CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY DODGE COLLEGE OF FILM AND MEDIA ARTS
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I also know that our future rankings will be largely driven by the accomplishments of our students (student Oscars) and the accomplishments of our alumni. We have received tremendous recognition from the success of our alumni, such as the Duffer Brothers (Stranger Things) and Justin Simien (Dear White People) to name the best known, and that is a trend that will continue. Although I believe the best is yet to come, we choose not to leave that progress to chance.
We have just completed production on the second feature from Chapman Filmed Entertainment (CFE), an independent feature film production company designed with one primary goal – to accelerate the careers of our graduates by allowing them to work in key creative positions on a feature film.
The film, Static, not only gave a very talented group of alumni that opportunity but also came at a unique time in our nation’s history, as the film squarely addresses issues raised by the #MeToo movement. Read more about what our grads learned in making this ambitious project in this issue.
As much as anything, the success of our students as they move out into the industry will depend on the stories they have to tell. Will they be compelling? Told in an original voice? Offer new insights or new perspectives on issues that confront us all as human beings?
Screenwriting, naturally, is the program most focused on helping our students find their own voice. Our students are privileged to learn from some of the most accomplished writers in the industry, whose films have captured not only awards of every kind but also millions of dollars worldwide. Read about what the faculty have to say about the challenges of teaching young screenwriters to write the stories that will build their mastery of craft and get them noticed in a business hungry for good stories. As young people look for compelling stories to put on the screen, they often turn to what they know best – their own lives. This issue’s exploration of the films students and graduates have produced addressing the timely topic of identity will give you a glimpse of the talent at work today that will continue to impact the top tier reputation of Dodge College in the industry.
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nce again, Dodge College of Film and Media Arts was ranked #6 in the nation by The Hollywood Reporter. While I am delighted to continue in the #6 position – and well aware that moving the needle at this level is nearly impossible – I truly believe that Chapman should be ranked higher. I say this not based on pride, but on my direct knowledge of what is happening in film education worldwide.
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Exploring Identity Through film Xpedition Media Finds Identity Through Work It’s Illegal, But Real: Telling Stories of Gay Life in Singapore The Miseducation of Bindu Program Spotlight: Screenwriting Fighting Mental Illness Dodge College Summer Travel 2018 Alumni Hone Their Skills on CFE Production Career Spotlight Internship Spotlight News Briefs Chapman Film Takes Bronze Medal at 2018 Student Academy Awards Watching Films in Korea: Understanding Culture and Context Festivals and Awards Alumni Notes
CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY DODGE COLLEGE OF FILM AND MEDIA ARTS
A character in the interterm television project Half Vanilla plumbs the meaning of being half-Koran, half-white by wearing a traditional Korean dress to school. Photo by Chris Louie.
EXPLORING IDENTITY Through Film A
In Production: Editor, Janell Shearer; Assistant Editor, Meagan O'Shea; Writers: Taylor Braun, Marissa Ellena, Jonathan Hernandez
EXPLORING IDENTITY THROUGH FILM
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By Janell Shearer
n a world where social media invites tribalism and provokes argument, Dodge College students are looking to use media to invite dialogue and prompt change. They want to use the power of film to enable audiences to feel the experiences of those different from themselves, or, to see their own experiences in a different way, perhaps, on the screen.
he simple act of applying to college proved to be “one of the most pivotal moments of my life” for Olivia DeNuit (BFA/TWP ’18), when she discovered that college applications asked her to choose just one option for race/ ethnicity. With a Korean mother and a white father, DeNuit often felt compelled to choose Other “because simply selecting either White or Asian/Pacific Islander didn’t cut it. I know a lot of application questionnaires are changing to fit the diversity of the population, but it was such a small thing that really made me feel unrecognized,” she says.
For DeNuit, this experience ultimately led to the creation of the comedy Half Vanilla, a television show aimed at exploring her mixed-race heritage. In one scene in a grocery store, a woman comes up to the main character and bluntly asks “What are you?” DeNuit was surprised by the number of people who said, “That would never happen in real life,” about an interaction she had experienced many times. “I know this stems from a place of curiosity,” she says, “but the need to know someone’s race and examine them as a rarity is just a bizarre concept that can make a person feel uncomfortable.” Rachel Bass (MFA/FP ’18), for one, is driven to explore how what we see shapes what we think. Bass is inspired by an unusual childhood during which her mother told her children classical fairy tales, with a twist – recoloring images of the characters and reworking stories to create a reality that matched her children’s lives. Thus, Bass grew up with stories of Chestnut Brown, instead of Snow White, and the tale of Mary had a little lamb “whose fleece was brown as wheat, and everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to bleat.
BODY IMAGE. PRIVILEGE.
YOU. ME. THEM.
IDENTITY THROUGH FILM
Justin Simien Credit: Rick Proctor/Netflix
CULTURE. CLASS. IMMIGRATION.
A great many Dodge College students and alumni are looking to push boundaries by exploring issues of identity through film. Alumnus Justin Simien, creator/director of the Netflix series Dear White People – just renewed for a third season – is clearly one who has led the way. When Simien visited Chapman as a guest speaker at Baccalaureate last year, he repeated his oft told story of growing up in a black neighborhood but being bused to a white school – finding he was judged “too black” by the white kids and “too white” by the black kids. That feeling of not fitting in, of trying to discover who you are when the perceptions of others are constantly changing, is often a central experience in college. As Simien told pop culture website The Ringer, the search for identity is particularly profound in college, when young people don’t yet have a career or a family of their own and are often just beginning to try to build a sense of self-esteem.
RACE. GENDER. RELIGION.
Half Vanilla In the context of the national conversation about race and the public outrage over incidents such as “barbecuing while black” and other episodes captured on video and posted online, students and alumni alike are particularly challenged by a desire to explore and explode the origins of racism. Rachel Bass (right) directing on the set of her thesis Thicker Than Water.
“Films can change you,” Bass says, drawing on the idea that films put you in another person’s shoes. For Bass, the specificity of film, which puts an image in the viewer’s mind, does something that books cannot. Raised on books before films, Bass was at first bewildered by the power of film, in particular, by one of the first films her family owned, Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring. “In a book, an author can painstakingly describe an apple tree – or an Ent – and 100 different readers would imagine 100 different trees,” she says. “With film, a storyteller could take that tree out of her mind and place it on the screen with sharpness. Everyone sees the tree she sees.
on skin color that has morphed into a means of division and disenfranchisement separating those perceived as ‘deserving’ of power and privilege from those who are not.”
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For Bass, and for many other young filmmakers like Nour Oubeid (BFA/FP ’18) and Emilianna Amirata (BFA/FP ’18), how others see us, based on race, culture, religion or any other perceived difference from the “norm” creates real challenges for how we see ourselves. If a person is seen as – and treated as – inferior, it can be difficult to challenge the status quo or find new ways to define oneself.
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For Oubeid, a Muslim Syrian-American with immigrant parents, the process of writing and directing her film Amal, promised to be “a very cathartic experience, a means for me to make something virtually tangible that would help me understand my feelings and thoughts about the prejudice toward a group of people I identify with.”
“If one reads a book as a white person, she can imagine the characters all white, even those described as nonwhite,” Bass says. “In a film, however, there is no escape from the image.”
The story of a young girl, the film implies without directly stating that Amal is a Syrian immigrant. It follows her experiences watching her mother be the target of a racist encounter and later meeting and finally making her first white friend. The film explores how Oubeid sees “fitting in” as often requiring a sacrifice, an internal change, when “acceptance” typically comes from others, from an external audience.
In her films, Bass brings fantasy elements into her stories to address whiteness because “race is a white problem,” she says. “This doesn’t mean that whiteness limits itself to white people; white supremacy is part of the American ethos and is embedded in the collective subconscious mind of America. This includes whites and non-whites alike,” she says. “It is a pathological fantasy that preserves an imaginary racial divide; it is also a shifting ideology based originally
“As Americans, we pride ourselves on being a diverse country,” she says, “yet throughout history those who do not fit in what is deemed as white culture find themselves at a catch-22. They either must give up a part or all of themselves to ‘fit in’ and be ‘accepted’ or reject and be rejected. Amal
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Matt Marlin (right) directing on the set of his thesis Ashram.
And this can be said about any facet of identity when you are seen as the minority by default.” Oubeid hopes to use her voice to address these issues by creating “a safe environment through art” to “encourage, inspire, and affirm more and more people.”
Mining one’s own personal experience for content offers both rewards and pitfalls. Revealing oneself through story can put a writer or director in an extremely vulnerable position. Yet the reasons for telling a story typically outweigh those concerns. As Ammitrata puts it, “I try to maintain the focus on what the final intent of the story is. Why are we telling it? Is it relevant enough? Is it important enough? Or is it pure ego? Usually I come to the conclusion that if it’s not meant to create some sort of impact, then there’s no point for me to make the film.”
Emilianna Ammirata tackles the issue of acceptance through stories dealing with body image and cultural stereotypes. Her thesis film, Sugar, explores the experience of a young girl whose mother pushes her to conform to a slim body image that the girl simply does not fit. Ammirata sees multiple elements at play in the storyline: the mother’s concern for her daughter’s health, but also “how the world out there will treat Tanya if she doesn’t fit a certain body type. “These mother-daughter dynamics are extremely common in Latin America, and it is a rarity to find a Latina that has not been directly affected by her mother’s vision of her body,” says Ammirata, who is also interested in exploring the culture of machismo or toxic masculinity. One of her goals as a filmmaker is to explore and reshape “the female persona image that has been stereotyped and sexualized on screen. The maid, the sexy girl-next-door, the exploitation of Latinas with an accent and finding it ‘exotic.’ I want create roles for women that defy what they’ve been taught their whole lives.” Nevertheless, writing about one’s own story can also invite too much navel-gazing. As Professor Chuck Workman puts it, “Most students seem to shy away from anything too personal, although I try to encourage them to explore more. They just don’t know how to step away from themselves. (But who does.)” That process can, of course, lead to new perspectives. “The more I began to write and research,” says DeNuit, “talking to others in the Asian/Hapa (half-Asian, half-white) community, the more passionate and driven I became about sharing the story. I became even more aware of not only the Asian/Hapa narrative but other minority stories as well—just how vital and impactful it can be for people to see themselves portrayed as the champion of the story. Growing up I never saw families that reflected my own and being able to create it myself was the most rewarding thing I could have ever done with my college experience.” 4
Matt Marlin (MFA FP ’17) discovered that sense of a new perspective through the filmmaking process in relation to his spiritual identity – one that was shaped by growing up on an ashram and later shattered by allegations of one guru’s sexual abuse of his female followers and of a power struggle between others for control of the ashram. Though some of these activities took place before Marlin was a member of the Siddha Yoga community, The New Yorker exposé (“O Guru, Guru, Guru,” Nov. 14, 1994) “completely shattered what I was raised to believe. You have to understand,” he says, “we believed that our guru was infallible, a direct channel to the divine.”
Emilianna Ammirata on the set of her thesis Sugar.
Making sense of his spiritual identity by reclaiming his childhood experiences led to the film which Marlin hopes will cause others to think about “the process of spiritual seeking; what we gain and what we give up when we commit our lives to a spiritual path.” Even so, he does not want viewers to think all spiritual teachers are bad, but rather to reflect on our “enormous capacity for ascribing power to others” to see in them what we want to see and to recognize how the guru-disciple relationship “can affect the course of an individual’s life.” Today, Marlin continues to practice yoga and meditation and has a great affection for and affinity with Indian culture, but he no longer has a spiritual teacher or guru, per se. Exploring how identity can affect family relationships was just one aspect of the new film Berenice Procura, a crime story exploring transgender issues by alum Allan Fiterman (MFA/FTVP ’02). Fiterman’s film, now playing in festivals internationally and in theaters in Brazil, explores both the prejudice against and the fascination with transgender people in Brazilian culture.
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Working on his thesis film, Ashram, was sometimes painful, as Marlin “went through some of the anger and disillusionment I realized I still had about my childhood.” Yet that reexamination was also healing, as he came out the other side “more aware of, and even proud of how my personal history shapes who I am today.”
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More transgender people are killed in Brazil than anywhere else, according to Fiterman, it is the country that most watches transgender sex videos, he says. To tell this story, Fiterman’s casting director discovered transgender actress Valentina Sampaio who, at the time the film was shot in 2016, was unknown outside of her small town in northeastern Brazil. Since that time, she has gone on to become the first transgender person on the cover of Vogue. The story, adapted from a work by well-known suspense novelist Gabriel Garcia-Roza, contrasts the homophobia of Berenice’s husband with the confusion of her son who is just discovering his own sexual identify as Berenice investigates the murder of a transgender entertainer. For Fiterman, the film’s goal is to “help people understand the transgender issue and hopefully bring acceptance.”
Thicker Than Water
Identity. Prejudice. Acceptance – by ourselves and others. All are issues that Dodge College students and alumni struggle to explore and capture through film. As Matt Marlin says, “Film is still the most effective medium for exploring challenging, nuanced subjects. It can take us through a visceral, subjective experience, and give us more empathy and understanding for why characters make certain life decisions.”
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EXPLORING IDENTITY THROUGH FILM
XPEDITION MEDIA FINDS
Identity through Work
By Jonathan Hernandez
80 percent of people with Down Syndrome are unemployed because employers fear they could be a risk. “That statistic was staggering to me,” says Derek Helwig (BFA ’05). Helwig, currently an adjunct faculty member at Dodge, is a producer for Xpedition Media, a branded content founded by Chapman alum Hunter Johnson (BFA/FTV ’07). He learned about the challenges facing the Down Syndrome community while working with John’s Crazy Socks, a small business run by a young man with Down Syndrome and his father. Helwig was both impressed and saddened by the experience of telling this story. “When we interviewed Matt, one of John’s employees who has autism, it really became emotional. He told us about how being rejected from various jobs was taking a psychological toll on him,” says Helwig. Through the Crazy Socks story Helwig saw firsthand how the actions of a leader can create meaning and value for another person – in particular, allowing individuals like Matt to create an identity through work. Building on his experiences as a producer for CBS, HBO, the History Channel, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Google, among others, Johnson founded Xpedition Media to help individuals and communities tell stories that might otherwise go untold. For Helwig, who has known Johnson since college, it was a no brainer when Johnson invited him to join the new venture. “It was a chance to be at the start of something new and tell stories in a new fashion,” says Helwig. Among the many projects the company has produced are a trio of stories for Transgender Awareness Week and #ThisIsFamily, a celebration of LGBTQ+ families, both in partnership with Google.
It’s illegal, but real:
Telling stories of gay life in Singapore
Leon Cheo (BFA/CRPR ’10) was excited when he was approached by Action for AIDS in Singapore to create a show about gay life in his country, where homosexuality is illegal, “because I’m gay and it touches on so many aspects of my life,” he says. A graduate of Chapman’s Creative Producing program in Singapore, Cheo partnered fellow Chapman alumna Jen Nee Lim (BFA/CRPR ’10) to create a web series, People Like Us. “Who else but your classmates do you reach out to when you need help,” Cheo says.
“I wrote the script based on my own experiences with coming out, dating, dealing with STI’s, funny dating stories, and dating horror stories,” says Cheo of the series, which has just been renewed for a second season. For Lim, it was the challenge of doing something different, and of “being able to go into Singapore as a gay man,” a world, as a woman, she didn’t know. “Filmmaking is always about going into a world unknown, which is the exciting part for me,” she says. “It is an interesting project that has not been done in Singapore before,” she says. Although homosexuality is technically illegal, the law is not generally enforced. Nevertheless, members of the gay community do not enjoy anti-discrimination protections. Yet the desire for representation exists, which led to the AIDS group approaching Cheo.
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It is an interesting project that has not been done in Singapore before. ❞
Cheo and Lim continue to push for the series and the health and rights of the LGBT community. The series, which focuses on the lives of four male characters and how they intersect through emotion, safe sex, and social acceptance, has won numerous festival awards and is featured on the GayHealth.sg website at http://www.gayhealth.sg/plu/. Production on season two began in July 2018. According to Cheo, season two will have more heartbreak, and focus on the different stages of being out, and the dreaded “family issues.”
“We’ve become the shop that’s known for sharing great stories and I believe that will continue to grow each year,” says Johnson. The company’s work is founded on the philosophy that reaching consumers today depends on telling a story instead of selling a product. “It is important to share stories of success in a way that is both inspiring and humanizing,” says associate producer Yael Egnal (BFA/TWP ’17). And in so doing, these Chapman alumni have also found part of their identities through work.
EXPLORING IDENTITY THROUGH FILM
The Miseducation of Bindu By Jonathan Hernandez
Screenwriting By Janell Shearer
The old joke says that every waiter in Hollywood is actually a screenwriter who is likely to hand you a script along with your burger and fries. While producers and directors in Hollywood may or may not be so accosted, there are plenty of aspiring screenwriters looking for ways to break into
EXPLORING IDENTITY THROUGH FILM
the business. But as even the most successful can attest, it’s a demanding
So you want to become a screenwriter? Tales from the classroom and beyond.
High school is the perfect mix of trying to be popular and trying to be who you really are. Growing up, Chapman University alumni Prarthana Mohan (MFA/DR ’09) and Kay Tuxford (MFA/SW ’08) didn’t see themselves on the screen in the typical high school coming of age story. And they were sick of those stories – stories featuring guys with alltoo familiar problems who end up learning to deal with love and conquering puberty. As they wrote for a fundraising campaign for their soon-to-bereleased feature, The Miseducation of Bindu, “all the girls in film and TV seemed to wake up one day beautiful and perfect. Not us. Where was the agony? The terribly awkward? “There were hardly any characters who spoke like us, looked like us, had experiences that resonated with us, or characters who let us know we weren’t alone. And that’s what united us to create The Miseducation of Bindu.”
That, of course, does not deter young writers who have a passion to tell stories and look for guidance to sharpen their skills – and their chances – for what can be a tremendously satisfying career. A degree in screenwriting offers a clear path for learning from those who have gone before about how to avoid some of the pitfalls in the business and how to sharpen your storytelling skills for the screen.
The Miseducation of Bindu was the winner of filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass’ campaign to find America’s Next Generation of Indie Filmmakers with the result that the Duplass brothers are now executive producers on the film. Mohan and Tuxford wrote the film based on a short they created as students. The feature follows a teenage girl in an American high school as she tries to navigate life like other students. But, she is an Indian-American caught between the conflicting realities of a conservative family from India and the promise of a global future where she can be whomever she wants to be.
Beyond talent, perseverance and the willingness to sit alone in a room for endless hours, what are the key lessons aspiring screenwriters need to learn? We asked Dodge College screenwriting faculty to share some of their insights drawn from their years in the business – and in the classroom – about what young screenwriters need to know and how a screenwriting degree from Dodge College can help them on their way.
Tuxford and Mohan didn’t want to follow the typical tropes of high school films where the girl takes off her glasses and immediately becomes popular and the prom queen. They understand that the vast majority of teens don’t follow that trajectory but they still want to be represented on screen. Dealing with the stressful situations of high school may come with the territory but it doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Mohan and Tuxford wrote Bindu to be a strong, smart teenager who knows that, “if you take away the power of the words people call her, they don’t matter anymore.” And Mohan wanted to make sure the audience would walk away thinking, “this is probably going on for many people at school, not just Bindu.” The audience has an opportunity to see the layers that each character has as well – particularly the one who bullies Bindu. The story sheds light on why a person behaves like a bully; the movie, says producer Ed Timpe (MFA/Cinematography ’08), “makes you pause and think.” While there is no excuse for bullying, “there are always motivators in someone’s life that need to be examined in order to change behavior for the better,” he adds. In addition to Mohan, Tuxford and Timpe, cinematographer Dani Sanchez-Lopez (MFA/Cinematography ’09), alumni Drew Moe (MFA/ Cinematography ’10), Miguel Villasuso Valdez (MFA/Directing ’09), and George Dickson (MFA/Cinematography ’09) also worked on the crew. Follow the film’s progress on Instagram @themiseducationofbindu and twitter @MisEdBindu
and highly competitive endeavor.
In the Actors’ and Writers’ Workshop, Professor Michael Schiffer (Crimson Tide, Lean on Me) leads students through the collaborative process of developing a script from conception to performance. 9
Pushing the envelope
Deciding what stories to tell
To further develop both the research skills needed by screenwriters and their knowledge of market trends and possibilities, the undergraduate screenwriting program is offering two new courses this year. Just last year, the screenwriting degree moved from a BA to a BFA with an increase in credits from 48 to 66 to provide more substance and depth, says Film Division Chair Pavel Jech, and “to acknowledge and prepare students for the dynamic changes currently affecting this field,” including preparing students to work in new formats and genres.
Facing the blank page, students may be challenged to decide what story to tell. Faculty often encourage students to mine their own experience, taking into account that, as students, their experience may be limited. “When students complain they haven’t really lived yet, I ask them if they’ve ever been in love. Fell for someone? Was it reciprocal? How did it make them feel? These are common experiences that everyone can relate to as opposed to writing about three guys trapped in a cave,” says Professor Barry Blaustein.
Students this year have the opportunity to learn more about storytelling on a variety of platforms in SW 417 Writing for Evolving Platforms, which will look at fiction podcasts, novels, graphic novels, short films as proof of concept, Web series, games and narrative
Focusing on emotion can help create authenticity. “Many students do like horror, something that rarely happens to them, and thus have to create a convincing scenario,” says
Professor Jon Vandergriff. “But this may come out of, say, exploring, their greatest fear. Example: My greatest fear is chaos, so The Purge would be a nightmare I could write.” “I encourage students to write from their authentic selves and interests,” says Professor Bettina Gilois. “They don’t have to have flown a plane to write about a pilot, but they should be able to identify with what makes a pilot tick.” Other faculty insist that students work harder to observe in their own lives. Professor Anne Beatts declares “no sci-fi, no robots, no flying dragons, no magical elves, no monsters,” a policy she says some students may hate, “but, in the end, I think their work is the better for it. I try to encourage them to find the interest
and excitement in the mundane and every day. I tell them that a lot of great writing is just two people talking. And I show them examples.” The process of screenwriting also demands finding one’s own voice, knowing that a familiar story can be told from a unique perspective. “Life is repetitive,” says Professor Ron Friedman, “so it is the distinctive voice which makes the familiar news. “How many still life paintings have you seen?” he asks. “It’s always the checkered tablecloth, bottle of wine, guitar or vase of flowers and yet each one can be different and arresting and force you to reexamine the familiar – to see it again but this time for the first time – because the artist has processed it through his or her own eyes.”
WHAT DISTINGUISHES SCREENWRITING AT CHAPMAN WHAT ARE THE STRENGTHS OF A SCREENWRITING EDUCATION AT CHAPMAN? LEAVE IT TO A SCREENWRITING PROFESSOR TO QUOTE A MOVIE TO MAKE HIS POINT. “I like that it is largely focused on the profession and not the academic,” says Professor Bob Shayne. “There’s a line in an old favorite romantic comedy of mine, Teacher’s Pet, in which Clark Gable, a grizzled newspaper editor, says to Doris Day, an earnest journalism professor, that college is where ‘amateurs teach amateurs how to be amateurs.’ I think the many professionals working at Dodge believe that assessment.” As the philosophy of Dodge College is driven by hiring faculty who didn’t learn to make movies out of books, but rather learned by doing, so the screenwriting faculty brings top credits to the classroom – major, commercially successful films, feature films that you would have seen and heard of, as well as many independent projects and TV movies and series too numerous to mention. n Start with David Ward’s Oscar for The Sting, but also note his credits on Sleepless in Seattle and Major League (in all its versions), as well as King Ralph, Cannery Row and more. n Check out Barry Blaustein’s run with Eddie Murphy on The Nutty Professor and Coming to America, his work on the Police Academy series and his wresting documentary Beyond the Mat. n Take a class with Michael Schiffer, who wrote not only Crimson Tide, Lean on Me, Colors, and The Peacemaker, but also scripts for the Call of Duty video game. n Find out what’s funny from Anne Beatts, one of the original writers on Saturday Night Live, with credits on more than 100 episodes. n Or try to spend more than five minutes without laughing with Ron Friedman, whose 80 credits on IMDB range from the animated Transformers: The Movie to classic television shows spanning 40 years. n And it goes without saying, there are many, many more, too many to list here.
WHAT ELSE MATTERS? Blaustein Small classes, the interactions between students and faculty and how our students go out of their way to help one another. Vandergriff Immersion is also key, as students are constantly surrounded by film and TV – production, writing, discussion, viewing, etc. Fazio Definitely the small workshopping classes help screenwriters get more individual attention from the professors and fellow students. Gilois Very hands on, very workshopped based. A lot of experience from the very beginning. Practical application and industry awareness. A positive and supportive environment. Wolansky Faculty who know their stuff, deeply care about our students, and a writing program that is more integrated with production than any other film school.
Academy Award-winning Professor David Ward (The Sting) leads students through a close reading of their work in a screenwriting seminar.
VR as places to ply storytelling skills in a lower-cost medium or to use those platforms to create a more dense and complicated story world than might be possible in a feature film. In the second half of the semester students will begin to develop creative projects for one of these platforms. In the spring, students can take SW 317 Research for Screenwriters in which they find and develop stories based on first-person accounts and historical records as well as from articles, books and journals. They will undertake research projects and interviews in areas such as history or a non-U.S. culture and develop a script based on this research to avoid the pitfalls of writing derivative stories drawing from what’s already on TV or in theaters.
Researching new worlds, finding the specific Research is the key to writing outside of one’s own experience because, “If we just write about what we know, we are doomed to cultural naval gazing,” says Professor Michael Schiffer. And, he adds, “Research is not only essential to sophisticated storytelling, it can be tremendously rewarding for the writer who gets to enter more interesting worlds.” Failure to do good research can lead students into a trap. “If they don’t really know the character and world they are writing about, they draw too heavily on the vast amounts of media that they have consumed, and their work ends up feeling overly generic and familiar,” says Professor Paul Wolansky.
Good research creates not only specificity of time and place, but also emotional specificity. Faculty have devised a variety of exercises to help students push their powers of observation and to think more deeply about the people they already know. Asking the right questions can inform a story and the behavior of its characters. For example, says Professor James Dutcher, “if a student writes a script where a mother is vaguely not present, my line of questioning is along the lines of why is she not present? Dead not present? Institutionalized not present? Run off with a drifter not present? The answers are important even if the reason is never explained in
the story because those answers will influence the behavior of everyone who is in the story.” Professor Wolansky asks students to write credos “about their deepest beliefs about themselves, other people, the world around them. Then I have them write credos for their characters” that detail each character’s unique background, and his or her way of looking at the world and facing and dealing with the challenges in the story. Students need to know their characters so intimately that, as Professor Beatts puts it “if I wake them up in the middle of the night and ask what a character eats for breakfast, they should be able to answer.”
Following cold readings and a rewrite to punch up lines and sequences to reimagine the action and dialogue, the actors give a “script-in-hand” performance to help writers get a feel for what’s working or not.
Writing for the screen, not the page
Giving and taking notes
The process of learning to write a screenplay also means divorcing oneself from other forms of writing. As Professor Schiffer explains, “Most people are taught to think and write analytically, making points that support their arguments, but that’s not how it works in the dramatic arts.
A big part of a screenwriting education is learning how to “show,” rather than “tell” a story. Faculty work with students to avoid getting preachy, using a character as a mouthpiece for the writer’s opinions. At the same time, learning the art of subtext is a key element in creating characters and situations that move the story forward without beating the audience over the head with the obvious.
A huge part of a screenwriting education is giving and taking notes, because, as professor after professor will tell you, writing is rewriting. Students need to learn to “kill their darlings,” or sacrifice their favorite lines or scenes if they don’t forward the story, and to create characters who aren’t just black and white. (“Even Hitler loved his dog,” notes Professor Beatts.) But giving and taking criticism can be a delicate dance.
“Dramatic storytelling is not about what the writer thinks or wants, it’s about what the Professor Paul Gulino explains his understanding characters want and need and what the tale of subtext as “closer to how actors view it. Subtext itself demands, in a world where the writer is the underlying action of a line of dialogue. I.e., disappears,” he continues. “To bring what is the character trying to do with the line of scenes and stories to dialogue? Is the character attacking? Defending? life, we can’t dictate Seducing? Accusing? what our characters are Deflecting? As an exercise A big part of a screenwriting supposed to do or say, I encourage my students we have to take a leap to look at each line education is learning how of faith and become of dialogue and find to “show,” rather than each character, working out if there is a verb “tell” a story. improvisationally inside underlying it. If not, each moment.” try to remove it.” As Professor Schiffer says, the characters have to guide the story. “We might outline the plot, but as soon as the writing begins, our outlines fly out the window as we plunge into the conflicts we’ve set into motion, where the best moments are often unforeseen. This improvisational approach to storytelling strips away years of training and inhibition, taking writers back to the make-believe worlds most children dwell in and, sadly, abandon. My role is to help new artists recover their creative imaginations, to write their stories intuitively without constraints.”
Professor John Mattson agrees. “A character’s behavior and dialogue are both rooted in intent. In that sense, dialogue is a kind of behavior: it’s the act of saying something in order to get something. By focusing on the desires of the characters and what stands in their way, you are (literally) dramatizing conflict, and it’s hard to go wrong.” “Movies are about change,” says Professor Bob Shayne. “We call it ‘action” but it really means ‘change.’ Change happening as we are watching. Putting that change on the screen, be it seen through visuals only or with dialog, is the key to what a scene in a movie should be.”
At Chapman, a big part of how faculty approach critiques is “treating students as fellow collaborators,” says Professor Gulino, and getting student screenwriters to see that the success of a script depends on how successfully it communicates what the writer intends to the audience. Classmates, table reads and group critiques stand in for the audience. “If 14 different writers think your pages aren’t working either technically or emotionally, you might want to rethink those pages,” says Professor Dutcher. “If you’re not communicating effectively, you are not doing your job.” “Often when I want to say that an idea is bad, it can be my limitation – in that moment I just can’t see how the idea can work,” says Professor Wolansky. So, “I turn it around and let the writer know that I am the audience and I don’t get it. That gives the writer the chance to learn that the way they are experiencing the story internally is different than the way their audience is experiencing it. “Once they take responsibility for not only how they experience their own writing, but how their audience experiences it, they start to understand that it’s not that their idea is bad, but they have to do a better job of communicating it if they want to connect with an audience.” For the faculty, that process of discovery is what makes teaching screenwriting most rewarding. “In the classroom, through table readings, when laughter or appreciative stillness happens from getting the comedic and/or dramatic play of the scenes, it is a great reward for the students and for me,” says Professor Jeff Fazio.
Finally, Professor Schiffer gives notes to the actors, so they can take that “improvisational leap of faith to unleash those unpremeditated revelations the writer might have missed the first time around,” he says.
“Like great stories, teaching is made of all the moments, good, awful, and brilliant,” add Professor Schiffer. “At this point in my career, finding the truth of a student’s scene or dialogue is as rewarding as finding the truths in my own work. Same process, same stakes, same rewards. Truth is a rush. When we find it, we all feel it.”
EXPLORING IDENTITY THROUGH FILM
Letting your characters tell their story
Festivals & Awards FESTIVALS PLAYED AND AWARDS By Jonathan Hernandez
Fighting Mental Illness Mental illness and horror films often go hand in hand as in Rosemary’s Baby or The Skeleton Key, but members of the LGBTQ community are not typically included in these films. Sam Wineman (MFA/Directing ’17) turns the genre on its head with The Quiet Room, with a lead character, as well as the cast, identified as queer. But that isn’t the focal point of the story. The story focuses on Michael, a young man diagnosed with a mental illness who quickly manifests into an external monster. Michael must fight the monster in an effort to preserve hope. “Mental health connects all of us,” says Wineman, whose personal story is intertwined with mental health issues. Wineman not only admits but fully acknowledges the importance of stating that he is telling a part of his own story through The Quiet Room. Many people go through a season of mental health struggles and many more “are touched by somebody who has been affected by mental illness,” says Wineman. Wineman has enjoyed hearing conversations after screenings that revolve around mental health. He knows that there is a trope in psychological horror films, particularly around psych wards, that he’d like to change. “In horror films, the psych ward is often mythicized,” says Wineman, who points to films like Girl Interrupted. Wineman wanted to shed light on his own experiences with psych wards, which were quite different than what is portrayed in film. “Wards are holding facilities, they don’t necessarily treat you the way we’d like them to,” says Wineman. Wineman makes it a point to not associate mental illness issues with the lead being queer. “What drives me to horror is watching the fight, watching the marginalized character fighting an impossible force,” says Wineman. In this way, the lead does not follow the typical trope of coming out of the closet or accepting his identity as queer but in a much more meaningful expression, he just is, and so the only struggle we’re left with is depression. The Quiet Room premiered in February and has been making its way through the festival circuit. Wineman has plans to develop the short into a feature length film as well.
Crypticon Seattle Out Here Now
Skyline Indie Film Fest
Festival of Nations
Sioux City International Film Festival North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival UNO Film Festival Film Out San Diego: Best Overall Short Film, Outstanding Emerging Talent – Jamal Douglas FilmQuest: Best Supporting Actor – Kit Williamson Horrible Imaginings: Best Screenplay, Best “Monster Show” Short, Best Actor – Jamal Douglas Midsummer Scream: Audience Award Nevermore Film Festival: Best Long Form Narrative Short Dodge College Leo Freedman Foundation: First Cut
UPCOMING FESTIVALS NOLA Horror Film Fest: Nominated for Best Student Short, Best Actor and Best Makeup Reeling • Sacramento Horror Film Festival Out For Blood (Cambridge Queer Horror) Mix Copenhagen
Halloween Horror Picture
Hot Springs International
Fargo Fantastic Film Festival
Out on Film
Northeast Wisconsin Horror
Eastern Oregon Film Festival
Learn more about Sam and his film: thequietroomfilm.com Twitter: @QuietRoomFilm • Instagram: @thequietroomfilm • Facebook: thequietroomfilm 13
Summer Travel 2018
DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING PROFILES THE SIKH INDIAN COMMUNITY IN AUSTRALIA Traveling to the other side of the world with other passionate filmmakers to help tell an important story sounded like every dream I had going into film school, so when I discovered Sikhlens, I was determined to become a part of it. The Sikhlens program focuses on expanding the general perception of Sikhism through profiles of Sikhs globally, in countries where they have been particularly marginalized. Over the last few months, I was able to learn about this tightly knit religion and culture by visiting a local gurdwara, watching Sikh films, and developing relationships with our subjects and their families. We experienced one of the fundamental Sikh principles, seva (selfless service), when we stayed at the large family home of Dya Singh, the subject of one of our films. After shooting they would prepare us a home cooked meal, then take us out to see the wildlife. (“How can you come to Australia without seeing a kangaroo?!”) We were also able to see local Australia and attend a spoken word performance night, a staple of the Melbourne arts scene, with our second subject, Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa. Throughout the trip and past semester, my skills as a producer were pushed to new limits when I had to coordinate shooting schedules and meeting times with people across the world. Not having any resources from home as well as working together with a group of six new peers was an incredibly exciting challenge that fulfilled me in a way that most school projects never could. I will forever be thankful for this experience that proved I am capable of doing the things I had always dreamed about, even at 19 years old. – Marisa Kelly (BFA/TWP ’20)
“Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, Italy, is full of one-of-a-kind experiences, everything from being shown the ins-and-outs of film restoration to watching an original Technicolor print of Cabaret. This trip will infect you with a passion for film history you never thought possible and the city will make you want to pack and move to Italy ASAP." – Kira Smith (MA/FS ’19)
CROSS CULTURAL FILMMAKING BRINGS MYTHOLOGY TO SCREEN IN GREECE “The Greece trip was an incredible learning experience. I had a great time learning from the other students on the trip. There was constant collaboration, and even though we ran into some obstacles we were able to adapt. I would recommend this trip to all majors. We had an absolute blast together and making these films was just a piece of our journey. I’m looking forward to seeing how this program grows in the future.” – Spencer Santini, Director, (BFA/NWD ’19) "Every member of the class was constantly challenged by being put into new positions and facing unimaginable obstacles. On any film you have to be adaptable to unforeseeable circumstances but when you’re in a foreign country this adaptability is multiplied. Being surrounded by such strong cultural history was incredibly inspiring and I believe it will shape the way we work as filmmakers for the rest of our lives." – Lynnzee Highland (BFA/CRPR ’19)
From traveling down under to document the Sikh communities of Australia, to resurrecting Greek mythology and learning the ins-and-outs of film restoration at the premiere festival for archival cinema in Bologna, Italy, students embraced film as a global language, honing their storytelling craft all over the world.
ENJOYING CINEMATIC CLASSICS IN BOLOGNA, ITALY
ALUMNI HONE THEIR SKILLS ON CFE PRODUCTION THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER: CREATING LAYERS AND ACCESS Designing for a film that takes place in a confined set and in real time drove production designer Marc de Bertier (BFA/FP ’18) to create a set that was “visually interesting and detailed enough to sustain the eye for an hour and a half.”
A clear vision was vital to design and direct Static, the second feature produced by Chapman Filmed Entertainment (CFE), a tough and timely story of a young man accused of rape during an on-air interview at his college radio station. The production required a variety of well thought out strategies to create a visually compelling film focused almost entirely on two characters in conversation in a single location. The demands on the director, production designer, cinematographer and the rest of the crew were intense, and as “real world” as you can get. That same demand for a clear vision drives the purpose of Chapman Filmed Entertainment, Dodge College’s own independent production company. Designed to accelerate the careers of Chapman film school grads, the company aims to produce two or three films a year.
“No other film school has a program that allows alums and students to work on professional films, in the key creative jobs they’ve aspired to do. I can’t think of a better way to boost the resume than to have that ‘directed by’ or ‘production designer’ credit on a film that is recognized in the business.”
Sandy Eells and Zack Gold play the radio station host and rising rock star in Static.
Travis Knox, BFA/FTV ’93, CFE producer
Follow Static’s journey: Web: staticmovie2019.com/ Facebook: staticmovie2019 Instagram: @staticmovie/ Twitter: @StaticMovie2019
The alumni who worked on Static were tested by the process and thrilled with the outcome – a hard-hitting story that challenges conventional thinking about the rights of both accuser and accused in today’s #MeToo environment.
The result was a desk situated in the middle of a room “so the camera would have a 360° view,” with added depth made possible by installing glass in four of the set’s five walls. “Each window looked into another room or a hallway, which made the space seem bigger and look more like a radio station,” de Bertier says. “The glass also added interest because it allowed us to play with the actors’ reflections or characters in other rooms. “That created an additinal challenge,” he says. “We had to learn how to build and mount windows that could be taken out of and/or put them back into their frame in less than three minutes, while managing a set with more than 50 flats.” Another key design element was the use of LED lights that changed with both the action and the mood of the story. The lights not only backlit the actors but also helped the set look larger. And, they helped create a tonal shift: as the story tone moves from light to dark. “The red of the lights at the beginning is simply associated with being ‘on air,’” says de Bertier, “but at the end, this red takes a completely different meaning because the tone of the story has shifted. It is aggressive and is associated with the danger that comes with the blinking red of the phone each time it rings. It was important that these design elements be interpreted in different ways for the set to be a real part of the story, instead of just being somewhere the story happens to take place.”
This program gives us the opportunity to practice our craft at a higher level than is normally available to recent grads. Nick Ramsey (MFA/FP ’16)
THE DIRECTOR: SHOOTING TO CREATE ENGAGEMENT
THE DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: KEEPING IT FRESH
THE EDITOR: TRAINING AN EDITORIAL CREW
THE OUTCOMES: JOB OFFERS AND EXPERIENCE
As much as the set offered opportunities for variety, director Miriam Anwari (MFA/FP ’17) faced the challenges of finding shots that would maximize those opportunities without “shooting the film in way that wasn’t inorganic to the story – random flashy shots – but that would still keep audiences emotionally invested and visually interested.” Careful planning and the use of a two-camera crew gave her the freedom to experiment.
While the production design offered the DP a variety of angles and the many lights offered endless possibilities, windows and reflections were a huge challenge for director of photography Nick Ramsey (MFA/FP ’16). Ramsey “really learned a lot about technology” as he took advantage of the state-of-the-art lighting systems to really “shake up our scenes.”
Alumnus Greg Thompson (BA/COM ’85) had a different role than other alumni working on the film. An experienced editor in his own right, having edited CFE’s first feature, The Barber, and worked on a long list of films from the newly released film The Meg to Mission Impossible II, Thompson managed and supervised an editorial crew consisting of Genevieve Hernandez (MFA/FP ’18), Kellen Ho (MFA/FP ’19) and Liz Arnaud (MFA/FP ’19).
Already, Dillon McEvoy (BFA/FP ’17) has been “receiving more job offers as a DIT (digital imaging technician) after working on Static. I had never managed media on a show this big before,” he says, “but I learned a lot about managing multi-cam footage and transcoding with precise metadata. This was a great introduction into the world of working on longer length and bigger budget projects.
“Our Chapman crew was comprised of incredibly talented members with various ideas and takes on the topic, and after many discussions we were able to all bring what we did best to the table and create a unified vision of how best to achieve our goal of keeping the film compelling,” she says. Also key to keeping the confined story interesting were the performances of the two main actors. Anwari was thrilled with the cast’s strong grasp and understanding of who their characters were and what their motivations were. Strong casting, she says, made her job easy. “What I learned about directing while working on this film is that ninety percent of directing is simply casting the film correctly.”
“We had over 400 feet of LED ribbon built into our set and another 60 different LED fixtures,” he says. “We needed the lights to change and adjust on camera in the scene. Our amazing electric team worked tirelessly to run and map our lights. This really helped us move fast, because we were able to build cues and change lighting setups at a push of a button.” With windows on three sides “it really became a challenge to chase a reflection of a reflection,” he says. “But through sheer attention to detail and hard work by the entire crew we all managed to hide the majority of reflections,” a job that was made even harder “as we introduced a second camera.” Nick Ramsey, center, supervises camera setup.
Thompson hopes his crew came away with “an understanding of how to set up and run a professional cutting room. I think they learned that organization and communication are the keys; I hope I showed them that there are no shortcuts and that you have to put in the work. You have to watch all the dailies and you have to do your best to stay up to camera, meaning you have to be editing the scenes as you get them so you do not fall too far behind.” With takes running as long as 15 minutes, the single location and a major character who is never seen but only heard on the phone, Thompson and his crew still enjoyed a wide range of editorial choices. “You have to give the director credit for getting such great performances,” he says. “Also, she got a lot of interesting angles and kept the camera moving a lot. I really have to give her and her DP credit for always giving me some place interesting to go editorially. But mostly it’s easy to cut a scene when you have great performances.”
Charlie Reetz (MFA/FP ’18) ran Steadicam.
“One of the greatest things about this program is that it gave us the opportunity to practice our craft at a higher level than is normally available to recent grads,” says Ramsey. “We had the support of an incredible institution and the passion of the young storytellers on our team.” This project “certainly adds validity and authenticity to my resume.” And, moving forward, Static helped build relationships through which alumni can help each other find work in the industry. As Greg Thompson put it, “I would take this crew on any show, anytime, anywhere!”
Director Miriam Anwari, left, discusses a scene with the crew.
Dillon McEvoy (BFA/FP ’19) operates the DIT cart.
Akemi Okamura MFA/FTP ’19
“MAKING THE DIGITAL WORLD BETTER, ONE SUPERHERO AT A TIME”
DEVELOPMENT INTERN AT DI NOVI PICTURES
By Janell Shearer
that she be “extremely organized and detail-oriented to stay on top of everything.”
The Guardians of the Galaxy not only save the universe, they help sell Dairy Queen desserts – with an assist from Rebecca Haber (BA/PRA ’15), manager of Digital Operations and Planning at Marvel Entertainment. In the digital universe that Haber oversees, Marvel films are tied to promotional partners and licensees to promote products directly or through product placement, to create digital ad campaigns through Instagram and other platforms and to coordinate with offline advertising and facilitate on-site activations at fan events such as ComicCon. The results are fun and quirky, create fan engagement and extend both the Marvel and the partner brands, but they also require careful planning, timing and project management. For Haber, who is involved in the entire digital campaign from ideation through execution, the process begins with an RFP (request for proposal) from a member of the sales team. She then works with her team members in new media marketing and sales integration, as well as yield management, to create and price a media plan based on the client’s needs and Marvel’s available inventory. With client approval, Haber is then tasked with managing timelines, asset quality and campaign launch, and reporting metrics to the client along the way and making sure the client is properly billed. With numerous campaigns in various stages running at once, the job demands
The Dairy Queen campaign, built on a multimillion dollar deal with Marvel and including both product placement in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and a social media campaign, was one of Haber’s favorites. The work included going to a local DQ store to film the making of a GOTG2 blizzard featuring the brookie (brownie/cookie pieces). The spot “performed extremely well and was highly received by our audience,” she says, and opened the door to the impact of Instagram Stories as a powerful engagement tool. Although Haber had several internships and was heavily involved in extracurricular activities at Chapman – from the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) to service as president of Hillel – she struggled finding a job after she graduated. After searching for eight and a half months, she landed a position at CBS through an online application. Later, she moved to Marvel by applying through a LinkedIn jobs app. Haber attributes part of her success to her selection as a O.L. Halsell Scholar at Dodge, where she was mentored by former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President and adjunct faculty member Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “Not only did she help guide me through my ad campaigns capstone project and show me how entertainment and advertising collide, she also wrote me a heartfelt letter of recommendation that I’ve been told played a major role in landing both my jobs at CBS and Marvel.” She also credits the leadership skills she developed through PRSSA to helping her navigate her managerial role at Marvel and the projects she worked on through NSAC with giving her a deep
also read a couple of books. The scripts are either ones to be considered or samples of a writer’s work. Research topics run the gamut and are always a lot of fun – you never know what has potential to be made into a movie.
understanding of the ins and outs of creating a full-fledged digital advertising campaign. She brought the NSAC book created for Pizza Hut to her job interviews, where it proved to be “a great conversation starter when vying for the given roles. “Because I struggled especially after graduation, I made a promise to myself that I was going to do whatever it took to help other recent grads avoid what I went through,” Haber says today. So, when she left CBS, she helped Kira Weiner (BA/PRA ’16), land a job on her team. “Fast forward to my role at Marvel,” she says, and “I was able to help Joel Koch ‘17 land an internship on my team, and most recently, in June, I helped Sarah Rose (BA/PRA ’18) land a full-time position on my team as our digital advertising operations coordinator. It’s rewarding to not only pay it forward, but to also grow the alumni community here in the NYC-area.” Or, as she might say, making the digital world better, one Chapman grad at a time.
What is the highlight of your internship? Akemi Okamura (left) and 2nd AD Kevin Wang (MFA/FTP '19) review the schedule for the Chapman film A Solitary Color.
The issue of identity has the power to not only influence art but our professional aspirations as well. Graduate producing student Akemi Okamura was able to explore her identity as a female filmmaker – and her passion for development – through her summer internship with Denise Di Novi Pictures. How did you find your internship? I found my internship through Barbara Doyle, who not only heads up Dodge’s College to Career Program but is also one of our producing faculty. Through the conversations I’ve had with Barbara over the past year, she knew that I was interested in development internships and Di Novi seemed like it might help further my knowledge about the development world. Di Novi sounded like a great place to intern this summer because they have a large breadth of work, and the opportunity to work for a female-run production company was exciting. One of the reasons I want to go into producing is to increase the diversity and representation of women and people of color in film – and getting to spend the summer working for a company run by women has been a wonderful learning experience.
The highlight of my internship has been getting to learn from Di Novi’s president, Margaret French Isaac. She took the time to meet with each of the interns at the start of the summer to learn about who we are and what we’re each interested in. From there, she’s given us the opportunity to sit in on meetings and listen in on calls. Getting to hear a professional in her element do her thing and simply observe has been incredibly educational. So much of producing is communicating and connecting people, and this internship has reaffirmed that. What courses, professors or skills learned at Dodge are most helpful in your internship? Honestly, pretty much everything that Barbara Doyle and Donna Roth have ever taught me has been incredibly helpful in my internship. From the Production
Workshops that Barbara taught last year and Donna’s Overview of Producing class last fall, so much of what we covered set the foundation for me to build upon as I’ve ventured out into the professional world. They’re both great at making sure that we realize that we’re not only making films here at Dodge, but that everything we do should also prepare us for life after graduation. They’re both incredibly supportive and knowing that I can go to them for anything is wonderful. What advice would you offer your fellow students? I would say that no matter what you do, show up, be present, and be inquisitive. You never know what you’re going to learn or experience, and all of it, good, bad, or in between, can help inform the kind of person and filmmaker that you want to be. We’re lucky to get to do what we love, and I would say that it’s important to remember that. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Additional internships include working with the development team at Branded Pictures Entertainment.
Okamura (second from left) meets with 1st AD Marian de Pontes (MFA/FP '19)(third from left) and the sound team for A Solitary Color, filmed on Sound Stage B.
What is a typical day at your internship? A typical day usually includes script coverage and occasionally some kind of research. I typically read and write coverage for two scripts a day, and have
ALUMNI VOLUNTEER TO
The Patriot, which was nominated for three Academy Awards® and earned Gibson a People’s Choice Award for Best Actor.
FILMMAKER DEAN DEVLIN SELECTED AS
FALL 2018 DISTINGUISHED ARTIST Writer, producer and director of blockbuster films such as Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence, and Godzilla and highly rated television projects Stargate SG-1, and Stargate: Atlantis, Dean Devlin has joined the faculty as the fall 2018 Women of Chapman Distinguished Artist. As an artist-in-residence, Devlin is sharing his creative thinking and processes behind creating, developing, writing, directing, and producing some of the most memorable film and television content over the last 25 years. During that time Devlin has been a prolific provider of crowdpleasing film and television fare, including producing and co-writing some of the most successful feature films of all time – Godzilla, Independence Day, and the Stargate TV series, which grossed more than $800 million worldwide. Devlin also produced the Mel Gibson period drama,
“Dean brings a diversity of experience as a writer, director, actor and producer that is invaluable as a model for students seeking to enter the entertainment business today,” says Dean Bob Bassett. “Having worked in front of and behind the camera, as well as in both film and television, he is offering tremendous insights to our students about the flexibility needed to build a career in a world of changing platforms and varying episodic formats.”
As part of the Distinguished Artist program, Devlin meets weekly with students to mentor select scholars as they develop a work in progress, such as a screenplay, a concept in development, or footage suitable for an episodic form. Devlin currently serves as chairman and CEO of Electric Entertainment, the full-service film, television, worldwide sales & distribution company and studio he founded in May 2001, which also houses Electric Post, a state-of-the-art digital effects and post-production facility.
MENTOR CURRENT STUDENTS Ten Dodge College alumni have volunteered to support current juniors, seniors, and graduate students in the 2018/2019 academic year in the newly created alumni mentor program. “We created this program to support students as they prepare for their transition from college to career,” says Dodge College Career Advisor Jon Hernandez. “We believe a structured program will provide more opportunities for students to be mentored by alumni who know exactly what they are going through.” “These volunteers want to help students grow in their disciplines by providing insight to the industry on what to expect after graduation,” says Hernandez. “They’ll answer questions about networking and building relationships, job searching and interviewing, as well as more technical questions about equipment, content creation, software, and much more. The alumni who volunteer know the importance of mentorship and the correlation it has with building a stronger network.”
“It’s always heartwarming to see the surprise on their face and to feel the gratitude they share with us,” says Adrienne Brandes, chair of the Student Filmmaker Endowment. “It makes the entire process worthwhile. And then to see the films themselves a year later reinforces all of those warm and fuzzy feelings.”
USHERS IN THE NEW ERA OF TELEVISION
Industry veteran Joe Rosenberg joins the Dodge College faculty roster this fall. His over 25 years’ experience has garnered him a unique insight into every aspect of the business, from development and production, to representation deals to marketing campaigns and distribution.
“I believe in successful alumni giving back to current students and fostering a stronger alumni population,” says Trieu. “Without my mentors, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I want to pay it forward,” says Lanthier. To get involved contact Jon Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org
JOE ROSENBERG As an agent with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Rosenberg represented directors such as Ridley and Tony Scott, David Fincher, and Michael Bay, to name a few. His experience in higher education includes artist representation and management, and the global entertainment business. Most recently, Rosenberg stepped into the lead role of Dodge College’s New Era of Television, a course that explores the dynamic and rapidly changing world of television through lectures, screenings, prominent guest speakers and Q & A sessions. Under Rosenberg’s tutelage, students analyze current creative and business trends in television and use these analyses as the basis to evaluate the future of television. “Asking our students to think about the ongoing questions that result because of the complex combination of creativity and globalization has fostered passionate discussion and contemplation,” says Rosenberg. “This helps bring them the confidence that is essential in developing their authentic voice, and also giving them a competitive advantage when navigating their own careers.” Guests lined up for the semester include Tom Lassally, Executive Producer of HBO’s Silicon Valley; Matt Loze, Head of Scripted at BBC Worldwide; Tony Krantz, CEO of Flame Ventures; Michael Gordon with CAA, and Happy Madison Executive Matt Mosko (MFA/FTP '15).
Volunteer mentors include: Aubrey Lee ‘13, Manager of TV Development and Production at Lord & Miller Lauren Brooks ’03, Production Coordinator at Awesomeness TV Michelle Lanthier ’14, Awards Coordinator at HBO Byron Werner ’98, Freelance Director of Photography Max Moosmann ’11, Sr. Strategist at FUSE Interactive Sorrel Geddes ’05, SVP of US Production and Events at the British Film Commission Jacob Johnston ‘10, Director for a new feature film, formerly with Marvel Studios Tashi Trieu ’10, Colorist/Editor for EFILM and Freelance, and Chapman University adjunct professor Winsor Yuan ’12, Director of Development at A Stern Talking To Missy Hauser ’15, Assistant to Manager at Artists First Management
Adrienne Brandes (center) with the 2018 Women of Chapman Award recipients.
Each film crew displayed passion for their craft, familiarity with their stories, and personal investment in their subjects. Awards were presented at a Women of Chapman event on June 20. The films will be produced during the 2018-19 year.
STUDENTS PITCH PASSION FOR FUNDS
This year’s winners include:
Feeling nervous but excited, five seniors pitched their thesis film stories to a panel of Women of Chapman members, a philanthropic support group of Chapman. Prepared with visual aids, detailed budgets, and well-rehearsed scripts, each film crew understood that the size of their award was dependent on how well this pitch went, similar to a real-life scenario that many alumni find themselves in down the road.
Director Cole Borgstadt: $12,000 Director Akshay Arora/Producer Kate Zachary: $7,000 Director Jon Lee/Producer Berit Bontems: $7,000 Director Scarlett Turner/Producer Marisa Messina: $12,000 Director Anna Maria Nicosia: $15,000
Watching films in Korea
Chapman Film Takes Bronze Medal at 2018 Student Academy Awards
UNDERSTANDING CULTURE AND CONTEXT By Janell Shearer
Professor Nam Lee leads a discussion with Korean director Yim Soon-rye.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored 19 student winners from colleges and universities around the world at the 45th Student Academy Awards ceremony in October. The Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medal awards were announced and presented by Arthur Dong, Catherine Hardwicke, Kumail Nanjiani, and Patricia Riggen. Brian Robau’s (MFA/FP ’17) film Esta Es Tu Cuba, representing Chapman in the Domestic Narrative category, took home the Bronze Medal. This is Robau’s second Student Academy Award win; his last award came in 2016 when he took home the Silver Medal for his film It’s Just a Gun. Esta Es Tu Cuba is inspired by the real-life stories of the children involved in Operation Peter Pan (or Operación Pedro Pan), the mass exodus of over 14,000 unaccompanied minors from Cuba to America, and by the journey of Robau’s own father. “It’s his story of coming from Cuba to Miami as a boy during the Communist Revolution in Cuba,” Robau told the audience during his acceptance speech. “He was one of over 14,000 children that experienced this, and being able to make this film with [my father] has been one of the greatest joys of my life so far.”
Watching the Korean remake of a Japanese film, Little Forest, Dallas Worsham (BFA/SW ’21) was surprised by a narrative shift focusing more on the friends of the main characters, giving them much larger roles than they played in the original film. Speaking with Yim Soon-rye, the film’s director, at a “cinema camp” in Busan, Korea, Worsham and eight other Chapman students learned how she restructured the film to appeal to a young Korean audience that is much more socially oriented than their Japanese counterparts. The Transcultural Student Networking Cinema Camp included four schools: Chapman, Dongseo University in Busan,
Nanyang Technology University in Singapore, and Rikkyo University in Japan. Not only did the Chapman students learn about filmmaking in those countries, but also they had the opportunity to see work from throughout Asia and around the world during their week-long trip to the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). Film Studies Professor Nam Lee led the Chapman delegation to the Cinema Camp, which she describes as “a great opportunity to exchange ideas and make friends with students from different cultures.” Professor Lee, who has taken students to Busan for many years, says that the festival is known “as a place to discover new films and filmmakers from Asia” and to learn about different filmmaking practices as they are influenced by culture and history. At the same time, students get a better perspective on what kinds of films appeal to their peers in Asia.
Melissa Zhuang (BFA/FP ’20) found that many films “talked about topics that are not openly discussed in their native cultures,” citing as an example, The Rib, a film about the cultural stigma against transsexuals in Chinese society. She observed that “countries with more reserved cultures featured longer silences, less dialogue, and quieter characters in their films. Instead, the scenery or the cinematography seemed to ‘speak’ more,” while “countries with less reserved cultures featured films with louder characters that spoke what was on their mind or featured graphic themes such as violence or nudity.” For Britney Lee (BFA/CRPR ’21), the trip gave her the unique chance to visit her mother’s hometown while exploring her own passion for film. She was particularly inspired by the varying stories of Asian filmmakers that are less available in the U.S. and to see greater representation of a wider variety of faces on screen.
In addition to seeing films from around the world, Chapman students also enjoyed visiting cultural sights in Busan, eating “live” octopus and endured a typhoon.
Robau also thanked Chapman University and his “fellow classmates, students, incredible teachers, and thesis advisor, Rachel Goldberg.” This is the fourth year in a row a Chapman film has been selected among the finalists in the Student Academy Awards. Additional recognition for Chapman students and alumni include Natalia Hermida’s (BFA/FP ’19) Transient Passengers (Experiment Number Nun), a finalist in the Alternative Category, and the following semifinalists: n
She Who Questions – Project S UK Short (director Rachel Lattin BFA/NWD ’18, Jordyn Romero BFA/NWD ’19, Elliot Powell BFA/FP ’18, Riani Astuti BFA/NWD ’18, Paloma Young ’18) n
Some Nerve – Community Voices Documentary Film (director Megan Ernst BFA/TBJ ’18, Nikki Nahai BA ’20, Dora Wu MFA/DOC ’18, Emily Tapanes BFA/FP ’18) Snowball – Graduate Non-Thesis Film (director Paul Rivet MFA/FP ’19)
Adjunct Professor Peter Debruge, chief film critic for Variety, left, and Dean Bob Bassett greet Director Im Kwon-Taek, Korea’s most prolific director (102 films!) and namesake of the Dongseo University Im Kwon-Taek College of Film and Media Arts.
FESTIVALS AND AWARDS 26
Amanda Renee Knox (MFA/FP’17) Night Call WINNER: UCFTI Film Competition Grand Prize Outstanding Achievement in Film, Caucus Awards Gold Circle Award, Crossroads International Film Festival Lagniappe Award for Filmmaking Achievement, Jim Thorpe Film Fest Best Actress, Oneota International Film Festival Best of Fest Student Narrative Award, Riverside International Film Festival Best Student Short Film and Audience Award Best Student Film, Ozark Foothills Film Festival Best Narrative Short, Clujshorts International Short Film Festival Best Student Film, Emerge International Film Festival Best Director and Emerging Filmmaker and Best of Fest, SENE Film and Music Festival Best Actress and Honorable Mention Best Student Short, Cannes American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase Best Student Film, deadCenter Film Festival Best Student Film, Westfield International Film Festival Special Honorable Mention
Alex Italics (MFA/FP’18) Order of the Orchid
Gang “Garfield” Wang (MFA/FP ’18) Man In Focus
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Slamdance Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Flicks International Student Film Festival, Sehsüchte International Student Film Festival, FilmQuest, Georgetown University Shorts Film Festival, Eastern Oregon Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, UNO Film Festival, Full Moon Horror & Fantasy Film Festival, Indy Film Fest, San Diego Underground Film Festival, Brno 16 International Short Movie Festival, Lausanne Underground Film & Music Festival
OFFICIAL SELECTION: BronzeLens Film Festival, Orlando Film Festival, SHORT to the Point, Germany International Film Festival, Sound and Vision International Film & Technology Festival
NOMINATED: Montreal Underground Film Festival Jury Prize
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 9FilmFest, Interrobang Film Festival, Auckland International Film Festival, Out of the Can Film Festival, Louisville’s International Festival of Film, Silver State Film Festival
David Bashford (MFA/FP ’18) VOXGIRL OFFICIAL SELECTION: Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival, San Jose International Short Film Festival, Skyline Indie Film Fest
Erin Lau (MFA/FP’18) The Moon and the Night OFFICIAL SELECTION: HollyShorts Film Festival, Norman Film Festival, ‘Ohina 2018 Showcase, Hawaii International Film Festival, Sundance Native Filmmakers Lab, Caucus Foundation Winter Grant
FINALIST: Near Nazareth Festival WINNER: LA Shorts Awards Best Short Film Diamond Award
Pongkarnda “Kik” Udomprasert (MFA/FP’18) Faded
Nick Markham (BFA/FP’18) Reverie OFFICIAL SELECTION: Awareness Festival, Burbank International Film Festival, Coronado Island Film Festival, Long Beach Indie International Film, Media, and Music Festival, NFFT
2018 ASC STUDENT HERITAGE AWARDS NOMINATIONS INCLUDE 3 CHAPMAN STUDENTS The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has announced it’s nominees for the 2018 ASC Student Heritage Awards competition, and for the second year in a row Chapman University has a nominee in each of the competitions categories: n
DOCUMENTARY Rachel Lattin – Monumental
UNDERGRADUATE Jack Craymer – Sonora
GRADUATE Brody Anderson – Drawn Curtains
These awards are designed to inspire the next generation of cinematographers and to help them pursue their dreams. They also celebrate the memory of the Society’s most extraordinary members. Each year, the ASC Student Heritage Awards are renamed in honor of esteemed ASC members. Many ASC Student Heritage Award winners have gone on to have successful careers in filmmaking, and several have been invited to be ASC members themselves.
SEMIFINALIST: BAFTA Student Film Awards
DODGE COLLEGE • ALUMNI
Deborah Kendrick (BFA/TBJ ’18) won the Edward R. Murrow Award, which honors outstanding achievements in broadcast and digital journalism. Lauren Johnson (BA/SW ’09) won Best Picture at the Silicon Beach Film Festival for her film The Longest Night along with co-writer Derek Wibben (‘05). The film was edited by Michael Cox (‘02).
Nathan Flanagan-Frankl (BFA/FP ’14) along with Tyler Oakley, a top YouTube star and vocal LGBTQ supporter, created six documentary-style episodes as part of the Chosen Family series which interviews people about their LGBTQ experiences.
Gabby Shephard (MFA/FTP ’16) was selected as one of Austin Film Festival’s 25 Screenwriters to Watch in 2018 by MovieMaker Magazine.
Amanda Renee Knox’s (MFA/DR ’17) film Nightcall is officially in contention for a Live Action Short nomination to the 2019 Academy Awards.
Makena Costlow (BFA/FP ’17) was hired as an assistant editor to the marketing department with The Third Floor, a previsualization company that has worked on all Star Wars and most Marvel movies. Ashton Avila (MFA/DR ’17), Taylor Maxwell (MFA/Directing ’13), and Sarah Thacker (MFA/ Directing ’13) directed three out of five separate pilots, for PlayStation’s Emerging Filmmakers Program. The films were shot in Atlanta over a five-week period and are available on the PlayStation Store and Vue. Nicole Feste (BA/SW ’18) is working on the Charmed reboot on the CW as a writers PA.
Kameron Backstrom (BFA/NWD ’18) was hired by Elite Global Solutions as their product photographer and videographer. Elite Global Solutions is a worldleading manufacturer in melamine, which is used for dinnerware and serveware for businesses and commercial restaurants.
Zelie Dember-Slack (MFA/FP ’17) started principal photography on the feature film Jessie the Golden Heart. Dember-Slack is co-directing and producing with writer Peggy Rogers. The production is shooting in Redlands at the Kimberly-Crest Castle.
Burke Doeren (BFA/TBJ ’12) was DP on season three of Battlebots on the Discovery Channel.
Sarah Dawson (BFA/CRPR’14) is a marketing and acquisitions executive at Giant Picture in New York City, a new digital distribution company, and she recently acquired the Sundance 2018 documentary Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. for U.S. digital distribution.
Chris Moore (MFA/SW ’17) landed a staff writing position on a new Netflix sitcom.
Brian Robau (MFA/DR ’17) is a recipient of a 2018 Student Academy Award medal in the Narrative category for his film Esta Es Tu Cuba. Sofia Seikaly (BFA/TBJ ’17) is a producer on a local ABC affiliate in San Diego.
Marc Messenger (BA/COM ’86) has been signed to Woolf Lapin literary agency.
Justin Simien (BFA/FTV ’05) started a podcast titled Don’t @ Me as part of KCRW, available on Apple iTunes. He was also invited to the Academy of Motion Pictures – Directors branch. His Netflix show Dear White People was renewed for a third season.
Kate Lilly (BFA/FP ’12), Joseph Carnegie (BA ’14), Matt and Ross Duffer (BFA/FP ’07), and Jackie! Zhou (BFA/FP ’15) were nominated for a combined 15 Emmys. Carlos Lopez-Estrada (BFA/FP ’14) released his directorial debut Blindspotting in theaters, which was an official selection at Sundance and SXSW this year. Lauren Nowicki (BFA/TBJ ’17) will be an associate producer on LadyGang, which was picked up by E! Network in May 2018.
Jason Wise (BFA/FTP ’05) finished production on his third installment of SOMM that released this fall. He is currently in production with five other projects.
Prarthana Mohan (MFA/DR ’09) directed The MisEducation of Bindu, which is executive produced by the Duplass Brothers and has finished production. Alumni Dani-Sanchez Lopez (MFA/CR ’09), Ed Timpe (MFA/CR ’08), Kay Tuxford (MFA/SW ’08) who co-wrote, Drew Moe (MFA/CR ’10), Mike Villasuso (MFA/DR ’09), and George Dickson (MFA/CR ’09) all worked on the film. Austenne Caproni (BFA/TWP ’18) has been promoted from the mailroom to an assistant on a desk for a production agent at William Morris Endeavor agency.
Zimran Jacob’s (BA/SW ’12) indie comedy screenplay Swag is being produced by co-writer Rickey Castleberry’s company, 19f Productions, and will be directed by Kevin Pollak.
Mark Miller (BFA/FP ’06) will be an executive producer on Nightbreed, a TV series based on Clive Barker’s shortstory collection Cabal. The series will be available on SyFy.
Bianca Halpern (MFA/CR ’07) opened her own rental house business BECiNE in Culver City. The company is family-friendly and woman-owned and specializes in optics.
Janice Chua (BFA/CRPR ’11) is an associate producer on the widely popular Crazy Rich Asians.
Hallie Lambert (BFA/SW ’01) is a writer/producer on the critically acclaimed television show The Expanse which was recently acquired by Amazon Prime, and writer of the tie-in graphic novel series, The Expanse: Origins.
Taylor Braun (MA/FS ’17) started his job at Dodge College of Film and Media Arts as the Film Festival Specialist. Michael Frazier (BFA/FP ’07) is working as a director of experience design for Amare Global, the Mental Wellness Company. Charged with leading design and user experience for Amare’s mental wellness app – a holistic approach to mental wellness based on supplementation and learning. Christopher Matista’s (BFA/FTV ’17) film, Steamwrecked, has had a successful festival run in seven festivals and many cosplay conventions. They also been picked up for worldwide distribution by 7 Palms Entertainment.
April Abeyta (BFA/FTP ’00) recently accepted a new position with Seeker Media as VP, business operations. Seeker is a leader in science and tech video publishing. In addition, April is producing and directing a new feature documentary called After the Game. Ce Liang (MFA/DR ’18) was 1 of 28 participants in this year’s B.I.G. NAFF 2018 Fantastic Film School, which coincides with the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. Participants learn about the rapidly changing film production environment through lectures by five global film industry experts and team pitching sessions.
One University Drive, Orange, CA 92866
November 15 – 18 • Sikhlens: Sikh Arts & Film Festival December 6 • International Documentary Screening February 22 – 24, 2019 • Parent Summit Weekend n
CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY’S DODGE COLLEGE OF FILM AND MEDIA ARTS
2 0 T H ANNU AL W OME N IN F OC U S FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2019 chapman.edu/womeninfocus
This issue focuses on exploring identity through filmmaking, alumni honing their skills on the latest CFE production, Chapman's third Studen...
Published on Nov 10, 2018
This issue focuses on exploring identity through filmmaking, alumni honing their skills on the latest CFE production, Chapman's third Studen...