Ashley Zipperman ‘18 never imagined her class project would go on to win at the Burbank International Film Festival.
Zipperman’s short film “Verified”—which illustrates the drama and pressure the internet creates for millennials—won Best Short Film by Women. The festival, held every year in Burbank, California from Sept. 5-9, celebrates environmental and social justice filmmakers.
“Verified” follows Greta, a midwestern girl, as she travels to Los Angeles to visit her internet-famous cousin, Alex. There, she discovers the extremes of social media, and she changes her personality and wardrobe to fit into Los Angeles’ scene.
“Being from LA, I noticed [the Internet] being a lot more present here—how many likes you have, the pictures on your feed, the number of followers you have,” Zipperman said. “People outside of our generation don’t really understand the drama and anxiety that it causes, and I felt that these extremes needed to be shown.”
Zipperman showcased “Verified” at the International Burbank Film Festival and released it to the public on Vimeo on Oct. 4.
Zipperman said she did not expect to win when she submitted the film, and later on received an invitation to the reception. She said she didn’t even attend the ceremony.
“I ended up getting a call a week later,” she said. “I just started crying when the founder said I won. It felt great to be recognized for such an important category, especially during times like now.”
Zipperman created “Verified” as her BFA project for a two-semester course entitled VM 490: BFA Production Workshop.
According to Zipperman, Emerson alumni and advisors comprise most of the film’s creative force. She said Emerson’s visual and media arts department helped her form connections to people with similar visions.
Marcos Gonzalez ’16 collaborated with Zipperman to construct a linear storyline that would fit her initial ideas.
“I would write drafts and then give it to her, and have her tell me what she liked and what she didn’t like,” Gonzalez said.
As a writer for Comedy Central, Gonzalez said writing a drama script challenged him since it differed from his usual genre.
Emerson assisted Zipperman in making connections with other professionals who ultimately became a part of her crew during the process of “Verified.”
“Staying connected with peers and building relationships with one another is super important,” Zipperman said. “Emerson also does a good job at making sure the script is good before the film is made.”
Most of what would become the film’s crew came from Zipperman’s senior year BFA class, including professor and advisor James Sheldon.
Sheldon acted as Zipperman’s advisor, guiding her in production and assuring the graphics, colors, and music matched Zipperman’s vision.
“Particularly with [Zipperman], what really made it was her perseverance and attention to detail,” Sheldon said. “She was good at getting other people to work with her—it’s a group effort.”
Visual and media arts major Haley Macmillan said the film’s victory marks an achievement not only for those involved, but for all women trying to break into the film industry.
“The deeper you go into the industry, you begin to understand that women are viewed differently,” Macmillan said. “It’s inspiring moments like these that remind me my dreams are still valid and I, still, as a woman can achieve whatever I want.”
Zipperman also highlighted the importance of female victories, especially when dealing with an industry run mostly by men, and the importance of speak up.
“A lot of the times, being women, we can be a little shy and passive—it’s best to know what you want creatively and go for it,” Zipperman said.