Hoyawood is a new student organization focused on bringing Hollywood closer to the Hilltop. Through a combination of film and media, the group shows popular documentaries and hosts panel discussions by influential speakers in the entertainment industry. The Guide talked with Hoyawood’s founders, President Reilly Dowd (SFS ’12) and Vice President Elle Leonsis (COL ’14), to learn more about the club.
Briefly, could you describe what Hoyawood is?
Dowd: This is Hoyawood’s first semester, but it’s something I have wanted to do for a long time. Basically, the idea is to bridge Hollywood and Washington and bring the most compelling films to the Hilltop for screenings
Leonsis: I also think it is anything “entertainment”: music, sports — just an entertainment-based club.
Dowd: We just recently did a Hoyawood retreat to attend the CNN Republican presidential debate in D.C. Part of it is that we really want students to get involved with events along the campaign trail. It’s not singularly devoted to documentary film, but entertainment, film and television are really powerful vehicles for messages and [especially] political messages.
What are your roles?
Leonsis: I act as a liaison with SnagFilms. It’s an online independent film database. My dad founded it, so I work there, and so does Reilly, which is actually how we know each other. Through working there, we’ve both learned about film distribution, film festivals and how to get the word out through the Internet and documentaries. We have a good relationship with Snag, and they let us use any movie. They’ve even offered to send out filmmakers and directors … to attend our events [involving their films].
Dowd: These past few months have really been about getting Hoyawood up and running. We’ve had two general body meetings; we did a retreat to SnagFilms, where we met with the CEO; and we did a roundtable discussion about the distribution of documentary films and how to get involved in the entertainment industry. … But mostly, we have been going through the process of new clip development, which has been really exciting.
Why did you create Hoyawood?
Dowd: Well, I had wanted to start it last year, but I ended up taking a semester off to intern at the White House. My interest in politics all started in San Francisco, and then grew when I came to D.C. to intern for Nancy Pelosi when she was speaker of the House. That was what drew me into the world of media, just watching different press events and seeing the whole healthcare debate be covered in the summer of 2008. After that, I really wanted to study media and its relation to politics. I remember when I first got to Georgetown, an alum told me, “Oh, you’re studying at the SFS. Los Angeles is not in our vocabulary, and we don’t know how to spell Hollywood.” Basically, she told me that diplomacy was not entertainment, and I was doing the wrong thing. I ended up going to USC Film School for a summer and fell in love with it. From that experience, I really wanted to bridge the two together, and I came back to D.C. and started working at Snag. Still, I wanted to bring my experiences beyond campus life back to the campus to start something that hasn’t really been done at Georgetown before.
What is the importance of connecting Georgetown students with personalities from Hollywood?
Dowd: There’s no real connection with the entertainment world and the student body on this campus, and as a result, a lot of Georgetown students have an interest in the entertainment industry but don’t feel like it’s something that they can explore. Entertainment and film are powerful vehicles for education, but at the same time, it is important for people to have a connection if they are interested in it and want to pursue it outside of their college campuses. We provide those people with a social aspect and the ability to network in ways that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
Leonsis: Snag was founded on a concept called “filmanthropy,” which alludes to the way that films can inflict social change. A lot of why we want to bring SnagFilms on campus is so that students can get involved with political things. Any controversy we can talk about serves as a platform for conversation.
What are some upcoming events that you have planned?
Dowd: We’re going to hopefully plan our first real, big Snag-Hoyawood event in February or March around a political documentary. [On Monday we had] a big event — it [was] a screening of Miss Representation [with the director there].
Leonsis: Other than that, we are currently in the planning process but will keep everyone posted about upcoming dates.