Laura Lee ’17 was the first friend I met at the College – or should I say through the College since, fittingly, we met on the internet after we both got in Early Decision. Since arriving on campus three and a half years ago, Laura has expanded her social media presence, started making films and even taken an academic class on memes. I sat down with Laura to hear more about her diverse interests and her unique background.
Please start by telling me a bit about your family and your background.
I love my family and spending time with them. My mom is from Jamaica. Being a first-generation American on that side of the family has been really interesting. Hearing about her experiences in a different country and how different it is here has been pretty eye-opening. I went to the same high school my dad went to which is also pretty interesting. His prom date was my business teacher. So that wasn’t awkward at all. [Laughs.] I’m the oldest of four so I have a brother who is 20, who is a conservation biology major. I have a sister who is a junior in high school who is a nationally renowned runner. And then I have a little brother who is 8, so we’re 13 years apart but we’re still really close.
Your little brother appears to be sort of a celebrity on campus because of your Snapchats of him. Can you talk about Snapchat?
The “#Spencer” snaps are definitely very requested whenever I’m home. One of Spencer’s first times on campus was when I moved in freshman year and he was about 3 or 4 … I can’t do math … four years ago so he was 4. My family was trying to move me in and Spencer was just running around Frosh Quad by himself. And one of my entrymates, Max Friend [’17], saw him run up to Chapin steps and saved him. That’s how me and Max got to know each other. He was like, “Oh, I found your little brother with this screwdriver on Chapin steps.” I love Snapchat. I probably post to my story way too often. I don’t know. I guess as an aspiring filmmaker, using images and videos to connect with my friends is pretty fun.
How’d you become interested in film?
I came to Williams thinking I wanted to be a [political science] major and eventually go to law school. I took art history and that completely changed – sorry, mom and dad. I took film studio class my sophomore fall and I’ve been in love ever since. My sophomore spring, a visiting professor, Silas Howard, invited some students to Pennsylvania for a show he was directing so I got to be production assistant for a web series Lena Dunham was in, so that was super fun. Since then I’ve had so much fun with the Film Club.
What short films have you made recently?
Last semester we made a film about these two people buying weed for the first time. [Laughs.] So that was fun.
Can you tell me more about Long Island and what the culture there is like and what where you grew up is like? I see a lot of beach pictures when you go home.
I have a love-hate relationship, mostly love relationship, with Long Island. Bagels and pizza, phenomenal. Obviously my family is there so I love it because of them. Right now it’s kind of a weird place because in my town, Trump won by a lot. It’s definitely kind of a conservative area, where I’m from at least. The closer you get to the city the more liberal it gets. I also went to a mostly white high school and that was strange and sometimes difficult as a minority. I still have really great friends from high school and I still really love my community a lot even though I may disagree with them politically.It’s a strange place. Where I live is very suburban, but my town is the last town of suburbia before it becomes vineyards and farms, and it’s pretty rural, which is really pretty. I love home.
What kind of stuff have you been up to at the College besides Film Club?
I’m a captain of the track team. We have Div. III New Englands this weekend. We’re hoping to beat MIT, so go Ephs, #goephs – just kidding.
Do you have to make everything a hashtag?
No, yeah, I should stop hashtagging things. Another allusion to meme culture…
I can ask you more about memes. I don’t even know what to ask.
I’m in a meme class right now. It’s called Image/Object. I can show you my … No, I won’t show you my meme presentation. It’s 30 slides long … I have some Obama-Biden memes, some Bee Movie, also some obscure self-aware memes.
What’s your favorite meme?
I don’t know. I really love Spongebob. Kermit memes are also a classic.
Are you viral?
I haven’t made any viral memes but … Wait, actually, this wasn’t really viral but remember when it was still the happy days of when Trump wasn’t president yet? He like posted that picture where it was, “Happy Cinco De Mayo! The best tacos come from Trump Tower Grill. I love Mexicans.” So then on the 4th of July to make fun of him I posted a picture with the same smiling thumbs-up pose, “Happy Fourth of July, the best burgers are made at Trump Tower Grill. I love Caucasians.” That got a lot of likes and that was fun to make.
Are you doing a thesis?
It’s not technically a thesis, but I’m in the art studio senior seminar, and I will be making films for that. I’m really excited for the senior show in WCMA; there’ll be champagne and my parents are going to come so that’s super special. We just get so many privileges here that artists in the real world don’t get. We have these huge studios and labs and cameras so I’m pretty grateful about that. Definitely it’s a busy semester but it’s exciting to make art that’s yours and that I get to share with the world.
Have you been writing screenplays lately?
I’m working on screenplays for them as part of the project. I’m also writing a feature film now that if I don’t have a job next year that’s what I’ll hopefully be doing, shooting that. I’ll probably come back a lot because I need camera equipment. [Laughs.]
Do you have any more wisdom to impart?
Back to scheduling and how Williams can be very demanding, my philosophy has always been, you’ll remember cutting a hole in the ice in the Green River to jump in in Winter Study or going to your friend’s dance show more than an extra hour of reading. Just do what makes you happy and what you think is fun. That wasn’t as eloquent … damnit I planned that so much better in my head.
Want to try that again?
Your happiness and you having fun is way more valuable than reading Adorno. I guess, no – homework is important too. This hasn’t gotten better. Um, just stay scheming.
Anything else you’d like to add then?
Enjoy the natural landscape of our beautiful campus, but one time … This is a funny story from the summer before junior year that I wrote a story about. We were filming a movie that me, Kevin Kelly [’17] and Scott Daniel [’17] were making called Last Call and it was about college students before the apocalypse. We were filming a scene on Stone Hill at night and we had a fire going. All of a sudden, all these cows came out of nowhere and gathered around the fire, like 16 cows. They knocked over our cameras and they were so scary and they wouldn’t leave. So we had to go, because they just wanted the warmth of the fire. It was so scary – we like ran to the Clark crying. They were freaky. But yeah. Just do weird things, guys. That’s all I have to say. Keep Williams weird for me after I leave, I’d appreciate it.