Emma Cataldo’s parents and grandparents encouraged her to get involved with photography, and other arts.
She got a camcorder, and began making short films in her backyard. With her camera, she took photos at favorite spots: Longshore, Burying Hill beach, the Saugatuck River.
Emma was just 8 years old.
As a freshman at Staples High School, she was assigned to TV Production class. She was one of only 3 girls — and hated it.
But her parents encouraged her to stick with it. She ended up loving the class so much — and Narrative Film too — that the Media Lab became her second home.
Teachers Mike Zito and Jim Honeycutt Emma encouraged her strongly. She spent several semesters doing independent studies in cinematography and screenwriting.
Zito inspired Emma to enter film competitions, beginning as a sophomore. She placed well at the state level.
Honeycutt gave her the chance to film school and community events, as well as commercials and short films for local businesses. She built a strong portfolio. Here’s a director’s reel from high school:
She also discovered a passion for post-production work. Emma hopes to pursue that as a career.
Emma’s mentors encouraged her to apply to the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts — a film school with a 5% acceptance rate.
She got in. Now — entering 2nd semester of her junior year — she is double majoring in cinema and media studies, and film and TV production.
Emma has worked on student films, and interned in post-production at NBC Universal’s Syfy and E! Networks, during school years and summers.
At USC she has established herself primarily as an editor and colorist. Recently, her friend Evan Siegel — director and co-writer of “Ivver” — pitched that film to her.
A psychological thriller about the horrors of anti-Semitism, “Ivver” is close to Siegel’s heart: He faced prejudice and hatred growing up Jewish in Texas.
Emma grew up in a Christian family. But, she says, she learned a great deal of Jewish history in middle and high school.
At Staples she took classes like “Mythology and Bible Studies,” which included the Old and New Testaments. She was exposed to Jewish culture through talks by Holocaust survivors, and books like Elie Wiesel’s “Night.”
Many friends were Jewish too.
The story follows a high school history teacher who suddenly faces the aggressive prejudice of his students and colleagues, once they find out he is Jewish.
Like Emma, many of the team working on the film are not Jewish. Still, she says, it resonates with all of them.
“When it comes to social issues, we believe the most important thing we can do is start productive conversations,” Emma says.
“Anti-Semitism is still around. Yet for some reason it is often left out of the conversation about social reform.”
With a diverse crew from many backgrounds, they hope to raise awareness of the continuing threat of anti-Semitism around the globe.
She calls the film “heartbreaking. But the message needs to be heard at a time like this.”
Emma and her fellow students have assembled a strong cast and crew. They’ve scouted locations. Now all they need is funding.
This is the time of year when we’re all asked to contribute to many worthy causes. This sure is one of them. Emma hopes you’ll check out the video below — and if you can, click this link to contribute.