Get to know the people behind your favorite university cinema in our blog series, “Meet Your IU Cinema Staff.” Using the format of our exclusive filmmaker interviews — all of which can be found on our YouTube channel — we’ve crafted a questionnaire for our staff to help introduce them to you, our audience. For today’s profile, we have responses from our communications and outreach media specialist, Michaela Owens.
What is your job at IU Cinema?
I take care of many things related to marketing and communications, like running the blog, supervising our podcast, creating our e-newsletters, writing press releases, editing any published material we make, working with our program partners… That’s the gist of it without getting too boring.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
The fact that I get to be part of a place I’ve adored ever since my IU freshman orientation, and that working here has far exceeded my expectations. I can’t put into words how much I love this staff and the work we do.
Of the IU Cinema events you’ve been a part of, do you have a favorite?
I have so many favorites! My Staff Selects screening of the Esther Williams movie Easy to Love is probably at the top of my list, but I’ve talked about that one before so I’ll go with a more recent example: last semester’s screening of The Mummy in Memorial Stadium. My aunt loves this film and I was so happy to sit on the stadium’s field and watch it with her, especially since the screening came very close to being cancelled due to the weather. When the rain finally let loose minutes after the film was over, I became fully convinced of the power of Brendan Fraser.
Do you have a film experience that changed your life or direction?
When I was in junior high, I decided to revisit some of my favorite films from childhood, which included Holiday Inn and The Wizard of Oz. All of a sudden, I found myself appreciating people like Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Judy Garland as performers, not characters, and I was entranced. I soon fell down the rabbit hole that is classic Hollywood and I’ve been obsessed with movies ever since!
In terms of films and/or filmmakers, what or who inspires you?
The women of old Hollywood have been my guiding stars for years. Katharine Hepburn, Kay Francis, Esther Williams, Bette Davis, Myrna Loy, Ginger Rogers, Anna May Wong, Lena Horne, and many other actresses were all badasses who fought to make their own spaces in a wildly patriarchal (and racist) system, which is something I keep in mind every day.
I’ve also recently started to seek out more information about the women behind the scenes during this period, such as Dorothy Arzner, Dorothy Davenport Reid, Dorothy Kingsley (so many Dorothys!), Adrienne Fazan, Wanda Tuchock, Marion Wong, Joan Harrison, and Harriet Parsons, just to name a few. I can only imagine what obstacles they had to face in order to do what they loved, and it’s heartbreaking to read how often their careers were overshadowed, stalled, or destroyed simply because of their sex and, in some cases, their race.
What do you hope audiences leave with after an IU Cinema event?
A wonderful memory that they won’t soon forget.
What is the most powerful aspect of film as an art form?
The way it can transport you. I love that I can put on a movie and be taken to an entirely different time and place and leave my own troubles behind for a little bit. It’s why the big screen experience is so important to me. To sit in a dark theater and be overwhelmed by the images in front of you… there is nothing like it.
What would be your dream IU Cinema event or series?
*pulls out the never-ending list I have on my phone* Obviously, I have to say that an Esther Williams series would be beyond wonderful. As I explained when we screened Easy to Love a few years ago, Esther’s films are rarely screened and it’s a travesty that needs rectified because her films are downright gorgeous pieces of escapism.
I would also loooove it if we ever did a marathon of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. Or an “Audrey Hepburn in Paris” series, which would absolutely have to include How to Steal a Million, Funny Face, Sabrina, Love in the Afternoon, and Charade.
If I’m thinking real pie-in-the-sky, I would be in heaven if we were ever able to host stars like Ann-Margret, Mitzi Gaynor, Julie Andrews, Jane Fonda, Angela Lansbury, Kim Novak, Hayley Mills, Shirley MacLaine… the list continues!
What is the importance of having a place like the IU Cinema?
The Cinema has long been vital to my learning about film, but it also helps me escape the world. (Did I skip class as an undergrad to see movies that I had already seen dozens of times before? Maybe.) It’s such a rich resource, not only because of its screenings but also because of its visiting filmmakers and other guests. IU Cinema is almost like its own film school, and there is so, so much you can learn from coming to our events.
But we’re also somewhere where you can just have fun, too! I get such a warm, fuzzy feeling from attending our screenings, and it’s not solely because I enjoy what we’re showing. It’s because the Cinema is a place filled with love and I feel that every time I walk through our doors.
Which of our IU Cinema exclusive filmmaker interviews is your favorite or is one that you’d recommend?
My go-to answer for this has always been the legendary Roger Corman because his visit to IU Cinema was so special for me, but I think I’ll switch things up here and recommend Alexandre O. Philippe’s. I’m an Alfred Hitchcock nerd, so when Philippe came to the Cinema to do a lecture on the filmmaker and do a Q&A after a screening of his documentary 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene, I was thrilled. I even got to have lunch with Philippe, where we gushed over Hitch and movies incessantly and I’m sure I annoyed the other attendees with my non-stop chatter. I couldn’t help it, though, because Philippe’s passion for film was so infectious to me. I loved listening to him talk about the industry, film history, and his personal experiences, all of which you can experience for yourself by watching his Final Draft interview.