Alumni Spotlight | Rachel Israel (Film '13)

Was there a specific faculty member or peer who especially inspired you while at the School of the Arts? If so, who and how?

My thesis advisor, Ramin Bahrani, was a tremendous inspiration. He taught me bravery through his inquisitive approach to filmmaking. I’ve learned to tackle new projects with faith, hoping that the answers I get along the way will surprise and challenge me.  

How did attending the School of the Arts impact your work and career as an artist?

The generosity of my fellow colleagues at the School of the Arts has had a profound impact on my development and joy as an artist. Two years after having graduated, the relationships I started at Columbia have only grown stronger and have multiplied to form a network of friends helping each other to take risks and make great work. When I shot my first feature in 2015, I worked with over a dozen CUSOA film graduates as key production members.

If you could revisit any piece you created during your time at the School of the Arts, which would it be? Why?

I would revisit the 3-minute film my orientation group made during our first week at the School of the Arts. It was called Daddy’s Milk and was absolutely absurd and joyful. We had only a day to make these shorts and we approached them all with such a fun, fearless spirit. I’ve learned that this spirit translates to the screen.

What was your favorite or most memorable class while at the School of the Arts?

Taking “Script Revision” with Andy Bienen was a privilege. Andy’s gentle way of developing work and his genuine respect for students’ intellect and instincts made the class a sacred space. I felt just as much enthusiasm for my fellows work as I did for my own, which has a lot to do with how much Andy involved all of us in making discoveries on each other’s projects. 

About Rachel Israel
Writer / Director Rachel Israel is a NYC based filmmaker and an adjunct professor of film at Rhode Island School of Design. She received her BFA with Honors from RISD and her MFA in Film with Honors from Columbia University. Rachel has written and directed numerous short films and screened at festivals such as Slamdance and Florida Film Festival. Rachel’s most recent short, Keep the Change, premiered in 2013 at the Columbia University Film Festival, where it won several prizes including the Focus Features Best Film Award.

Rachel recently finished post-production on her feature film debut, the feature length version of Keep the Change, a narrative made in collaboration with a cast of actors on the autism spectrum, and which has received support from the Sundance Institute, Rooftop Film Festival and the Princess Grace Foundation. Keep the Change will world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival 2017.

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.