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He's got big dreams — and a 2017 Emmy Award for his work as an editor on "Life Below Zero." Meet Southern alumnus Eric Michael Schrader, '10.

Emmy in hand, Southern graduate Eric Michael Schrader gives thanks at the 69th award ceremony in 2017.

Born in the early ’80s, Eric Michael Schrader, ’10, spent much of his childhood dreaming up story lines and filming short parodies of Indiana Jones and Star Wars, starring his brother and friends from the neighborhood. Through the years, Schrader kept telling his tales — and in fall 2000, he enrolled at Southern, majoring in communication with a concentration in video production.

At Southern, he immersed himself in the world of media. Schrader worked at the on-campus Video Production Studio in Earl Hall (it’s the Digital Production Facility now) as well as Wallingford Public Access TV and a local video store, learning on the fly while soaking up professors’ expertise — even if he didn’t always realize it at the time.

“I can remember transcribing interviews for projects at SCSU thinking to myself, ‘I’ll never need to do this in the real world.’ Sure enough, I’ve transcribed multiple interviews for our own documentary films that have truly helped with the story telling,” says Schrader. He adds that the department’s focus on team projects also reflects the industry — and he quickly learned the importance of networking.

Editor Eric Michael Schrader (center) with Sue Aikens and Rick DeWilde, the reality stars of the National Geographic series “Life Below Zero.”

His first big break came from a friend who sold a show to National Geographic and then hired Schrader to work as a production assistant in Boston. Among the initial perks: a couch to sleep on. “I was in charge of all the grunt work,” says Schrader of his earliest assignments, which included picking up food orders, setting up lights and tripods, and driving the producers around Massachusetts.

“That first show for me was grueling as much as it was educational and inspiring. I learned a lot about on-location shoots,” says Schrader. In 2012, he headed to Los Angeles, armed with “some flashy-stylish business cards” and a reel that showcased his best work. He financed the trip by selling most of his belongings, including his DVD collection, Star Wars action figures, and memorabilia from The Simpsons television series.

Once in LA, he hit the local music scene, and found work filming and editing low-budget music videos. Then, two months to the day after moving to the West Coast, he had his Hollywood moment while waiting at a stop light on Melrose Ave. “I’m staring at the red light, suffering from anxiety ’cause money was drying up quick,” says Schrader, recalling the minutes that changed his life. Gazing out his car window, he recognized a producer from his Boston days. The two shouted out greetings, which ultimately led to a job offer for Schrader to work on a new show, Life Below Zero, a documentary series about life in the remotest areas of Alaska.

Schrader was hired as a production assistant and, over three years, worked his way up to editor, garnering industry accolades along the way. He and his teammates were nominated for an Emmy Award for work on the series in 2017, 2018, and 2019 — and they won the award for “Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Series” that first year.

“One of the greatest, if not [the] greatest moment in my life, shared with incredible co-workers and close friends,” he says.

Schrader also continues to make pictures, including Zulu Summer, which he codirected with Joseph Litzinger. The documentary, about a Zulu prince’s unlikely journey to Butte, Montana, to see the “real” America, premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and in the Northeast at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival.

Currently living the dream, Schrader’s advice to would-be filmmakers is matter of fact: work on every possible project — indies, shorts, low-budgets, no-budgets. As for Hollywood? Get there, he says: “Make moves and make the move! Take the leap and at least try to make it out in Hollywood.” Sequel expected.

Lisa Tedesco (second from left) at her film's red carpet event, with Communication, Media, and Screen Studies faculty (left to right) Charlene Dellinger-Pate, Wesley O'Brien, and Karen Burke, and Ari Anderson, who plays Celia Beaulieu in "House of La Reine"

Two years ago, Southern student and screenwriter Lisa Tedesco was among the crowds at Cannes, but not as one of the paparazzi or a mere film fan. Tedesco was screening her short film, August in The City, one of about 200 short films chosen from among 10 thousand submissions for the festival’s “Short Film Corner.”

Tedesco wrote the screenplay for the film and was executive producer, teaming up with Los Angeles-based director Christie Conochalla (Once Upon a Zipper, Forever Not Maybe) to produce it. Shot in Brooklyn and Oceanside, N.Y., the film did well at Cannes and spent over a year on the festival circuit, winning several awards. Now that it’s off the circuit, Tedesco recently released it on Vimeo.

Not one to let grass grow under her feet, she now has a new film — House of La Reine — hitting the circuit, and to celebrate she and her team held a red carpet event in October, “a benefactor screening” for donors who helped support the film. “It’s my way of giving back and to have an event to kick off the film,” she says. A media studies major, Tedesco was delighted to welcome Communication, Media, and Screen Studies Department faculty Wes O’Brien, Charlene Dellinger-Pate, and Karen Burke to the event.

Tedesco is a busy person. In addition to attending Southern part time and working on her film career, she works the second shift at Sikorsky as an electrical installer, working on helicopters. She also owns a film production company, Ladyfilm Media, which she started in June 2017.

“’Breaking all barriers’ is one of our mottos,” she says. “We like to project stories with strong female presence, give voice to the LGBTQ community, and support projects with 50/50 male/female crews.” A native of West Haven who now lives in New Haven, Tedesco says, “I’m so incredibly busy with my company and working full time, I’ve only been doing about three classes at Southern a year.” She estimates she has about 10 classes left to finish her degree.

The story told in House of La Reine surrounds a woman who is embarking on the next chapter of her life as she opens an inclusive performance space and bar. She has reservations and frustrations but is visited by someone from her distant past who once reigned the stage in Paris in the 1920s. Tedesco explains that a year ago, she went out to Hollywood to shoot this new short film with a $25,000 budget. “We shot half in color/digital and half in 16mm black and white,” she says. Her plan is for the film to be on the film festival circuit beginning in early 2020, and yes, she is hoping for Cannes once again. She’ll also submit the 13-minute-long film to such festivals as Slamdance, Tribeca, Inside Out Toronto, Frameline, among many others.

Tedesco says she started writing House of La Reine soon after August in the City went on the festival circuit. “I wanted to focus on a female protagonist who owned her own business and was independent and strong,” she says. But she left the project on the back burner for awhile because August was on the circuit. Then, in the summer of 2018, while she was taking a summer class with Dellinger-Pate, she rewrote the script. Filming took place in December 2018, and at this point, “it’s a waiting game,” Tedesco says, as she and her crew wait to see what happens with film festivals.

Meanwhile, Tedesco’s company will be producing a friend’s film – a male coming-out story – and she has sold a script to a company in Los Angeles. This film — called “Dear Emma, Your Charlie” — is now in preproduction, and shooting will happen in the spring.

Back on campus, Tedesco worked on a capstone project this fall with Rosemarie Conforti, associate professor of communication, media, and screen studies. Tedesco explains that the project was a thesis proposal on a media topic of her choosing. Her proposal is called “Finding the Rainbow: How Fantasy/Sci-Fi Television Fandoms Help the Self-Identity Process For LGBTQIA+ Young Adults in the Modernized World.” Tedesco explains, “It’s basically a study on how queer youth can form long-lasting friendships in an online safe space where they are heard, respected and discuss the representations they see from these TV shows. I’m using Hashtags, fan fiction and vidding [the making of fan videos] as a way to showcase the interactions between fans inside the online fandoms.”

Conforti describes Tedesco as a “super-smart . . . creative and earnest student, and always provocative in her thinking. She moves seamlessly between the Cannes Film Festival and EN 117. Unpretentious and authentic, Lisa is the dream package of outstanding student, award-winning writer, producer and director of her production company, Lady Film Media, and Sikorsky employee.”

Watch the House of La Reine trailer.