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Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

LGBTQ filmmaker brings personal experience, advice for GV student filmmakers

GVL | Ella McClintock

Women in Cinema, a Grand Valley State University film club, hosted independent LGBTQ filmmaker Wendy Jo Carlton for a series of class lectures and one-on-one consultations from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1. Carlton’s work, which features the LGBTQ community, spans multiple streaming platforms, including Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.

The Women in Cinema club aims to create a safe community for women and gender-nonconforming students interested in film. With Carlton’s experience as a female LGBTQ filmmaker, the club hoped she could inspire those that identify with the community, and teach GVSU students pursuing a career in the field about the realities of the film industry.   

During her visit, Carlton taught several independent-filmmaking workshops, with content ranging from starting an LLC, using social media to promote work, directing actors and writing effective scripts. She also held individual meetings throughout the week to give students personalized feedback and help them develop their skills.

Caroline Hamilton, a junior at GVSU majoring in Film and Video Production and president of Women in Cinema, organized Carlton’s visit to GVSU. Hamilton said bringing Carlton to campus was an incredible opportunity for film and video production students to see firsthand what their degree could eventually lead to. 

“The one thing people will tell you in the (film) industry is (that) no one story is the same,” Hamilton said. “I think hearing those different stories and learning that you’re not alone relieves a lot of stress for students who are excited to work in filmmaking.”

Malcolm Kramp, a senior at GVSU majoring in Film and Video Production, attended two of Carlton’s classes and met with her individually to discuss what entering the film industry is like after graduation. Kramp praises Carlton’s willingness to give insight and advice to GVSU students about the cut-throat nature of the film industry. Kramp said listening to Carlton’s experience was encouraging because of her refusal to submit to obstacles that would stall her success.

“Being a film student at a university can deceive you with the support system and secure environment provided,” Kramp said. “I wanted to gain Carlton’s perspective as a person who has been working for years in the real world. Carlton is enthusiastic, witty and (possesses) the rare magical brand of crazy that understands the beauty and chaos that makes us human.”

Hamilton said the Women in Cinema club aims to continue reaching out to guests like Carlton. They hope to offer students the opportunity to make connections and learn more about the professional field of filmmaking. 

“There are so many ways to be successful and connecting with people in this industry is so important,” said Hamilton. “I think meeting with Carlton is a great first step for a lot of people who were a bit nervous about that (connecting with industry professionals).” 

Additionally, Hamilton said the industry can be intimidating for many film and video students. With Women in Cinema, Hamilton said she hopes that bringing professionals such as Carlton onto campus will make the industry more real and approachable.

“The film industry is such a scary thing for me,” added Hamilton. “What I’ve figured out is that the more you talk to people who are involved in the industry, the more you feel like you can be successful when you graduate.” 

Similarly, Kramp said bringing professionals like Carlton to campus is important to the success and growth of film and video production students.

“One day, we will enter the film industry ourselves and it is crucial we know what is out there,” said Kramp. “Guests like Wendy Jo (Carlton) help to demystify the industry.”

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