Atlanta has become a cultural center for media and film in the last decade, and Emory’s own campus has seen the effects of this shift. While not always spotlighted, film and media at Emory remain a hidden gem, allowing those who are passionate to learn more about the industry, both through theory and practice. Alisa Yan is a student who has integrated media into her academic and personal life and has used her time at Emory to promote the growth of other filmmakers. She has had the opportunity to work on professional sets with seasoned veterans and facilitates Emory’s hosting of Campus Movie Fest, the world’s largest student film festival.
Name: Alisa Yan
Major: Marketing and Media Studies
Campus Involvement: Emory Television (ETV) President, Jiu-Jitsu Club Treasurer, Women’s Self-Defence Teaching Assistant, Film 107 Teaching Assistant, Tour Guide
Q: Favorite guilty pleasure tv show?
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Q: What inspired you to begin making films, and what inspires you now?
I got in the film industry pretty young, starting with acting. But when I was around 13 to 16, I hit the age where I was unhireable, because I was too old to play a child, but too young to be an adult. At that point I decided to take the film class that was offered in my high school, just so that I could stay involved in the industry in some capacity. But through taking this class, I learned that I actually really liked making films. I don’t know if there’s anything particular that inspires me now, other than the fact that there are stories that need to be told, and I might as well be the one to tell them.
Q: What has been your experience as a female filmmaker?
The film industry, in particular, is very much still a “boy’s club.” But a lot of the people who have brought me onto projects have been women. They hired me as an unknown, a shot in the dark, as someone who hasn’t been in the industry for long. However, I’m hoping that will change. I’m hoping more men will be willing to take women onto set, because the film industry is a very insular community. You often get jobs based on who you know, and so the more people you know, the more sets you’re able to get onto. So when you’re in a community that is a boy’s club, the people you know are going to be by boys. That being said, no one in film has ever said that I couldn’t do something because I’m a girl. Everyone that I’ve worked with has been absolutely lovely, it’s just really hard to break into the business and make a name for yourself.
Q: How do you feel your time at Emory has shaped your experience?
Emory is obviously not a film school, so it doesn’t necessarily have the same community as other schools, like NYU or USC. But the thing that I like about the film community here at Emory is that everyone clearly wants to be a part of it. I’ve been able to meet a lot of cool people, and form deeper connections with them, which is something that I may not have been able to do at a school with a giant film community. One thing Emory specifically has taught me is how to work on a low budget. They’ve taught me how to be resourceful and take advantage of every connection I can.
Q: If you could teach a class what would it be?
I think it would be interesting to teach some sort of sci-fi or fantasy class. It’s a genre that is clearly growing a lot in the industry right now, with huge franchises like Star Wars and The Avengers. It’s interesting to me to see how even though advances in special effects have made it easier to produce sci-fi movies technically, the creative process has remained difficult. I think this would be interesting to look at in a production setting, as well as an academic one.
Q: Who are the most influential women in your life?
Simone Biles is a personal influence. She’s got so much power in such a little body! And she has such an inspiring story. She didn’t have the best upbringing or background, but she just had the sheer talent and work ethic to make it. Jane Lynch was a really influential figure for queer people. She was out as a lesbian even before Ellen DeGeneres, when it was so not okay to be gay. She was out and she was proud, living her best life. It’s really inspiring that she was able to take the vitriol that was thrown at her, and come out stronger.
If you want to check out some of Alisa’s work, you can go to her website: https://alisayan.wixsite.com/film