Featured Fellow: Crescent Diamond
Applying For And Winning A Fellowship:
Crescent Diamond on the Javits Fellowship
FELLOWSHIP I WON AND WHEN: I won the Javits Fellowship for Graduate Studies for the 2009/2010 school year and I will continue to receive it for 2010/2011 and 2011/2012.
MY MAJOR/MINOR AND AREA (S) OF ACADEMIC/PROFESSIONAL INTEREST: I’m pursuing an MFA in Cinema.
THE SUBSTANCE OF MY FELLOWSHIP PROPOSAL: For my proposal I had to write a personal statement describing my “sense of purpose, professional objectives and an understanding of, and commitment to, scholarly activity.” I wrote about the kinds of films that I have made in the past, and the work that I hope to create in graduate school and beyond. I wrote about my influences, the kind of critical and theoretical work that I am drawn to, and the subjects that I focus on. Quoting from my statement: “I make documentary and fiction films, shows and multi-media projects that change the world. By portraying everyday heroes, I intend to spark similar heroic imagination and courage in others and myself. Characters who are involved in political struggle, who are leaders in their community and those who participate in emotional healing are the people I focus on.”
Several paragraphs were devoted to my past professional work in the field of cinema, including documentaries that I have made and my work for non-profit organizations. I ended the statement with a description of my goal, which is to become a professor of cinema and continue to produce innovative and inspiring work. I also had to send three letters of recommendation and a DVD of 5 minutes of my work (slides, photographs and manuscripts are also acceptable, but for me, video best represents my work). I sent a DVD of a short documentary film that I directed and produced, called: Silence Ain’t Sexy ( http://www.pinchmefilms.org/video.html ), an educational film for youth about sexual decision-making and communication. I assume they watched the first 5 minutes.
LOW POINT IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS: I think the only low point in the process was the anxiety I felt when I wondered if I would be able to get the recommendations I needed and in time for the deadline. The application was due October 1st and I found out about the fellowship at the beginning of September of my first year in the program. I had not been in college for ten years and I wanted to get a recommendation from a current professor. I was lucky enough to receive a recommendation from a professor who had only known me for one month, and two from professors that I had worked with in the past, who knew me very well. The two I already knew had written recommendations for my graduate school application, so they were already written.
HIGH POINT IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS: The high point was definitely when I got the call and heard that I received the fellowship!
MISADVENTURE(S) DURING THE FELLOWSHIP: The policies and procedures of this fellowship and how San Francisco State University manages it are complicated and can be very confusing. The most difficult part for me is knowing how to get the paperwork filled out and signed by the right people. A past recipient of the fellowship has been my guiding light and mentor in learning how to manage it and all of the departments that are involved.
BEST MOMENT DURING THE FELLOWSHIP: The best moments for me are when I am able to complete film projects and learn new skills. Last semester I started learning digital animation, which is difficult and very rewarding. In October of 2009, the first month that I received the stipend and tuition award, I went to New York City to the World Premiere of a film that I produced at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The film is called: THE HERETICS, and it is a feature documentary film about the feminist movement of the 1970’s. You can see a trailer and more information at: http://www.heresiesfilmproject.org . That premiere was one of the best moments of my life!
ADVICE TO APPLICANTS: Get started early! If you can apply before you decide which graduate program you are going to enter, then you have an advantage, because it will pay for your first year. I did not find out about it until my first year, so I only received it starting my second year. Ask for recommendations as soon as you can and follow up with the recommenders to see if they need anything from you. It can be helpful to show them recent work and send your statement to them. Have other people read over your statement and give suggestions.
WHY I’D DO IT AGAIN: This is the best opportunity that I have ever been granted and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I did not think I would receive it, but I applied anyway. You never know! I also didn’t think I would even get into graduate school, let alone be awraded a prestigious scholarship. Don’t let your lack of self-confidence get in your way!
WHAT I’M DOING NOW: I am in my third year of the MFA program and I am working on my thesis film. I am also going to TA for two classes, lecturing and leading discussions. My website is: http://www.crescentdiamond.tv