Bright Lights: From Occupy to Black Magic

by Jaclyn Diaz / Beacon Staff • September 27, 2012

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Alex Freeman, Andrew Christenson, Gabriella Iarrobino, Ryan Egan.
Courtesy of Laura Jane Brubaker
Alex Freeman, Andrew Christenson, Gabriella Iarrobino, Ryan Egan.
Courtesy of Laura Jane Brubaker

A police officer nonchalantly smeared pepper spray into the faces of perching protestors and the screaming faces of the young, old, and middle-aged people being forced into handcuffs by the side of the road are both well-known pictures of the Occupy Wall Street protestors. 

The showing of American Autumn: An OccuDoc was one of three recent events held in Emerson College’s Bright Family Screening Room for the second year of the Bright Lights program.

American Autumn, The Last Taboo and the Boston Creative Pro User Group (BOSPCPUG) presentation were all brought to Emerson over the course of two weeks courtesy of the program. Each event was followed by a panel discussion with the audience.

The program, curated and promoted by VMA Programs Coordinator Anna Feder, is presented every Tuesday and Thursday. Student and industry work are showcased to the audience. The events are usually open to both Emerson and the public, with the occasional Emerson-only nights. 

“The idea for Bright Lights came from the [visual and media arts] department always wanting to do a series in that space,” said Feder. 

Through partnerships with Emerson’s journalism department, the UN of Boston, the BOSPCPUG, and other local groups, Feder meets writers, producers, and filmmakers eager to share their projects with Emerson and the wider public. 

While working with Boston Phoenix journalist Chris Faraone, who is involved in the Occupy movement, Feder was introduced to the project American Autumn. 

Kicking off the new season of Bright Lights, director Dennis Trainor Jr. and Faraone, joined students in the screening of American Autumn: a partisan documentary telling the story of the Occupy Wall Street movement through the protestors’ perspectives. 

Trainor, an Occupy protestor himself, traveled to demonstrations in Washington, D.C., Boston, New York City, and Oakland from September 2011 to January 2012. 

One-on-one interviews with Occupy advocates, video footage of the movement, and brawls with police combined with Trainor’s ire-filled annotation leant itself to bias.

“For people who see this movie, they aren’t going to think it shows both sides. I prefer to call it ‘advocacy journalism.’ I don’t pretend to be impartial. I am partial. I have picked a side,” said Trainor.  

Like Autumn, The Last Taboo tells its story through documentary. Taboo shares filmmaker Alex Freeman’s personal story of affection and affliction. 

Freeman, a junior visual and media arts major who was born with cerebral palsy, explores the topic of sex and disability. Through candid interviews with other people with disabilities, Freeman is able to cover a taboo subject with humor and honesty, especially when describing the awkwardness of his first kiss.

Unlike Autumn and Taboo, the BOSPCPUG event was held not to showcase work, but instead to present new, innovative camera technology to the crowd.

Demonstrated by founder and Emerson alum Dan Berube, the event was closed to BOSPCPUG members and Emerson students. It presented the new Blackmagic Cinema Camera to the video enthusiasts. 

The state-of-the-art digital cinema camera, presented by Marco Salvio,’s owner, boasted a wide-range of the latest digital cinema technology. 

Presenting two videos that he had shot with the new camera, Salvio went frame-by-frame to show the quality shots that the camera provided. 

In one scene, Salvio shot into a police officer’s headlights with clarity.  

“We couldn’t see his face in the car or anything around it with our naked eye. But when we looked into the camera, we could see everything. We were like, how is this possible?” Salvio said. 

In another video that compared scenes filmed with a regular DSLR camera and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Salvio pointed out the stark differences of clarity and sharpness of color. 

The audience’s sighs of approval echoing through the room foreshadowed future buyers of the camera. 

To possible skeptics of the camera’s abilities, Salvio encouraged them to buy their own camera and do their own test.  

Although Bright Lights provides a wide-range of presentations for the Emerson and Boston communities, Feder said he often finds it extremely difficult to fill the 174 seats.

The Last Taboo and the BOSCPUG event had a near full attendance while American Autumn had less than 30 in the audience—an outcome that Feder is familiar with.  

 “I’ve been working hard to build an audience. Trying to get students to attend regularly is incredibly difficult.” 

Though attendance is admittedly an issue with Bright Lights, Feder still has high hopes for the program. 

“In terms of programming, it’s everything I’m doing now. It shows student work, grad student work, alum work, outside films. It’s everything I want it to be in that respect. Really, at this point, it’s building the audience. I’m really aiming for the house to be packed at every event.”

The next Bright Lights screening is of the Dara Kell and Chrsitopher Nizza film, Dear Mandela on Thursday, Sept. 27.