedback on the film program here. Their insights into facets of the industry that are growing will help the faculty adjust the program to meet upcoming needs. It was also valuable to connect these alums to each other. They represent a vast pool of talent and can now network their skills. And they offer priceless professional connections for current students.

After such a trip, where can Gillery and Dr. Benaquist go that could possibly be as rewarding? Hey, they say there’s an even larger group of film studies alums in the Big Apple.

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