2023-2024 Ebert Fellows announced

Roger Ebert Fellows
The 2023-24 Roger Ebert Fellows, pictured with mentor Michael Phillips, are Stephanie Wayda, Caroline Tadla, and Hanna Brazas-Mata.

Three College of Media undergraduate students were chosen for this year’s Roger Ebert Fellows program, named after the late Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic and University of Illinois journalism alumnus Roger Ebert. The fellows will work closely with Michael Phillips, film critic at the Chicago Tribune, to hone their writing and interview skills, sharpen their critical eye, and host a screening in 2024 with the Roger Ebert Center for Film Studies.

This year’s Ebert Fellows are Hanna Brazas-Mata, Caroline Tadla, and Stephanie Wayda.

“With my help, they can learn to be their own best editors, no matter what kind of writing they end up doing in the future. And I hope I can introduce them to at least one or two terrific films they might not otherwise have discovered,” Phillips said.

The Ebert Fellows will participate in various activities throughout the year, such as developing their podcasting skills by working with the producers of the Filmspotting podcast in the studios of Chicago Public Radio. They’ll also cover Ebertfest for Illinois Public Media. And for the third year in a row, the Ebert Fellows will attend and cover the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri, writing for RogerEbert.com.

Phillips is excited to work with the students’ strengths, making them “better, sharper, more persuasive versions of the writers and thinkers they are already,” he said.

He’ll be paying attention to each fellow’s particular interests, who might be especially valuable for them to meet, and what to experience first-hand. 

Meet the 2023-2024 Ebert Fellows

Hanna Brazas-MataHanna Brazas-Mata is a junior in media and cinema studies who is looking forward to exploring different career paths through this fellowship.

“I love working with people, production, and writing, and I know all of those aspects of work will be explored in this fellowship,” she said. “Honestly, I see myself having many jobs in many different areas of the industry and this fellowship will give me a taste of that diversity in experience, and work that makes me so excited about my future.”

Brazas-Mata said being an Ebert Fellow is her biggest academic accomplishment and it’s a privilege to work with Phillips and the other fellows.

Her favorite film is Heathers, which reminds her of watching it on her mom’s VHS player.

“Heathers truly never gets old to me; it's clever, funny, and is a dark twist on classic teen comedies. It also has some great one-liners and costumes,” Brazas-Mata said.

Caroline TadlaCaroline Tadla is a junior in media and cinema studies. Her dream is to become a screenwriter since she’s always had a passion for writing.

“It’s so encouraging to see the things you’re passionate about manifest into something serious. I’m very excited to gain exposure in the world of film and critical writing,” Tadla said.

After meeting the other fellows and Phillips, she said she’s happy to work with people with similar goals and interests. 

She’s also looking forward to attending the True/False Documentary Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri. 

Tadla’s favorite film is The Social Network because, as an aspiring screenwriter, “I love how fast-paced and clever the dialogue is as well as the unique narrative structure.”

Stephanie WaydaStephanie Wayda is a senior in journalism and said she’s interested in the film and entertainment space and this fellowship will help her see what she wants to specifically do.

“It will open the door to meeting new people and sharpen my skills,” Wayda said. “So I think it'll be a really great, well-rounded experience.”

Wayda is interested in film production and development and is a part of Illini Film and Video Club. 

“I am really honored to be a part of the program and uphold all of the history and meaning with Roger Ebert,” she said.

Wayda’s favorite films are those centered around women like Don’t Worry Darling and Promising Young Woman.

—Vivian La, Communications Intern