If there is one thing that Katie Elia-Shannon ’04 has learned since joining Stonehill College’s faculty, it is the importance of getting her Digital Media Production (DMP) students out into the field. 

“When you’re teaching someone how to make films, there’s only so much you can do in the classroom,” she said. “A lot of this stuff is learned by being on set. I try to offer students real world experiences. I’ve had many of them come with me on shoots I do through the production company I run. I think they’ve really benefitted from it.” 

As Elia-Shannon continues crafting experiential learning opportunities for Stonehill’s content creators, here are 10 things to know about her. 

Outside of teaching, Elia-Shannon is an accomplished filmmaker.

1. She built the DMP program from the ground up. Elia-Shannon was hired as an adjunct instructor in 2014, around the same time the College introduced its DMP minor. “Professor Ron Leone, whose Film Theory course I took as a student, approached me,” she said. “I helped him figure out which classes Stonehill should offer. I also connected him with some of my former teachers at Emerson College, where I received a master’s degree.” 

2. She sparks passion in others. In addition to teaching students skills related to studio and single-camera production, editing, and writing for different audiences, Elia-Shannon also helps them find their niche. “There are so many paths they can take with this minor, whether they become a screenwriter, director, editor or something else entirely. The opportunities are endless.  It’s my job to help students discover the passions that drive them to succeed in this industry.” 

3. She prepares Skyhawks to leave the nest. Though the DMP program is relatively new compared to others at Stonehill, Elia-Shannon is proud of the growth it has achieved since its creation. “It’s been awesome witnessing the opportunities that our minors have pursued,” she said. “A lot of students have gone on to graduate school to pursue advanced film degrees, while others have moved out to Los Angeles and gone directly into the field.” Elia-Shannon cites Conor Soucy ’19, who recently returned to campus to film scenes for a self-produced short film, as someone who found success after moving through the DMP program.  

4. She likes taking trips to the Upside Down. Netflix’s Stranger Things is a series that Elia-Shannon regularly relies upon as a teaching tool when developing her syllabi. “Students tend to love that show, so I have them read the pilot script when I teach screenwriting in my Writing for Digital Media course,” she said. “We analyze it together and talk about structure, characters and other topics.” Elia-Shannon also has her students watch a MasterClass series in which the Duffer Brothers, the show’s creators, teach audiences how to develop an original TV series.  

5. Her college experience was “lax.” Elia-Shannon was willing to return to Stonehill to educate fledgling filmmakers because she made many fond memories on campus as a student-athlete. She was part of the women’s lacrosse team that brought the College its first National Championship title in school history. Katie (Lambert) Conover ’03, currently the head women’s lacrosse coach, was one of her teammates. 

Elia-Shannon is the founder of Thompson Films, a Boston-based video production company.

6. Her art imitates her life. Elia-Shannon’s experiences on the field inspired her to produce 113 Days, a feature-length documentary released in 2013. The film focuses on the lacrosse team’s pursuit of another title during the 2012 season, which lasted the amount of time highlighted by the project’s title. “We followed a really special group of athletes,” Elia-Shannon said. “I’ve stayed in touch with them. We’ll text each other every so often. It’s nice that we’re still connected in some way 10 years later.” 

7. She enjoys exercising her funny bone. Elia-Shannon developed 113 Days through Thompson Films, her video production company. The Thompson team also produced 617, a web series that ran for two seasons. Similar in concept to the sitcom Friends, the Beantown-set comedy features six pals navigating life and love while living near the Red Line. “I’ve always gravitated toward comedy,” Elia-Shannon said. “Issa Rae, who created Insecure on HBO, is a comedian whose work I really admire. She’s brilliant.”  

8. She is active in the local film community. Elia-Shannon serves as director of programming for Boston’s Wicked Queer Film Festival, the fourth longest running LGBTQ+ Film Festival in North America. She decides which shorts, feature films and documentaries are screened during the organization’s events. “We have a really unique community of filmmakers involved with the festival,” she said. “We’re all volunteers, so we do it because we love it and want to give other artists a platform.”  

9. She will give you a run for your money. Though Elia-Shannon spends a lot of time watching TV and movies, she is no couch potato. She recently completed her seventh marathon. She often runs to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society on behalf of several people in her life affected by the condition. “Training can be difficult, so it’s nice to have a reminder that you’re running for a bigger cause,” she said. 

10. She does not let failure get in her way. Whether they are running a marathon, trying to produce their own film, or working on some other project, Elia-Shannon finds herself regularly offering students advice that can be applied to many different situations. “If you’re passionate about something, you can’t let challenges stop you from trying to figure out how to make things work,” she tells them. “Just keep trying to find a way to reach your goals, whatever the path may be.” 

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