By Brendan O’Callaghan, Director, Public Affairs, Sarah Lawrence College
June 23, 2021: Cinema Sarah Lawrence, a one-of-a-kind experiential filmmaking program for college students, is debuting its first feature film, “Jack London’s Martin Eden” at the 26th annual Nantucket Film Festival. This year, the festival is being held both virtually and in-person June 17-28. “Martin Eden” was screened before an in-person audience on Friday, June 18, and will continue to be shown online throughout the festival. The film is also expected to headline the 2021 Jack London Society 15th Biennial Symposium, December 9-12 in Sonoma, California.
Based on the celebrated writer’s autobiographical novel, Martin Eden, “Jack London’s Martin Eden” is set in 1909 and tells the story of a poor and unschooled sailor who unexpectedly meets Ruth Morse, a magnetic young woman of means and education. Their unconventional attraction upends both lives and propels timely themes of impossible love, pursuit of the American Dream, dogged individualism, and the quest for a comfortable place in an inconstant world.
A trailer for the film, made by Sarah Lawrence students, is available here.
Under the guidance of director and award-winning independent filmmaker Jay Craven, Cinema Sarah Lawrence brought together 28 film industry professionals who mentored and collaborated with 35 students from multiple colleges including, in addition to Sarah Lawrence, Hamilton, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Skidmore, Middlebury, Augsburg University, Hampshire College, Connecticut College, University of Vermont, and Northern Vermont University.
“Students played substantial roles in every aspect of production,” said Craven. “From casting and costume design to sound recording, location scouting, and script supervising. They also built sets – from scratch – including one for an early 20th century laundry and another for a New England tenement duplex. Students also appear on screen, as featured extras and in several supporting roles. Their fingerprints are everywhere in the film.”
In addition to on-set endeavors during filming, Sarah Lawrence students participated in pre-production research and writing of the screenplay as well as creating trailers and editing as part of the film’s post-production.
“I liked how London explores dynamics of social class and weaves the story around his own autobiography,” said Craven about why he chose to pursue Martin Eden. “A self-made man, Jack London teased out personal elements in this story but maybe never dug quite deep enough to fully unearth the painful contradictions and demons that haunted him. He seemed to excavate his own conflicted quests and outcomes through Eden, whose idealistic pursuit of his single-minded goals, and his hard work to transform himself, ultimately leaves him emotionally stranded, unable to return to his roots or find sustenance in his ‘success.’”
“Martin Eden’s” cast includes Andrew Richardson in the title role and Hayley Griffith and Annet Mahendru as Ruth Morse and Lizzie Connolly, respectively. Richardson trained at Carnegie Mellon and London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and Royal Academy of Dance. His credits include eight film and television productions along with theatrical stagings of “Taming of the Shrew” and “Othello.”
Annet Mahendru is best known for her co-starring role as Nina Krilova, the U.S. Russian embassy operative who has a love affair with FBI agent Stan Beeman in the long-running Emmy-winning series, “The Americans.” She also co-starred as Elena Evanovich in the Amazon series, “The Romanoffs.”
Hayley Griffth’s credits include “Law and Order” and “Bull.” Other supporting actors Missy Yager (“Mad Men,” “Manchester by the Sea”), Grainger Hines (”Lincoln,” “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”), Phil McGlaston (Broadway’s “Little Foxes,” Athol Fugard’s “Master Harold and the Boys,” August Wilson’s “Fences”), Michael Benz (“Downton Abbey,” “Joker”), Jo Armeniox (“Boardwalk Empire”), Ken Wulf Clark (“House of Cards”) and Rebecca Faulkenberry (co-star of “Spiderman” on Broadway).
Cinema Sarah Lawrence combines the College’s significant strengths in liberal arts education and filmmaking (its film program is consistently named as one of the country’s leading programs) with a hands-on immersive filmmaking experience on the set of a feature film. The thirty-five students who participated in this experiential program lived on Nantucket during filming and were enveloped in the life of production, earning academic credit as well as acquiring practical skills required to make a narrative feature film or television program and to pursue a career in the film industry after graduation.
Photo courtesy Sarah Lawrence College
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