Robert Flaherty Film Seminar

The 2023 Robert Flaherty Film Seminar has been temporarly suspend. The Seminar will continue in 2024. 

The UMass Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies in cooperation with the Five College Film Council is now accepting applications for 5C FLAHERTY SUMMER, a week-long intensive summer program for Five College students in partnership with the Flaherty, a nonprofit media arts institution recognized as a leader in its support of documentary and independent film and media. The application deadline is March 1, 2022. Details below.

What is the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar?

With a storied history dating back to 1954, the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar (aka “The Flaherty Seminar”) is an annual, week-long program devoted to non-fiction film and media. The Flaherty Seminar brings together filmmakers, artists, curators, media professionals, film students, teachers, and enthusiasts for a curated program of films in an intimate, immersive environment. Participants gather for a communal experience that includes housing, meals, social hours, and special events. Each day of the week is organized around at least three screening sessions followed by discussion.

When does the Flaherty Seminar take place?

This year, the Flaherty Seminar will be held June 25 - July 1, 2022 at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY. Each year the seminar is organized by a different programmer. The 2022 seminar, which is titled “Continents of Drifting Clouds,” will be programmed collaboratively by Almudena Escobar López and Sky Hopinka. Almudena Escobar López is a curator, archivist, and researcher from Galicia, who works as the Assistant Curator of Media Arts at the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) in Rochester, NY. Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians) is an artist working in video, photo, and text, whose practice centers around personal positions of Indigenous homeland and landscape, and designs of language as containers of culture expressed through personal, documentary, and non-fictional forms of media. For more details on the program see https://theflaherty.org/news/flaherty-2022-newsletter-february. Information about the Seminar’s history can also be found on https://flahertyseminar.org/. For additional information about the Flaherty's activities see https://theflaherty.org/.

Flaherty Seminar
Flaherty Summer Seminar

What is the 5C Flaherty Summer Program?

The 5C FLAHERTY SUMMER program, now in its fourth year, aims to foster diversity and inclusion in the fields of film and media by creating opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds. We are currently seeking applicants interested in attending the 2022 Flaherty Seminar as part of this program. One student will be selected from each of the five campuses and this 5C cohort will participate in a week-long guided program during the Flaherty Seminar coordinated by a faculty mentor. The 5C faculty mentor for 2022 will be Anaiis Cisco, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies at Smith College.
The student selected to attend from each campus will have their registration fees for the Flaherty Seminar (which covers accommodations and meals for the week, as well as special Five College programming) paid by the 5C Flaherty Summer Program. Student participants will receive a $300 travel stipend and will be responsible for arranging their own travel to and from the Seminar.

The goal of this guided program—qualitatively different from an internship or work experience—is to cultivate learning and networking opportunities for students from constituencies that are underrepresented in leadership positions in film and media, including women, LGBTQ persons, ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, students with financial need, and undocumented students. This program is best suited for students who will be entering their third and fourth year in Fall 2022. However, we will also consider graduating seniors and first year students.

Students selected to be part of the 5C Flaherty Summer cohort will be required to:

(A) Attend a half-day orientation in Spring 2022, in which they will meet fellow participants and learn more about the Flaherty and what will be expected of them there.
(B) Arrive at Colgate University by 2PM on June 25, 2022 and stay for the full duration of the Seminar, which concludes at noon on July 1, 2022. 
(C) Participate in a guided program of daily lunch and dinner conversations with attending media professionals and filmmakers during the seminar. 

Additionally, participating students may be asked to speak about their experiences and this program with other interested students during the 2022-23 academic year.

What we are looking for:
We are searching for applicants who have demonstrated passion and inclination for creative and critical work in film and media, with a special interest in nonfiction, and who can integrate themselves respectfully into non-academic venues for discussing nonfiction film and filmmaking. Applicants should demonstrate that they have taken some time to acquaint themselves with the structure and history of the Flaherty Seminar. Applicants should effectively convey reasons why they would like to attend the Flaherty Seminar and also how they feel they can contribute to the event. All attendees are encouraged to participate in discussions and the overall discourse, and we want to know what you can add.

How Can Students Apply?
To apply, please send an email to Professor Shawn Shimpach (shimpach@umass.edu) by March 1, 2022.  

Your email should contain the following information: Your Name; Class Year; Email Address; Home Address. 

In addition, please answer the following questions:
Question 1: In 200 words or less, please tell us a little bit about some of the experiences that have shaped your sense of yourself and/or your community as marginalized in relation to the film and media industry. Please feel free to address issues of access, representation, mentorship, or any other obstacles to professional advancement that you may have encountered.
Question 2: In 500 words or less, please write a short statement about why you are applying to the 5C Flaherty Summer Program and why you would be a good candidate for the program, addressing: (A) What are your relevant interests in and experiences with film and media, both academic and otherwise? What work do you hope to do in the future, related to these fields? (B) How will participating in the 2022 Flaherty Seminar contribute to your personal and professional goals in and beyond college? (C) What skills/experience will you bring that can contribute to discussions and community at the Seminar? 

Finally, please supply a 1-page resumé that includes evidence of any achievements or experiences related to film and media (eg: coursework, films, community projects, etc.).
Notifications of acceptance will be sent out soon after the deadline. 

Testimonials From Past Participants

Check here UMass students' interviews: Alex Tran (Flaherty recipient in 2018) and Serena Wong (2019) 

"Before attending the Flaherty, I had absolutely NO idea where I was going. I was studying film, sure, but where was that going to lead me? What am I going to do when I get out of college? The “film industry” can most likely feel closed off to students, especially students of color. What the Flaherty did for me was expose me to the countless number of careers that are sustainable in the path I wish to pursue. During the screenings, I saw films that provoked more thought than any other film I had seen in a long time, I met people who provided more insight into the questions I had that I never considered before, and most importantly, I learned more about who I want to become in this one week, than I had learned in any class in school.”
- ALEX TRAN, UMass Amherst

“In an industry where you see so little of your identity represented, you essentially need to become your own role model (a practice that can be discouraging at times). At the Flaherty however, I not only met women of color working in film (like myself) but witnessed the gathering of a diverse group of thinkers who serve as a representation of their own stories…I have never been more inspired to pursue and create film works after such an intensive experience.”
- JANAYAH IVY, Smith College

“As a recent Amherst graduate, I have never encountered discussions of film outside of an academic context, and have a hard time even articulating what exactly is my relation to film when faced with confident professionals. However, meeting the wide range of people at the The 5C Flaherty Program is a Five Colleges Inc. Program funded by equal contributions from each of the Five Colleges. Flaherty (especially during our lunch meetings) I came to realize that so many different paths are possible, and there’s no singular way to relate to film. This unexpectedly helped reaffirm my uncertain position, and gave me confidence to explore a multitude of paths whether it is in writing, curation, making art, or something in between. The ambitious and all-encompassing goals of the Flaherty mean that the seminar strikes an eclectic balance between creative openness and rigorous critique, moving between creator, viewer, curator, insider, outsider with fluid courage—opening up a space in between academia and creation that I have long sought to explore, and giving life to a community I believe can exist nowhere else.”
- JINJIN XU, Amherst College

“The Flaherty provides a unique community and film watching experience unlike any other college students would be able to have access to without the financial means for both attending the seminar and travelling to it. Our group of 5 College students consisted of the youngest people at the seminar which makes being able to attend, be exposed to new media and form important networks at an early point in our careers, all the more useful… Being among a familiar group made it a lot easier to navigate the new space amongst so many people I did not know.”
- HENNA JOSHI, Mount Holyoke College

“When I first arrived to Colgate, I was incredibly intimidated as a burgeoning undergraduate student, surrounded by accomplished academics, artists, and professionals. However, as I had more conversations with attendees—who treated me like a colleague and not a student— I felt a profound change in my attitude… Attending the Flaherty Seminar was not only creatively invigorating, but every conversation I had with an artist, professor, or filmmaker felt like brief moments of mentorship in which I was informed about organizations that I should seek out, and MFA programs that would suit my academic field of interest.”
- DOMINIC SANCHEZ, Hampshire College