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Alum Filmmaker Getting National Exposure

Julie Casper Roth AC ’07J first came to Smith in 1995, straight out of high school. She was drawn to the American Studies program almost immediately, she says. But it was video production that most grabbed her interest when she returned to Smith in 2003 as an Ada Comstock Scholar to resume the American Studies program.

“I grew up in a household with all sorts of audio and visual gadgets but took them for granted,” Roth recalls. “As a child I was making stop-motion animations with the family camcorder and 4-track audio recordings by setting up a series of tape recorders. It was fun but nothing I took seriously.”

Now, only a year after her graduation, her video work is making the rounds nationally.

Her experimental piece Object Lesson, which she completed during her final semester at Smith, has been shown as part of several film festivals, including the reputable Athens International Film and Video Festival, the MadCat International Women’s Festival, and the Northampton Independent Film Festival.

Another project, Tokens, is an experimental documentary she conceived while at Smith. It premiered at the Chicago Reeling International LGBT Film Festival and will screen this summer at Anthology Film Archives, an international center for the preservation of film and video.

Roth, who lives in Albany, New York, is currently in production on her first feature-length documentary about a gay bar, and was recently selected to participate in the New York Foundation for the Arts’ inaugural MARK program, an artist development series.
It was early in her Ada Comstock days that Roth happened across Smith’s introductory video course while struggling to complete her class schedule, she remembers. At that time she had no idea that video would become a major part of her studies and a future career.

“I loved American Studies,” she says. “With video I learned to take my research methods, my academic interests and my personal stories and translate them into visual media. Rather than competing with my interest in video production, American Studies informed it.”

Roth credits Smith’s film studies department and in particular Lucretia Knapp, a lecturer in the department, for helping her develop her work. “Professor Knapp’s advisement has been invaluable,” says Roth. “My work has grown tremendously with her input and critique.”

Roth now works in both the experimental and documentary genres of video production. While at Smith, she won several awards at the Five College Film Festival, including Best of Festival and Best Documentary for Recovering June, a film about her grandmother’s struggle with mental illness. 

“I feel fortunate to have been able to screen my work in so many settings since graduation,” she says. “It’s incredible. A year ago I was in a class learning about Anthology Film Archives. I honestly wouldn’t have guessed that I’d be screening there such a short time later.”


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