Seniors plan to pursue artistic majors

October 8, 2015 — by Angela Lee and Katherine Zhou

Senior Katherine Liu, then 11 years old, passed by a row of fluttering flags and ambled into a lofty glass building. Liu vividly remembers her surreal experience at the United Nations headquarters. 

Senior Katherine Liu, then 11 years old, passed by a row of fluttering flags and ambled into a lofty glass building. Liu vividly remembers her surreal experience at the United Nations headquarters. She had won second place in the U.N.’s Environment Program International Children’s Painting Competition (UNEP) as well as a free trip to its headquarters in New York.

Liu has been passionate about art for as long as she can remember, but she only began to seriously invest time in art after winning the UNEP competition. She has been practicing art since elementary school and has participated in the school program throughout high school.

“[Since the UNEP competition], I realized that art can have a message,” Liu said.

Additionally, she serves as president for ArtiCSN, a volunteer group that helps special needs children learn to draw. She is considering applying as an art major.

“[Art is the] one thing I think I’m pretty good at, so I have a lot to show for it,” Liu said. “To be able to impact many people [with art] — that’s my goal.”

Like Liu, senior Aditya Vempaty is contemplating an arts major, but in his case, he is considering film. He said he became interested in film after watching the works of directors like George Lucas, Robert Zemeckis and Joss Whedon at a young age.  

Vempaty’s interest in film developed further when he joined the Media Arts Program (MAP) during his sophomore year.

“Before joining MAP, I'd always been a strong writer and creative thinker,” Vempaty said. “My peers and teachers recognized that I had a talent for film, which I discovered through MAP projects.”

After the completion of his first film project, Vempaty said he felt proud of his product because he had put a lot of effort and creativity into it.

“My first film project was about a musician who lives in a dystopian world where entertainment and intellectual stimulation are banned,” Vempaty said, “and has to elicit this society to appreciate the arts and stand up to an oppressive leader.”

He said that the moment his teachers and peers recognized his talent, his life changed.

“I'd never really thought I was good at anything or a talented individual in any way,” Vempaty said. “I instantly recognized film was something that was of genuine interest to me and made me feel compelled to keep doing it.”

Vempaty’s experience with film include producing Saratoga High TEDx’s final video and serving on MAP’s leadership team. Vempaty also interned at Lucasfilm and Warner Brothers Interactive this past summer in San Francisco, which gave him a glimpse into the stresses and rewards of a film career.

At Warner Brothers, he worked in a team that explored experimental media, specifically design of mobile games. The group’s mission was to come up with a strong narrative for the game they were designing. The project required him to experiment with new technical skills and software like Final Draft, Maya and Photoshop.

Thanks to his experiences at the internship and in the MAP program, Vempaty has rooted his passion for filmmaking. He will be applying to the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, hoping to pursue a major in film production or screenwriting.

His parents have also been understanding and supportive of his creative endeavors.

“I’m Indian, so [people expect me] to pursue a STEM major,” Vempaty said. “I've received a lot of backlash from relatives who warn me of the dangers of ‘deviating from the path,’ to what they perceive is success.”

But Vempaty said as he showed more interest and commitment in film, his parents started to support him more.

“They realized that I was serious about it, [and] I could potentially have a career out of this,” Vempaty said. “I know they stand behind me now 100 percent and are content with me doing what I love.”

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