Cinema and Television Arts Students Forge Friendships While Creating Films
The friendships formed during college are special and, if you’re lucky, last a lifetime. Those bonds grow especially tight through the collaborations and shared passions you’ll find at Columbia College Chicago’s Cinema and Television Arts department. Just ask recent graduate Georgia Lee ’22 and seniors Marissa Traver and Libby Thomas.
This trio of filmmakers, all of whom have set their sights on careers in production, found friendship and professional camaraderie while creating student films. And they’ve been reunited in Los Angeles thanks to Columbia’s Semester in LA program.
Each came to Columbia from a different part of the country— Lee from Northern California, Traver from the Detroit area, and Thomas from the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri. While Thomas always saw a production role in her future, Traver and Lee initially wanted to pursue cinematography but discovered their skills were better suited for production.
“I loved the technicalities of lighting and learning about different cameras,” Traver says. “But then I started to realize that producing played more to my strengths in terms of management, organizational skills, and logistic coordination … And that's when I really realized that producing was what I wanted to do.”
Lee felt the same way. And it was on their first film together, a student-made horror short with a twist called The Party’s Over, that she met Traver, and the seeds of friendship were planted. “I was the producer, and she was the director,” Lee says. “And I fell in love with producing on that project and it was so much fun.”
The short — which was made during the height of the pandemic with other Columbia students — went viral on TikTok, according to Lee, and was screened at the Marina Del Rey Film Festival and the Alternating Currents Film Festival, where it won a cash prize.
“It blew up with 60,000 followers … We had thousands of people show up to our live premiere on YouTube, which was so cool,” Lee recalls.
While Traver and Thomas had met previously, the trio didn’t truly forge their friendship until another film project brought them all together:Decrescendo.
Produced by Alum Darsh Thakker ’22 and written and directed by Alum Alana Areyzaga ‘22, Lee served as line producer, Traver, first assistant director, and Thomas, production manager.
“All three of us became close from that film and then we continued becoming better and better friends after that,” Thomas says.
The film won a best drama award at the Florence Film Awards and a silver award for indie shorts at the Hollywood Gold Awards.
Other film projects followed, with variations of the three working together, and each one knowing they could depend on the other to get the job done.
“It's just really encouraging to be surrounded by strong women who can handle their own,” Traver says.
Throughout their time at Columbia, they all have enjoyed the support of Columbia’s faculty and staff.
“The faculty is genuinely invested in you as a creative and in you as a student. I think I leaned on faculty a lot during productions, and I think they were great mentors outside of the classroom as well,” Traver says.
This fall, Lee left her two friends in Chicago and headed to Semester in LA where she enjoyed an internship at Legendary Entertainment and met alum and SiLA adjunct faculty member Robert Atwood ’04, Executive Vice President, Current Series & Digital Media at Legendary Entertainment. And immediately after graduation in December 2022, she landed a job with the Disney Channel’s Bunk’d, working on set as a COVID-19 monitor.
Traver and Thomas began their own SiLA experience in January, and the three are now reunited in LA. Excited to explore LA together, the women are making plans for the future of their friendship and their careers.