Career-minded colleges know that that one way to get students to think about their future is to introduce them to young professionals excelling at inspiring careers. Providing a current real-world example, the Film and Moving Image Department of Stevenson University is hosting up-and-coming Los Angeles-based film editor Eileen Meyer as its 2016 Artist-in-Residence for three days this week.
As the focal point of her visit, Meyer will present a free lecture on her work Thursday at Stevenson University's Owings Mills campus. Meyer's credentials include receipt of the prestigious Karen Schmeer Editing Fellowship, as well as a nomination for the Cinema Eye Honors "Outstanding Achievement in Editing" Award for her latest film, "Best of Enemies." The film, about the famous 1968 debates between conservative William F. Buckley and liberal Gore Vidal, also earned a 2015 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize nomination and was shortlisted for the 2016 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
"She's established, but she's sort of a rising star. She's able to talk about how she's gotten where she's gotten," said Christopher Reed, chair and professor of the Film & Moving Image Department at Stevenson University's School of Design.
Meyer, who earned a B.A. in film from Hampshire College in 2004, began her career as a production intern in New York City. She soon worked her way up to assistant editor and associate editor. Wanting to take a break from the big city and missing the South (she grew up in North Carolina), Meyer relocated to Memphis, Tenn., a move that ultimately afforded her the opportunity to be the proverbial bigger fish in a small pond.
"I worked on a lot of short films and Web series, and then broke into features by working with independent directors," Meyer wrote in an email from Los Angeles. "I'll be talking about this in more detail at the lecture."
In addition to discussing how she's achieved early success in the film industry, Meyer is likely to share with audiences the topics her films address, some of which are edgy and even prescient. Such is the case with the film "The Thing," in which a young woman and her traveling companion, a transgender person who "struggles to find places to comfortably pee," according to the movie's trailer, take an extended road trip. That project ultimately brought Meyer to L.A.
"It was written and directed by a very close friend of mine, Rhys Ernst, who is now a producer on the show Transparent. He is trans [transgender] and a really talented filmmaker, and he wanted to make a film with a trans protagonist, but not a 'Trans 101' film. At the time, in 2012, audiences were fairly uneducated about trans issues, so when we took that film to Sundance and other festivals, it was clear that it was a few years ahead of its time," Meyer explained.
The artist-in-residence program, which invites one artist per semester to participate, has been an active part of the university's Film & Moving Image Department since 2010, according to department chair Reed. As part of the program, students will gain access to more than Meyer's career trajectory and the topics her films have covered thus far. They will hear from her in small settings, as Meyer visits individual classes and provides professional editing critiques of students' work.
As local film students gear up for her appearance, Meyer reports that she's excited to come to Baltimore, a city she's never visited, particularly at a time when fall foliage should be on full display. In the interim, she advises budding film professionals: "Be passionate, curious and enthusiastic, but never compromise your own value or worth."
Meyer will present a lecture on her work on Thursday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. in the Soundstage (SD101) in the School of Design Building (11100 Ted Herget Way, Owings Mills, MD 21117) at the Owings Mills north campus of Stevenson University. A 6 p.m. reception will take beforehand in the lobby of the same building. The event is free and open to the public.