One Year OutAlbin Pepe ’16Editor at Flatbush Pictures
Albin Pepe ’16 first started dabbling in filmmaking when he was in middle school, but it wasn’t until his junior year at Vassar that he switched majors and began thinking of pursuing a career in the field. “Once I started taking film classes and had homework assignments watching Fellini’s movies and Iranian cinema, I decided this was something I wanted to do,” Pepe says.
That decision is paying immediate dividends. Less than five months after he graduated, Pepe began working at Flatbush Pictures, a film production company in Brooklyn, with Emmy award-winning director and producer Judd Ehrlich, Vassar class of ’93. He is currently editing a documentary called Hassan v. the City of New York, a film about a Supreme Court case that challenges the New York City Police Department’s surveillance of Muslim Americans in New Jersey.
“I’m co-editor of the project, and we’re working with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is litigating the case,” Pepe says. “The plaintiffs are Muslim teachers, veterans, religious and community leaders who have joined to fight the NYPD surveillance of their community. It’s the kind of thing that’s happening all over the country, and I’m grateful to be working on a project that’s so topical.”
Pepe grew up on Long Island and planned to major in economics or political science at Vassar and then go to law school. He found he was interested in political science, but not in economics. “After two years I decided to go in a different direction, and after taking a couple of film classes and meeting the people in the department, I decided to double major in political science and film,” he says. “I made some short films, including a documentary that was shown at some film festivals.”
As he began to think seriously about pursuing filmmaking as a career, Pepe learned that Vassar was a valuable resource for his job search. “The film community at Vassar is a tight-knit community, and not just the students and faculty but the alumnae/i too,” he says. “There’s a page on the department website where Vassar alums post jobs, and there’s a pretty big Vassar community in New York and Los Angeles, and I was able to tap into that.”
Pepe says the transition from Vassar to Flatbush Pictures was smooth, in part because he had been well prepared academically and in part because there were other Vassar grads there. “We found we had shared some of the same experiences, and we had the same sense of humor,” he says. “I definitely use many things I learned at Vassar at work every day.”
Pepe was promoted to the top editing job at Flatbush Pictures in April. “I do the editing on all the pieces we do, and do some shooting as well,” he says.
While the current political climate may be distressing in some ways, Pepe says, it has benefited the documentary film industry. “This is a good time to work in documentaries because the political atmosphere is so charged that there are a lot of people willing to tell their stories and there’s a large audience for our work,” he says.
While he’s enjoying his editing job as he learns the nuts and bolts of the business from Ehrlich and other seasoned professionals, Pepe says he plans to explore other aspects of the business in a few years. “Editing got me in the door, but down the road I’d like to be a writer and director,” he says.
Pepe says he hopes his experience might inspire others at Vassar to pursue a career in film. “With technology what it is today, it’s easier to learn the ropes than it was a few years ago,” he says. “My advice to anyone who wants to do this is, ‘Go out and shoot as much film as you can, and don’t be afraid to ask for help – especially from Vassar people.’”