Erinn Clancy, Documentary Filmmaker and Alum, Offers Unique Language

Erinn Clancy at work (photo by Justin Nunnink)

A specialist, style-wise? On the contrary, Erinn Clancy (Media Arts 2010) is continually looking to expand his vocabulary as a filmmaker. He and his longtime friend and creative collaborator Justin Nunnink, recently cofounders of Shot & Cut Productions in New York, are working on projects that range from day-in-the-life documentaries to cutting-edge experiments.

Every aspect of filmmaking presents an interesting new challenge for Clancy: "You create your film three times: when you storyboard and conceptualize it, when you shoot it, and when you edit it. Each experience adds a unique problem, and you have to find a creative way to solve it."

Clancy reports that he almost didn't attend CCA. "I was shopping around for colleges; and had planned on going to Boston’s Museum School. Ultimately it was the beauty of the Oakland campus that lured me to CCA, and the Presidential Achievement Award and Scholarship that sold me."

During his time here he took full advantage of the interdisciplinary approach the college promotes, building glassblowing and screenprinting courses into his schedule. "I went in as a Media Arts / Film major, but constantly had opportunities to expand my creative palette. I found ways for other disciplines to inform my work in film."

Influential Faculty

He studied under a host of talented professors: Jeffrey Friedman for editing ("He instilled such a positive work ethic"), Brook Hinton ("I learned the technical side of equipment and software like Final Cut Pro"), and two-time Academy Award-winner Rob Epstein.

It was in Epstein's Advanced Production class that Clancy first started focusing his efforts on documentary short-subject work. "Rob's class was an incredible experience. Of course we learned how to approach a specific subject and bring a consciousness to it. But he also taught us the power of community, and how important it is to support your film community."

After graduation Clancy continued working with Epstein and Friedman as an intern with their production company Telling Pictures, and then was hired to edit a short documentary about Allen Ginsberg, which appeared on their DVD release of HOWL (2010).

Telling Pictures has also created the award-winning documentaries The Times of Harvey Milk (1984), The Celluloid Closet (1995), and Paragraph 175 (2000), among others. From there he went on to work as an editor and assistant on a variety of documentary short subjects, among them Finding North, a documentary about hunger in America that premiered at Sundance this year.

Music Video Work in New York

In October 2010 Clancy moved to New York to cofound Shot & Cut Productions with Nunnink. "It's great to team up with Justin again. He just finished his photography degree at Hallmark Institute of Photography, and our photo and video skills really complement each other." The company has produced a number of music videos, each with a very different style. Some are straightforward performances; others appear to have been recovered from the VHS era or called up from the distant future.

Clancy deliberately tries to match a song with its appropriate aesthetic. "Music videos are a great place to experiment with new techniques. Generally the artist gives us total creative latitude. I'll listen to a song over and over again until it becomes part of my life, then devise imagery specifically for that song, based on whatever it evokes."

Check out their video work


New York's constant hum of creativity contributes to Shot & Cut's prolific output and its cofounders' enthusiasm: "There are so many young creative people to collaborate with here! We're constantly having people contacting us for new projects because they've seen our videos, or through some other creative connection."

Recent collaborations have included working with the artist Jason Akira Somma for a performance-based event called Watermill Quintet (watch videos here and here) curated by Robert Wilson for the Guggenheim Museum; a video piece documenting the artistic process of the German graffiti artist AMEK; and video projects with the musician and stop-motion animator Molly Allis.

"Shorts are my preference right now," says Clancy, "since they make it easier to get my head around multiple projects at once."

Study Abroad Leads to New Horizons

While at CCA Clancy traveled to Ireland, the country of his family's origin, for a semester through the Study Abroad Program. He has since returned several times, seeking new opportunities and inspiration. "These trips got me in touch with my Irish identity. Since then I've acquired Irish citizenship. I'd like to make documentaries and films in Gaelic. I want to develop an eclectic vocabulary and learn as many languages as possible, to expand my creative voice."

Clancy's continuing efforts to expand upon the vocabularies he’s already learned -- from the languages of filmmaking to those of music, culture, and geography -- ensure that whatever subject he chooses to document next, he'll know the best words in which to tell the story.


Alumnus Erinn Clancy: A Video Artist to Howl About