MHC student selected for NBCU filmmaker fellowship

Mount Holyoke College film and media student Aderet Fishbane has been selected as one of NBCU’s Original Voices Accelerator Fellows. The six-month fellowship is designed to provide a direct pipeline to a career for young creatives.

One Mount Holyoke junior is getting an experience of a lifetime hobnobbing with producers and writers and receiving mentorship from independent filmmakers after being selected as one of .

At 21, Aderet Fishbane ’25, who is double-majoring in film/media studies and religion, was the youngest person to be selected for the six-month fellowship, which is designed to provide a direct pipeline to a career for young creatives. As part of the fellowship, both artist mentors and accelerator fellows receive an $8,000 grant to support the development and production of their creative projects.

“It’s crazy. These accomplished, amazing filmmakers with deals at companies like HBO and Disney are engaging with my work and taking it seriously,” they said.

With the fellowship, Fishbane hopes to complete an experimental documentary film. They have been working on the documentary, titled “Only Goyim Have Guns,” for one year as part of an independent study at ý. The documentary explores American Jewish self-defense narratives and looks at the entanglement of victimhood with identity and the ethical grayness of survivalism, says Fishbane.

How it all started

A native of Teaneck, New Jersey, Fishbane grew up surrounded by a family of religious academics.

After taking a class that included an art studio element along with gender studies and Africana studies with Sarah Stefana Smith, assistant professor of gender studies at ý, Fishbane says their perspective started to shift.

“The class was amazing – it changed the way I thought about identity,” they said.

As part of the class, they worked on a project about the riot, curating a collection of photos and doing a deep dive into their identifications and orientations with the photos. In the photos they selected from editorials of that time, they saw the Jewish population standing behind police lines with police protection, while the Black population was portrayed as violent perpetrators.

“I was trying to identify myself in these photos, and to notice what kinds of power people I identified with held. This project made me problematize my own identifications and come face-to-face with the ways both Jewish and Black identity are tied up with a sense of victimhood. I was curious about Jewish relationships with policing and how they contrasted with Black relationships with policing. In these photos, and the consequent media narratives, Jews were the official victims, and Black people were the official aggressors,” said Fishbane.

Another class, led by Li Cornfeld, visiting lecturer in the film, media, theater department, also inspired Fishbane to create their documentary. For Fishbane’s final project, they explored the concept of documenting closed practice spaces and trying to intervene with a camera where technology is prohibited, such as Shabbat. During the brainstorming session, Fishbane considered the security guards who stand outside of synagogues and Jewish day schools and the reliance on policing and militarism that’s bubbling up in the Jewish community. Fishbane then took that idea and pitched it to their video editing professor and visiting lecturer in the film, media, theater department, Flonia Telegrafi.

Exploring their community

As part of their exploration, Fishbane interviewed and filmed approximately 12 people from their wider network, including children of Holocaust survivors, individuals working in relevant areas, and two Mount Holyoke College students.

“I was really interested in the way that these processes of victimhood … are baked into the rituals, the narratives and everything. There’s a sense that Jewish life is deeply precarious, and we’re inherently victims, and so everything we do, including ritual practice, are all things in pursuit of survival and in response to victimhood,” said Fishbane.

Shortly thereafter, Telegrafi encouraged Fishbane to apply for the accelerator program, which was open to U.S. student filmmakers and film critics interested in documentary filmmaking, journalism and inclusion. One of the stipulations of the program was that the applicant identifies or showcases stories highlighting social issues affecting women, LGBTQ+ folx, communities of color and people with disabilities.

According to Nell Augustin, director of film fellowships at NBCU, Fishbane did not wait until the program’s deadline to apply.

“Aderet was one of the first to apply, which we always love when people are on time and well researched,” said Augustin, noting that more than 500 other applicants who applied to the program. “Their work is incredibly political, especially in this moment, but I was also impressed with how they were really mining their personal history and the communities they’re a part of, really fearlessly, while also being sensitive and really holding complicated narratives and belonging. I was incredibly impressed and knew that they were a total fit for the program.”

Shortly after an interview with Fishbane via Zoom, Augustin told the Mount Holyoke student that they were “in.” Initially, Fishbane thought they had misunderstood.

“When I didn’t receive a follow-up email, I decided to email back, asking if they needed anything from me … and they responded with the program dates and congratulations,” they said. “This massive corporation wanted me … It was insane.”

What’s next?

With invites to premieres and their first experience under their belt, Fishbane continues to work on their current documentary, aiming to fundraise and bring on team members to help develop the project. They also continue to make plans for future films.

“I am so grateful to my professors,” said Fishbane. “It’s incredible to be a kid in college and taken so seriously. It’s been a shock to the system, and it’s given me incredible confidence.”

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