Thom Hogan Returns, Waterman’s Guide Revisited, Grad Students Create Computer Animated Film, Four-Wheeled Hits Film Festival

Thom Hogan (MA ’78) Returns to Campus for Multivisions 2011

It’s been 31 years since graduate alum Thom Hogan was in Bloomington. Since then, he’s been a player in the innovation boom in Silicon Valley, sold his business to pursue his passion for photography, pioneered the e-book industry, and successfully disappeared for three weeks each year. His exciting life journey has led him to his current home in Pennsylvania and, most recently, back to his alma mater to speak at the department’s Multivisions conference for undergraduate students.

Photo courtesy,

A native of Cupertino, CA, Thom remembers the time when the area had 20,000 people living in subdivisions between orchards. “I don’t think we even had a town hall then,” he recalls. Thom left Cupertino to attend Washington State University, and after he graduated, he made his way to IU, entering the Telecommunications graduate program as big changes were occurring. “There was a transition going on here. It was previously largely production based,” Thom explains. “A new-school set of faculty was beginning to change the department and shift to studying media effects.”

When he graduated from the program, Thom was interested in the evolving media landscape. “Things were becoming available to change the media experience. I kept asking myself, ‘Can we create things that didn’t exist before?'” he recalls. Thom moved back to Cupertino, then in the early stages of its transformation into Silicon Valley, with hopes of creating new computer related products. He and his team developed an early webcam, a program for creating tables in word processors, and other technologies, typically spending 22 hours a day at the office. To survive, Thom would take a 3-week trip every year to a remote location, leaving his communication technology behind and taking his camera as a companion. It was during these trips that Thom rediscovered his undergraduate interest in photography.

When Thom’s business dissolved, he picked up work as a photojournalist for Backpacking Magazine, later became a freelance photographer, and started teaching photo workshops. He used his knowledge of photography and cameras to start selling e-books for photographers, which serve as more detailed instruction manuals on every aspect of a camera’s use. He now has 20+ self published e-books available for sale on his website, and he’s currently exploring ways to make e-books multidimensional.

5 Facts You Probably Haven’t Heard About Thom:

1) The farm his mother grew up on was the land that would later become the Stanford Research Park, which housed Hewlett-Packard and Apple in the early days of Silicon Valley.

2) He almost worked for RealNetworks (the creators of RealPlayer, one of the early mp3 players for PCs), but he turned down the job when the company wouldn’t let him take his annual 3-week disappearing trip.

3) In his youth, Thom would walk home from school and cut through the Mariani fruit orchards, sometimes grabbing a quick snack on the way.

4) On September 11th, 2001, Thom was in New York waiting for his flight back home when the planes were hijacked. He had a ticket for the direct flight from NYC to San Francisco, but he changed tickets the week before so he could have a layover in Chicago. His original ticket was for a seat on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

5) Earlier this year, Thom was involved in a hostage situation in southern Chile, where citizens protesting a reduced subsidy for natural gas blockaded the town where he was holding a photography workshop. He and his 13 students were among 1600 people held in the city for 3 days until being escorted out by military transport.

Revisiting Waterman’s “Guide for Graduate Students: Arranging Committee Meetings”

About three months ago, I was sorting old files and paperwork when I found the orientation folder from my first year as a master’s student. After leafing through the SAA handbook, health insurance information, and other miscellaneous handouts, like how to be a good Associate Instructor, I came upon Professor David Waterman’s how-to guide for communicating and working with your committee.

I remember reading this for the first time during Orientation Week and thinking, “Choosing a meeting time? Reserving a room? Not my problem.” I was too worried about everything else that comes with being a first year master’s or PhD student. But, fast track to a year later, and there I was: in the middle of working with committee members, coordinating meetings, and getting ready to defend my thesis proposal. David Waterman’s practical advice leapt to life.

See, what I’ve learned since coming to graduate school is the delicate art of forming relationships. Choosing an advisor is much more than finding the faculty member that most shares your interests. It is about finding someone you can communicate with and establish a rapport. I began in the department as a MS (management)  student and have since transitioned to the MA program. As a result, I have had several advisors and committee members throughout my time here. Your advisor is the person who is going to guide you through this process.

This journey is filled with checkpoints and speed bumps, many of which seem to get in the way of doing your graduate work. Choosing your advisor.  Building your committee. Getting your program of study approved . . . and so on.  You will need your advisor and committee for all of these things.  It is a give and take relationship.  The faculty do not have to serve on your committee and it is in fact extra load for them.  They do so out of a sense of service. The grad students, on their part, need to make themselves worthy of this investment by working hard and notching up successes towards an accomplished career – the ultimate reward for you, your committee, and the department.

The process of working with a committee does not end with graduate school. Whether we pursue a career in academia or in the industry, we will have to collaborate with people. We will have to establish working relationships with colleagues. In this process, many dynamics are involved. Courtesy. Honesty. Open lines of communication. Keeping people informed. These are the things we can do to form successful collaborations and working relationships.

– Nicky Lewis

First year master’s and doctoral students: If you haven’t revisited David’s guide since that first day of orientation, now may be a good time.  You can do so here.

Grad Students Work on Computer Animated Film

Several students in the department’s MS program are working to create a computer animated short film, and they’ve already turned it into a collaborative venture, seeking the aid of around 15 voice and motion capture actors, composers, musicians, and modelers. The Districts, created and directed by grad student Andrew Benninghoff, was first conceptualized in Andrew’s first semester here. He sought the aid of a writer, then a concept artist. This year, with the addition of first year graduate students Geng Zhang (Production Manager) and Jennifer Talbott (Producer), the project has quickly gained momentum.

Currently, the group is working on motion capture for the film in facilities located in the School of Education building. This week the group pitched the project to a funding board with hopes of securing funds to create the background music for the film. The plan is to have a trailer for the film completed before the summer, and a few scenes completed before the fall. Truly a collaborative effort, The Districts has involved students from Fine Arts, actors from the Bloomington Playwright’s Project and the Waldron Arts Center, the Education building’s motion capture studio, composers in other states, and advice from others who have made computer animated films in the past.

The Districts, says Andrew, will run 50 minutes long and will be set in a distant, post-apolcalyptic future ravaged by war. “Thematically, it’s a look into free will and determinism,” he explains. For more information, you can check out the films official website by clicking here.

Mary LaVenture’s Doc Update

MS student Mary LaVenture’s documentary is rolling places!  “A Four-Wheeled Fascination” debuted at the LA Women’s International Film Festival this week.  We first told you about Mary’s documentary in September, when it premiered on WTIU.  “Four-Wheeled” was produced in collaboration with undergraduates in Ron Osgood’s year-long documentary course.  It chronicles the history of women’s roller derby from its inception to present day. “Four-Wheeled” also interviews women from two roller derby teams in Indiana and explains the many ways in which roller derby teams are involved in their communities.

The LA Women’s International Film Festival is produced by Alliance of Women Filmmakers, an organization established to empower women filmmakers to create diverse roles for women as well as increase exposure for women causes. Each year in March, the festival showcases narratives, documentaries, animation and student short films made by women. It provides them with a platform to share their unique stories and also serves as a fundraiser for women causes.  You can check out the festival’s website here and “A Four Wheeled Fascination’s” IMDB page here.

Mary is in the process of submitting her documentary to a variety of other film festivals and will be notified in early May of their decisions.  Good luck Mary!


Katie Birge:  Thom Hogan Returns to Campus and Grad Students Work on Computer Animated Film

Nicky Lewis:  Revisiting Waterman’s Guide for Graduate Students and Mary LaVenture’s Doc Update

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