In the Run-up to the Oscars, Filmmaking Professor Julia Swift Hits the Red Carpet

Assistant Professor of Filmmaking, Julia Swift, attends star-studded premieres and press junkets for The Irishman, The Two Popes, and Marriage Story, and brings Champlain alumnae along for the ride.

This past semester, Assistant Professor of Filmmaking Julia Swift attended Netflix premieres for The Irishman and The Two Popes in Los Angeles, and Marriage Story in New York City. She also attended the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards (CCDA) while she was in New York. On two of her trips, Swift brought Champlain College alumnae with her.

These trips were possible because Swift is a member of the Critics’ Choice Association (CCA). To be a CCA member, a critic needs to consistently review films for a wide audience. Swift frequently reviews movies through FOX 44/ABC 22 and on Rotten Tomatoes.

Julia Swift, Assistant Professor of Filmmaking, attends The Irishman premiere at the
TCL Chinese Theatre, which is located on the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame.

On October 24, Swift was flown out to attend the Netflix red-carpet premiere of The Irishman, which was held at the TCL Chinese Theatre. The film is a 2019 American crime drama directed by Martin Scorsese. It stars Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino. Based on a true story, it follows Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (De Niro), a truck driver turned hitman who gets involved with mobster Russell Bufalino (Pesci), and ultimately ends up playing a role in the disappearance of labor leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino).

Swift was also invited to the themed after-party, which included hand-rolled cigars and some of Jimmy Hoffa’s favorite foods—hot fudge sundaes and beer-battered hot dogs. The next day, Swift attended a press conference hosted by Netflix, featuring De Niro, Pacino, and Scorsese.

Critics like Swift mingled with celebrities and movie insiders at an after-party for The Irishman.

During the conference, Swift met CCA members from all over the world, including Sarah Adamson, a film critic for Hollywood360 Radio, and Jennifer Merin, the President and co-founder of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.

Swift said not many women and minority critics have been on air consistently for two years like she has, although the numbers are increasing. She started reviewing for Rotten Tomatoes after her uncle mentioned the site, which had been criticized for its male-dominated roster of critics, was looking for new qualified critics to support under-represented voices in film and TV criticism. Swift’s uncle encouraged her to apply since she had been running a weekly segment on local network news for years. 

On November 9, Swift travelled to New York for the Netflix premiere of Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. The comedy-drama film follows a stage director (Adam Driver) and his actor wife (Scarlett Johansson) through a coast-to-coast divorce.

The next day, after a small press conference with the actors and director of Marriage Story, Swift attended the CCDA. Swift brought Champlain alumna, Erin Bailey ’18 // Filmmaking, with her. Bailey currently does grip and electric work on New York film sets, and has worked with Netflix, Showtime, and Buzzfeed. She even assembled an all-women set for a Buzzfeed project.

Professor Swift brought Champlain alumna, Erin Bailey ’18 // Filmmaking, to the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards in New York City.

Because Swift was on the nominating committee for the CCDA, Bailey and Swift sat with filmmakers and actors. They spoke to the producer of National Geographic’s Sea of Shadows documentary, as well as the director of Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable.

The next week, Swift flew back out to LA to attend the premiere for The Two Popes at the TCL Chinese Theater. She also visited Array, a film collective dedicated to the amplification of images by people of color and women directors, that was started by the award-winning writer and director, Ava DuVernay. Swift asked Champlain alumna, Alexa Tariff ’17 // Filmmaking, to be her cameraperson as they interviewed a director and star of The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, a film about two Indigenous women from vastly different backgrounds whose worlds collide as one of them is fleeing a violent domestic attack. Tariff is currently pursuing a MFA in Directing from The University of Southern California, while also working on film sets.

Champlain alumna, Alexa Tariff ’17 // Filmmaking, is currently pursuing a MFA in Directing from The University of Southern California, while also working on film sets.

The Two Popes is a comedy-drama by Fernando Meirelles, that follows Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and the future Pope Frances (Jonathan Pryce) as they find common ground in order to forge a new path for the Catholic Church. “It’s about what happens when two people have such different ideas and how to move forward,” said Swift.

During the premiere for The Irishman, Julia met many of her fellow critics for the first time. Aside from a Boston critic, Swift was the only one to attend from New England. When she arrived in New York for Marriage Story, they remembered her as “Vermont,” from the previous event. By the time she arrived in LA for The Two Popes, people simply referred to her as “Julia.” “It’s wonderful to have this community, and to be with people who love talking about and analyzing movies as much as I do,” said Swift.

Swift met with fellow CCA members from all over the world, including Sarah Adamson (right), a film critic for Hollywood360 Radio.

Swift came back prepared to speak to her students about various filmmaking techniques she had observed, but her students were especially fascinated by the film professionals she had met: publicists, agents, directors, producers, Netflix executives, etc.

It’s wonderful to have this community, and to be with people who love talking about and analyzing movies as much as I do.

Julia Swift

Filmmaking students at Champlain get behind the camera from their very first semester, gaining experience with a variety of filmmaking styles on and off set. Over the course of the program, students are exposed to every career possibility in the industry—from screenwriting and cinematography to documentary filmmaking and digital cinema distribution. They gain experience working with budgets, promotion, and the various technologies of film.

Swift told her students about the wide variety of potential job opportunities in the field. While in New York, she was also able to visit the WarnerMedia screening room.

“It’s fun for me to see where my students could end up working,” Swift said.

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