George Mason University

News at Mason

Visiting Filmmakers Series at Mason goes online with more speakers and a wider potential audience

April 13, 2020   /   by Anna Stolley Persky

Mason alumnus Mannon Butt with Halle Berry on the set of "John Wick: Chapter 3." Butt is the visiting filmmaker on April 14. Photo provided.

Since 1995, George Mason University has hosted a much-anticipated Visiting Filmmakers Series that connects the Mason community with visiting filmmakers from all over the world. The series has traditionally featured two to three filmmakers each semester who visit the campus to share their work and answer audience questions.

But this month, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the series was forced to go online. The switch has had its benefits, according to Cynthia Fuchs, director of the Visiting Filmmakers Series and associate director of Mason’s Film and Video Studies Program. 

The Spring 2020 Visiting Filmmakers Series Online can reach more people in a virtual setting than it ever could with a campus event, she said. In addition, the series can afford more visiting filmmakers, as there is less cost connected to hosting a speaker online versus bringing someone to campus. In one month, Mason students and the general public can virtually meet more than a dozen filmmakers. In addition, the online sessions with filmmakers allow for a less formal atmosphere than usual, with filmmakers telling stories from their lives and answering questions about their experiences in the industry.

Sponsored by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the College of Visual and Performing Arts, among others, the online series is aimed at helping connect the Mason community and beyond to the arts during a time of increased isolation, Fuchs said.

Fuchs also said the online series is a way to help filmmaking professionals, including Mason alumni, who are currently on hiatus, hunkered in their homes while the industry is shut down.

Mason alumnus Mannon Butt, a filmmaker in Los Angeles, said he wants to use his online session on April 14 to help other people get into the industry.

“I want to tell them how important it is to be insistent and to encourage them to get to know as many people as possible in the industry,” Butt said. “And yes, I have a little more time to talk right now.”

Tony Marquez, BA Film and Video Studies ’12, answered questions virtually earlier this month as part of the series. Marquez, Butt’s roommate in Pasadena, California, is currently working on CBS’ “Young Sheldon." His goal is to direct television shows.

Marquez said he enjoyed giving advice and talking about his career during the hour-long question-and-answer session.

“It felt good to give back to the community that helped shape me.”