Filmmaker Ryan Coogler, a former student at Saint Mary's, won the top prizes at the Sundance Film festival, the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic film, for "Fruitvale," a film he wrote and directed about the tragic killing of unarmed Oscar Grant by a BART police officer on New Years Day in 2009. News outlets across the nation are reporting on Coogler's rise as a filmmaker, including Filmmaker magazine, which acknowledges his brief but important time at Saint Mary's in an article about "25 New Faces of Independent film."
The article notes that while Coogler was attending SMC on a football scholarship, he took a creative writing class and he wrote about the time his father almost bled to death in his arms. His professor Rosemary Graham, although not mentioned in the article, was impressed with his work and encouraged him to pursue screenwriting.
"Ryan's talent for writing stood out in my class. I encouraged him to think about screenwriting because his writing had a certain cinematic quality, said Graham in an email describing her former student. Coogler transferred to Sacramento State when the College ended its football program. However, Graham remained a mentor and a friend and his connections with Saint Mary's continued.
While in graduate film school at USC, he made a short film about a white high school teacher who assumes a paper by a black male student was plagiarized because the teacher doesn't expect excellence from students like him. The film was adapted from a play called "Gap," by Saint Mary's English professor Carol Lashof.
Jan Term professor Virginia Saenz McCarthy, who teaches a class on the Sundance Film festival also worked as the script supervisor on "Fruitvale" while it was being filmed in Oakland in July 2012. In the blog for her class, McCarthy writes about her excitement when Coogler's film was screened at Sundance, "I was thrilled to make it into our premiere screening which turned out to be a huge success." Read more on the SMC @ Sundance 2013 blog.