I would likely have gone into the arts regardless of my Princeton education. I am the product of a film producer and an actress, and I have heard stories of my father launching Martin Scorsese’s career my entire life. I was hooked on the idea of making movies from the start.
What Princeton did was inspire me to take this path toward the arts with confidence. Princeton gave me a vigorous foundation of knowledge in literature, writing, art history, photography, and philosophy. When I left the University, I was not only equipped to meaningfully engage with writers and directors on their creative vision, but I was fully capable of structuring the financing of any movie I produced. To be able to move seamlessly between these two worlds of art and commerce is the very definition of my job (some of you may have been wondering—“What does a producer actually do?”), and this is the very thing that Princeton prepared me for most.
I am convinced that the combination of courage and hard work is the greatest gift Princeton gave me …
A few years ago, I produced a film based on the Henry James novella What Maisie Knew, a work I studied in “19th-Century Fiction.” I would have passed that brilliant project over, as every other producer had for 15 years, had I not had such a deep and abiding love for James’s work. I inevitably pursue contemporary fiction as the basis of my films in large part due to the admiration I developed for writers in Elaine Showalter’s “Contemporary Fiction” course. Zadie Smith, Chang-Rae Lee, Dave Eggers, and Donna Tartt are all writers that I was introduced to in her class, and they are writers whose work I pursue today.
Looking back, I would have loved to have been even bolder about the opportunities that were afforded to me: taken Toni Morrison up on her office hours; spoken up when Jeffrey Eugenides served as a guest lecturer; communicated to Emmet Gowin what a tremendous photographer he was, and how that, too, would inspire me as a filmmaker.
I loved my time at Princeton. I love that I was allowed to explore different areas of my liberal arts education with the best resources in the world. I loved that these inspiring professors, who all had their own incredible success, lauded tenacity and focus as much as they did natural talent.
At Princeton you are encouraged to explore and be bold in your pursuits, and you are expected to work hard. I am convinced that the combination of courage and hard work is the greatest gift Princeton gave me, and it is the reason I have had any success in my chosen profession. It’s exciting to see a university that could easily rest on its laurels continuing to be bold in its vision for the arts, and I think it’s the greatest testament to the school’s character. Princeton is exactly the kind of school that I one day want my children to attend.