Announcing the Kaufman Masterclass Series

The Kaufman Masterclass series was launched in Spring 2023 by Film and Media Studies faculty with the generous support of the Christopher L. Kaufman 1967 Film Studies Fund, which was established in 2001 to provide support for film studies at Amherst. The series will bring emerging and distinguished film and media makers to Amherst to share their skills in Masterclass workshops that will be open to all interested students who meet suggested eligibility requirements.  

Building Your Own Table - a Kaufman Masterclass

with creator, writer, and alum Ashley Soto '11

Alum Ashley Soto returned to campus in February to present: Building Your Own Table: Fundraising for Your Independent Production. Students from Amherst, Hampshire, and UMass participated in the four-hour class in Frost Library on February 23, 2024. 

The workshop provided students with foundational tools to fund a short film or webseries. Students applied these principles to their own projects and drafted a pitch deck for fundraising. Students ended the masterclass using their pitch decks to present to Ashley Soto who gave feedback and advice on every project. 

Ashley Soto '11 is a Mexican and Afro-Puerto Rican native of El Paso, Texas and a former high school teacher in Mississippi. Her writing credits include Emmy- and NAACP-winning THE PROUD FAMILY: LOUDER AND PROUDER (Disney+), VIDA (Starz), and FAST AND FURIOUS: SPY RACERS (Netflix). Serving as Co-Executive Producer, Ashley most recently ran and directed Broadway Video/Audible Original podcast series MICHELLE ROJAS IS NOT OKAY starring Dascha Polanco that was named one of Audible’s “Best of 2023”; she's sold and developed projects for Disney+; and her co-created pilot CHUCHI & ADALIZ premiered at SXSW this spring. She was recognized with the CALI Catalyst Award by the Center for Cultural Innovation for her work co-founding #RaisethePercentage, a grassroots initiative that connected working TV writers with emerging Black/Afrolatinx writers in order to reduce barriers to access in the entertainment industry. A graduate of Amherst College, she is repped by Circle of Confusion and Kaplan Stahler.

The TV Drama Writers’ Room: Masterclass with LEAH LONGORIA '12

Fall 2023

How does a TV writers’ room operate and how do I get my foot in the door? This master class reviewed the structure of the TV writers’ room, from the positions that make up a staff to the day-to-day functions of the room. How do writers pitch stories, how do those stories get “broken,” and how do they go from an idea to the page? How do writers reconcile limitations due to budget, episode count, platform, and more? 

Leah Longoria was the first graduate of the Film and Media Studies program at Amherst College. A member of the class of 2012, she graduated magna cum laude with a double major in FAMS and Mathematics. After completing a Master's in Television at Boston University, she moved to Los Angeles and began her career at United Talent Agency working in the TV Lit department before getting her first job in a television writers’ room as the showrunner's assistant on Jane the Virgin. Her talent propelled her to staff writer status on the same show, and she’s continued to work her way up the ranks of the TV writing staff on a range of series including the CW’s Roswell, New Mexico, and Nickelodeon’s Monster High, The Loud House, and The Casagrandes.

Access, Embodiment, and Opacity: A Masterclass with JORDAN LORD

Spring 2023

Filmmaker Jordan Lord, who specializes in cinematic design that takes disability into account, visited Amherst in spring 2023 as the first in the FAMS program's Kaufman Masterclass Series