Gabi Mayers, CC ’17, is a Film Studies major originally from Washington, D.C. “Film has always spoken to me,” she told me. As she grew up, she spent entire days in movie theaters.
“I didn’t know until I was nineteen that you actually can’t stay in a cinema all day if you only bought a ticket for one movie.”
To Gabi, film is crucial to the way society conceives of its own and other cultures. “The way that we understand other people, especially as presented through media, has such a huge influence on the way we live our lives.”
Gabi heads a student organization called the Society for the Advancement of Underrepresented Filmmakers (SAUF) which “focuses on bridging the gap between students on campus and their dreams and aspirations to make films or other sorts of art outside of campus and in the world.” SAUF is dedicated to advancing the work and artistic voice of underrepresented artists in film and television by connecting them to established resources within the film industry. Another primary role played by the SAUF is archival—the society films and documents student activist demonstrations and protests on cam- pus. Gabi says that in SAUF she aims to create a safe space for discussion of the shared life experience of groups typically underrepresented in film, and to provide a platform for filmmakers to create work that reflects their distinct life experiences.
Gabi’s films predominantly focus on the experiences of people of color in different social settings. Gabi’s recently completed series, “(S.A.W.B.) Studying Abroad While Black,” highlights and critiques the experience of students of color in study abroad programs, and her current series, “To the Next Black Girl,” uses the words of successful Black women to exhort and encourage young black women to fight through societal and structural obstacles to achieve their goals and aspirations.
I was particularly impacted by Gabi’s film “Closing Statement: Fight the Power,” which she produced through SAUF. The film alternates between shots of Black students dancing to the heavy rhythm of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and shots of the New York protests following the police murder of Eric Garner in 2014. The film is a moving tribute to the people who do not give in to the status quo simply because it is the way things have been, and an encouragement to those who stand up and resist structures and powers where they see injustice.
It is uplifting to hear Gabi talk about the importance of film and her desire to make film that is accessible to domestic and international audiences of all demographics. Gabi’s films have a true-to- life feel: both disturbing, for the injustices they portray, and hopeful, in the sense that they suggest real people can take action to remedy the problems underrepresented groups face.
Apart from her work as a filmmaker, Gabi is a tireless traveler and hard worker. She has been to every continent except for Asia, including Antarctica; she is an RA in East Campus; and, impressively, she has worked an internship every semester since she arrived at Columbia.
After graduation, Gabi hopes to work abroad for a year, gaining experience in film and media production internationally, before returning to the United States to find a job. Gabi is dedicated to following her passion in film and media production—I look forward to seeing where it takes her.
— Gage Hodgen