Creative Writing Graduate and Filmmaker: Emily Cohn ’17

April 8, 2019
Erin Ulrich ’18
Headshot of Emily Cohn
Emily Cohn Photo credit: Wulfahrt Blankfield ’18

From a young age, Emily Cohn ’17 has been making films. At Oberlin, she honed her filmmaking skills by integrating her diverse experiences in creative writing, internships, and at the Prague Film School.

You have been making films long before you began studying at Oberlin. How did you first get interested in filmmaking and when did you realize you could pursue it as a career?

I made my first film, The Amulet of Fire, in fifth grade for a class called Pursue Your Passion. Technology made it easier and easier to learn filming and editing on my own, so I kept doing that for fun, making sketches with friends. I didn’t fully consider filmmaking as a career until I got into a program at the Tribeca Film Institute called the Tribeca Film Fellows. From that program on, I pretty much knew filmmaking was what I wanted to do in life and that it might actually be feasible with hustle and hard work.

You had several filmmaking internships while you were a student at Oberlin and also studied at the Prague Film School for a year.  How did these experiences outside of the classroom inform your studies at Oberlin and your current postgraduate work?

My internships and the Prague Film School helped me understand where I’d be happiest in the film world, and I applied the technical skills from these experiences to my other projects on campus.

Overall, I feel like I got the best of all worlds with liberal arts classes at Oberlin, plus the technical training and relationships from the Prague Film School and my jobs. Ultimately, everything I learn or experience finds its way into my writing and filmmaking. I think that’s true for most artists.

How did you seek out and attain internships while you were a student at Oberlin?

Honestly, I refined my approach to getting internships after hearing Richard Plepler, CEO of HBO, speak at the Apollo Theater in Oberlin during my first year. He emphasized picking your dream company or person to work for first and going after that with everything you’ve got. That’s how I went about getting my internship in the Museum of Modern Art’s film department. He gave an insanely inspiring talk and proves the value of Oberlin’s speaker series.

Are there any faculty who were particularly impactful during your time as a student and who have provided you with guidance in your career now?

YES!  All of my creative writing teachers, but definitely Dan Chaon and Azita Osanloo in particular. Rian Brown-Orso, in cinema studies, opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of visual storytelling. Her experimental class pushed me to think more creatively about filmmaking. I’m still in touch with Dan and Rian on a regular basis, and I worked for Rian and Geoff Pingree the semester after I graduated. They’re all incredibly inspiring!

Cohn’s first feature film, CRSHD, will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this spring. Browse her website.

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