Meet our Alumni
Donovan Jones, 2018, FAVS, BA
Donovan Jones is a young and motivated director, producer, and entrepreneur whose passion is fueled by telling stories that challenge perspectives and inspire change in the realms of equality & social justice. Since graduating from Mason's film program in 2018, Donovan has been able to work on some major film and tv productions such as Wonder Woman 1984 (2020), Harriet (2019), Showtime’s The Good Lord Bird (2020), and many more. Currently, Donovan is working as a producer assistant on the upcoming Apple TV series Swagger to be executive produced by star NBA player, Kevin Durant.
Although Donovan has enjoyed his time shadowing professional writers, producers and directors, he is eager to continue building his own creative reel with short form music videos, films, and advertisements. He plans on using these pieces to attract diverse audiences with fun, socially conscious material and build a brand for himself and his team. He says: “I believe that the voices within the world of entertainment are the driving forces of cultural, political and social change; Hopefully one day, I can take the wheel."
Alison McDaniel, 2012, FAVS, BA
Allison McDaniel is a Producer and Editor at PBS. She has two Daytime Emmy nominations as Creative Producer for Vicious NYC Pride March 2015 and as Producer for Masterpiece: Victoria. She graduated Cum Laude in 2012 with her BA in Film and Video Studies.
Alison was also recognized at the Mason Alumni Association's annual Celebration of Distinction dinner and award reception as a distinguished alum. Each year, the College of Visual and Performing Arts awards the Thomas W. Iszard III Distinguished Alumni Award at this event to an individual in recognition of their professional accomplishments and service to the university.
Erblin Nushi, 2018, FAVS, BA
Erblin Nushi advanced to the finals of the Student Academy Awards in the Narrative (Domestic Films) category for his film BINI. His film is one of eight films to make it to the finals and the only work created by an undergraduate student. This is the first Student Academy Award nomination for George Mason University.
"During my two years at Mason, I was shaped to be the filmmaker I am by giving me the space and encouragement to tell stories that are personal and stories that matter,” said Nushi.
BINI made its L.A. premiere at the Oscar-qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival and made its Washington D.C. premiere at DC Shorts Film Festival, where it won a Jury Award for Best Local Filmmaker.
Pat O’Halloran, 2014, FAVS, BA
Paul O'Halloran graduated with a B.A. in Film and Video Studies in 2014. His senior thesis film Ard Laoch na hÉireann /Hero of Ireland (2014) played at film festivals internationally and is now available to stream on Amazon Prime. Paul currently lives in Los Angeles.
Could you tell us about your work after graduation?
After graduating from George Mason, I worked as a video editor in an Arlington boutique post-house. It was a really fantastic work environment and I got to work with some really cool clients like PBS, National Geographic, Discovery Channel and Smithsonian. I was able to hone my skills in creative editing for short form work such as trailers and promo spots for PBS and PBS KIDS using Premiere Pro, After Effects, and occasionally Final Cut. I also worked on longer form shows such as Shark Week episodes. On those projects I mostly worked as an online editor which was a lot more technical and involved mastering a final cut so that it met broadcast standard for airing on television. I also had some clients who were Mason alumni working in local production companies. It's a small world in the D.C. network!
You've just moved to LA. What do you hope to accomplish there?
I really loved my old job but I wanted to try work on more film related projects, so after working in Arlington for three years, I just moved out to Los Angeles a few weeks ago! It's incredibly exciting and inspirational seeing so many big studios out here. My dream is to work as an editor on movies as well as continue to make my own films. There is significant number of Mason alumni out here that I hope to reconnect with.
How did Film and Video Studies prepare you for work after graduation?
One of the really great things about FAVS was being given the tools to go and do things on my own. The FAVS office and the StarLab have awesome equipment that is available for students to rent free of charge; everything you need to make films of your own and experiment in finding your style and interests while you have the opportunity in college. But best of all, FAVS was very good at providing opportunities for real work to students who actively sought it. I worked on countless shoots and edits with Professor Ben Steger that gave me the critical work experience I needed for applying to jobs post-graduation.
What was your favorite film class at Mason?
There were tons of classes I really enjoyed but my overall favourite was probably our Senior Film class where we refined our screenplays in preparation for our big shoot. It was exciting because we were all so invested in our films and the vibe of the class was very relaxed as we were all outgoing students at that point. The free-form structure also allowed for lots of creativity with other students, so everyone was really enthused about everyone else's projects. It was cool because we all felt invested in each others' success.
Do you have a favorite war story from set?
There were so many war stories from my senior film The Hero of Ireland as the shoot was in Ireland but planned from the US, so coordination alone was a nightmare! But the most stressful was possibly the day in which we needed to film with all four kids in the scene. Each kid had a super-limited schedule so it led to a situation where there was literally one single day in which all kids' schedules crossed over. It was an outdoor scene so we got up really early for the shoot in anticipation that the unpredictable Irish weather would make the shoot run a lot longer than we anticipated. Sure enough, the patchy rain caused the shoot to span an entire day, but the real terror was that I hadn't anticipated was how cold it was outside that day. Unfortuantely some of the kids costumes involved wearing shorts! Also, the rain absolutely destroyed the fields we were shooting in and filled them with mud, so the poor lead actor had it the worst because the scene required that he fall down in the grass, so by the end of the day he was wet, muddy, and miserable!
Do you have an unforgettable film, lecture, or experience?
I'll always remember Cynthia Fuchs' class "Film and Video Forms" in my last year; I had gone in expecting a pretty standard film critique class but was not prepared for how in-depth and brutally difficult, but rewarding it was. Professor Fuchs really challenged me but was also very gracious in helping me where I struggled, and by the end, I really felt like I was a better filmmaker for it. Things I learned in her theory class ended up being things I incorporated into my own films!
I would also like to note that throughout my time at Mason, I found Professor Steger to be a great mentor and friend. He constantly pushed me to refine my ideas until they were airtight, and encouraged me both academically and professionally. He was literally the first person I met on my first day at Mason and was my number one cheerleader from beginning until end.
Could you highlight moment collaborating with another student filmmaker on a project?
I shared an animation class with a really talented student named Joe Paquette, where during our assignment screenings, I first noticed that Joe had some incredible skill and intuition for animation. At a Mason event I asked Joe if he would help me with some animation on my senior film and he was really cooperative and easy-going about it, so I was delighted. But better still, when it came to actually doing the job he took my rudimentary ideas to a whole new level and introduced visual elements to the scene that I never would have thought of alone. The collaboration was very satisfying and the end result was phenomenal. When the time came for Joe to make his own senior film, I was really delighted to be able to return the favour and get the old team back together again.
Please describe the life of a film project you made.
My senior film, The Hero of Ireland had an incredible lifespan that lasted about two years! The film was screened at 22 events across the United States, Ireland, Egypt and Italy. Of the festivals that were competitive, the film won four awards for Best Film and one for Best Actor. I was lucky to be able to attend all regional screenings including the Virginia Film Festival, TIVA, Rosebud, Washington West Film Festival, Global Film Festival and various Mason screenings, but I really would have loved to have been able to join all my cast and crew at the Dublin premiere. The Boston premiere also would have been fun as I received a ton of messages after that showing from Irish enthusiast and ex-pats who loved the concept and setting! The film is now on Amazon Prime and free to anyone who has a Prime subscription.
Jared Palacios, 2019, FAVS, BA
Jared Palacios wants people to pay attention to how they treat each other. Growing up in Hawaii, Palacious encountered many different people from all over the world visiting the islands. He said he was taken aback by some of the racial discrimination he saw.
“I want to shed a new light on how to view immigrants in America,” said Palacios, who graduated from Mason with a B.A. in Film and Video studies (2019). “It is not meant to sway people to think differently politically, but just to open their minds.”
He recently premiered his documentary “How to Get There,” a success story about Justin Gudiel and his journey that began when he came to America as an immigrant to becoming an executive chef at a successful Italian restaurant. Palacios, who moved to Northern Virginia from Hawaii when he was in high school, met Gudiel in the restaurant where he works at as a server.
“[The film] tackles the discrimination and setbacks that immigrants face, and hopefully inspires others to not give up on their goals and dreams,” Palacios said .
Palacios plans to stay in the D.C. area for a year before making his way to California or New York to pursue his dream of becoming a renowned documentary filmmaker.
Alex Plank, 2010, FAVS, BA
Alex Plank is an actor, filmmaker, and autism advocate. He graduated from Film at Mason in 2010 with a B.A. in Film and Video Studies. He co-founded the The Wrong Planet, an online community for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. He recently guest-starred on The Good Doctor on ABC as Javier, a man who must face his autistic sensory disorder in order to save his roommate.
Alicia Rodriguez, 2020, FAVS, BA
Alicia Rodriguez is a recent graduate of George Mason University, double majoring in Film and Video Studies and Integrative Studies with a concentration in Social Justice and Human Rights. During her last two semesters in the Film at Mason program, she worked on fiction and nonfiction projects, as well as in the field as a production assistant, camera operator, editor, and photographer for outside production companies and nonprofit organizations in the DMV area and in Guatemala. Her documentary “Cultivation and Community” about urban agriculture in D.C. was selected for the 2018 Best of Film at Mason. Rodriguez also worked as the editor, sound designer, and colorist for the senior film “Lune,” directed by Naod Haddish, which won Best Editing and Audience Award in the 2018 Mason Film Festival. Rodriguez’s intention in filmmaking largely centers around creating spaces for peoples who have been historically silenced. As a Sephardic Afro-Indigenous descendant of Bürekün (Puerto Rico), her experiences with the diaspora and the erasure of narratives has contextualized her approach to storytelling. Alicia continues to build relationships with other filmmakers and further develop her craft, all while making an impact with the stories she shares in film.
In 2019, Alicia was awarded the highly competitive and prestigious Princess Grace Scholarship Award for her thesis experimental documentary film A Diasporic Boricua.
Rodrigo Vasquez, 2019, FAVS, BA
Born in El Salvador and coming to the US at the age of six, Rodrigo Vasquez is a 2019 graduate of George Mason University with a major in Film and Video Studies and a minor in Theater. During his time in the program, he worked on many different projects in key roles such as sound mixer, videographer, editor, and producer. Outside of Mason he was involved in many personal projects including photography, poetry, peace marches, and volunteering in the community. In Spring 2018, he was the editor for “Out Of The Shadows” directed by Ryan Piracha, co-produced “909 Nights” directed by Ryan Judge and “Risacca” directed by Nick Canonico. He is the writer/director of three films including a documentary on the US Education System featuring Noam Chomsky. In his film “Certain Paths” he was able to secure the rights to a Bob Dylan song “Blow’in The Wind.” After graduating, his focus was to continue poetry, acting, and writing feature films. In his experiences and travels he has seen many deplorable conditions for people of all types. The documentary on US Education is inspired from the prologue of Bertrand Russell’s autobiography; three passions- the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. Rodrigo hopes that his poetry and films can spread peace.