William & Mary

Syreeta Mack '08 Would Love to be the Youngest Director to Win an Oscar

Syreeta Mack '08"Images are everywhere," Syreeta Mack explained. "I think a medium based around images is the best way to influence the world, and perceptions and horizons."

When Syreeta came to William and Mary from Springfield, Virginia, she believed she might major in English or International Relations. "But I realized I just loved movies," she said. "I loved going to the movies, discussing them, figuring out how they worked.

"I was frustrated by the lack of diversity in a lot of films," she added. "Not just racial diversity, but gender and social class. I wanted to change that."

Syreeta was enthralled by courses like "Theory of Visual Culture" and "History of World Cinema" and spoke highly of the Film Studies program's flexibility. Being able to take a wide variety of courses in plenty of departments showed her that "it's all interrelated to film and media anyway. Anything you learn in another class can be applied to filmmaking."

In the director's chair, she's already accomplished much. Syreeta was the winner of last year's 24 Speed film contest, sponsored by William & Mary's film club. The contest required that its participants create a finished product within 24 hours. Syreeta's film, "Citizen's Arrest", won both the Judges' Selection and the Audience Award.

A mockumentary chronicling a night in the life of an overzealous would-be disciplinarian, the movie "speaks specifically to the William & Mary campus," she said. "It's all about the honor code, the honor council. It pokes fun at the idea of peers policing peers."

This year, Syreeta is beginning work on a documentary about the campus. "I want to look into labor practices at the College, their racial history. I think the realities of that are often ignored."

She has also participated in Students of the Caribbean, the University Center Activities Board, and IPAX, International Performance Arts Exchange. Syreeta traveled to New Orleans to contribute to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, and in her sophomore year she was invited to join William and Mary's Student Leadership Foundation, an opportunity she particularly enjoyed. "It's basically a series of programs for leaders on campus - very challenging for both individuals and groups."

Ask her about her plans after graduation, and she'll quote Bruce Lee: "'Seek and you shall not find.'

"I'm not worried about it," she said. "A lot of the best things that have happened to me have been unplanned and by surprise. That's true in films, too; a lot of the best moments are unscripted. So I'm going to take a cue from that and not worry too much."

Her ultimate aspiration? "It's a long shot, but I'd love to be the youngest director to win an Oscar, the first black female director. Realistically, I'd be happy with a little office, a place where I can make movies and share them with my friends."

By Dan Piepenbring '08