Assistant Professor Rani Crowe has been making and performing her own work for over twenty years, from stand-up comedy and solo performance art, to multimedia installations and filmmaking. This semester, she is teaching one section of ENG 310: Screenwriting and two sections of ENG 425: Film Studies.
How would you describe your perspective on teaching?
Through watching, reading, discussing, and practical application exercises, I guide students to learn skills and build muscles that build towards a culminating final project where they practically synthesize the skills they have learned. I like to create early non-precious exercises where exploration, risk, and failure are permitted and encouraged in order to learn the process. I try to guide students to be able to articulate their own artistic goals and standards, and help them successfully meet them in their final projects.
When are your office hours?
Monday and Wednesday, 11 AM- 12:30 PM
What are you currently reading, if anything?
Screenplays: I try to read a couple a week. I am always looking for new ways to write them for myself, and good examples I might use for others.
Craft Books: Creating Screenplays That Connect and Adventures in the Screen Trade.
Personal Interest Reading: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Escapist: I have been enjoying the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child.
What is a text that you think everyone should read?
Oh, I tend to buy multiple copies of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (I have a favorite translation), Yasunari Kawabata’s Palm of the Hand Stories, and a children’s book called The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds that I give away freely as gifts to young artists. I also like Anne Bogart’s A Director Prepares, Peter Brook’s The Empty Space, David Mamet’s Three Uses of the Knife, Anna Deavere Smith’s Letters to a Young Artist, and Matthew Goulish’s 39 Microlectures: In Proximity to Performance. I reference these books often. These are all books that feed me in creative process either with inspiration or example.
What is your biggest pet peeve in the classroom, or a big mistake that students tend to make?
I have two pet peeves:
One is when a student’s goal is merely to please me or get a grade. I want students to have their own critical thoughts, and I want them to have their own goals and agency for the class. They will get more out of it, and I can help them get farther.
Another is if a student starts to struggle (whether they get behind or miss classes due to stress or they have a legitimate crisis), and they compound their situation by not coming to class or not communicating because they feel ashamed or embarrassed or want to avoid the situation. The hole gets bigger. So often, there are resources within the university that can help them, or I can work with them to make accommodations if they communicate early. I want my students to be successful. I am rooting for them. I think most professors are. When the student gets down in that hole and lets it get bigger and bigger, it is harder for us to help them later.
Are you working on any projects at the moment?
I am working on fundraising and pre-production to direct a short film called Finding Grace, written by Screenwriting Faculty, Kathryn Gardiner. We hope to shoot in the spring.
I am working on fundraising and development for a short film I am writing, Heather Has Four Mommies, which was shortlisted for the Kevin Spacey Foundation Grant, but it wasn’t funded, so we are still raising money. We want to shoot in the early summer.
My recent short film, Texting: A Love Story, is winding up its festival circuit time. It still has some screenings left. It has been accepted to 74 festivals around the world, so far. Next, I hope to find an online home for it.
I have a few concepts for features and pilots that I am still developing. (Film is a long process with many phases. It is best to be working on several things at once.)
What are some of your hobbies or interests?
I make jewelry, mostly beaded earrings. I have a cat, a dog, and a rabbit. I love to travel when I can. I speak French. I love theater, performance art, art museums, and other performance or art events. I like to kayak and ride my bike. After managing a fancy restaurant, I like wine and food. I have been doing some work on my house. I read a lot, when I have time. I like many kinds of music.
What is a piece of advice you would offer students?
Love the process. If you are doing it to become a famous writer/filmmaker/actor/musician (whatever), your chances of failure and disappointment increase. If you love the process of making the work, you are more likely to be happy and accumulate work that is actually more likely to lead you to some type of success. It takes time and practice. Patience is something I am still learning, but the accumulation of work does eventually start to manifest results.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about your background, research areas, passions, goals, etc.?
I started as an actor, then I did stand-up comedy, then playwriting, then directing, then performance art, and then filmmaking. They all build off each other and inform each other. I think of myself as an artist first. Whatever content I am working with dictates what medium will best serve it.