John Cerrito '14

Hometown: Memphis, TN
Major: Double Major in English and Studio Art
Minor: Film Studies

Extracurricular Activities: Writing Fellow for the English Department, editor of the Southwestern Review, cinematographer for Sketchy comedy group and the Theatre Department, production assistant on a local Independent short film and a local feature film shoot, intern at FuelFilm: Memphis, member of the Mortar Board, Sigma Tau Delta, and Delta Epsilon Iota honor societies

John Cerrito ’14 participated in the 2013 Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies, which is an innovative summer program that capitalizes on the liberal arts tradition of the college and its location in Memphis, a large urban center with a rich cultural history. The Rhodes Institute awards fellowships to students who present proposals for specific research projects focused on the local community—either past, present, or future. After an intensive regional studies seminar and then six weeks working on their own projects, fellows present their work to the Institute for discussion and submit a research paper.

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

I was born and raised in Memphis. I remember going to summer camps on campus from a young age and swimming at the BCLC, and I always associated the beautiful, quiet campus with those positive experiences. I also had some great interactions with Rhodes students at a soup kitchen when I was in high school. The kitchen was overrun with Rhodes kids, and they were so incredibly kind and friendly and productive. When it came time to apply to colleges, I had to put Rhodes on the list. My scholarships and financial aid package, combined with the prestige of the college, made Rhodes my best choice. So here I am, about to start my senior year.

How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes?

I started Rhodes interested in multiple subjects (English, history, psychology, and art, to name a few). I spent my first semester surveying some of these disciplines, and realized that the common threads I was interested in were storytelling and human emotion. I decided on English with a concentration in Creative Writing. I′d always loved movies and expanded my narrative interests to include screenwriting. However, I soon learned that scriptwriters don′t get the kind of input producers or directors do into the look and pacing of a film. I decided to try my hand at filmmaking, and immediately realized it was something I wanted to keep doing. After making my first documentary, I realized the power that film had to connect with people emotionally and inform them of alternate views of the world. When applause broke out at the end of my first showing, I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. While at Rhodes, I′ve become more determined about my goals for the future, and the college′s nurturing academic and artistic environment has turned me into a more competent and driven writer and filmmaker. I know what I want to do for the rest of my life, and I didn′t know that when I first came to Rhodes.

Tell us a little bit about your Rhodes Institute for Regional  Studies project.

My Institute project is an extension of the interests that I′ve developed during the time since I made my first documentary. I′m interested in documenting transgender culture in Memphis and the Mid-South by cataloging several individuals (potentially from different socioeconomic backgrounds) in their daily lives, the adversity they encounter, and their relationships with the larger Memphis LGBTQ community.

What are some of your future career goals? How will your Regional Institute project help you to achieve them?

I want to be a film director, and I′ll be applying to MFA programs in film directing and video production in the fall. I hope my documentary will help me further hone my filmmaking abilities, while also adding a quality piece to my portfolio. I′d like to become more of an advocate for my friends in the LGBTQ community, so this is also an attempt to maintain some sort of activism in the best way I know how: by making movies.

Compiled by Lauren Albright ‘16