At Connecticut College's 2019 commencement, Morin was recognized when his student won the Oakes and Louise Ames Prize for Outstanding Honors Study. Morin: "I have never worked so hard with a student on anything in my life and I have never seen a student pull off such an incredible feat with the production of this film. I'm so, so proud that he received this honor."
Excerpts from the Commencement text:
Samuel Simonds, Film Studies major, is awarded the Oakes and Louise Ames Prize for his honors thesis in the Department of Film Studies, “Smoke of the Sea: A’Tolan Amis Resistance to Colonized Consciousness Through Resurgence of Traditional Epistemologies, Contemporary Existence and Collective Community.” A multipart creative project, Simonds’ thesis culminated in a short dramatic fiction film that explores the complexities of death, sickness, rebirth and reconciliation within a community whose cultural identity has been damaged by colonization and Western influence, and yet endures.
Set in Taiwan, Smoke of the Sea tells the story of a young girl who is dying from a mysterious sickness and must journey into the world of her Amis ancestors to rediscover her connection with herself, the land, and her culture to find a cure. The work is deeply spiritually introspective, using irony and humor to engage with those from Westernized perspectives. It challenges Western perceptions of health and science as practices based on observable truths in the physical world and explores how “old” traditional ways can be corrupted by capitalism, technology and U.S. culture, but also how they can endure and adapt to new influences and modern-day life.
The film was shot in Dulan, Taipei and Taitung City, Taiwan. It stars Amis actors from Dulan and is based on personal stories and accounts from many of the stars and crew of the film as well as cultural histories from elders of the Dulan Amis community. The dialogue is in three languages—Taiwanese, Mandarin and Amis—and Simonds worked with 26 actors, including children, and 31 crew members, many of whom speak Mandarin or Amis exclusively, to create the work.
In addition to the final film, Simonds’ thesis work consists of 15 unique screenplay drafts in English and five additional drafts in Mandarin; a 300 page document containing a producer’s notebook, a director’s notebook and a publicity campaign; and an immersive anthropological research experience. Chair of the Film Studies Department and Associate Professor of Film Studies, Ross Morin, who served as Simonds’ thesis adviser, describes the scope and quality of the project as unprecedented and exceptional. “It is beyond the undergraduate level, it is beyond the graduate level; it is at the professional level,” Morin said. “Sam has put the liberal arts into action as a global citizen as a storyteller, as a businessperson, as a manager, as a researcher and as an artist … if I had to guess, I would say that I will never again see a project of this level of ambition or execution in my career.”
Local news paper, THE LEDGER, covered the production of My Florida Home. Click HERE to read the full story.
Congratulations to Ross Morin for winning Connecticut College's top teaching honor, the John S. King Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching! Just a year ago, he was awarded tenure and he has been chairing his department ever since. Below is the press release written by Connecticut College.
Ross Morin ’05, a professor at the College since 2011, is the winner of the John S. King Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award was established to recognize teacher-scholars with high standards of teaching excellence and concern for students. It is named for the beloved professor of German whose warmth and humanity touched all who knew him.
Morin, an independent filmmaker, editor and cinematographer, believes in teaching film production as a combination of art, storytelling and social justice activism. His courses emphasize a strong relationship between practice and theory.
As acting chair of the department, he has shaped a curriculum that teaches fundamental and advanced technique, craft, art and skills like a traditional film school while integrating the intellectual and theoretical field of film studies. Morin immerses his students in the study of film, while at the same time teaching them to write and direct their own work.
In nominating Morin for the King Award, Associate Professor of Philosophy Simon Feldman praised his ability to teach students, many of whom have no previous experience studying or creating film, to produce work that is “remarkable in its scope and quality.”
“From watching Ross’s students’ thoughtful and active class participation, seeing their work on screen, and watching them do their work, I can say that they leave his courses with preconceptions shattered, having been drawn, by Ross, into newly imagined social, political and critical possibilities for their own work and for what film can be.”
Thanks, Kristina and The Day for this fun interview! For more on Ross' past with Tommy Wiseau's THE ROOM, check out his page here.
Published January 12. 2018 12:21PM | Updated January 12. 2018 4:00PM
By Kristina Dorsey Day staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
As the new movie “The Disaster Artist” has been making its way through screenings and positive reviews, one phrase about “The Room” — the notoriously and enjoyably awful 2003 film that serves as the basis for “The Disaster Artist” — keeps bubbling up.
“The Room,” you have no doubt heard, is “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.”
It’s a genius phrase and one that gave “The Room” a certain the-world-is-upside-down cachet.
That quote was originally uttered in 2008 by Ross Morin, a Connecticut College alum who is now associate professor of film studies and film department chair at the school.
A reporter from Entertainment Weekly called Morin back then for an article about “The Crazy Cult of ‘The Room.’” At the time, Morin was an assistant professor of film studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, and he and his friends were hosting screenings of “The Room” that were drawing more and more viewers.
That Entertainment Weekly article, as Morin notes, propelled “The Room” to fame.
And it turned Morin’s assessment into a calling card of sorts for the movie.
“It’s not one of the more interesting things I’ve ever said, but it just sort of stuck,” Morin says. “It was a string of many things I was saying (to the reporter). You never know what you say that people are going to latch onto.”
He has since been interviewed by publications ranging from The Huffington Post to The Sunday Times of London about the strange little movie.
Morin uses “The Room” — directed and written by and starring Tommy Wiseau, it’s about a banker’s fiancée seducing his best friend — in classes he teaches at Conn College, since seeing a movie that goes so wrong can be a valuable learning tool for students.
“As a film professor, I see lots of people making films for the first time, and I see a lot of mistakes. I see a lot of baby-steps bad filmmaking mistakes,” he says. “‘The Room’ doesn’t just make mistakes. It exaggerates the mistakes in epic ways. … ‘The Room’ repeatedly exaggerates failure, and that exaggeration of failure and that exaggeration of wrong decision-making is fascinating. I love bad movies. I’ve always loved bad movies. But this movie, from top to bottom, makes the wrong choices of what to do. It’s wrong not just because, oops, the camera is in the wrong place or, oops, it’s out of focus, although that’s certainly a part of it. It’s like it gets humanity wrong in some way. It gets what it means to be a human wrong …
“It really does feel as though someone from another planet observed sitcoms from the ’80s and ’90s and maybe they watched a little porno, too, and they were like, ‘OK, that is humanity, and I’m going to make a movie about it.’”
Morin has been a “Room” enthusiast since he first saw it, as a grad student at Ohio University in 2007. His roommate bought a “Room” DVD with some friends, and a small group screened it — and then screened it again the following month, with double the number of people showing up. The audience grew in size again the following month. By the end of the year, hundreds gathered to watch “The Room” projected on the side of a building.
A newspaper in Ohio wrote about these screenings, and the Entertainment Weekly writer must have seen that article and so contacted him, Morin surmises.
“We inadvertently were responsible for helping to create the cult following for ‘The Room.’ I had no idea that was happening. I just knew I was part of something magical and really, really special,” Morin says.
Ross Morin (Submitted)As for “The Disaster Artist,” Morin hasn’t seen it yet. (“The Disaster Artist” had been riding high on a wave of awards-season buzz — until star/director/co-producer James Franco won a Golden Globe Award on Sunday for his performance. After that, a series of women went public with sexual misconduct allegations against Franco.)
“The Disaster Artist” is based on the book of the same name by “Room” star Greg Sestero and with the subtitle “My Life Inside ‘The Room,’ the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.” Morin loved the book, saying it “was one of the most special experiences I had reading a book. I laughed tears to the point of throwing the book across the room.”
He was moved, too, by the touching relationship portrayed between Sestero and director Tommy Wiseau.
Sestero came to Connecticut College in 2013 to talk in a public session about the book and the movie, and Morin recalls the two of them sitting in High 5’s in New London and Sestero discussing whether he should sell the movie rights to the book.
“I feel very protective of my personal experience of reading that book,” Morin says — hence his reluctance to see the movie adaptation.
But Morin remains a devoted fan of “The Room.” “Citizen Kane” might be widely considered the most important film of all time, but Morin says, “I guess my argument is ‘The Room’ is just as important, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. It deserves to be taught in every class in some way. There’s something to be gained from it. It’s one of the most important films ever made, and it’s the most important bad film ever made.”
Ross had a blast this weekend at the Macabre Faire Film Festival in New York where A Peculiar Thud was nominated for Best Editing. He was joined with the film's editor Brian Newell for a weekend of horror films, panels, and parties. Thanks so much, Elsie, for selecting our film and having us back this year!
Happy new year, horror fans! We are delighted to announce that Ross Morin’s A PECULIAR THUD is an official selection of the Macabre Faire Film Festival and it has been nominated for BEST EDITING. Ross and Brian Newell, the film’s editor, will be traveling to Long Island for a weekend of terror at one of our favorite festivals. A PECULIAR THUD will screen at 2:30 this Saturday and 1:00 on Sunday. We’ll be there for Q&As, panels, mixing and mingling. Get your tickets here: http://www.macabrefairefilmfest.com/tickets2.html. Thanks to Elsie and Macabre Faire for selecting and nominating our film!
We are proud to announce that Ross Morin’s A PECULIAR THUD is the official selection of two festivals happening this week. On Friday, November 10 and Saturday the 11th, A Peculiar Thud will screen in Michigan at the 20th annual East Lansing Film Festival (tickets at http://elff.com/festival). On Saturday, the film will be in the UK, screening at the Cornwall Film Festival (tickets at http://cornwallfilmfestival.com/official17) where it is in competition for Best Short Film. The Cornwall Film Festival has called it, “so inherently spine tingling we highly recommend it’s not watched alone.” Thanks so much to Susan and the team at ELFF, and Michael and the team at the CFF for making our film an official selection of your awesome festivals!
Halloween may be over but our reign of terror continues... We are psyched that A PECULIAR THUD is an official selection of the 17th annual Kansas International Film Festival! It will be screening tonight as part of the Things That Go Bump in the Night horror program at 7:45. Get your tickets here http://www.kansasfilm.com/attend-kiff-2017/
A full weekend of Halloween terror! This week, Ross Morin’s A PECULIAR THUD will screen at four film festivals across North America. Thursday, October 19, the film will be screening at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival in Georgia (www.atlantahorrorfilmfest.com/neversleepagain.html). Friday night, it’ll be screening at the Sanford International Film Festival in Maine (www.sanfordfilmfest.com) where the film is Nominated for Best Horror Film. On Saturday the 21 and Tuesday the 24th, we’ll be at the Orlando Film Festival in Florida (www.orlandofilmfest.com/movies/a-peculiar-thud/) and producer/DP Matt Herbertz will be in attendance. And finally, on Sunday, Oct 22, we’re off to Canada for the Terror In The Bay Film Festival in Ontario (www.terrorinthebay.com) where Malcolm Mills has been nominated for Best Actor!
This Friday, October 6, A Peculiar Thud will be screening in Manchester, UK at the @Grimmfest Horror Film Festival. Tickets available: http://grimmfest.com/grimmupnorth/2017/09/a-peculiar-thud/ for those of you overseas. Thanks, Emmanuel, Greg and the rest of the Grimmfest team for selecting our film!
Happy to announce that A Peculiar Thud is the official selection of the 14th annual The Halloween Horror Picture Show in Tampa, FL where it will be screening on Saturday, September 30. (tickets at: www.thehalloweenhorrorpictureshow.com).
AND we are also the official selection of the Great Lakes International Film Festival in Erie, PA where we have been NOMINATED FOR BEST HORROR! Winners will be announced September 30 (tickets at: www.greatlakesfilmfest.com).
Thanks to both of these festivals for selecting our film!
More great news! A Peculiar Thud is an official selection of the 15th annual Fargo Fantastic Film Festival in Fargo, North Dakota AND the Wreak Havoc Horror Film Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina – both festivals will screen the film this Saturday!
The Fargo Fantastic Film Festival (http://www.valleycon.com/filmfest/index.html) will screen at the historic Fargo Theater and the Wreak Havoc Horror Film Festival will screen at the historic Carolina Theater in Greensboro http://www.wreakhavochorrorfilmfest.com.
Thanks, Fargo and Wreak Havoc for selecting our film!
A Peculiar Thud won Best Horror at the Coney Island Film Festival this weekend! Congratulations and thanks to our team Stuart Vyse, Malcolm Mills, Ryän Wilsön II, Kyle Clark, Brian Newell, Tom Digges, and Gregg Hammond. And a huge thank you to Coney Island Film Festival for putting on an amazing show with an awesome crowd.
This week, we're back in NYC!
A Peculiar Thud will be screening at the Anthology Film Archives where it has been accepted by NewFilmmakers New York! Check it out this Wednesday at 7:00pm! Thanks, NewFilmmakers New York for selecting our film!
Event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1470040593048489