December 2, 2015

Film by Alumnus Depicts Experiences of the ‘Modern College Student’

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Over 150 attendees watched the pre-screening of the independent feature film, Collegetown, at Cornell Cinema Tuesday. Hugo Genes ’10, the film’s director, said the creative nonfiction film “depicts the modern college student’s experience with student debt and heavy campus recruitment from the financial industry.”

Genes, who is a former arts and entertainment editor for The Sun, said he was inspired to write the film four years ago when he revisited Ithaca as an alumus.

Hugo Genes ’10 chats with students at the screening of his film Collegetown at Cornell Cinema Tuesday. (Varun Hegde / Sun Staff Photographer)

Hugo Genes ’10 chats with students at the screening of his film Collegetown at Cornell Cinema Tuesday. (Varun Hegde / Sun Staff Photographer)

“The idea for the film sort of sparked when I visited Cornell as an alumn[us] for the first time … I was walking around Collegetown during orientation week this time as an outsider,” he said.

According to Genes, the film encapsulates his college experience in a nutshell.

“I set out to map how did I go from being a 17-year-old kid who didn’t even know what an investment bank was to wanting to dedicate most of my college experience to getting a job on Wall Street,” Genes said. “Making this movie is me trying to understand how that happened.”

Produced over a 22-month period, the film had a complex production process, as most of the actors also had full-time jobs during production, according to Genes.

“It was a lot of work for the actors to come back into their roles,” Genes said.

However, Genes said he knew the filming process was successful when he saw that his project was creating a dialogue among those participating in the project.

“Making the film was extremely difficult — we had no budget by movie standards,” he said. The breakthroughs came when people would enter the project and bring new energy. I knew things were going well because I would have deep, invigorating coversations with the people about the project.”

Genes said he hopes by watching the film, the audience can begin thinking about their ambitions and planning for the future.

“The target audience are young people today … 16, 17, 18-year-olds who are watching this are able to learn about the financial positions they’re going to face in college,” he said.

Several students said they enjoyed the film and found it relevant to their experience at Cornell.

“I liked how it really hit close to home, and how accurately he described a lot of the experiences I’ve had at Cornell,” Meg Alzona ’16 said.

Alzona also said the film reaffirmed the value of liberal arts required courses, even though many students may consider these classes impractical for career advancement.

“They initially forced us to take very liberal [arts] classes that [make] you think ‘that’s not going to help you in the future’ … but they really teach you these crazy, overarching, highly intelligent, deep ideas that have been around that I have not once learned in a marketing class,” Alzona said. “They teach you how to think, which is the whole point of college.”

Kavitha Lobo ’16 agreed, saying she thought the film was “definitely thought provoking.”

“I think it stresses that we’re all just so naive in college and that you’re going to believe what anyone tells you,” Lobo said. “But at the end of the day, following your heart is going to be the best route regardless of what everyone else is doing.”

Lobo also said she thinks it is important for students to consider the realities of working in the fields they are pursuing.

“This film gives me hope because a lot of people are going blindly into jobs and the career fair, and that’s fine, you don’t need to know what you want to do,” Lobo said. “But at the very core you’re going to know what’s right. The number one thing is to question. Always question.”