August 23, 2022
"Spotlight" Executive Editor Taylor Crawford
By Hugh Hart
When Cinema & Media Studies (CAMS) freshman Micah Slater arrived at USC last September, he moved quickly to create an online journal featuring film and television criticism from CAMS undergraduates. "We created an entire publishing process out of thin air, as well as a style guide, rules for staff membership, Executive Board responsibilities, and our website," Slater recalls.
In October Spotlight, designed by executive editor Taylor Crawford ('22), went live. Topics ranged from slasher films to Boots Riley's "code-switching" satire Sorry To Bother You and Crawford's own essay analyzing '60s-era films Black Girl and Cléo From 5 to 7. New editions of Spotlight in February and May presented reviews of Spider-Man: No Way Home and Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai along with more than a dozen other student-written pieces.
Speaking from her home in Memphis, where she's been screening movies for the Big Apple Film Festival, Crawford explains how she designed Spotlight to showcase work by SCA-based film scholars-in-progress.
How did you get involved with Spotlight?
It was the beginning of my senior year when Micah reached out to faculty advisor Lan Duong about putting together a team. When I heard about his idea, I realized I'd written all these papers and had nothing to show for it, whereas so many majors at SCA are portfolio based. Filmmakers come out of school with short films, screenplay students come away with scripts, and animation students have work they've done. But CAMS students mostly just have assignments we keep in our Google drive that nobody gets to see except our professors. I broke it down to Micah and said let's make something that shows people, "This is what I've done over my four years."
What did you bring to the table as the executive editor?
In our first meeting for Spotlight, most of the people were first-semester freshmen. They had so much eagerness and passion but didn't necessarily understand the mechanics of our department the way I did, having been here for four years. As executive editor, I was able to be a guiding mentor with a strong hand and help Micah think through the journal's internal operations.
Spotlight's home page streams this sequence of beautifully filmed scenes from classic movies. How did you put that together?
I took that clip from a video on YouTube called "The Art of Cinematography." I wanted the opening page to be vivid and visual in a way that invites people to have those a-ha moments from movies that they know. I feel like the video sums up everything the journal should be.
Spotlight looks elegant, well organized and very professional. Did you take classes in web design?
I taught myself web design in my sophomore year when I did a multi-media project about Black femininity in television and cinema. After that, I became obsessed with making my own blog, which is when I became Squarespace-competent. I told Micah, let's do Spotlight with [website builder] Squarespace. It's clean, it looks official, and it's cheap: $25 a month. Thanks to Professor Duong, we got it done.
Did Spotlight lead to other design work?
It did! I created the first website for the SCA graduate film journal Spectator, which launched in June. https://www.spectatorjournal.org They asked me to make it because I'd done Spotlight and I'm close to the professor Eszter Zimanyi, who's a Spectator editor. It was intense because I was doing the site for my professor so it had to be, like, perfect.