Hop@Home kick-off features alumni in entertainment

by Veronica Winham | 9/21/20 2:00am

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Source: Courtesy of the Hopkins Center for the Arts

On Thursday, Hop@Home held its first events of the academic year. The fall kick-off saw two pairs of alumni take the (virtual) stage. Oscar-winning animators Phil Lord ’97 and Chris Miller ’97 participated in a live chat, and twins Angel and Dren Coleman ’13 DJed the event.

Lord and Miller have directed films including “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “21 Jump Street,” “The Lego Movie” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2019. They have also written for shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and their new animated film “Connected” was set to debut this fall, though the release date has been postponed indefinitely amid the pandemic. 

Throughout the night, student moderators had the opportunity to ask questions inspired by their interest in the film industry and guide the conversation with Lord and Miller. One moderator, film and media studies major Lauryn King ’22, asked for tips for aspiring filmmakers like herself. She said she looked up to Lord and Miller’s portfolio, which ranges from R-rated comedies to animated family-favorites.

In response, Lord jokingly recommended, “get old,” before Miller elaborated that building a diverse portfolio is something that took them a long time to accomplish. Drawing on their experience in the film industry, Miller said that they made decisions in their career deliberately to avoid repeating movie genres.

Lord and Miller also discussed their uncommon tendency to combine different genres when creating the “The Lego Movie,” which features well-known characters such as Batman, Abraham Lincoln and Gandalf, and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which features a film noir-style Spider-Man alongside a pig and an anime Spider-Woman. As they keep making films, Lord and Miller said they found that their ability to incorporate different genres and animation styles into their filmmaking has improved.

Among the many questions about “Spider-Man,” Hop Ensemble Fellow Noah Campbell ’21 asked Lord and Miller about the importance of incorporating diversity and inclusion into their films.

Rheanna Toney ’22 said that this was what stood out to her the most from their talk, particularly when thinking about main character Miles Morales from “Spider-Man,” who is Afro-Puerto Rican. 

“Contrary to what some people might expect, … the more culturally specific he was as a character, the more you could relate to him, anyone could relate to him, whether or not they had that specific cultural experience, because he felt like a real person,” Miller said during the Q&A.

Lord and Miller ended the event by taking questions from the audience, who submitted questions directly to the YouTube livestream throughout the evening. They responded to five community members, including Dartmouth students’ younger siblings, who were fans of Lord and Miller’s animated movies. 

According to King, choosing from the many submitted questions allowed Lord and Miller opportunities they might not have had if they were on stage in front of a panel. King noted that Hop@Home is taking “great advantage” of the virtual format. 

Following the Q&A, twin DJs Angel+Dren took the stage for their virtual concert, the Hop’s first Thursday Night Live event. They performed from Los Angeles’ Social Sanctuary, playing remixes that blended hip-hop, rap and R&B, and combined classic and contemporary songs.

“It kind of feels full circle to be playing for Dartmouth,” Angel said. “Having it be for the Dartmouth community makes it special to me.”

Angel+Dren — who have played at music festivals such as Governors Ball and Coachella — included remixes from their upcoming album. Viewers were able to tune in on the YouTube livestream and leave comments.

The duo did not start DJing until after graduation, so they said they were excited to DJ live for the Dartmouth community, even if virtually from the other side of the country. 

“It’s nice to be embraced in this way and it’s nice to know Dartmouth has a place for us even though we are now pursuing music,” Dren said. 

Both twins said that virtual concerts like Hop@Home have allowed them to reach even more people than before. 

“People still are looking for music and looking for ways to entertain themselves from home,” Angel said.

She added that she was happy to be performing with Dren, since “virtually, it’s definitely a different energy. You’re not really drawing energy from the crowd, you’re pulling it from within yourself.”

The links to recordings of Lord and Miller’s live chat and Angel+Dren’s concert can be found on their respective Hop@Home pages for anyone who might not have been able to tune in on Thursday — another perk of having virtual events. 

Hop@Home will continue to showcase artists throughout the fall, according to Campbell. Anyone from the Dartmouth community is welcome and encouraged to join. This week, speakers include comedian Trevor Noah on Sept. 22 and CNN host Jake Tapper ’91 on Sept. 24.

“We have all of these big names coming and everyone can engage with impactful, influential figures. It’s a cool perk of Dartmouth,” Campbell said.

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