Film society preps Penn seniors for careers in entertainment
The alluring bright lights of Hollywood shine all the way across the country, illuminating the gritty streets of Philadelphia and twinkling creative minds at Penn.
The Kinoki Senior Society, the University’s first film society, brings together students who have a passion for film and are interested in pursuing a career in entertainment.
“We make film, we watch film, we interact with the entertainment industry,” says Hallie Brookman, a cinema and media studies major and president of Kinoki. “We are filmmakers, directors, writers, producers, actors, agents, managers, artists, the list goes on.”
Founded in the spring of 2014, the society is, at once, a film club, a production unit, and a networking group. Its 30 members, film majors and non-film majors alike, gather to discuss and watch movies, support each other’s cinematic and artistic endeavors, and converse with and take guidance from industry movers and shakers.
Kinoki members are chosen during spring rush of their junior year. Seniors select juniors who they believe would be a good fit for the group and invite them to a get-together at Smokey Joe’s, where they meet current and prospective members of the society. The juniors fill out applications, which are reviewed and voted on by Kinoki members, and a new class is formed.
Brookman first found out about the society when she was a sophomore after speaking with Peter Decherney, a professor of English and cinema studies, who connected her with one of its members.
“I wasn’t a senior then, but it was something where the second that I heard about it, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it as soon as I was eligible,” she says.
A Los Angeles native, Brookman has been interning in the entertainment industry since before she entered college. Prior to enrolling at Penn, she took a gap year and interned for two management companies, and she has interned in Los Angeles during each summer break. Her goal is to become a talent agent.
“I want to be an advocate,” she says. “I want to be the one who takes the ‘no’ and turns it into a ‘yes’ for my clients.”
Kinoki Vice President Elvire Audi, double majoring in cinema studies and intellectual history, wants to be a director. Originally from Paris, she learned about the society through her friendship with some of its original members.
“It was great because it was the first time that I got to meet people who were outside of my classes who were also interested in the same things that I was, and who I could talk to and go to screenings with,” she says.
Kinoki members meet up once a week for happy hour, attend film screenings, including the Tribeca Film Festival, share information about happenings in the industry, and watch film-centric programs such as the Academy Awards. At a watch party for the most recent ceremony, Brookman says Kinoki member Tyler Burke correctly predicted 18 of the 24 winners.
The society also helps members with their individual film projects. Audi says they maintain a list of every member and his or her talents and available personal film equipment.
“If anybody has a script that they want to produce, they can look through that list and see who’s a contact in order to assemble a team and a crew, and make the film,” she says.
In February, Kinoki held its first-ever philanthropic event, “The 48 Hour Film Challenge for Arts Equality,” which was funded by a Year of Media grant. Members and non-members participated in a contest to make a movie in only two days.
Supervised by Kathy DeMarco Van Cleve, a senior lecturer in cinema studies, and Emory Van Cleve, a lecturer in fine arts, the competition began on Friday, Feb. 17, at 5 p.m. and teams had until 8 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19, to complete their film. The winning team, selected by the audience, created a movie called “Craig’s List,” a dark comedy about tasks on Craigslist.com.
“It was great because we had people from different experiences, and who didn’t necessarily know anything about film production, who kind of jumped in and did things that were amazing and that they’re really proud of,” Audi says. Proceeds benefited the nonprofit Arts Equality.
For the members of Kinoki, film is more than just a hobby or activity of leisure—it is a life’s pursuit—and they pursue it with just as much rigor as pre-professional students studying to become consultants, doctors, or lawyers. Members are auditioning for fine arts programs in graduate schools and have interned at prominent entertainment companies, including Paramount Pictures, Creative Artists Agency, and Lionsgate.
Audi, who has already completed a handful of films through the New York Film Academy, hopes to work as a production assistant on a film set after she graduates in May.
Brookman will begin United Talent Agency’s Agent Training Program, where she will join other Kinoki alums.