Spotlight: After Completing his MFA, Alum Dan Colella Reflects on His Film Studies Journey

By Dan Colella ’20, Independent Filmmaker and Video Editor

During my time at The College of Charleston, I was fortunate to be the president of the CofC Film Club and the executive producer in the video department of CisternYard Media. In these leadership roles, I fostered collaboration and oversaw creative development, ensuring high-quality productions where students could gain knowledge on film and media storytelling. In the classroom, I was an English Major and a Film Studies Minor, two curriculums that aided me greatly in theoretical dissection and understanding of the creative process.

After graduating with my B.A., I moved cross-country to Los Angeles, where I began my MFA at top-ranked Loyola Marymount University in their School of Film and Television, a challenging but rewarding three-year program that includes tracks in Film & TV Production, Writing for the Screen, and Writing & Producing for Television. Having been accepted into the Film & TV production track, I spent my first three semesters learning all aspects of filmmaking from screenwriting to directing, cinematography, and sound and film editing, while also creating two films during my first and second years. My first-year film, Refraction, was an official selection of the Burbank International Film Festival and Silicon Beach Film Festival which screened at the famous TCL Chinese Theatres. After my third semester, I chose to specialize in Directing Fiction and spent my last three semesters writing, producing, and editing my thesis film. P.E. is a ten-minute short film about a heavy-set teenager who braves the nightmare of P.E. swim class. The film is currently on its festival run and includes one current student and two CofC alumni, Mary Pumper ’18, who plays Ms. Holmes, the gym teacher, Leanna Narcho ’19, the production designer, and the lead, Ben, played by Patrick Whiteside (CofC ’26).

Some of my additional coursework included an Advanced Directing Seminar, Advanced Production – Documentary (with Oscar-winning Documentarian Daniel Junge), Film & TV Development, Feature Screenwriting, and Developing & Selling Digital Content.

While at LMU, I continued my Film Studies education by taking courses in International Film and learning and studying the intersection between Narrative and Documentary films (Docu-Fictions). Although LMU fostered my knowledge of Film/TV production, the courses I took in CofC’s Film Studies program prepared me with the theoretical knowledge to look beyond the surface of the practical work I was making. Understanding subtext and what a filmmaker is trying to say through blocking, framing, editing choices, etc. are what made me a well-rounded filmmaker.

Equipped with my MFA, I have since moved back to the east coast and will be working in Film Development at FirstGen Content, an entertainment finance and production company whose development division is headed by Mollye Asher, the Oscar-winning Producer of Nomadland. Outside of FirstGen, I am working as a freelance videographer/editor while finishing post-production on my Vietnam Documentary centered around my great-uncle, 1LT. Howard Jon Schnabolk, who sacrificed himself to save his fellow soldiers. The film is set to be completed by the end of 2023 with a festival run set for 2024.



  1. John Bruns

    Great post! Thank you for sharing your story, Dan. It’s so great to hear from our alumni. We’re very proud of you, and we hope for all the best as your move forward in your career as a filmmaker!

  2. Esther Diskin

    It is wonderful to read about your journey, Dan. Very excited about all of the creative work you are doing. So interesting and impressive!. Bravo! Esther DIskin, English teacher and Communications Director at Norfolk Academy

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