Academy of Entertainment Technology / Film Making

Suzanne Harrell “I know it sounds really awful, but I don’t even want to transfer. The Academy gives me all the classes that I’m going to need to make films.”

What do Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman, and Lisa Kudrow have in common? Whatever else it might be, it’s certainly Suzanne Harrell. “I’m an actor, and one of the things I do is to act as a stand-in for those great women,” says Suzanne, who’s also a new mother. “I get to be on the set with them and all these incredible directors—watching it all happen. So I’m really getting an amazing education in how movies get made.” But her filmic ‘chops’ are also being burnished at SMC’s Academy of Entertainment & Technology.

“I’d thought of going to UCLA or USC, but they’re just so expensive. And the Academy offers me basically the same classes,” reports Suzanne. “I mean, I’m taking all the technical classes of film production. But it was when I met Jim Keeshen—who teaches Storytelling for Film—that I really got what I felt I needed. It was like he opened a door in my head, because he made me realize that I could flesh out an entire movie with storyboards first. And then fill in the script with dialogue. Other scriptwriting classes I’ve had didn’t work for me,” says Suzanne. “But Jim helped me realize there are a lot of ways to tell a story.”

Amazingly—when you learn the details—Suzanne was actually able to film an entire full-length digital movie over the course of the past year. “It’s a Greek period film, and I actually made all the costumes—and then shot in Griffith Park and even in Mexico—when I was nine months pregnant!” she says with a booming laugh. “I’m going to enter this film in some festival and see how it does… when I’m finished editing. But what I’ve learned at SMC has been a truly eye-opening experience of what my potentials are.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.