Summer Centered: Saket Sekhsaria '20 Brings Hollywood to Haverford
Sponsored by the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities, the film and media studies and economics double major is conducting an independent investigation into the role of theaters in the movie industry.
Scene 1: Interior, VCAM.
Lights up on Saket Sekhsaria ’20, a film and media studies and economics double major, hard at work on his independent research project sponsored by the John B. Hurford ’60 Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities (HCAH).
Sekhsaria, a co-head of Haverford’s film club, is creating his own film this summer that chronicles the role of theaters in the movie industry.
"The project attempts to take a short historical, cultural, and economic look at what's kept people going to the movies, and whether those reasons still hold true today,” he said of his research. “I think what interests me the most is the future of movie theaters. As a kid, theaters were my favourite place. I always dreamed of showing my film in a theater.”
While theaters may have represented a childhood dream for Sekhsaria, he also recognizes the inaccessibility of the “big screen,” and is using his research to explore the possible role of movie theaters in the age of digital and online content.
"I want to know whether my love of theaters is rooted in nostalgia or whether there's some tangibility to their current existence — in terms of being a superior experience overall [when compared to television and online programming],” said Sekhsaria. “I want to know whether theaters are going to survive, and if not, are they worth saving or investing in?”
Sekhsaria is grateful for the support he has received from the HCAH and the Visual Studies Department throughout his project and is inspired to pursue a different side of the film industry in the future.
"They're lovely and make me feel supported,” he said. “ I still plan on working in the film industry, but the internship has made me consider working in distribution instead of just making films.”
An independent research endeavor like this can be intimidating for some, but Sekhsaria emphasizes the importance of sticking to a self-imposed schedule in order to stay on top of his work.
"I usually work 9-5 and try spending the nights and weekends developing my other projects, which includes trying to start my own production company,” he said. “During the day, I read about different moments in exhibition history, like the advent of sound or the [United States vs.] Paramount supreme court case of 1948. I also look at specific spaces—for example, drive-ins— and see their history. The research often feeds directly into the interviews, like when I met the owner of a drive-in theater in Allentown.”
"I live and die by to-do lists now,” joked Sekhsaria.
Ultimately, Sekhsaria hopes to showcase the film he makes for this project to an audience in some form, though it remains to be seen if it will be in a theater—though, he mused, “I guess that’s the whole question.”
Fade out on a summer well spent.