Directors Guild of America recognizes TU student filmmakers

By Rebecca Kirkman on January 6, 2020

Justin Fairweather ’18 wins student filmmaker award for short film “Dog Person”

Justin Fairweather behind the scenes on "Dog Person"
Justin Fairweather ’18, center, during production of the award-winning short film “Dog Person.”

During the 25th annual Directors Guild of America (DGA) Student Film Awards, Justin Fairweather ’18 was presented with the Best African American Student Filmmaker Jury Award for “Dog Person.”

TU alumna Bethany Michalski ’16, currently a graduate student at the American Film Institute, served as cinematographer on the film “Día De Las Carpas,” whose director João Dall’Stella was recognized as Best Latino Student Filmmaker.

Bethany Michalski and Joao Dall'Stella
Bethany Michalski ’16 with João Dall’Stella

Fairweather created “Dog Person” with director of photography Devin MacLaughlin and producer James Crawford as part of a Towson Univesrity course where seniors studying electronic media and film make large-scale, original short films.

“[The class] surrounds you with other passionate creatives who want to help you tell stories through film, and it surrounds you with readily-available tools that you can really use to your advantage in order to get the highest quality end result you can,” says Fairweather, who plans to move to Los Angeles and build a career as a director.

Fairweather says he challenged himself to create a product that could stand on its own outside of the classroom. “I feel having this mindset will increase the quality of your film, as well as allow it to be a professional springboard after graduation.”

“Justin’s film was special because of his highly original concept and the fact that he poured his heart and soul into making the best possible film,” says Assistant Professor Joseph Kraemer. “This award is a testament to his leadership, creativity and perseverance.”

Justin Fairweather with DGA award
DGA member Joyce Thomas and Justin Fairweather ’18 (Marcie Revens/DGA)

A prestigious award given to student filmmakers by the guild representing Hollywood film directors, past winners include Ryan Coogler (Black Panther, Creed, Fruitvale Station) and Jon Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, Now You See Me 2, Step Up 2: The Streets).

Fairweather was recognized alongside students from top film schools across the country, including the University of Southern California, the American Film Institute, Columbia University and New York University.

“Getting recognized by the Directors Guild of America has to be one of my proudest moments of 2019,” Fairweather says. “Not only is it such a revered, cornerstone organization of the industry, but it also means that Towson’s EMF department got to be honored and acknowledged as well, along with every single person that helped out on our production.”

Part psychological thriller and part dark comedy, “Dog Person” tells the story of a pet sitter that goes to a house expecting to watch a dog, but is instead greeted by a haunting man who believes himself to be a canine.

“With ‘Dog Person,’ I wanted to mix genres and tones in fun ways,” Fairweather explains. “I looked to artists like Jordan Peele and David Lynch, who make films that are a lot of things at once—thrillers, dark comedies, horror—and really wanted to create my own visceral, provocative experience that was still grounded in an emotional reality.”