Hopkins Center promotes student engagement through #SmallScreenFun
Since April, the Hopkins Center for the Arts’ virtual cinema program, #SmallScreenFun, has provided Dartmouth community members with the opportunity to stream films and join live Q&As featuring filmmakers, film scholars and celebrity guests. This term, the Hop has given students a greater role in the program, allowing them to act as moderators and ask guests questions.
In the spring, the Hop ran eight #SmallScreenFun conversations moderated by Hop film director Sydney Stowe and film programming and operations manager Johanna Evans ’10, featuring guests including “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes, “Booksmart” screenwriter Katie Silberman ’09, “Olympic Dreams” director Jeremy Teicher ’10 and “Miss Americana” director Lana Wilson.
Stowe said that the decision to let students guide the live Q&As came from a desire to make the events more engaging for both attendees and visiting guests. With more students participating, recent live chats — which have featured CNN anchor Jake Tapper ’91 and Oscar-winning filmmakers Phil Lord ’97 and Chris Miller ’97 — have lasted twice as long as they did when they were first established, according to Stowe.
Jenique Richards ’22, the Hop’s event management and student experience fellow, said that she believes the Hop’s shift toward student-led programming will increase interest in #SmallScreenFun among students.
“Because it's student-directed, it will be student-focused,” Richards said, adding that the interactive component has helped to recreate the in-person feel of Hop events.
Sophie Whittemore ’20, a film major who moderated the talk with Lord and Miller, said that the opportunity to interact with prominent names in the film industry through Hop events gave them confidence in their own career as a filmmaker. For Whittemore and many others, meeting guests can become an unforgettable and encouraging experience.
“As a recent graduate, it's kind of difficult to know — whether you're working in film or in animation — how to take this passion for storytelling and turn it into next steps,” Whittemore said. “Having that mentorship, having alumni come in and tell you it's OK to not know what you're doing, it's OK to be a little bit freaked out and clueless, was extremely helpful in my case.”
Whittemore added that having students guide the talk gave the conversation a personal touch, as opposed to previous events where they felt they were “watching from the sidelines” at times.
Richards said that the chance to connect with alumni in the film industry highlighted to her the benefits of participating in Hop events, including learning about various alumni’s paths to pursuing careers in the arts.
“It’s cool to see where Dartmouth people go,” Richards said. “[Alumni] offer life lessons for us who are just starting out. It just shows us what we can do as a result of going [to Dartmouth], but also as a result of engaging with the arts here at Dartmouth.”
According to Evans, the virtual format has enabled celebrities who may not have had the time to fly to Hanover to hop on a call and share their experiences with students — a sentiment that Richards echoed.
“Bringing in international artists, people from different backgrounds and different experiences allows for more conversation about the arts and about today's social issues, something that I think we are trying to focus more on.”
Evans added that the Hop has been able to welcome a higher volume of guests than it has for in-person events, and the virtual nature of the programming has also enabled the Hop to create an archive of YouTube videos that Dartmouth community members can rewatch.
Additionally, Stowe said that after spending a summer configuring the logistics of screening films online, the Hop will give Dartmouth students and Hop members free access to two selected films each week — one documentary and one narrative film — available on demand from Thursday morning to the following Wednesday. This week’s films are the French comedy-drama “Sibyl” and “The Fight,” a documentary following the recent legal battles of a team of American Civil Liberties Union lawyers. Upcoming films include “A Home Called Nebraska,” “The Surrogate,” “Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops” and “River City Drumbeat.”
#SmallScreenFun has also facilitated a sense of community among film lovers, who enjoy coming together to watch the same movie and discuss it each week.
“I think it’s a really good way of sharing movies that we really can’t do in the traditional way, since we can’t be in theaters together,” Dartmouth Film Society director Zea Eanet ’22 said.
Eanet added that the series has been a great way to emulate the community film-watching experience she would typically have at Dartmouth.