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The Film World is Watching Michael Shawver ’06

Michael Shawver ’06 has been writing, directing, and editing films since his early teens. He’s always done it for love of the work, not for money or acclaim. But his recent project, Fruitvale Station, has the loftiest corners of the film world abuzz. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. At Sundance, it won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film. It also won the award for Best First Film in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. The film was released in theaters on July 12, 2013.

Fruitvale Station was written and directed by Ryan Coogler, whom Shawver met while attending the University of Southern California for his M.F.A. in film and television production. The film is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young man who was killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland, California. The film stars Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant. Forest Whitaker was one of the film’s producers.

Shawver, who studied communications and film media at URI, edited the film with coeditor Claudia Castello. Director Ryan Coogler said in an interview with Filmmaker magazine that he will “never take a project and not try to have them as editors.” The film was edited in a small apartment in Oakland, where Shawver slept in a closet and worked 12–14 hour days. Coogler says the two editors work very differently, with Shawver being more “cerebral” and Castello more intuitive, but both coming from a “place of passion” for the work. Variety magazine recently named Shawver one of 25 young filmmakers to watch.

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