Ready for His Close-Up
Matt Fernandes ’15 has ‘found his way from San Jose’ to the Salt City, in hopes of launching a film career
“I had a comfort zone in California that I felt I needed to break with,” says Fernandes, a dual major in English in the College of Arts and Sciences and in television, radio, & film (TRF) in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “I wanted a well-rounded education, where I could explore my interests and grow as a person. Syracuse seemed to offer that more than any other university.”
While Fernandes knows the way to San Jose, he’s certainly found his footing at Syracuse as a member of The Renée Crown University Honors Program; Fernandes was the marketing director of OrangeSeeds for two years, a first-year leadership empowerment program; and as an acting coach for the First-Year Players, a musical theater organization for non-drama majors. He also has volunteered through these organizations at The Salvation Army, American Red Cross, and the Rescue Mission.
Fernandes got bit by the acting bug fairly early. During high school, he spent many an afternoon writing and directing short plays, as well as shooting promos for upcoming productions. It was through his role as the fundraising chair of his school’s drama department, of all things, that he became interested in film.
Since then, Fernandes has thrown himself into writing and directing. He’s particularly proud of his Honors Capstone Project, which is a documentary about former slaves who became authors, abolitionists, and social reformers. Fernandes calls the piece, titled American Voices, a docudrama.
“There’s considerable emphasis on Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and Charles Ball,” he says.
As part of his capstone project, Fernandes interviewed scholars all over the country, including those from Harvard University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Many of these meetings involved professors of African American studies and American literature. The whole experience of filming and traveling was funded by the Honors Program and Newhouse’s TRF Program.
Perhaps it’s been the experience of interviewing non-Syracuse faculty members that has made Fernandes appreciate his own professors all the more.
One of them is associate director of undergraduate studies and professor in the English department, Jolynn Parker.
“That Matt manages so many commitments and so many intellectual interests – and works toward them all so productively with such thoroughness – is a testament to his intelligence, enthusiasm, energy, and versatility. He is truly an extraordinary student,” she says.
Fernandes is also proud of the work he has done in the English language program as a “conversation partner,” tutoring international students in conversational English. As a result, he’s also been bitten by the teaching bug.
“Being a ‘conversation partner’ has taught me how to be a better listener and to be more culturally aware,” says Fernandes, who hopes to earn to a Fulbright grant award, so he may spend a year teaching English in Malaysia. “It will help me when I come back [to the United States] and enter the entertainment industry.”
Whether he ends up teaching or making films or both, Fernandes says his future looks “picture-perfect.” Until then, everything is going according to script.