Summer in Chile

by Anna Quattrone, Class of 2018

quattrone 2“Why Chile?”

…The second most popular question during my five weeks in South America, the first being “Did you vote for Donald Trump?”   When people asked me, “why Chile,” I think what they really meant is why did I choose to spend my first five weeks of summer vacation in South American winter, learning one of the most difficult Spanish accents.  The truth is, I did not have a solid answer when asked this question besides that my University was offering a new abroad program in Chile, I enjoy traveling, and needed these six credits to help me graduate on time, so here I was in Valparaiso, Chile.

Eight months before this trip, I declared a second major of Hispanic Studies in addition to my major in Media and Communication Studies.  This decision came after a semester abroad in Costa Rica during my sophomore year.  I knew I wanted to keep practicing my Spanish, and my best options were to continue taking classes or to go abroad to another Spanish speaking country.  With this new summer program announced, I was able to do both. The timeframe was perfect; the classes fit nicely into both of my degree progress tracking sheets, plus it was pretty affordable compared to other study abroad options. Other than this preliminary information, I had not done much research  prior to my arrival…which might be the reason why I did not realize it would be fall/winter in Chile until about 2 weeks before my departure.

I arrived in Valparaiso on Monday, May 15th where I was greeted by Camila, my host mom.  Camila is a screenplay writer for telenovelas, movies, and TV series, as well as a freelance journalist.  This was great because we had many similar interests which created a lot of conversation between the two of us.  Often she would speak in “Spanglish” to practice her English and I would do my best to only speak Spanish.  I like to think we both helped each other with our language skills during the five weeks that I lived with her.quattrone 4

Camila also has two sons, 12 and 14 years old ,who were surprisingly very interested in my life and US politics. In fact, their many questions are what sparked a lot of dinner conversations. They would often ask what it was like living in the US, if college was really as it seems in the movies, and who my family members and I voted for.  In return they taught me all about the Chilean culture, slang, and politics. Personally, I think living with a host family is the best way to learn a language and these three people certainly challenged and entertained me in the best way.

Although my host family taught me a lot, I was still in Chile to take classes at the university.  Every morning Monday through Friday all four of us would get into the car and Camila would drop us each off at school.  During these five weeks I took two classes, sociopolitical history in Latin America and literature and cinema in Latin America. Both courses were taught in Spanish and only had international students in them.  These courses were both interesting and challenging, but I especially enjoyed the film and literature class.  In this class we mostly watched and discussed movies and short stories from all different Latin American countries.

quattrone 3When I wasn’t in class or sharing a meal with my host family, I was walking around Valparaiso checking out all the incredible street art.  Although I normally found myself in the same area, it was so easy to find a new mural, cafe, or artist’s shop. With all the staircases and little roads in the hills of Valparaiso it is nearly impossible to walk the same path twice.

On the weekends we would go on excursions with the university to various nearby places.  These trips included tours of Isla Negra and La Sebastiana ,which are two of Pablo Neruda’s houses, a boat tour of Valparaiso, a Casablanca wine tour, and a day trip to Santiago.  quattrone 1In addition to these excursions, a few other students and I did some traveling on our own to nearby towns and beaches.  One Sunday we decided to hike La Campana and surprisingly made it all the way to the summit where the view was absolutely incredible.

Overall, my five weeks in Chile were filled with adventure, challenges, and lots of questions.  It was a great way to end my junior year and begin my summer by being able to practice my Spanish and learn about a new culture.  I look forward to visiting Chile again one day to experience their summer

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Spring Break Service

by Emily Messina, Class of 2019

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Messina, in green, at the Habitat work site

When people think of Tennessee, they think of Nashville. Though I have never been before, I have had a desire to visit the country music hotspot.  Luckily enough, I recently had the opportunity to travel down south to Tennessee.  However, it wasn’t to the bustling city, but to the eastern part of the state, near the Smoky Mountains.  I traveled with twenty other students to the secret city of Oak Ridge.  I was there to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity, but there ended up being much more to this trip then just a hammer and nails.

I initially decided to go on a Habitat trip to try something different for my spring break. I like the concept of their organization and I also enjoy hands-on service opportunities.

When we first touched down in Oak Ridge, we went to the site where we would be staying, a really nice basement in a Baptist Church.  They even provided mattresses for us to sleep on.  In addition, our affiliate was able to get in touch with members of the community to provide us with all of our meals.  I was surprised and humbled by the generosity of this community.  Restaurants offered us free meals, families opened their homes to 20 teenagers, and churches of different denominations invited and welcomed us in.  To me this was so inspiring and motivating as we began our workdays.

The construction manager was very happy to have us and was also very patient in explaining and organizing.  When we went to the worksite, the volunteers were all much older than I expected.  They were all retired engineers with multiple PhD’s who had never done construction before their time with Habitat.  I connected with them early on because I love to hear about other people’s life stories.  In turn, they taught me how to put shingles on a roof, put siding on a house, re-tile a floor, and use a power saw efficiently.  I quickly took over the position with the saw, out of pure thrill and because I was actually pretty decent with it.

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Messina, top row, fourth from right, with the Habitat team

The process was slow moving and the workers were perfectionists, which was tough for me to handle because I live life in the fast lane.  I’m always on the go, doing multiple things at once, and not really looking back.  They taught me to stay focused and pay attention to the small things.  They checked and double checked before they cut things, questioned each other when they were unsure, and never let any detail slip through the cracks.

messina 3I learned from these men some really important things in the process of building a house.  But I also learned how to slow down and take a step back.  They showed me how to see the importance of details and the significance of the overall picture.  Because they wanted the house to be completely perfect, they were constantly focused and always precise.  While initially tough to adapt to because of my high energy and hasty manner, it was a good lesson for not only this trip, but for my whole life.

Especially as a Media and Communication Studies major, I think this is a very crucial skill to learn.  When shooting footage or editing video clips, it is vital to keep trying until everything is exactly the way I want it to be.  I need to hit the brakes sometime and reevaluate where I am going and what is my ultimate goal.

I wasn’t thoroughly convinced that this experience was going to change my life, as everyone else claims it does when they return from Habitat service work.  But while I don’t think that the trip led to some outrageous epiphany that transformed me, I do believe that I learned a lot about how to connect and form relationships with others.  I witnessed a true and immense form of giving, experienced a way to slow down and take a look at the big picture, and, of course, acquired the skills to use a power saw.

 

Meridian Hill Pictures

by Marjan Koffa, Class of 2017

When I first declared a Media Studies and Communication major, the thought of taking a production class, let alone any type of film course, frightened me. Filmmaking was not something I thought I would excel in, or would truly capture my interest. Fast-forward three years, and not only have I realized my love for filmmaking and production, I have also completed my senior thesis documentary TOKEN. The film explores the experiences of black students at their predominantly white university. I am fortunate enough that the student government association here at Catholic saw how impactful my film could be on campus and are hosting a screening and dialogue discussion regarding the themes explored in the film at the end of March. I am also lucky enough to have TOKEN screened at Cardinal Reels in April. The Media and Communication Studies Department here at CUA is the reason I have been able to discover my passion and excitement for documentary filmmaking.

To gain professional filmmaking experience, I searched for an internship that would not only allow me to immerse totally myself in a film production company, but would also combine my love of production with my passion for social justice and storytelling.  

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Koffa, third from left, with Meridian Hill coworkers

This collaboration of my interests is exactly what I have been able to do by interning at Meridian Hill Pictures, a small DC based documentary filmmaking company. Having the opportunity to intern with the Meridian Hill Pictures team has heightened my love for documentary filmmaking and allowed me to apply the skills I’ve learned in the classroom to real work situations. More than anything, my role as Outreach and Distribution Intern has taught me a great deal about the extensive work that is needed to promote a film and expand its audience. Focusing on this area of filmmaking has been personally beneficial, as I have gained a sense of which festivals I would like to submit my own documentary to, and how the submission process works.

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Meridian Hill Pictures (MHP) strives to make films that capture authentic stories of different communities, especially those of marginalized and underrepresented people. By using a cinema verité style, their films are honest, informative, and call an audience to action.  MHP’s first feature-length documentary, CITY OF TREES,  debuted at the American Conservation Film Festival in October 2015 and has been in the film festival circuit ever since. It is currently being screened by organizations, universities, and at conferences. The film follows returning citizens and unemployed residents of Ward 8 in DC as they are selected for a green job training program under a grant given by Washington Parks and People, a non-profit organization that works on green initiatives around the DC area. While watching CITY OF TREES, not only did I learn about urban forestry, I was also moved by the stories of the film’s subjects, and their desire to provide stable income for the sake of themselves and their loved ones.

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At Meridian Hill Pictures, I can easily see that the content I create and the projects that I work on are actually contributing to the operation of the company, which makes interning at MHP feel as though I am not interning at all.  I have only been at MHP for a month, but I have already gained a keen understanding of how a production company works and the amount of effort required both in pre-production and especially in post-production. What I love most about interning at Meridian Hill Pictures is that everyday I’m learning something new, not only in the work I do, but also in the many conversations that I have with my colleagues about politics and social justice.

One of the most rewarding things about interning at MHP is the opportunities that I am given and the organizations and people I have access to.  Earlier this week, I had the privilege of interviewing Jana Carter, director of Magic Labs Media, a film production company she started with her husband, CNN commentator and political activist, Van Jones. This was an incredible experience interviewing such an interesting person. The MHP team has also granted me a yearlong membership to Women in Film and Video in DC, which will allow me to look for opportunities to continue working in filmmaking even after my internship is over.

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Koffa, center

The most powerful lesson I have learned from the filmmakers at MHP is that documentary filmmaking is less about making something solely based on public interest, and more about creating meaningful work that can impact people’s lives and allow others to experience a world or a voice that they never knew existed.  I am so very fortunate to have this experience and am even happier that this opportunity has come at such a pivotal moment in my life as I head towards graduation this spring.

A Tree Grows in Brookland

by Meghan Adams, Class of 2017

meghan-adams-1This January marks the 1 year anniversary of my time working at local Urban Forestry non-profit, Casey Trees. When my time ends there in May, I will have assisted in planning three events for over 1,300 constituents, all alongside fellow CUA Media and Communication Studies alumni turned mentor and friend, Italia Peretti.

Working for a hyper local non-profit is so special because you can see your efforts everywhere, even in unsuspecting places. There have been so many times I have been driving or walking in the city and I see a group of trees we have planted…even my friends will excitedly send me a picture of a tree they happen upon which bears our logo!  casey-trees-logo

The classes hosted by Casey Trees have turned me into a much more informed citizen as well. As a certified Tree Advocate, I have learned about specific tree protection laws and regulations, proper construction protection for trees, and how to report any violations that I come across in D.C.

Interning under a CUA alumni also brings about additional benefits. Italia has been a crucial role model in my life, giving me advice on everything from my Senior Thesis topic to Comprehensive Exams, and which classes have been most beneficial to her career.

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Italia Peretti, B.A. 2015 and Meghan Adams

The most rewarding part of my internship experience at Casey Trees is that it hasn’t felt like an internship. It is the type of place where you voluntarily come in to attend classes or volunteer at other events just because you love the people and the mission. Many of my responsibilities are the same as that of a full-time employee and they have given me opportunities to grow and find my strengths. I have also had the unique opportunity to assist with the interviewing and hiring process of multiple new team members, which has given me such indispensable knowledge for when I begin applying and interviewing for full-time jobs in the very near future.

Not only has working at Casey Trees given me the opportunity to connect with fellow residents across the District, but I’ve also been able to connect with the Brookland community. Per recommendation from Italia, I began running social media accounts for local restaurant Menomale and the owning families’ newly opened Italian market, Salumeria 2703, located a few doors down.

At CUA, we have our own dynamic campus community, and so it can be hard to see a need to connect with the other half of our neighborhood on the opposite side of the Metro tracks. During my 3 block walk to Casey Trees from my Brookland house, I’ve gotten to experience the friendship and camaraderie in the neighborhood – from the countless Little Free Libraries, to the immense support for new small businesses, and the way that everyone looks you in the eye and exchanges pleasantries as you walk by, something you do not experience when walking downtown. It has been extremely rewarding to take the skills I have learned in my major and use them to serve my local community.

Telluride

by Patrick Healy, Class of 2017

healy-1This past Labor Day weekend, I had the honor of being selected to attend the Telluride Film Festival’s student symposium program. The Telluride Film Festival stands among the most well-respected film festivals in the world, on the sacred level of Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto, New York, AFI, and Sundance, as in recent years Telluride has become a launching ground for films vying for the Academy Award for Best Picture. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008), THE KING’S SPEECH (2010), ARGO (2012), and 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013) all world premiered at Telluride, while other Oscar winners such as BIRDMAN (2014) and SPOTLIGHT (2015) had their North American premiere at the Rocky Mountain festival after opening a few days earlier at the Venice Film Festival. Due to this trend, many films looking to win the Oscar often debut at Telluride, and thus the festival’s quality of programming is often outstandingly on point

Before I begin with what I saw at this year’s festival, I would like to take a moment to further describe the atmosphere of Telluride and the logistics of the student symposium. For those interested in applying, the student symposium is a wonderful, but competitive adventure—only fifty students are selected from across the world, and rarely is it that more than a single student is selected from one school per year. Students are selected on their most-pure love of film, as demonstrated by an essay and a recommendation from a professor.

healy-2This is because the Telluride Film Festival differs in its culture than most other festivals on its level; it is not about who you know but instead what you love. Very few press attend the event, very few industry members make it through the gates. Instead, Telluride opens its doors to true cinephiles, students, and Academy members who have long demonstrated their love for this art form that they work with. If you are lucky enough to attend the festival’s student symposium, you will meet some fellow cinephiles your age but also will learn under the most caring and knowledgeable of faculty, Howie Movshovitz and Linda Williams (google them—it would take me years to summarize their genius). Your days begin at 7am with morning discussions and end around 2am after numerous screenings and private talks with filmmakers and talent that are curated by Howie and Linda for the members of the student symposium only to attend.

Over that weekend, I witnessed the world premiere screenings of seven films: BLEED FOR THIS, LOST IN PARIS, THE B-SIDE: ELSA DORFMAN’S PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY, MEN: A LOVE STORY, MOONLIGHT, WAKEFIELD, and UNA. I also saw five North American premieres, films that had just played at Venice a few days earlier or Cannes months before, and they were: TONI ERDMANN, GRADUATION, ARRIVAL, NERUDA, and LA LA LAND. In addition, I got the chance to attend a retrospective screening of Jean-Pierre Melville’s LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES, introduced by a former assistant director of Melville’s who went on to have a long career as a director emblematic of the New German Wave, Volker Schlöndorff, this year’s guest director of the Telluride Film Festival. Over the weekend, our symposium group had the chance to meet and speak with Schlöndorff, as well as documentarian Ken Burns, Peter Sellers (not the actor, but better!), comedic duo Dominique Abel & Fiona Gordon, documentarian Errol Morris, actor/director Bryan Cranston, actress Jennifer Garner, director Cristian Mungiu, and director Barry Jenkins.healy-3

These meetings we had with our symposium guests were magical and life-altering. We were free to ask questions and focus on the films that we had just either seen them in or that they had created. It is an unreal experience, far beyond any other audience Q and A or festival screening, as since there are no recording devices permissible, the filmmakers and actors are much more open and wanting to see how their work impacts you as a young cinephile. These people want to hear your thoughtful opinion, and they value your presence at the festival, as do the Telluride staff. Overall, many former symposium students go on to volunteer or work for the festival in future years. I, myself, plan to go back for as long as I can.
Thealy-4his festival is truly sacred, and the experience I had this past year was one I will not soon forget. As films like MOONLIGHT, LA LA LAND, and TONI ERDMANN rack up the Oscars, I will remember what it was like to walk those Rocky Mountain streets, from screening to screening, and be valued as a young cinephile—a true lover of film.

Unleashing Potential

by Liz Glover, Class of 2018

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New York office view

Advertising was never a business I aspired to work in, and yet, I have spent the past two summers interning for agencies in NYC.  Last summer I was at BBDO, part of Omnicom Group, and this summer, at iCrossing (an agency owned by Hearst that is know for digital, mobile, and search marketing).  This summer, I discovered how much I enjoy advertising, and the agency culture.  I was hired as the new business intern for iCrossing.  The new business team generally works on winning new clients for the agency…but by paying close attention to what was going on around me, I was able to do so much more.

As the New Business intern, I created a photo essay for a successful NESPRESSO new business pitch.  I also had the opportunity to prepare and present a CBS All-Access “path to purchase” journey for iCrossing’s US CEO.

After working with the new business team for only a few weeks, my boss quit, and this gave me an opportunity to explore my passion – production.  New business was interesting, but there was a man who worked at the desk behind me who I often saw editing videos.  I introduced myself, hoping he would let me work with him.  Andrew, the communications director, soon became my new boss.  He was working on an internal video series about employees at the company.  I spent a lot of the summer working on the video series with him.

glover-filmingAndrew created the series because he felt that fun videos would help agency employees get to know each other better.  They would also be helpful externally, as a way for people interested in working at iCrossing to learn about the culture. Andrew and I had lots of fun filming interviews across New York city.  It was great to get outside and explore, and leave the office behind for a bit.  Each interview was at a new location, including a local bar, Central Park, quirky coffee shops, and even the subway.  After filming, we would spend hours editing all the footage into a two-minute video.  It was often painful listening to the same sentence over and over in the editing room, but at least we were able to suffer together.  Most satisfying was finishing a video, and admiring our work. When I wasn’t working on the video series with Andrew, I was working on The Intern Project.

iCrossing has offices across the country, and each office has interns.  The HR department decided that we would all work together on a project.  To make things interesting, they split us up into two teams; the East vs. West Coast.  Our East Coast team included the six interns from the NYC office, and one intern from Reston, VA. Each team created a back to school campaign to increase .edu subscriptions for the New York Times. The team that had the best campaign would “win” the chance to pitch their campaign to the NYT clients.  “Differentiate Yourself” was the name of our East Coast campaign.

We showed that students are nervous about finding jobs after college, and that reading the NYT, and staying informed, will give students an edge in interviews, and differentiate themselves from the competition. (check out a sample of presentation below).  The campaign presentation included a review of the situation (including research and videos), go-forward strategy, media plan, and creative concepts.  I was able to put my production skills to use by developing two case study videos.  The videos took place in Washington Square Park, where I filmed one of the interns interviewing college students with questions relevant to our research.

The East vs. West coast competition took place on a steamy Friday afternoon in the beginning of August.  It was a draw.  Both campaign ideas would be presented to the client.  Within one week we were able to combine our research, and create a combined deck that included both campaigns.  The following Friday, the NYT clients came to our NYC, office where the East Coast team presented the final work.  The clients loved the pitch and are using some of our ideas.  Our hard work paid off!

iCrossing likes to talk about “unleashing potential” and what it means for the company and the individuals who work there.  This summer I was able to unleash my potential.  I had a voice in the agency and my work and opinions mattered.  My work helped the company, and I made great friends along the way.  As a track runner I know what it means to “give your all;” this summer I learned what it means to “give your all” in the workplace.

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Photographing the DNC

by Alycia Monaco, Class of 2018

alycia 1.jpgThis July, I packed up my car and my camera to leave New Jersey for a week to experience and document history. After returning to the familiar faces of my internship with the Department of Photography and New Media at the Disney/ABC Television Group in New York, I was offered the chance to accompany my boss Ida, and photo editor Brett to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.  I anticipated speakers such as President Obama, Vice President Biden, Senator Sanders, and Secretary Clinton, but could only begin to imagine what was to come.

Day 1.   I arrived at Wells Fargo Arena around 1 PM to greet my boss in order  to obtain the appropriate passes. I already had my Secret Service Credential, and I was awaiting the other clearances to the venue, the press hall, and press floor. The security ranged one mile outside the arena at the subway stop where I met my boss. We walked through each phase of security and followed the police fencing to the media entrances.

Once we arrived, and passed through the security checkpoints, we were driven in golf carts to the ABC Network and affiliate workspace tent outside the arena. Brett was also here claiming workspace and Internet connection to upload content to disneyabcpress.com, Flickr, and Getty Images.

After a lot of waiting, and a lot of scouting, Brett, Ida, and I were able to secure a meeting

alycia-2place, and plans. I would retrieve camera cards from Ida, who was able to obtain a camera stand pass for clean shots. While I wasn’t retrieving and returning camera cards, I was roaming the floor taking photos of delegates, wide shots of the action on the floor, and any other different angles of talent that were different from Ida’s. By the end of the night, we heard from many speakers including Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and First Lady Michelle Obama.

 

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Day 2. I arrived closer to gavel time, around 3:30. Today was the day where roll call took place and where all of the delegates’ votes would be counted to officially name a Democratic Nominee.  My impression was that the majority of the delegates were in favor of Bernie Sanders, or at least, these delegates were the more vocal group.  By the end of the evening, Hillary Clinton was nominated for President, making history as the first woman ahead of a major political party to receive the nomination.

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I mostly covered the reaction of the delegates on this day as we heard from ‘Mothers of the Movement’, which is comprised of a group of mothers who have lost their children to gun violence. Among them were the mothers of Sandra Bland and Trayvon Martin. As photographers, it was important to note the shift in audience moods and how adjust our coverage accordingly.

We also heard from former President Bill Clinton that evening about the ‘Hillary Rodham’ he has known and loved since college.  As the speakers became more famous, the levels of security escalated quite frequently, and we had to adapt to obtain the best coverage possible under the changing conditions. In this case, I was stuck with many other people on staircases that led to delegate seats in order to comply with fire code.

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Day 3. As the group became more tired, we found a new common space behind the World News Tonight pop-up stage. We were out of the way, and we had chairs. We knew that security was going to be tight that day, and were instructed not to leave the floor past 7:30 or we were not going to be allowed back in for speeches after prime time.

During these speeches I was granted permission to kneel in the center aisle and rotate out after a few minutes by security. I would see Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic Nominee for Vice President Tim Kaine, and President Barack Obama speak.  I waited my turn for the aisle to have the opportunity, even just for one or two minutes, to take photos that were different angles from the press stand, and to document the event for myself.

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Day 4. Secretary Hillary Clinton would accept the Democratic Nomination. The balloons, and confetti would fall and the week would be over. Chelsea Clinton introduced her mother, and the two shared a moment of pride on the stage before Secretary Clinton formally accepted the nomination. However, this day only staff photographers were allowed in the aisle, and I was once again sent up on risers. This time I took a few photos, and took in the moment, and it’s something I will never forget.  alycia-hillary

By the end of our time in Philadelphia we all needed a lot of sleep, and a break from hearty foods, but I will never forget the events that transpired. I am not sure I will ever be able to attend an event of such magnitude again, and am truly grateful for the opportunity to even be in the arena, let alone be able to shadow relevant industry work, and even get to do a little bit of my own.  In wake of the upcoming election, and my first time voting, the DNC of 2016 is something I will not forget.

Through learning from so many talented professionals, I am also able to take away relevant professional experience that I can apply to my education at Catholic University, and my career.  I will never look at an event of this magnitude the same way again. It is one thing to watch the speeches on TV, and disconnect afterward, and another to see all of the preparations from security to catering to media coverage. I cannot thank Brett and Ida enough for the practical event experience, but also Wendy, Michele, Janet, and Rosemary back in the office for an introduction to archival studies, photo editing, and all things unpredictable.

 

All photos by Alycia Monaco, Disney/ABC Television Group