Cirque du Soleil

TFT’s unique collaboration with the largest theatrical producer in the world began summer quarter 2013

In March 2013, the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, and Cirque du Soleil, one of the world’s most revered entertainment organizations, announced the formation of a multi-year fellowship program based in Las Vegas, Nevada, home to seven Cirque du Soleil productions.

The inspiration behind the alliance with Cirque du Soleil stemmed from Dean Teri Schwartz’s vision, which re-imagines entertainment and performing arts education as an interdisciplinary enterprise grounded in humanistic storytelling, innovation and global diversity. This exciting partnership offers TFT students new and unique opportunities to work collaboratively across a multitude of exciting interdisciplinary platforms integrating visual storytelling with live performance, multimedia, 3D, CGI and other forms for digital content creation.

“We are delighted and honored to partner with Cirque du Soleil, the gold standard and leader for the highest levels of interdisciplinary creativity and innovation,” Schwartz said during the announcement. “Cirque du Soleil has boldly pushed the boundaries of where live performance and visual imagery can go, and in ways not imagined before. This is a groundbreaking, singularly important, one-of-a-kind relationship for which we are deeply appreciative to Cirque du Soleil. It allows us to test our philosophy for interdisciplinary studies in a real world context, and represents the fullest expression of our new vision and strategic plan for re-imagining the entire educational enterprise for entertainment and performing arts education in the 21st century. I am so excited and happy for our students to have this amazing, transformational experience.”

“We are like-minded in terms of what Dean Schwartz is trying to do,” said Jordan Fiksenbaum, vice president of marketing and public relations for the Resident Division of Cirque du Soleil. “We formed this partnership to provide a creative, conducive and collaborative environment that’s prosperous for both entities. We are excited to give TFT students real-world working knowledge and experience to help them become better storytellers, creators, designers, and overall more talented individuals.”

The annual fellowship program is open to graduate students from the Department of Film, Television and Digital Media and the Department of Theater, with a highly selective process for admittance beginning with a written narrative explaining why the applicant wants to participate in this unique opportunity. The program provides four graduate students (chosen from candidates in both departments) with the chance to collaborate with one another at Cirque du Soleil’s resident shows in Las Vegas, and to actively participate in the creative, technical, production, marketing and management process of their shows. Students work with a mentor at Cirque du Soleil and a faculty advisor at UCLA TFT and are involved in the process from development through production.

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Latino Theater Company receives $50,000 grant for 2014 Latino Theater Festival

Professor & LTC Director Jose Luis Valenzuela named artistic director

Jose Luis Valenzuela

Posted on December 5th 2012 in Announcement

Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), announced on Tuesday, Nov. 27th that The Latino Theater Company (LTC) will receive an NEA Art Works grant. The LTC is recommended for a $50,000 grant to support the 2014 National Latino Theater Festival and Conference.

TFT Professor and LTC head Jose Luis Valenzuela will be the festival’s artistic director. His main goal is to create a national dialogue about Latino Theater by giving a diverse array of Latino Theater companies from across the nation a chance to showcase their work and get noticed on a national scale.

The festival will be housed at the LATC in downtown Los Angeles and will include the world premieres of ten recent plays produced by Latino theater companies from around the United States. It will run for 3 months in the spring of 2014 and have a budget of 1.2 million

“It’s a big, big project, a time for each company to show their best work,” Valenzuela [told the “Los Angeles Times”]said. “We’re trying to create some sort of a movement, to begin a national dialogue.”

Along with the plays, Valenzuela foresees panel discussions and theater workshops, carrying forward a broader conversation about the direction of Latino theater and the kinds of stories that need to be told to represent today’s Latino experience.

“Most of the [Latino] companies don’t travel, they’re more production-oriented within their own communities, and we sometimes don’t see their work or exchange ideas,” Valenzuela said. “It’s a way to create more understanding of the work going on in other cities.”

Besides giving impetus to commissioning the plays, Valenzuela said, the NEA grant figures to give the nonprofit festival a helpful seal of approval as it seeks funding from other sources.

A veteran stage director and UCLA theater professor, Valenzuela couldn’t recall a comparable national gathering since the early 1980s, when TENAZ (Teatro Nacional de Aztlan, or National Theater of Aztlan), a consortium of Chicano theaters launched in the early 1970s, stopped sponsoring annual festivals.

“The new theater-makers weren’t even born. Now it’s a broader landscape,” Valenzuela said, and the 2014 festival will encompass artists and stories from all Latino-American backgrounds.

Valenzuela said the festival sprang from discussions among Latino theater leaders who met in Washington and Boston under the auspices of the Center for the Theater Commons, an organization that supports nonprofit theater. The process for choosing the plays and producing companies is still being honed, he said.

The play-picking process “has to be a very careful dialogue, so that people don’t feel alienated from it, and they’ll know they’ll still be part of it,” even if a given company’s submission isn’t chosen to be produced, Valenzuela said. “We want to know what writers are writing, how many stories are out there that haven’t been told.”

Organizers have begun compiling a database of Latino theater artists that now numbers 167 individuals, he said, with an eye toward canvassing the field for ideas and submissions.

“We know who the major ones are. People are trying to let us know who we should see and talk to, and who may be doing wonderful work off the radar,” Valenzuela said. Festival selections are to be announced at a preliminary Latino theater conference tentatively scheduled for August 2013 at DePaul University in Chicago.

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Student Film “The Battle of the Jazz Guitarists” doing well on Festival Circuit

Battle of the Jazz Guitarist

Posted on November 15th 2012 in Announcement

“The Battle of the Jazz Guitarists,” a documentary directed by MFA Directing student Mark Columbus ’10, MFA ’13, has been making it’s way around the festival circuit over the past several months. In addition to being chosen as an official selection at the CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival, the film also won best short documentary at both the Palm Springs International Film Festival and the Guanajuato International Film Festival.

Columbus made this tribute documentary about his father Max, a jazz guitarist once famous in the Fiji Islands who took a big hit to his career by moving his family to America. Though just 7 minutes long, the film gives the viewer fantastic insight into the family’s history and provides a emotional yet humorous examination of the father-son relationship.

For a more thorough overview of the film, check out the great write up on below!

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TFT alum and Professor Felicia Henderson will adapt classic “Flyy Girl” novels

Posted on November 2nd 2012 in Announcement

TFT alumna and Professor Felicia D. Henderson MA ’04, PhD ’08 will write and direct the film adaptation of Omar Tyree’s New York Times Best Selling “Flyy Girl” trilogy of novels, through her company, WaterWalk Productions. Best known for developing “Soul Food” for Showtime, Henderson has written for film, television, and theater. She’s currently the executive producer of BET’s “Reed Between the Lines.”

“I’m more than excited to make my feature film directing debut adapting the iconic Flyy Girl novels. Writing the screenplay, and knowing I’m directing the film has been creative joy!” Henderson’s other credits include “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Gossip Girl” and “Fringe.” She she teaches writing for film and television at TFT.

Omar Tyree’s catalog of novels, which include “Flyy Girl” and two follow up novels, “For the Love of Money” and “Boss Lady,” have generated over $30 million worldwide for publishing giant Simon and Schuster. “For the Love of Money” won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work In Fiction.

After receiving her B.A. Ms. Henderson embarked upon a five-year stint in traditional business that began as an investment research manager and ended as a consultant at Kidder, Peabody & Company, after which she decided to go back to school. While pursuing an M.B.A. in corporate finance at the University of Georgia, she received the NBC National Fellowship.

When asked what’s the most important thing in her life, the aunt of eighteen nieces and nephews replies, “The children.” She strongly believes in community and is very active in programs for underprivileged youth in Pasadena, CA. She is a member of the Pasadena Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta (a public service sorority), The Literacy Program, and Each One Teach One.

Ms. Henderson believes, “It’s important to expose those who otherwise might not have access to information. I make sure that all of the children I come in contact with, whether they’re six or sixteen, know how I got where I am and that no one gives you success. You have to take it – which means working harder than everyone else; being more dedicated to your dream than anything else; and believing in yourself more than you believe in anyone else.”

Related Links:

Felicia Henderson TFT faculty bio

VIDEO: Felicia Henderson Master Class with editor Ann Coates


Alumnis’ Horror Web Series “Chopper” to be adapted as feature film

Headless Biker from web series Chopper running away from a police car

Posted on November 2nd 2012 in Announcement

“Chopper,” a web series produced by alumnus J.C. Christofilis and originally written and adapted by alumnus Martin Shapiro MFA ’00 will be adapted as a feature under their own “Dilemma” moniker. Originally a comic, the web series has accumulated more than 2 million views on Youtube and a strong online following.

The film will be a contemporary spin on the timeless Sleepy Hollow mythology. Chopper’s storyline revolves around a headless outlaw biker seeking vengeance in the afterlife by killing mortal sinners.

About the Producer: J.C. Christofilis has led a diverse career that has placed him at the forefront of successful thought leaders in the entertainment, marketing and new media industries. J.C. has spearheaded countless business development, marketing, content production, distribution, corporate communications, project management and strategic planning initiatives for an eclectic roster of companies including Sony Pictures, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Disney Consumer Products, iO Film, Growthink, Mandalay Pictures and others.

About the Writer/Creator: Martin Shapiro is a freelance professional writer and screenwriting teacher with extensive entertainment industry experience creating movies, graphic novels, web TV series, video games, and web sites. His action-thriller screenplay “Lair of the Fox” was optioned by Ilya Salkind (Producer of Superman). He’s also written and developed projects for MGM, HBO and numerous production companies including an adaptation of “Dragonlance,” the New York Times bestselling series of fantasy novels.

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Alumna’s feature doc licensed by Al Jazeera & Singapore airlines

Emmanuelle Schick Garcia, Director of The Idiot Cycle

Posted on October 29th 2012 in Announcement

The Idiot Cycle, a feature documentary directed and
co-produced by alumna Emmanuelle Schick Garcia MFA ’03, was recently licensed by Al Jazeera
and Singapore Airlines. The film was previously licensed by AB in France and Russia Today, and also
won the Green Report Award.

The documentary alleges that six major chemical companies are responsible for decades of cancer causing chemicals and pollution, and also develop cancer treatments and drugs. It also argues these companies own the most patents on genetically modified crops that have never been tested for long term health impacts like cancer. The film was shot in a variety of locations, including Canada, The United States, The Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, England, and Northern Ireland.

Before “The Idiot Cycle,” Garcia co-directed and edited “20 Ans Déjà,” which was the most
watched sports documentary on Canal+ and distributed by TF1. She is currently developing two comedy series and a feature comedy while
attending the Université of Paris (Sorbonne) for a Master’s in Film Law and Finance.

For more information on “The Idiot Cycle,” check out the movie’s Facebook Page.

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Alumnus John Rando takes “A Christmas Story” to Broadway

Musical based on Jean Shepherd Classic Opens in November

Ralphie's bunny ears

TFT Theater alumnus John Rando MFA ’88, Tony and Outer Circle Critic’s Award-winning director of “Urinetown,” “The Wedding Singer” and Neil Simon’s “The Dinner Party” is the director of a musical theater adaptation of “A Christmas Story,” the classic 1983 Bob Clark film, based on the novel “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” by humorist Jean Shepherd.

Actor Peter Billingsly, who at age 12 portrayed the film’s protagonist, Ralphie, is one of the producers of the stage version. Actor Dan Luria, best known as the father on the TV show “The Wonder Years,” portrays author-narrator Shepherd.

Set in the 1950s, an era that is portrayed with barbed humor as well as nostalgia, the film has become a Holiday perennial on video with its story of a Ralphie’s quest for the ultimate Christmas present, an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle.

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Oscar®-Nominee Dante Spinotti Named 2012 Kodak Cinematographer-in-Residence

April 30 Screening of Spinotti’s The Last of the Mohicans Open to the Public

Posted on April 24th 2012 in Announcement

LOS ANGELES, April 24, 2012— Affirming their commitment to the next generation of filmmakers and to the future of the film industry, Kodak and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT) have announced Oscar®-nominee Dante Spinotti, AIC, ASC will be the 2012 Kodak Cinematographer-in-Residence for the spring quarter at UCLA/TFT.

“It is an honor to have Dante Spinotti as this year’s Cinematographer-in-Residence at TFT,” says Professor William McDonald. “His experience, unique cinematic eye and dedication to his craft make him an invaluable mentor for our students providing them a once-in-a-lifetime experience and education. This is precisely Kodak and TFT’s goal with our exclusive program.”

The mentorship program will begin with a free screening of one of Spinotti’s most memorable films, The Last of the Mohicans, at the James Bridges Theater in Melnitz Hall on Monday, April 30 at 8:00 p.m (Click here to see more information on the event). Spinotti won a BAFTA Award for his work on the 1992 film directed by Michael Mann, and the film received considerable praise and various other accolades. The screening is free and open to students, staff, faculty as well as the general public. A Q&A discussion with Spinotti will be moderated by Professor McDonald following the screening.

Spinotti’s U.S. career began in 1986 with his breakthrough visuals on Manhunter with Mann, and continues today with the recent release, Tower Heist, with Brett Ratner. He has compiled more than 60 venerable credits to date, collaborating with such ground-breaking directors as Bruce Beresford, Garry Marshall, and Michael Apted. His work with Curtis Hanson on L.A. Confidential in 1997 led to his first Oscar® nomination, followed by a second nomination for The Insider in 2000, on which he re-teamed with Mann. Both films also earned Spinotti ASC Award nominations, with an additional nod from ASC for The Last of the Mohicans. His body of work includes such memorable films as Crimes of the Heart, Beaches, Frankie and Johnny, Heat, Wonder Boys, Red Dragon, Pinocchio, X-Men: The Last Stand, Public Enemies, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Berlin Affair, Fotografando Patrizia, Il segreto del bosco vecchio, The Legend of the Holy Drinker, and The Star Maker.

“What a tremendous experience these students will have with the incredibly talented Dante Spinotti mentoring them,” says Kodak’s Judith Doherty. “We’re so pleased with the success of this program over the years, as supporting the next generation of filmmakers is always a high priority for Kodak.”

The Cinematographer-in-Residence program was inaugurated by Professor McDonald in 2000 with the support of Kodak to enhance the learning experience of students with insight from renowned cinematographers. UCLA/TFT is the only film school that offers a cinematography residency program such as this, where students can receive direct guidance from cinematographers through screenings, workshops and one-on-one sessions over the course of 10 weeks.

The revered program’s past mentors include Allen Daviau, ASC; Conrad L. Hall, ASC; Owen Roizman, ASC; Dean Cundey, ASC; Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC; Laszlo Kovacs, ASC; Joan Churchill, ASC; Stephen Burum, ASC; Victor J. Kemper, ASC; Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, John Bailey, ASC and Richard Crudo, ASC.

For additional information about the April 30 screening of The Last of the Mohicans, visit or call 310-206-8365. Admission is free. Parking is available in Lot 3. There is an $11 parking fee. A limited number of pay-by-the-hour parking spaces are also available in Lot 3.

About Kodak’s Educational Initiatives:
Kodak’s ongoing support of student filmmakers and educators encourages excellence in the field of motion picture education. The company’s efforts include a range of programs that enrich knowledge and learning experiences in the art and craft of filmmaking. Initiatives range from scholarships, educational materials, and product grants to awards, seminars and workshops. Student film showcases and the annual Kodak Student Scholarship and Student Cinematography Awards also contribute to raising the profile and recognition of emerging talent. For more information, visit or join Kodak on Facebook at and on Twitter at @Kodak_ShootFilm.


Brian Crano’s first feature “A Bag of Hammers” opens in New York and LA

Jason Ritter and Rebecca Hall star in bittersweet grifter comedy

Posted on April 19th 2012 in Announcement

“A Bag of Hammers,” directed and co-written by TFT theater alumnus Brian Crano ’02, gets a theatrical release in May. Critically acclaimed at its SXSW world premier in 2011, the film will play at the Village East Theatre in New York from May 11-13, then at the Music Hall in Los Angeles from May 18-20.

TFT Alumnus Quyen Tran served as cinematographer on the film.

Jason Ritter and Jake Sandvig star as two charming grifters who have built a successful though posing as valet parking attendants, stealing the vehicles instead of parking them. Everything changes, however, when they meet a twelve-year-old boy named Kelsey whose presence forces the pair to choose between a life of crime and fun and the opportunity to grow up. Cast includes Rebecca Hall (“The Town”), Chandler Canterbury (“Fringe”) and Carrie Preston (“True Blood.”)

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“Smashed” alum James Ponsoldt sets new film

Teams with “Descendants” co-star Shailene Woodley for “The Spectacular Now.

Posted on April 18th 2012 in Accolade

IndieWire reports that Professional Program in Screenwriting alumnus James Ponsoldt ’10 (“Smashed”) has closed a deal for his next film: He will direct breakout “Descendants” co-star Shailene Woodley in the coming-of-age drama “The Spectacular Now.”