Courtney Sheehan ’11 has a talent for making things happen, and for a few months this spring, she’s been working on a project near to her heart—the Grinnell College Animation Film Festival (GCAFF), April 8-10.
The festival brought together short films, feature films, two guest filmmakers, and stop-motion animation collective Tiny Circus. The festival’s film screenings and presentations by and discussions with filmmakers were free and open to the public and there were several workshops for both college students and public-school students.
So why did Sheehan, a Visual Culture independent major, tackle the project? Her love of film—animation in particular. “I’m really passionate about animation because it can be really inventive and can push you to do so many different things,” she says. “I’m looking to get a lot of styles—Computer. 2D. Experimental.”
In quintessential Grinnell fashion, Sheehan came to Grinnell thinking she’d major in something else. “English, maybe?” she says. But when she took her first class with Assistant Professor of English Theresa Geller, who teaches film theory and history, Sheehan decided to pursue her passion for film and visual culture.
Sheehan has taken several film theory courses with Geller; an art exhibition seminar (she curated film); a Bollywood class with Timothy Dobe, assistant professor of Religious Studies; and a visual culture seminar offered when visual culture was the Center for Humanities theme a few years ago. She’s no stranger to film festivals, either. She interned at the Children’s Film Festival Seattle and at The Boston Jewish Film Festival, then wrote for The Independent, a magazine dedicated to independent films.
This year she’s the student government’s Films Committee chair. The festival is an experiment, she explains. This year, SGA Films has tried to create more film events, such as the animation festival and panel discussions. In addition, the group brings a variety of films to campus such as For Coloured Girls, Tamil science-fiction blockbuster Robot (Enthiran), the documentary Marwencol, and a midnight screen of cult classic The Room (2003), which has gained wide popularity since its release.
To top it off, Sheehan’s been awarded a 2011 Watson Fellowship to continue her studies in “The Politics of Film Festivals.” Sheehan, who also studies Russian, will travel in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Netherlands, India, and Russia. “Russian film,” she admits, “is really my thing.”