Take Five with Matthew Seife ’16

Matthew Seife ’16 works in creative development in the film industry. Since 2017 he has been at Pixar Animation Studios, starting as the assistant to the directors for the Academy Award-winning film Coco before transitioning to his current position in development. Seife majored in film studies with a concentration in classics.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

Because I have an older sister, I was always ready for the next step. In middle school, I was already looking toward high school. So when it came time to start at Columbia, I was eager to jump in. At the same time, I think I was extremely naive about the challenges ahead and the personal growth that would come over the next four years.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

I lived on the 15th floor of John Jay. The rooms on that floor were larger and I had this awesome slanted roof that gave the room a loft vibe. Some of my best friends lived on that floor with me. The elevator was constantly breaking down, so I got a lot of exercise climbing those 15 flights of stairs. It actually broke down on move-in day and we were stuck in it for close to an hour with my new classmates, their families and all of our belongings.

What class do you most remember and why?

My senior thesis seminar in film studies (led by Professor Annette Insdorf) was extremely memorable because it taught me how to dive deeply into a close reading of a particular film. For the first half of the class we watched only The Unbearable Lightness of Being for a few minutes at a time, and discussed as a class how every decision by the filmmakers affected the final product. It was also one of the first times where I got to explicitly choose a topic that interested me to focus on. For the latter part of the semester, I wrote on the animated aesthetic and how computer-generated images have changed cinema forever.

My other favorite class was a year-long study of medieval Latin, taught by Professor Carmela Franklin. Usually Latin classes focus on the classical time period, so it was fascinating to explore this other body of work.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

John Jay Dining Hall, because I had a meal plan all four years.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

One of my biggest regrets was not studying abroad, and not exploring more outside the Columbia bubble in general. Being from New York and then going to school in Manhattan, I did not realize how insular my world had become. I had traveled for fun, but I wish that I had made time for the opportunity to fully immerse myself in a different culture and mindset.