UCLA TFT and Reprise 2.0 form partnership

Students from UCLA TFT will be involved in showcasing three classic American musicals in 2018

The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television’s Department of Theater, led by Chair Brian Kite, is partnering with the new performing arts organization Reprise 2.0 to present a season of three classic American musicals at UCLA TFT’s Freud Playhouse.

This initiative allows the school to expand activities for its theater students — in performance, lighting, sound and set design, and includes internships with Reprise 2.0 personnel in directing, stage management, casting, producing, musical direction, costuming and choreography. Students also appear in the productions on stage as part of the ensemble, as appropriate.

The inaugural 2018 season of Reprise 2.0, helmed by founder and producing artistic director Marcia Seligson, includes Sweet Charity, directed by three-time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall (June 20-July 1); Victor/Victoria, directed by Richard Israel and choreographed by UCLA TFT Adjunct Professor Peggy Hickey (Sept. 5-16); and Grand Hotel – The Musical (Oct. 24-Nov. 4), directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman and choreographed by Kay Cole.

Seligson previously founded Reprise! Broadway’s Best, which presented nearly 50 productions of classic musicals between 1997 and 2012 including Promises, Promises; Finian’s Rainbow; Wonderful Town; The Pajama Game; Sweeney Todd; Bells Are Ringing; Call Me Madam; Hair; 1776; The Most Happy Fella; Follies; Anything Goes; Kismet; Company; Brigadoon; Pippin, On the Town, Carousel, How to Succeed, and the final show, Cabaret. These productions starred some of the finest musical theater talent in the country, including Christine Baranski, Kelsey Grammer, Maureen McGovern, Jean Smart, Rachel York, Tony Danza, Jane Krakowski, Donna McKechnie, Christopher Sieber, Davis Gaines, Steven Weber, Lucie Arnaz, Christine Ebersole, Orson Bean and Judith Light. Reprise 2.0 will continue to collaborate with many of these stellar performers.

“The original Reprise! provided an unusually rich environment for our students, who often seamlessly joined the ensembles and could observe the assembling of a professional production during a compact period of time,” Kite says. “With the kind of residency we are envisioning with the new Reprise 2.0, we will be able to allow an even wider variety of experiences for students to both observe and participate in the process. We are thrilled to partner with Marcia and such incredible artists to bring these special musical experiences to L.A. audiences.”

The new Reprise 2.0 will be faithful to the original concept, combining simple sets and costumes with outstanding directors and choreographers; a band on stage; and stellar performances that let the material shine, allowing audiences to experience musicals they have never seen before, or have not been performed in the area for many years.

The inaugural season of Reprise 2.0 is funded in part by a generous gift from Charles B. Hensley, chairman and CEO of Desilu Studios.

For subscriptions, please visit or call (866) 811-4111.

Posted: March 15, 2018




The compelling new feature-length documentary Waterschool, created by graduate film students from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, was introduced at a special private screening during the Sundance Film Festival, as part of an exclusive Swarovski-hosted event on Saturday, Jan. 20 in Park City, Utah. After the screening, there was a panel discussion and Q&A with Teri Schwartz, UCLA TFT Dean, Nadja Swarovski, member of the Swarovski Executive Board, and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker, who was a distinguished mentor on the project.

Following the film’s premiere at Sundance, Swarovski presented the film during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, followed by a panel discussion about empowering the next generation to conserve the world’s most precious resource. CNBC host Tania Bryer moderated the panel discussion with Nadja Swarovski and Schwartz, as well as Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and co-chair of WE Charity; Mark Tercek, president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy; and Lucineide Pinheiro, founder and director of IMEA (Instituto Mureru Eco Amazonia).

Waterschool shines a light on one of the greatest issues facing mankind: safeguarding the continuing supply of fresh water. The documentary follows the experiences of six girls and young women who live along six of the world’s major rivers – the Amazon, Mississippi, Danube, Nile, Ganges and Yangtze – and celebrates the work of Swarovski Waterschool, a community investment program set up in 2000 that has reached almost half a million young people through 2,400 schools worldwide.

To make Waterschool, a team of seven UCLA TFT graduate filmmaking students travelled across five continents to capture the moving stories of these young girls, giving voice to the generation for whom the preservation of clean water is most pressing. Vivid, lyrical and often poignant, the film is a reminder of the power of education – with the support of the business community – to transform lives and tackle the world’s pressing environmental issues. The students oversaw all areas of production including directing, producing, editing, cinematography and sound. Emmy-winning composer Alex Wurman created the film’s score.

Water has been at the heart of the Swarovski story since it was founded in 1895. The family-run company relies on small-scale hydro-electric power at its manufacturing site in the Austrian Alps and recycles 70% of the water it uses to produce crystal. The Swarovski family set up Waterschool to teach young people about the importance of fresh water, and how to use it, conserve it and cherish it.

Waterschool reveals how the teachers and guides of Swarovski Waterschool are empowering the growing citizens of the new era to take care of the world’s most valuable resource. The result is a powerful call to arms – for teachers and educators as much as young people themselves. As the students discover how best to husband and protect water, so they pass on their insights to their peers, parents and grandparents.

What emerges in the telling of Waterschool is an inspiring and emotive message. United by a vision of hope to save the lifeblood of the planet, we each have it within us to be ambassadors for water conservation.

Alive with the optimism of youth, but transcending the boundaries of age, Waterschool leaves us in no doubt: Every one of us has the power to make a difference.

“This project embraces principles which lie at the foundation of our philanthropic legacy – environment, female empowerment and education,” says Nadja Swarovski, a producer on the film. “The glimpses the film offers into the lives of six young women highlight some of the issues around water within different geographic regions, and will hopefully inspire communities to focus on education and enable change. I am grateful to the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and its graduate film students for making this beautiful film about our Waterschool, under the mentorship of Dean Teri Schwartz and (Emmy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated filmmaker) Lucy Walker, who have brought to bear their considerable expertise in the making of documentaries and feature films.”

Waterschool producer Teri Schwartz, Dean of UCLA TFT, commented: “It has been a great honor to partner with visionary leader Nadja Swarovski and her team to create this landmark feature documentary. I am very proud of our remarkable graduate film students, to whom Swarovski gave an unparalleled opportunity to create a film at the highest levels of creative excellence. Key to our School’s mission is providing diverse students with transformational opportunities to create stories that not only entertain, but also foster social impact. This amazing partnership with Swarovski underscores our shared belief in the power of story to enlighten, engage and inspire change for a better world.”

Find out more about Swarovski Waterschool at

Posted: January 24, 2018


2017 South By Southwest Lineup Announced

The 2017 lineup of the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) has been announced! Twenty-eight Bruins, including 23 UCLA TFT alumni, a Professional Programs alumna, two current students, one lecturer and one executive board member have involvement in 18 projects that will be shown in 10 festival sections. They include:


68 Kill
Sheila Vand (B.A., ’06), actress

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon: 10th anniversary screening
Nathan Basel (B.A. ’98), actor


The Disaster Artist
James Franco (lecturer), director, actor

Free Fire
Martin Scorsese (Executive Board), executive producer


Narrative Shorts
DeKalb Elementary
Reed Van Dyk, (M.F.A. student) director/screenwriter

Documentary Shorts
Perfectly Normal
Marieke Oudejans (M.F.A. ’06), producer
David Weiner (M.B.A. ’06), executive producer


Becoming Bond
Kelly Lester (B.A. ’81), actor


Clara Baker (M.A. student), miscellaneous crew, production intern

Tom Skerritt, actor

Dara Ju
Justin Begnaud (M.F.A. ’10), producer
Anthony Onah (M.F.A. ’13), writer, director, producer
Alexandra Cuerdo (B.A. ’11), second assistant director


American Gods
Michael Green (B.A. ’79), creator, executive producer, writer
Corbin Bernsen (M.F.A. ’79), actor
Loretta Ramos (M.F.A. ’08), associate producer
Jessica Smith (M.F.A. ’14), VFX production manager

Dear White People
Erich Lane (B.A. ’06) actor
Stephanie Allain (Professional Programs, ’13), executive producer

I’m Dying Up Here
Justine Hillian (M.F.A. ’13), writer
Jean Kauffman (B.A. ’06), actress
Robert Komatsu (B.A. ’92), series film editing


The Big Sick
Amanda Glaze (B.A. ’08), co-producer


Long Strange Trip
Martin Scorsese (Executive Board), executive producer


Tom Skerritt, actor

Hype!: 20th Anniversary Screening
Doug Pray (M.F.A. ’91), director and editor
Albert Malvaez (Dept. of FTVDM staff), first assistant camera
Steven Helvey (M.F.A. ’94), producer
Earl Ghaffari (B.A. ’84), supervising editor and music editor
Chien-Ei Yu (M.F.A ’94), assistant editor


Mr. Roosevelt
Dagmar Weaver-Madsen (M.F.A. ’12), cinematographer

The 24th SXSW Film Festival takes place in Austin, Texas, March 10-18, 2017.

Posted: March 8, 2017


Celebrating Curtis Hanson

On Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, UCLA Film & Television Archive hosted “Curtis Hanson — A Celebration of His Work with UCLA,” which was held at UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood.

Filmmaker Hanson, who passed away on Sept. 20, 2016, at the age of 71, was the honorary chairman of UCLA Film & Television Archive and an executive board member at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

Filmmaker Christopher Nolan provided the evening’s opening remarks, which featured a screening of In a Lonely Place (1950), starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. Hanson’s partner, Rebecca Yeldham, introduced the film, a favorite of Hanson’s and one that influenced his work through the years.

After the screening, UCLA TFT alumnus Alexander Payne hosted a conversation with actress Kim Basinger and production designer Jeannine Oppewall, both of who had worked with Hanson on L.A. Confidential (1997); and director of photography Roger Elswit, a close personal friend, who lensed Hanson’s The River Wild (1994).

Curtis Lee Hanson was born March 24, 1945, in Reno, Nevada and grew up in Los Angeles. He left high school in his senior year and worked as a freelance photographer and editor for Cinema magazine. Hanson often referred to his years of journalism as his “film school” and credited interviews with many Hollywood greats — John Ford, William Wyler, Ida Lupino, Don Siegel, Dalton Trumbo, Samuel Fuller — as inspiring his own filmmaking.

In the 1990s, Hanson rose to prominence with an eclectic slate of films including The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992), The River Wild, and his greatest critical success, L.A. Confidential, which was nominated for nine Academy Awards and named to the National Film Registry in 2015. He more recently directed and produced Wonder Boys (2000), 8 Mile (2002) and In Her Shoes (2005), and portrayed Meryl Streep’s husband in Adaptation (2002).

Hanson accepted the position of honorary chairman of UCLA Film & Television Archive in January 1999. He served as a passionate and committed champion of film preservation, as well as a tireless advocate for the Archive’s cultural mission of theatrical exhibition and research.

Hanson might be best remembered by Los Angeles cinephiles for hosting the Archive’s long-running film series, “The Movie That Inspired Me,” a program that he personally curated. Beginning in May 1999 with cinematographer Janusz Kamiński, he invited leading artists from all areas of filmmaking to share with an audience a film that directly influenced their creative lives.

“The idea grew out of loving movies and talking about them with other people who love movies,” said Hanson in 2002. “And the films that are the most fun to talk about are not necessarily the classics, but those that had a personal impact on people when they saw them.”

“The Movie That Inspired Me” was tailor-made for Hanson and drew upon his unique set of talents and interests — an impressive knowledge of film history, natural interview skills, experience behind the camera and, above all, an irrepressible curiosity — to create unforgettable conversations. Artists who shared a film and joined him in conversation include Dede Allen, Drew Barrymore, Kathryn Bigelow, James L. Brooks, Roger Deakins, Robert Downey Jr., David Fincher, Carrie Fisher, Ray Harryhausen, Todd Haynes, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Charlie Kaufman, Diane Keaton, John Lasseter, Michael Mann, Christopher Nolan, Jeannine Oppewall, Alexander Payne, Sean Penn, Sam Raimi and Lily Tomlin.

Hanson served on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and was the first recipient of the Film Preservation Award bestowed by The Film Foundation and the Directors Guild of America in 2003.

The newly established Curtis Hanson Fund at UCLA supports the public events and moving image preservation work of UCLA Film & Television Archive. To make a gift online, please visit For more information, call (310) 825-2350.


 Posted: February 9, 2017


Well-Represented at Sundance

Thirty-six UCLA alumni and four executive board members were associated with 32 projects premiering and/or screening at the Sundance Film Festival

Thirty-six UCLA alumni, including a Professional Programs alumna, and four executive board members had involvement in 32 projects that were shown at the Sundance Film Festival, which took place Jan. 19-29, 2017, in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah. They include:


Stephanie Allain (Professional Programs ’13), producer, Burning Sands
Maxwell Hamilton (M.F.A. ’13), actor, I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore*+
Reginald Hudlin (Executive Board), producer, Burning Sands
Nikolai Kinski (B.A. ’98), actor, The Yellow Birds
Don O. Knowlton (B.A. ’82; M.F.A. ’85), actor, To the Bone*
Nick Spicer (M.F.A. ’06), executive producer, I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore*+
Marika Stephens (B.A. ’09), art director, To the Bone*
Jorma Taccone (B.A. ’02), producer, Brigsby Bear*


Nikolai Kinski (B.A. ’98), actor, Axolotl Overkill


Jack Black, actor and producer, The Polka King
Amanda Glaze (B.A. ’08), co-producer, The Big Sick*
Tamara Hunter (B.A. ’01), executive in charge of casting, Wilson
James Jordan (M.F.A. ’05), actor, Wind River
Charles D. King (Executive Board), producer, Mudbound*
Laura Lee Langton (B.A. ’88), art department coordinator, Wind River
Akin McKenzie (B.A. ’02), production designer, The Discovery
Medalion Rahimi (B.A. ’14), actress, Before I Fall
Andre Rivas (B.A. ’99), assistant digital colorist, Wilson
Tim Robbins (B.A. ’82), actor, Marjorie Prime+
James Saito (B.A. ’78), actor, Wilson
Ben Stiller, executive producer, The Polka King
Michael Stuhlbarg, actor, Call Me By Your Name*
Michael Vukadinovich (M.F.A. ’07), writer, Rememory


Alan Barker (B.A. ’69), sound, This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous
Joan Churchill (B.A. ’68), additional cinematography, This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous
Martin Scorsese (Executive Board), executive producer, Long Strange Trip*


Susan Cartsonis (B.A. ’78), producer, Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Laura Lee Langton (B.A. ’88), art coordinator, Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Nick Moceri (M.F.A. ’10), actor and producer, Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Lisa Muskat (M.A. ’92), executive producer, Dayveon
Jorma Taccone (B.A. ’02), actor and executive producer, L.A. Times
Quyen Tran, cinematographer, Deidra & Laney Rob a Train


Paul Green, executive producer, When the Street Lights Go On (Independent Pilot Showcase)
Charles D. King (Executive Board), executive producer, Gente-fied (Short Form Episodic Showcase)
Mike Pniewski (B.A. ’83), actor, Shots Fired
Gina Prince-Bythewood (B.A. ’91), director, writer, executive producer, Shots Fired


Nate Bolotin (M.F.A. ’07), producer, Bushwick; executive producer, XX
Ren Hanami (B.A. ’84), actress, Bitch
Nick Spicer (M.F.A. ’06), producer, XX
Aram Tertzakian (M.F.A. ’07), executive producer/producer, XX
Quyen Tran, cinematographer, The Little Hours*


Garrett Bradley (M.F.A. ’12), director, Alone+


Tim Robbins (B.A. ’82, Lecturer), executive producer, Hot Winter: A Film by Dick Pierre


Alex Gibney, executive producer, Zero Days VR
Dagmar Weaver-Madsen (M.F.A. ’12), director of photography, Through You


Donna Deitch (M.F.A. ’76; Executive Board), director, producer, actor, Desert Hearts

Posted: December 19, 2016

+Update: January 28, 2017: I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore received the Grand Jury Prize; Alone received the Short Film Jury Award: Non-fiction prize; Marjorie Prime received the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize.


January 29: Netflix acquired the exclusive SVOD rights to Mudbound.
January 26: Sony Pictures Classics acquired the worldwide rights to Brigsby Bear for $5 million.
January 26: Gunpowder & Sky picked up The Little Hours in a low seven-figures deal.
January 24: Netflix acquired worldwide rights for To the Bone for approximately $8 million.
January 21: Amazon bought The Big Sick for $12.5 million.
January 19: Netflix picked up the comedy-thriller I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore.
January 18: Amazon acquired the Grateful Dead documentary Long Strange Trip for more than $6 million.
January 07: Sony Pictures Classics bought the worldwide rights to Call Me by Your Name.


New UCLA TFT Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Named

Professor Myung Hee Cho, who has been a Department of Theater faculty member since 2009, is a respected scenic designer with international credits

Teri Schwartz, Dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (UCLA TFT) recently announced that Professor Myung Hee Cho has been appointed as UCLA TFT’s Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as part of a campus-wide “diversity responsibility” initiative launched by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh. Professor Cho, an award winning scenic designer, has been a senior scenic design professor in the Department of Theater since 2009.

“The strategic focus on diversity, in all of its complex forms, is central to our vision and mission at UCLA TFT,” Dean Schwartz says. “Diversity informs all that we do to create an inclusive and vibrant community that welcomes faculty, students and staff from all walks of life and with a focus on the kinds of humanistic stories, performances and research that reflect our multi-cultural world. I couldn’t be happier that Professor Cho has accepted our invitation to serve in this important role to help us advance these ideals.”

Cho will work with Dean Schwartz, department chairs, faculty, staff and students to generate exciting diversity initiatives for the School, and to provide a forum for inclusive conversation and best practices welcoming to all. In addition, Cho will help to foster policies and activities that will articulate best practices for searches, recruitment and retention for faculty and students at all levels.

“I am thrilled to take on this challenge,” Cho says, “and to make stimulating and thought-provoking conversations happen on our campus.”

A set and costume designer for theater, opera, dance and other special productions, Cho recently completed a high-profile set and costume design project for the Shanghai Disney Resort. Other recent and past projects include The Marriage of Figaro for Washington National Opera; The Body of the World at American Repertory Theater; The Thieving Magpie for the Glimmerglass Festival; Black Odyssey at Denver Center Theater; Emotional Creature by Eve Ensler at The Linney Theatre in New York, Berkeley Repertory Theatre and The Market Theatre, Johannesburg; The Magic Flute at the Canadian Opera Company; The Good Person of Szechuan at the Landestheater Linz, in Linz, Austria; Awaking for the Singapore Theatre Festival; Yellow Face for the Mark Taper Forum and The Public Theater; System Wonderland and The Piano Teacher at South Coast Repertory; Citizen 13559 at the Kennedy Center; The Golden Mickeys for Disney Creative Entertainment/Hong Kong; and Le nozze di Figaro at the Chicago Opera Theater.


 Posted: November 18, 2016


Screenwriting couple receives 15th Annual Hunter Zakin Award

UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (UCLA TFT) has named screenwriters and UCLA alums Cormac and Marianne Wibberley as the recipients of the 15th Annual Lew and Pamela Hunter/Jonathan and Janice Zakin Chair Holder in Screenwriting Award.

The award was given to the Wibberleys on Weds., May 21 at UCLA TFT’s James Bridges Theater. The evening included a screening of Disney’s National Treasure, with a Q&A following.

The Hunter/Zakin Chair Holder in Screenwriting Award was established in 1999 by San Francisco businessman Jonathan N. Zakin and requires that the recipient teach a 10-week screenwriting seminar at UCLA TFT. Zakin is a member of UCLA TFT’s Executive Board, and Lew Hunter is an emeritus professor in UCLA TFT’s prestigious screenwriting program.

A selection of the Wibberley’s writing credits include National Treasure and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Additional work includes the Sony action-adventure I Spy starring Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson, as well as Charlie’s Angel’s: Full Throttle starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu.

The Wibberleys, who have been a writing team for 20 years, are currently working on projects at Paramount and Fox.

The 2013 Hunter Zakin Award recipient was Academy Award-winner Dustin Lance Black (Milk, J. Edgar). Past recipients include Dan Pyne (The Sum of All Fears, The Manchurian Candidate), Ed Solomon (Charlie’s Angels, Men in Black), Caroline Williams (Arrested Development, Up All Night, Modern Family, The Office) Felicia D. Henderson (Fringe, Gossip Girl), Mike Werb (Face/Off, The Mask), Michael Colleary (Face/Off), and Sacha Gervasi (The Terminal), among others.

Posted: May 22, 2014


Hey, Let’s Put on a Show!

It takes a village to stage The Ray Bolger Musical Theater Program production of Guys and Dolls

By Noela Hueso

It’s a grueling schedule: For the past seven weeks, the 25-member cast of the upcoming Ray Bolger Musical Theater Program production of Guys
and Dolls
have been going through their paces, rehearsing six times a week, four hours at a stretch, in anticipation of opening night scheduled for Thurs., May 22 at the Freud Playhouse. That’s in addition to going to class, writing papers and working part-time jobs.

“The rehearsal schedule is very demanding, but at this point I’ve gotten used to it,” says senior musical theater major Ashley Jones. “I do have other classes and projects going on, which makes things a little crazy. This quarter, my a cappella group was competing in the final round of an international competition, so there were many nights where I had back-to-back rehearsals between that and Guys and Dolls. Even so, I’m excited to work with some of my closest friends and favorite instructors in this production. The material itself is so much fun, making this creative process really enjoyable.”

Fellow musical theater senior Michael Starr puts it this way: “It’s a bunch to juggle but performing is something I’m very passionate about so I make it work. When things get stressful I just remind myself of this amazing privilege to share these stories with an audience and that puts me back in a positive perspective.”

Clearly, no one is complaining. The consensus seems to be that working on the jaunty musical is a labor of love for the actors, who have been happily toiling away on the production since January under the guidance of director Linda Kerns, musical director Dan Belzer, choreographer Peggy Hickey and production manager Jeff Wachtel, who is responsible for overseeing the technical side of the show.

With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, Guys and Dolls is the classic tale, based on two short stories by Damon Runyon, about freewheeling gamblers and innocent missionaries in 1940s New York City. The musical, which premiered on Broadway in 1950, in London in 1953, and has had numerous revivals throughout the years, was the perfect choice for the current crop of TFT theater students, says vocal director Jeremy Mann.

Guys and Dolls employs a variety of vocal singing styles — standard musical theater belting, character singing and ‘legit’ singing — and we were confident that we could cast the show and fulfill these style obligations,” he says. “We also knew that we could meet the dancing and movement styles with our students, while continuing to challenge them as actors exploring characters.”

The journey of Guys and Dolls to the Freud Playhouse stage began last year when a Department of Theater faculty committee met to determine which show they would do.

“As our past several shows [including Rent in the 2010-11 season and Spring Awakening in the 2012-13 season] have been quite contemporary, we were looking for a show from the Golden Era of the American book musical [1943-1964],” Mann says. “This was the main consideration that led us to choosing Guys and Dolls. We also wanted a show with a significant number of featured ensemble roles, as well as principal roles, which this show has.”

Department of Theater Chair Michael Hackett says the cast’s cohesion makes them particularly strong.

“There are many talented individuals in this group who can create distinct personalities,” he says, “but they also have the ability to rally together and sing these great choruses that are part of the piece, creating a sense of ensemble.”

According to Kerns, Guy and Dolls is one of 30 productions (of varying sizes) that the Department of Theater is producing this academic year. As is the case with every Ray Bolger Musical Theater Program production, all musical theater students were required to audition for the show. Other theater majors — and minors — were welcome to try out as well.

Auditions were held in the seventh week of winter quarter over three days with Kerns, choreographer Hickey, musical director Belzer, vocal director Mann and stage manager Stephen Taylor Snyder judging student performances and all but Snyder making the final cast determinations.

As with all UCLA TFT theatrical productions, “If a student was offered a role, he or she was required to accept it,” Kerns says. “There’s never any cherry picking.”

Which suits senior Coleton Schmitto, a communications major and theater minor, just fine.

“I always get cast in roles that I didn’t initially realize would be good for me,” he says. “Every unexpected role has been a challenge and has allowed me to grow as a performer.”

Schmitto and Starr landed two of the four lead roles, gamblers Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson, respectively; while Jones plays Sister Sarah Brown and senior theater major Jane Papageorge portrays Miss Adelaide.

From set, lighting and sound design to costumes and props, Guys and Dolls is truly a joint effort between every discipline within the Department of Theater.

“It’s at a larger scale than some of the musicals we’ve been doing recently, which have been more intimate, sparse and austere,” Hackett says. “There will be more on stage with Guys and Dolls. The scenery and costumes are part of the storytelling.”

Grad students Adam Alonso, Matt Johns and Allison Agler were assigned as the show’s set, lighting and costume designers, respectively, each with faculty advisors lending a metaphorical hand when needed and each leading their own small teams.

“I have six assistants helping me just to get this up and running,” says Agler, who has been working on costumes for the show for the past nine months and putting in 14-hour days as opening night draws near.

Construction of the 100 period costumes used in the show began in February, after the actors were cast in late January. Not surprisingly, there are challenges every single day,” Agler says, “whether it’s the fabric we wanted has run out, something doesn’t fit or we have to add a character late in the game. It happened! Lady Luck is now the centerpiece of this massive dance number [requiring an appropriately shiny costume]. Every day someone asks for something different. We just roll with the punches.”

What makes Guys and Dolls timeless? Kern says the appeal of the show lies in its ability to please most audiences — and the fact that it’s a little bit of musical theater history.

“It’s one of the greatest musicals ever written,” she says. “There’s nothing offensive about it — and the kids don’t get to do older, classic musicals very often here,” she says.

Concurs Jones: “I had never actually seen Guys and Dolls or performed in it myself,” she says. “I got to know the material prior to auditioning by looking at YouTube videos, watching the movie and listening to various cast recordings.”

Staging and choreography rehearsals have moved into the Freud Playhouse from classrooms in Macgowan Hall and now, a week before show time, the actors, designers and crew are more excited than nervous about opening night.

“I think it will be probably one of my proudest moments. I might even cry,” Agler says. “To have an idea, to put it in a drawing, to take it to the costume shop and say, ‘OK, let’s make this’ and then it appears…there’s no greater satisfaction for a costume designer.”

Says Starr: “The show will be well polished by opening night and we will all be ready to share it. We have all put so much of ourselves into the show and it will be great to finally show it off to an audience.”

Guys and Dolls runs May 22-24, 27-31, 8 p.m.; May 24 and 31, 2 p.m., at the Freud Playhouse. For tickets, please visit Ticketmaster.

Posted: May 16, 2014


Refreshing Twist

TFT grad student Merlin Camozzi has worn many titles. His latest: 2014 Sprite Films competition finalist

By Noela Hueso

Earlier this year, almost on a whim, second-year UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (UCLA TFT) directing grad student Merlin Camozzi decided to enter his original script in the 2014 Sprite Films competition — not that he wasn’t busy enough. Camozzi was in the throes of working on his advanced film, “a post-apocalyptic family drama with a zombie twist,” he says, and continuing to work, on a part-time basis, as a licensed attorney, a job he previously held full-time. But something drew Camozzi to the project, which sought stories from young filmmakers that reflected the Sprite brand and showed protagonists “making their mark on urban culture through artistic means,” he says.

It’s a good thing Camozzi decided to enter, as he’s one of six finalists (from a pool of 135 entries from 23 U.S. universities) chosen to create a short film based on his script, “What We Need.” The short film, written and directed by Camozzi and produced and production designed by fellow UCLA TFT grad student Rick Perry, was inspired by Camozzi’s love of music. The 50-second spot follows three young, urban singer-songwriters as they create music that skyrockets them to fame. At the end of the spot, they celebrate with — what else? A Sprite.

A Green Ribbon Panel of entertainment industry professionals led this year by actor Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station”) will critique the technical aspects of the films and select one as a first-place award recipient on Fri., May 16. The winner will have their short film debut in August 2014 in select theaters across the country. What’s more, if fans who vote for “What We Need” on have their way (voting closes on Thurs., May 15), the film could win the Fan Favorite Award: A $5,000 donation given to UCLA TFT and a VIP trip for Camozzi, Perry, and two other team members to attend the American Film Institute’s AFI Fest in November 2014. (Last year, UCLA TFT filmmakers Manhea Kim, Meja Shoba and Wesley Ambrecht were Sprite Films finalists for their spot “No Doubt About It.” In 2012, Bruins Simon Savelyev and Steven Huffaker and their film “Prom Night” received the Green Ribbon Panel award.)

In making his short film, Camozzi says he wanted to present a story “about people who are working hard and trying to get where they want to be on their own terms — which is what I’m trying to do as a filmmaker.”

Doing things on his own terms isn’t anything new for Camozzi, who has been carving his own way since he told his parents that he wanted to go to a prestigious private school instead of being home schooled, and earned a scholarship to make that desire a reality.

It was around that time that Camozzi first gave some serious thought to going to film school after graduation. He’d been a film buff since he was a kid, loved to write, and for a while it just made sense. But uncertainty about the career prospects of a would-be director led him, instead, to graduate from the University of Oregon with a degree in history. He then pursued a law degree from Northwestern University.

The entertainment industry was never very far from his mind, however. In law school, Camozzi focused on transactional law, intellectual property and negotiations. After passing the bar in 2006, he worked at law firm Latham & Watkins, LLP, and then, in reality TV, working on the legal side of reality shows such as TLC’s “Toddlers in Tiaras” and Bravo’s “Flipping Out,” among others. He also taught law at Pepperdine University on the side. But the allure of Hollywood’s legal side was short-lived.

“By the time I had done that for a while I was ready for a change of pace,” he says.

So he dabbled as a producer on another reality TV show, Lifetime’s “My Ghost Story,” before coming full circle and enrolling in UCLA TFT’s MFA filmmaking program in Fall 2012.

“I’ve learned a tremendous amount here,” he says. “My filmmaking abilities have increased 10,000 percent since I started. Mark Rosman, Becky Smith and Patricia Cardozo have taught me so much; Rory Kelly, my directing professor this year, is an amazing teacher as far as some of the conceptual aspects of film production go.”

When asked what type of stories he wants to tell, Camozzi says, “The ones that most attract me are stories about people who are on the fringes, people on the edges of society, people who are struggling and surviving,” citing director Debra Granik’s “Winter’s Bone” (2010) as an example. Even so, he doesn’t want to pigeonhole himself. “I’d love to take a stab at an animated movie,” he adds. “I love genre movies, too, and I really appreciate how Christopher Nolan was able to bring grittiness into a big studio genre piece like ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’”

Reflecting on the Sprite Films competition, Camozzi hopes “What We Need” follows the success of Savelyev and Huffaker’s “Prom Night.” Regardless of the outcome, however, he says, “It was fun to play within that sphere of needing to deliver something that was on message but at the same time making it true to my style and authentic for me.”

Posted: May 14, 2014


In High Regard

Professor Emeritus Howard Suber named a recipient of the 2014 Dickson Emeritus Professorship Award

By Noela Hueso

When UCLA Professor Emeritus Howard Suber was 16 years old and just named “Top Debater in the State of Michigan,” he boarded a Greyhound Bus in his hometown of Owosso, Mich., and headed for Cambridge, Mass., with an audacious plan: To walk into the admissions office at Harvard University, uninvited, and request to be interviewed for admission as a freshman.

It was a bold move, to be sure, but not a surprising one for those who know the witty and outspoken Professor Suber, who has been named one of two recipients of the prestigious 2013-2014 Dickson Emeriti Professorship Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a retired faculty member of the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Dickson Professorship, named after former UC Regent Edward A. Dickson, who served from 1913 to 1946, was first handed out in the 2006-07 academic year. It honors outstanding research, scholarly work, teaching and/or educational service performed by an emeritus/a professor since retirement. Like each of the UC campuses, UCLA received funds that will support one or more award each year. Suber is only the second professor from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (UCLA TFT) to win the Dickson, after Professor Vivian Sobchack’s recognition last year.

“Receiving the UCLA Dickson Emeritus Professorship Award is a great and distinctive honor and no one is more deserving than the remarkable Howard Suber,” says UCLA TFT Dean Teri Schwartz. “We are all so very proud of him and so fortunate to call him our colleague, professor and friend.”

Suber is modest about his merit.

“Previous Dickson winners have been people with international reputations, my counterpart included,” he says, referring to the UCLA School of Medicine’s Dr. Eric (Rick) Fonkalsrud of the Dept. of Surgery, a master surgeon and one of the founders of the specialty of pediatric surgery, who has also received a Dickson Professorship this year.

According to UCLA TFT Department of Film, Television and Digital Media Chair William McDonald, Suber’s self-effacement is characteristic.

“To meet this quite humble man, you would never know he had legions of devoted followers, but he does,” McDonald says. “I was one of those fortunate enough to be one of Professor Suber’s students many years ago. He has one of the most brilliant minds I have encountered in my nearly 30 years as a university instructor and even today, I hear students rave about his teaching as students did in my generation.”

In his 49-year career at UCLA, he has always had the philosophy that if you want something to happen, you’ve got to make it happen. It was this attitude that allowed the former associate dean and 1989 recipient of the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award to be instrumental in the creation of three key components of what is now the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television: UCLA’s Critical Media Studies and Ph.D. programs, the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the UCLA Producers Program, all of which he headed as well.

Over the passage of nearly half a century, Suber has taught 65 different courses, spanning all genres from documentaries to film comedy, and though he took early retirement 20 years ago, his illustrious career at UCLA is far from over. Since 1994, he has continued to teach two courses a year: “Film Structure,” on the power of film and narrative structure and either “Advanced Film Structure” or “Strategic Thinking in the Film and Television Industries or Is There Life After Film School?”

Professor Suber didn’t know when he walked into the admissions office at Harvard back in 1954 the path his life’s career would take but his unconventional plan to get into college worked: In his senior year, while many of his contemporaries were heading off to law school and medical school, he decided to pursue a graduate degree in film. In those days, “Nobody who wanted to get into film had any idea how that was done,” Suber recalls, “but I heard there were these two schools on the West Coast called UCLA and USC that had graduate programs.”

He chose UCLA. But he wanted to be a screenwriter and, like so many later students, was impatient to get out into the world. So, he left the program and was taken under the wing of an agent at MCA, at the time the entertainment industry’s biggest talent agency. Ultimately, nothing came from his relationship with MCA except frustration, although it did provide him with life lessons that he has incorporated into his UCLA classes.

Professor Suber returned to the master’s degree program at UCLA and, at the end of his first year back, he was asked by then-film department chair Colin Young to teach a course in American film history.

“I thought it would be a one-time gig. But one thing led to another however, and I discovered that I liked teaching,” he says.

After receiving his master’s degree, Suber was subsequently hired as a part-time lecturer and a couple years after that was told by the administration that if he got a Ph.D., he could have a tenured track position. UCLA didn’t have a Ph.D. program in film at the time — but there was one in theater history.

“This accounts for why 49 years later I still begin my ‘Film Structure’ class by talking about Oedipus Rex. I thought it would be good to use what I learned in my Ph.D. program somewhere,” Suber says with a wink.

Over the years, Suber didn’t let California state budget cuts stand in the way of creating and growing programs that continue to make an impact not only at the university but also around the world.

After Colin Young, who had begun the effort to create what is now the UCLA Film & Television Archive, exited the university to head the British National Film School in 1971, Suber was asked if he’d be willing to take over. At the time, there were no films, no budget and no staff.

“With all the budget cuts that were taking place in the early 1970s, there was no reason to suspect that the archive would get any money from the university, so I said, ‘of course, I’ll do it,’” says Suber, who dispensed with protocol and formalities and personally negotiated with studios, receiving about 2,000 prints, mostly from 20th Century Fox and Paramount.

“My theory had been if we build a valuable collection, the university would have to take care of it and if we had a valuable collection, we might then be able to raise private money to support it. It was true, of course, but I couldn’t prove it at the time. We just had to do it and see how it would turn out.”

Today, the UCLA Film & Television Archive is the second largest archive in the United States, second only to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., funded by individuals, foundations, grants and the UC system itself.

Perhaps the toughest program to get off the ground was the Ph.D. in film, which Suber saw as a fitting addition to the school. He wrote a formal proposal for the creation of the program but it wasn’t until his eighth proposal was submitted that the Academic Senate faculty within the department and the outside jurisdictional committees and administration finally accepted it.

“Several faculty members inside the department feared that strengthening scholarly studies would ruin the film program,” Suber recalls, “while several outside faculty felt film wasn’t scholarly enough to warrant a Ph.D. program.”

As things turned out, the concern was unnecessary. Today the UCLA TFT Ph.D. program in film, television and digital media is considered one of the finest in the world.

In 1987, Professor Suber became convinced that the university and its students would benefit from the creation of a Producer’s Program specifically in film and television and he agreed to chair such a program. As usual, there was no money to start a new program, so he met with heads of studios and other major players in Hollywood and asked them to teach in the fledgling program.

“If a luncheon with these folks went well, I would end by saying, ‘of course, you understand, we wouldn’t insult you with the kind of salaries the University of California pays…so there’s no money attached to this,” Suber chuckles. “So, the whole program was originally built out of free labor.”

Professor Suber took voluntary early retirement in 1994, but has continued to teach part time ever since.
In 2006, Suber wrote “The Power of Film,” which looks at popular films such as “Casablanca,” “The Graduate” and “The Godfather” and examines why they continue to remain popular with present-day audiences.

In 2012, he published “Letters to Young Filmmakers: Creativity and Getting Your Films Made,” a compilation of advice he’s given to students through the years. Suber is currently writing his next book, “Sacred Dramas for a Secular Society,” which has the thesis that certain films serve the same purpose for secular audiences that religious stories serve for people of faith.

Suber doesn’t like to reveal the bold-faced names who have passed through his classes “because it suggests that I had something to do with their success,” he demurs. Nonetheless, in last quarter’s “Is There Life after Film School?” course, successful former students were the featured guests each week.

“Bringing in people who are thriving in the industry and who were sitting in this very same class as recently as a year or two ago speaks more than anything I personally could say that there is hope for them,” Suber says.

Judging from the amount of congratulatory emails that Suber has received in the wake of the Dickson Professorship award announcement on Thurs., May 1, it’s safe to say that Suber has, indeed made an impression on his students, both past and present.

Posted: May 1, 2014