Samantha N. Sheppard, associate professor of performing and media arts, has been named a 2021 Academy Film Scholar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The annual grant is given to established scholars whose projects are focused on some aspect of filmmaking and the film industry. She will receive $25,000 to complete her book project, “A Black W/hole: Phantom Cinemas and the Reimagining of Black Women’s Media Histories.
“I am thrilled to receive recognition and support from the Academy for this book project, especially as the growing visibility of Black women in front of and behind the camera provides an occasion, if not the imperative, to examine Black women’s cultural production and impact on the past, present, and future media landscape,” said Sheppard.
Marcus Hu and Sara Rose, Academy Grants Committee co-chairs, called Sheppard and the second winner, J.E. Smyth, “brilliant” and said their “insightful examinations of their respective topics will be meaningful contributions to the study of film history, filmmaking and the industry as a whole.”
Sheppard’s book project will address the voids in cinema and media scholarship relating to Black women’s creative practices, histories, traditions, and discourses. Her book will provide histories and reimaginings of Black women’s impact on American cinema through a series of case studies.
Sheppard holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Cinema and Media Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles and a B.A. in Film and Television Studies and Women and Gender Studies from Dartmouth College. She is the author of “Sporting Blackness: Race, Embodiment, and Critical Muscle Memory on Screen” and coeditor of the anthologies “From Madea to Media Mogul: Theorizing Tyler Perry” with TreaAndrea Russworm and Karen Bowdre, and “Sporting Realities: Critical Readings on the Sports Documentary” with Travis Vogan. She has published essays on Black film and media in Film Quarterly, The Atlantic, Flash Art International, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Sheppard and Smyth join 16 Academy Film Scholars who are currently working on projects and 21 other scholars whose works have already been published.
Established in 1999, the Academy Film Scholars program is designed to support significant new works of film scholarship. The Academy’s cultural and educational wing – the Academy Foundation – annually awards grants to film scholars, cultural organizations and film festivals throughout the U.S. and abroad.