2018 Stage Raw Theater Awards Nominations
Nine UCLA TFT alumni and faculty were nominated for 2018 Stage Raw Theater Awards, which celebrate excellence on Los Angeles stages in venues with 99 seats or less. The fourth annual ceremony will take place on Tuesday, July 24 at the Skylight Theatre in Los Feliz.
Omolara Abode (B.A. ’09), Lyrics from Lockdown, The Actors’ Gang
Corwin Evans (M.F.A. ’09), The Art Couple, Sacred Fools Theater Company
Hana Sooyeon Kim (M.F.A. ’12), With Love and a Major Organ, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Yee Eun Nam (M.F.A. ’14), Br’er Cotton, Zephyr Theatre
Pablo Santiago-Brandwein (M.F.A. ’13), Time Alone, Belle Reve Theatre Company
SUPPORTING FEMALE PERFORMANCE
Cheryl Umana (B.A. ’03), This Land, Company of Angels
FEMALE COMEDY PERFORMANCE
Paige Lindsey White (M.F.A. ’06), With Love and a Major Organ, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Alessandro Camon (M.A. ’94), Time Alone, Belle Reve Theatre Company
Jessica Kubzansky (Lecturer), With Love and a Major Organ, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Posted: July 13, 2018
AWARD-WINNING DIRECTOR CARL FRANKLIN SPEAKS AT THE
UCLA SCHOOL OF THEATER, FILM AND TELEVISION’S 71ST ANNUAL COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY
Two-time Tony Award-winning Actress-Singer Judy Kaye and Award Winning Writer-Director Allison Anders Receive Distinguished Alumni Awards
Teri Schwartz, dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, hosted award-winning director Carl Franklin as the school’s 2018 commencement keynote speaker today. Dean Schwartz presided over the ceremony in Royce Hall.
Franklin is a director of film and television. His first feature, One False Move, garnered critical acclaim and earned him several awards including Best Director at the Independent Spirit Awards and Best New Filmmaker at the MTV Movie Awards. He subsequently directed the award-winning HBO miniseries Laurel Avenue and the moody neo-noir feature Devil in a Blue Dress, starring Denzel Washington. His other film credits include One True Thing, starring Renée Zellweger, William Hurt and Meryl Streep; High Crimes; Out of Time and the critically acclaimed Bless Me, Ultima. His remarkable body of work in television includes directing episodes of highly lauded shows such as HBO’s The Pacific, The Newsroom and The Leftovers, and Showtime’s Homeland. Other credits include episodes of Showtime’s Ray Donovan and The Affair; HBO’s Rome and Vinyl; Hulu’s Chance; and TNT’s Falling Skies, Good Behavior and the upcoming series One Day She’ll Darken. He also directed the pilot episodes of Starz’ Magic City and ABC’s Ten Days in the Valley. He received an NAACP Image Award and an Emmy Award nomination in the category of Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for his work on Netflix’s breakthrough hit House of Cards and won another Image Award in the same category for his direction of Netflix’s smash hit 13 Reasons Why. Franklin is next set to direct multiple episodes of Netflix’s Mindhunter in Summer 2018.
“We were greatly honored to have Carl Franklin as our distinguished commencement speaker for 2018. To have a filmmaker of his stature and distinction grace our ceremony on the most important day of the academic year was very exciting for all of us at our UCLA TFT. Carl’s galvanizing speech inspired our students tremendously as they embark on this next significant chapter in their lives and careers.”
Two-time Tony Award-winning actress and singer Judy Kaye (Nice Work if You Can Get It, The Phantom of the Opera) received the Distinguished Alumni Award in Theater and award-winning writer and director Allison Anders (Border Radio, Mi Vida Loca) received the Distinguished Alumni Award in Film, Television and Digital Media.
“We were thrilled to have two-time Tony Award-winning actress Judy Kaye and groundbreaking filmmaker Allison Anders as our 2018 alumnae honorees for Theater and Film, respectively. Both have had illustrious, hugely important careers. They both represent the very finest of a UCLA TFT education. We are so proud of these great alumnae for their extraordinary success and inspiring creative works. We were very honored to present Judy and Allison with the highest award we give to our alumni.”
Kaye most recently starred on Broadway and on tour as Madame Morrible in Wicked. She also appeared on Broadway as the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella and the Duchess in Nice Work If You Can Get It, for which she won Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards in 2012. She won her ﬁrst Tony in 1988 for her role as Carlotta in the original cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. Other career highlights include roles in the original productions of Souvenir, Mamma Mia!, Ragtime, On the Twentieth Century and numerous productions of Sweeney Todd, portraying Mrs. Lovett. Kaye has recorded numerous cast albums and solo recordings, and performed on Leonard Bernstein’s Grammy Award-winning Arias and Barcarolles. She has sung at The Santa Fe Opera in La Boheme, The Beggars Opera and Orpheus in the Underworld, with symphony orchestras around the United States and Europe, and has performed twice at the White House.
Anders is an award-winning film and television writer and director. Her film debut, Border Radio, examined the Los Angeles punk scene in the 1980s and went on to be nominated by the Independent Feature Project for Best First Feature. It is part of The Criterion Collection. Anders’ other credits include Gas Food Lodging, Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life), Four Rooms, Grace of My Heart and Sugar Town. In 2001, Don Cheadle was nominated for an Emmy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his work in Anders’ film Things Behind the Sun, which also received the Peabody Award. Anders is well known in television for directing episodes of hit shows such as Sex and the City, Gross Pointe, Cold Case, The L Word, Men in Trees, What About Brian?, Southland, The Mentalist, Orange Is the New Black, Gang Related, The Divide, Murder in the First, Proof, AMC’s Turn: Washington’s Spies and the CW’s much lauded Riverdale.
Posted: June 15, 2018
Francis Ford Coppola’s Live Cinema
How the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s groundbreaking experimental project became a reality at UCLA TFT
Francis Ford Coppola’s Live Cinema (above), a documentary short directed by Cecilia Albertini (M.F.A. ’18), produced by Gayatri Bajpai (M.F.A. ’16), and with a UCLA TFT student crew, chronicles the behind-the-scenes events leading up to the debut of Distant Vision, a unique hybrid of live theater, film and television performed and viewed in real time, as envisioned by the Academy Award-winning filmmaker. Francis Ford Coppola’s Live Cinema showcases the creativity and dedication of a talented team of students and professionals who had the great privilege of working with Coppola to help him realize his vision.
In May 2016, it was announced at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television that Coppola (M.F.A. ’67), at the invitation of Dean Teri Schwartz, would be bringing his concept of live cinema to the school in the form of an original, semi-autobiographical production that spanned three generations of the Corrados, an Italian-American family in New York City, from the 1920s to the 1980s. The creation of Distant Vision (a 19th century term for television) at UCLA TFT involved more than 100 UCLA TFT students, faculty and staff in various production and acting roles working alongside professionals in a six-week workshop co-produced by UCLA TFT and Coppola’s production company, American Zoetrope. Using more than 40 cameras, the 25-minute production was realized in July 2016 from the stage of UCLA TFT’s Freud Playhouse and was broadcast live to select screening rooms around the world.
UCLA TFT alumni recall their ‘Distant Vision’ experiences
Seven UCLA TFT alumni who worked on Distant Vision in various capacities as students — actors Oscar Fabela (M.F.A. ’18), Israel Lopez (M.F.A. ’16) and Lea Madda (M.F.A. ’17); costume designers Kumie Asai (M.F.A. ’17) and Ruoxuan Li (M.F.A. ’16); movement coordinator Angela Lopez (M.F.A. ’17); and production designer Weihsun “Hogan” Lee (M.F.A. ’18), recently reunited for a look back at their experiences on the project with UCLA TFT’s Noela Hueso.
How were you chosen to participate in the Distant Vision project?
Lea Madda, actress, “Ciara,” mother of lead character “Tony Corrado”: All the actors auditioned for Francis. There were two rounds: The first was literally a 90-second meet-and-greet. Then he called some of us back and we met at 3rd Street Dance where we did a series of freestyle improvisations. He cast from that. It all happened in about 48 hours.
Oscar Fabela, cameraman, background actor: I did the audition as well. Once we got the logistics of the camerawork, I was also able to be in the film as a background artist. We applied to be a part of the camera team by writing short essays. The production team wanted to know how we were going to take our interdisciplinary training in the UCLA TFT program and utilize it on Distant Vision, because some of us were applying to work outside of our concentration.
Kumie Asai, costume supervisor: Ruoxuan was hired first. We were taking a film class with directors in it, taught by Professor Deborah Landis [head of the David C. Copley Center for Costume Design at UCLA TFT] and Jane Ruhm, who was also the Distant Vision faculty advisor. It was Jane who asked me to come on board.
Weihsun “Hogan” Lee, art director: Sydnie [Ponic, lead UCLA TFT student production designer] and I were also assigned to our jobs, by [production design professor] Myung Hee [Cho]…Francis asked Sydnie and me to travel to [his office/home in] Napa for a couple of days to start the design process, so the school sent us up there.
What was that like?
Lee We spent almost a day and a half with Francis talking about how this project was going to happen. He had a clear vision for the project right from the beginning.
Angela, how did you get involved?
Angela Lopez, movement coordinator: I was asked by J.Ed [Araiza, head of M.F.A. acting program] to interview as an actress. But when I met with Francis, I talked about my movement background and how I studied in Italy. He ended up creating a job for me that didn’t previously exist, coordinating the blocking for the big scenes with all the extras, and sitting next to Francis, taking his acting notes and relaying them to the actors.
Israel Lopez, actor, “Tony Corrado”: I heard about the project from [Professor In-Residence] Jeff Burke and J.Ed. I was already on my way out — I was graduating that June. When I went in for the interview, everyone who wasn’t Italian was trying to do an imitation of [the actors in] The Godfather. I just talked to him. I think Francis appreciated that I wasn’t trying to do a caricature.
Other than the chance to work with Coppola, why did you want to do this project?
Fabela It was the idea that he was just trying to do something totally new — the whole live cinema concept.
Angela Lopez I wanted to find out if I could work with someone at Francis’ level and feel comfortable doing it — being able to sit right next to him, working side-by-side, watching the same camera he was, asking him questions and learning from him.
Israel Lopez What was attractive was that Francis’ team was going to work not only with actors but with costume designers, lighting designers and cinematographers from our school.
Asai I liked that I could use professional costume houses: Palace Costumes and Western Costumes. They were very generous about renting costumes to us and we got to set up our own shop [with their clothes] at the school. Deborah and Jane were the biggest help because they knew all the industry people.
How would you describe live cinema to someone who knows nothing about it?
Angela Lopez It’s live but it’s different than live theater because there are so many film aspects to it. In film, you’re looking at a montage of the best takes, wherein this, whatever take is there, that’s what you get. It’s more theatrical because you can’t rewind in theater and you can’t rewind in this.
Israel Lopez For me, it’s a film. You could pay for a ticket at Regal Cinemas for a 7 o’clock show, sit down with your popcorn and watch it like any other film. The only difference is that this one is live…and hopefully we don’t mess up when you’re watching it! The ultimate goal was: Can we do this live and make it look like a finished film right now?
Fabela Francis told me that he loved the idea of being able to show film and being able to experience it with the audience right then and there — and having them leave knowing that they will never get that again.
What were your impressions of Francis?/p>
Asai He loves talking and he loves teaching and sharing. I thought he was the sweetest person to work with.
Angela Lopez We asked him if he had a special power what would it be, and he said something like “making everybody happy.” (laughs)
Madda He’s very much American but the Italian aspect of him is so deep and important to him. He could tell I was Italian just from looking at me. One of the very first things he asked me was if I spoke Italian or had ever been to Italy. Roman Catholicism is very important to him, too.
Israel Lopez He’s very family oriented and he considered us his family. He would always make sure I was ok and would ask me, “Have you eaten anything?” He always made sure we were fed.
I understand that improvisation was a big part of what you all were doing.
Angela Lopez The first few weeks, for the actors at least, there was a lot of it. He was trying to create backstories for people, so he would do scenes that weren’t even in the show to create a relationship between a married couple, for example.
Madda The familial relationships were really, really important to him. These improvs were just fancy ice breakers and everyone did start to get quite close by the end.
Angela Lopez What was most interesting was hearing that he did some of the same exercises with Marlon Brando [who starred in Coppola’s films The Godfather and Apocalypse Now].
Where else did improvisation show up? Oscar, you’re shaking your head no, not in the camera department.
Fabela No, not at all, that was very precise. Everything from the angle of the camera to the bubble levels [which ensure that the camera is completely balanced] — everything was so meticulous for obvious reasons — if you didn’t move on the five-count, that moving wall might hit you and knock you down.
The use of panels — those “moving walls” — seemed pretty crucial to the whole project. Can you describe how those work?
Lee Francis read an article about early 20th century [theater practitioner] Gordon Craig, who created these panels that were supposed to create multiple spaces on a stage and were easy to travel with from theater to theater. Francis was fascinated with the idea and wanted to have some panels made for Distant Vision. There was a whole crew of people who were on set, led by [former UCLA TFT stage manager] Kellie Knight and another M.F.A. designer, James Maloof, rehearsing how the panels should move to save space for the next coming shots, the staging and the blocking.
How important was collaboration to the success of the project?
Fabela From the camera team’s perspective, we literally could not do it alone. Just logistically speaking, from the movement of these panels, to where you’re sitting to where your camera goes to where your actors are…unless you were absolutely paying attention to everything and everyone around you, it wasn’t going to happen.
How is the fact that we are a School of Theater, Film and Television an advantage in creating a project such as this?
Madda We were treated like professionals. When we went in, it was assumed that we already knew the basic tenets of working in the film world. If I had come into this project without having already completed a couple of on-camera classes and also the pilot project in the Spring Quarter [Sanity, funded by Time Warner, and donors David Zuckerman and Ellie Kanner], I don’t think I would have been able to get through this one successfully.
Asai We are the only costume department in this whole program so we go back and forth [between theater and film] all the time. So, when this project came along, we were like “Ok, we got this.”
Israel Lopez I’ve always thought UCLA TFT is wonderful because we focus on story, so whether you’re in film or costume design or in the theater program, playwriting, directing, cinematography — everything revolves around story. For this project, you really had to know the story. When someone understands story, they’re able to contribute more fully to the entire collaborative process in whatever medium and/or context that might be; they’re able to understand and celebrate others and they become indispensable.
How many rehearsals were there?
Madda We rehearsed technically for four weeks — the actors had a decent amount of days off here and there but in the final week, the entire production and acting team was there from Monday through Friday for 6-12 hours. The final day, we ran through the show four times.
On a set where everything is happening live, things must have been moving really fast.
Madda A couple of people, myself included, had all these wild costume changes. I literally had six hands on me tearing wigs and dresses off my body in opposite directions.
Did you guys coordinate that ahead of time?
Madda Yeah, we did! It was totally choreographed and I had to just stand there. (poses, laughs)
What were the challenges that each of you faced in your respective areas and how did you solve them?
Fabela I applied to UCLA TFT because I knew I wasn’t just going to be an actor. I was going to be an artist — to do a lot of things — so having the chance to do this project, I was like, “Absolutely!” The challenge for me going in to it was that I had never touched a camera. Most of the camera crew [undergrads and M.F.A. candidates] were directors and cinematographers — people who were very experienced with cameras and equipment — and they made sure I was taken care of. Now I know how cameras work, the differences between lenses and so much other stuff, which as an actor, I think is so important.
Angela Lopez The street scene [which established the neighborhood in which the Corrado family lived] was my biggest challenge and the most stressful day because there was a baby, 20 adults, eight or nine kids running around, a dog, a cat, a goat and a 1920s car that had to move — and we had only 20 minutes to get this baby on camera [because of child labor laws].
Israel Lopez I remember everybody being so enamored by the goat and then Francis saying at one point, “What is this, a petting zoo?” (laughs).
Ruoxan Li, costume designer: The costumes we rented from Palace and Western were the real deal — real vintage clothing from the ’20s and ’30s. We had lots of dress rehearsals with lots of big movements (running, jumping, etc.). On a production with a big budget, recreations of the original costumes might be made but we didn’t have the time or money to do that, so the actors wore the actual costumes and many times, they ripped with all the movement. We were constantly sewing clothing that kept ripping…
Asai …Especially the kids’ clothes. Their costumes were made from fine cotton and they were always running or on the ground…
Did you make any of the costumes?
Asai Some of them. We built a dress for the actress who portrayed the grandmother of the family.
Madda She was an opera singer!
Li …and also for the stunt people.
Madda The biggest challenge for me was when they asked me to chop all my hair off. (gasps)
Madda They chopped off a lot because they needed to do 1940s victory rolls. Barbara, the hat lady, was like, “We will not do a wig on you,” and she knew that I would say yes…and I did say yes.
That would have been hard for me.
Israel Lopez They cut my sideburns. It was supposed to be the early ’80s. After they cut them, I walked over to Francis and the documentary camera is following me and Francis was like, “What did they do to your hair?” (everyone laughs)
Asai Makeup and hair were the only departments without any students. They were seasoned professionals.
Madda That must have been one of the biggest parts of the budget.
Li A lot of money was spent on the wigs; they were very specific to the eras. Because the set was really quite simple, for storytelling purposes, the characters’ costumes were really the only way to indicate the time period. Also, it was important for the costumes to be authentic because there were a lot of close-ups.
How did this project enhance your time at UCLA TFT?
Asai It was special. We have a lot of theater projects at our school but this was epic to make this kind of film with all those professional people coming in. It was a really big event for us.
Li It was a really good transition experience from school to the real-world industry — and it’s a really good credit to have on my resume!
Madda One of my favorite moments of the entire project was at the very end of our final taping. The steady cam went around and filmed everyone celebrating behind the scenes. We watched this later as the credits ran at the end of the show. It wasn’t just the actors but all of the camera crew and all the sound guys and everyone else. It was just so cool because everyone was together in the gigantic room and you saw how many people it took to make this project a reality.
Israel Lopez It was a crazy, tough transition time for me when I was cast in Distant Vision. I was graduating, there were a lot of moving parts, and I was driving a truck for this carnival service. It was really hard work but it was the only thing that was flexible enough to let me do this project. One day, I was working in the hot sun setting up a ride and I got a voice mail: “Hey, Israel, it’s Francis. I just wanted to ask if you could be in here at this time, we need you to do this voiceover.” Even though everything was kinda terrible in my life at that moment, when I listened to that message, I thought, “Wow this is really wonderful.” It was the feeling, that ultimately, I would always have that story to tell. The great thing is now when I go on auditions, I’m not nervous at all…Francis Ford Coppola has left me voice mail messages; what’s there to be nervous about?!
What did you learn through this experience?
Angela Lopez Theater was this pure art form for me and I thought I wasn’t really interested in film. Now I get paid to direct music videos, which is taking everything I did as a theater artist and using what I learned on this project to now make this other art form.
Fabela It confirmed to me that in this day and age you must be a multi-hyphenate artist. It’s invaluable to know more than just your concentration. You come to this interdisciplinary school — the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television — and this literally epitomized everything that the school said it was. I was a first-year student at the time and I was like, “I’m getting paid for my first gig at the school, my first IMDB credit is a Coppola film…what other school is doing this?”
PHOTOS: (Middle) Francis Ford Coppola with the Distant Vision cast and crew; (bottom, clockwise from far left) UCLA TFT alumni Israel Lopez, Ruoxuan Li, Kumie Asai, Lea Madda, Oscar Fabela and Angela Lopez (not pictured: Weihsun “Hogan” Lee)
Posted: June 14, 2018
UCLA SCHOOL OF THEATER, FILM AND TELEVISION AND THE UNIVERSITE COTE D’AZUR,
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE MAYOR AND CITY OF CANNES, VIVENDI/CANAL+ AND THE FESTIVAL DE CANNES, MARK THE SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF THE INAUGURAL STORYTELLING INSTITUTE
David Lisnard, mayor of Cannes, Jean-Marc Gambaudo, president of the Université Côte D’Azur (UCA), Teri Schwartz, dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (UCLA TFT), Pierre Lescure, president of the Cannes International Film Festival, Frank Cadoret, director, Vivendi, and Maxime Saada, chief executive of the Canal+ Group, awarded diplomas and certificates of completion today to the graduate students of the inaugural Storytelling Institute in Cannes, France.
The 2018 class of the Institute includes four graduate screenwriting students from UCLA TFT: Bisi Ademulegun, Brenna Galvin, Eric Mallory Morgan and Daniel Tino; and four French graduate screenwriting students: Branca Cepelowicz, Sarah Lasry, Simon Perrin and Jordan Raux.
The six-week residency program, which began on April 9 and runs through May 19, 2018, is a partnership between UCLA TFT, UCA, the Mayor and City of Cannes, the president and director of the Cannes International Film Festival, and Vivendi/Canal+. The Institute was conceived to nurture and develop the next generation of outstanding screenwriters, from UCLA TFT and from France, whose works will not only delight and entertain, but enlighten, engage and inspire change for a better world.
Launched ahead of the Festival de Cannes, the program is framed by UCLA TFT’s unparalleled screenwriting curriculum and faculty, which includes Goya Award-winning screenwriter Neil Landau (Las Adventuras de Tadeo Jones) and Pat Verducci, as well as UCA faculty Yann Apperry, winner of the Prix Médicis and Prix Goncourt des lycéens.
The graduate screenwriting students are set to complete a fully realized, first draft of a feature film screenplay by the end of the program. Vivendi/Canal+ has a “first look” opportunity with screenplays written by the graduate students in the Institute. In the final two weeks, students have had the opportunity to experience master classes with distinguished filmmakers and screenwriters, and to engage in discussions, special screenings and other professionally oriented activities at the Festival de Cannes.
“After having our wonderful signing ceremony in Cannes last year, we are absolutely delighted to return to Cannes for the official launch of the 2018 Storytelling Institute,” says Schwartz. “This has been a magnificent team effort amongst all of the partners with whom we, at UCLA TFT, are very proud and honored to collaborate. We want to thank the Mayor and City of Cannes for their warm hospitality, and express our great appreciation to all of the partners for their exceptional commitment to the success of the Storytelling Institute. We are very proud of the outstanding work our students have done over these many weeks and remain excited about the great promise of their screenplays. The students’ talent and unique storytelling voices are exceptional. To have this groundbreaking, ‘first look’ graduate screenwriting program with Vivendi/Canal+ in the beautiful and inspiring city of Cannes, and overlapping with our students’ experiences at the world-renown Cannes Film Festival, is nothing short of remarkable.”
“This program is the fruit of an exceptional collaboration between the university and the world of professional film makers. We have been working on this residency for well over a year, working side-by-side with the world leaders in the area including UCLA TFT, Vivendi/Canal+, and the Cannes Film Festival,” says Jean-Marc Gambaudo. “And all of this has been greatly facilitated by our partnership with the city of Cannes. The Institute is a key element in the development of the future Bastide Rouge campus in Cannes, which will be dedicated to cinema and to the creative industries.
“We have a brilliant group of students for this inaugural class of the Institute,” he continues, “and their highly promising, original screenplays reflect the unique multicultural nature of the program, with its intersection between French and American perspectives.”
Along with the Festival de Cannes, UCLA TFT hosted prominent alumni and industry leaders from the world of cinema to conduct special master classes where they spoke about their work and engaged in Q&A sessions, specifically for Storytelling Institute students. Leadership from Vivendi/Canal+ also hosted master classes focused on international production and distribution, and “What is a French movie?: A Spectator’s Experience à la française.”
“As leading companies of the entertainment industry, with content creation at the core of their activities, Vivendi and Canal+ are committed to supportive creative talents. In a fast-changing world, Vivendi and Canal+ particularly value the voice of the younger generations. We are very proud to be founding partners of the Storytelling Institute and very excited by the projects developed by the residents,” says Amandine Maudet, vice president, content development for Vivendi/Canal+.
UCLA TFT alumni films have had long association with the Festival de Cannes. Films that have received the prestigious Palme d’Or recognition include Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, which won the Palme d’Or in 1979; Taxi Driver, written by alumnus Paul Schrader, earned the prize in 1976 for director and UCLA TFT executive board member Martin Scorsese; and Alexander Payne’s films Nebraska and About Schmidt were nominated in 2013 and 2002, respectively. This year, Scorsese received the Directors’ Fortnight Carrosse d’Or (Golden Coach) Award.
Posted: May 18, 2018
UCLA TFT faculty and alumnae were honored during the Society for Cinema & Media Studies 59th annual conference
Calling it “the most rewarding of all the prizes, and the most meaningful honor,” UCLA TFT Cinema and Media Studies Professor John Caldwell received the Award for Outstanding Pedagogical Achievement in Cinema and Media Studies at SCMS 2018, the Society for Cinema & Media Studies’ annual conference, which took place March 14-18 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. UCLA TFT CMS Lecturer Erin Hill, author of Never Done: A History of Women’s Work in Media Production, was also honored with the Best First Book prize.
Caldwell’s honor recognizes his “dedicated, committed, tireless and inspired pedagogy and support for students,” says FTVDM Chair Kathleen McHugh. “John’s generosity and research knowledge are renowned and vastly generative. We are all very lucky to be able to work with him and certainly have him on the faculty at UCLA TFT.”
McHugh described Hill’s book as “a tour de force that painstakingly teases out the traces of what had heretofore been women’s vital but invisible production labor in Classical Hollywood, as secretaries, assistants, and the like, from studio memos, star bios and other unlikely sources. Theoretically nuanced, accessible, and elegantly written, Hill’s book not only tells a story we have not heard before, but provides examples of scholarly methodologies that enable such stories to be told.”
During the conference, the UCLA TFT Cinema and Media Studies program also hosted its annual party where two alumnae, SUNY Genesco Professor Jun Okada (Ph.D. ’05) and Emory University Professor Beretta Smith-Shomade (Ph.D., ’97) were named the 2018 UCLA CMS Alumni of the Year. The awards recognize the work of CMS scholars’ publications and influence in the field.
Professor Okada has been a member of the Geneseo faculty since 2006. Her research centers on Asian-American film and video, as well as global art cinema and film culture. She is the author of Making Asian American Film and Video: History, Institutions, Movements (Rutgers University Press, 2015) and teaches Introduction to Film Studies, Black Cinema, Connections in Film Studies and Film Theory. She is the coordinator of the Film Studies minor at Geneseo, as well as the coordinator of the Alan Lutkus International Film Series. Okada is a member of the Black Studies committee and teaches within the Black Studies minor. Her recent publications include Exploiting East Asian Cinemas: Genre, Circulation, Reception; The Routledge Companion to Asian American Media; and Cinema Journal.
“Jun is one of the first of a CMS cohort to deepen and expand research on ethnic cinemas by putting a focus on the institutional dimensions of this work in the contexts of social movements, cultural and racial politics, ethnic communities and professional networks, as well as of government, industry and civil society as ‘regulatory’ institutions,” said Professor Chon Noriega, Okada’s dissertation director. “This work is the counterpart to the study of production cultures within the film and television industry, where few nonwhites participate behind the camera. Jun’s work is important in providing a social historical framework for the discussion of Asian American expressive cultures and media, and it has served as a model for subsequent students.”
After graduating from UCLA TFT, Smith-Shomade earned a series of faculty and professorial appointments, first at Spellman College, then the University of Arizona and later, Tulane University. Her current appointment as Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at Emory University began in 2016.
In addition to numerous scholarly articles and essays, Smith-Shomade has published three books: Shaded Lives: African-American Women and Television (Rutgers University Press, 2002); Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy: Selling Black Entertainment Television (Routledge Press, 2007); and Watching While Black: Centering the Television of Black Audiences (Rutgers University Press, 2015).
In 2008, she was awarded a yearlong Fulbright Fellowship to research and teach at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife, Nigeria.
“Dr. Smith-Shomade is known as a master teacher and mentor, someone committed to her students on-campus and to her community off-campus,” said Professor Caldwell, who presented her with her award. “She has selflessly mentored younger professors and emerging scholars as they have tried make their way and find their place in the field [and] is recognized as an influential, caring, and engaged member of the Black Caucus of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. UCLA is honored to be able to continue our relationship with Dr. Beretta Smith-Shomade by awarding her as one of our 2018 UCLA CMS Alumni of the Year recipients.”
Each year, UCLA TFT’s Cinema and Media Studies program has a strong presence within the annual conference organized by SCMS. In 2018, 52 faculty, graduate students and alumni presented their latest research. Founded in 1959, SCMS is the primary international and professional organization for university cinema and media studies.
SCMS 2018: (Top, from left) UCLA TFT Associate Professor Ellen Scott poses with Professor Emory University Beretta Smith-Shomade, UCLA TFT Professor John Caldwell, SUNY Genesco Professor Jun Okada, and UCLA TFT FTVDM Chair and Professor Kathleen McHugh; (inset) UCLA TFT Lecturer Erin Hill
Posted: April 5, 2018
Documentary professor Kristy Guevara-Flanagan talks about UCLA TFT’s collaboration with KCET and UCLA’s Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies
By Noela Hueso
The documentary short Taylor Yard: A Change of Heart in Los Angeles, which recently went live on public television station KCET’s website, sheds light on a parcel of land adjacent to a portion of the Los Angeles River that at one time was a site for Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroad yard functions. It is significant not only because the land, located in northeast Los Angeles and owned by the City of Los Angeles, is polluted with contaminants that have been linked to cancer and learning disabilities in children, but also because of the efforts underway to restore it to its natural state as part of the larger L.A. River Project. Under the umbrella of UCLA’s Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS) and in partnership with KCET, the story of Taylor Yard is one of three topics that UCLA TFT Assistant Professor Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and graduate student filmmakers Stefan Wanigatunga, Yubo Wang and Jonni Tecle are working on as part of a year-long project alongside other UCLA students and faculty from across the campus. The team, representing the areas of documentary filmmaking, English, anthropology and environmental science, aims to educate the public about regional environmental issues with not only the shorts but faculty- and student-authored articles and interactive web features as well.
Guevara-Flanagan, who heads the documentary program at UCLA TFT, recently sat down to discuss the project and how the collaboration came into fruition.
Were you familiar with the story of Taylor Yard prior to working on the project?
Kristy Guevara-Flanagan: I grew up in Los Angeles adjacent to the Los Angeles River and yet, I didn’t know much about the history of the river nor the industries that once flourished near it. When you grow up in L.A., the “river” assumes a mythic quality because of its intensely un-riverlike and cemented visage. I was very interested in revisiting the river and learning more about its history at a time when the river is such a heated topic of debate.
How did UCLA TFT get involved with LENS?
KCET’s Chief Creative Officer Juan Devis is a friend of mine. He had been trying to get TFT involved in KCET projects but we hadn’t yet found the perfect fit. After a time, he said, “Why don’t you talk to Allison Carruth?” Allison is the faculty director of LENS and an associate professor of English here at UCLA. She and I spoke and became excited about the possibility of bringing my documentary students to help with this narrative strategy, making visible the work that they’re doing on environmental writing and thinking. Then Allison and I applied and received a UCLA trans-disciplinary seed grant that would bring us into their already existing KCET-LENS collaboration.
How long was LENS working with KCET before your department got involved?
The partnership between LENS and KCET goes back to Fall 2016, but Allison has been collaborating with KCET in different capacities since 2012.
Up to this point LENS has never done anything with film?
This is a first and it just seems like such a great fit.
How many people are involved?
We brought about 20 mostly graduate students and six faculty together. It’s a small-scale project but it means that each student gets to work very closely with all these faculty.
What are the roles of the UCLA TFT students?
Stefan is our lead producer. He schedules the meetings, shoots and deliverables, coordinating between the students, faculty and KCET and works with the various faculty liaisons. The other two students, Yubo and Jonni, are filming and editing. Stefan also does some editing and sound work.
Is this project being done for a specific class?
Some of the English students are getting credit for it but we decided not to structure this as a class for TFT students, but more of an independent study due to the irregular hours any production demands. As a result, each student gets a stipend, around $1,000 per quarter. We’re trying to rotate through every quarter so a different student takes on the bulk of the work.
What’s the process?
For each story we meet as a group to listen to each lead faculty’s ideas for their story and attempt to translate that visually to film. Then, in tandem with the faculty’s contacts, we schedule interviews and shoots. Our student filmmakers go out and shoot about 5-7 days. We then meet to assemble various cuts, once again working closely with the faculty expert. The editing usually takes a good 30 hours from notes to completion.
Part of the reason that this project is of interest to all the non-film students is because they’re invited to come on our shoots. They’ve been very helpful, too. We’ve spontaneously needed somebody who speaks Spanish; they’ve taken stills while we’re out there; they’ve helped carry equipment; and in return, they get to see what a documentary shoot is all about.
Were there any challenges in creating Taylor Yard?
The first documentary was challenging because there’s a lot of players: It’s a very collaborative process, so there’s not a traditional, single director. Instead, there’s usually one student, myself and the lead faculty point person directing together — we’re all bringing our skills to the table. Figuring out how to wrestle that and what to call it was challenging but I am very proud of that first project.
The other aspect was learning how to be a little more efficient in scheduling. These stories are all on the other side of town. The second documentary, which we’re working on now, is about the wild parrots in Pasadena and we’re getting up at the crack of dawn to shoot these birds before they fly off for the day or go home to roost. So that was one of the challenges: How you pull this off in an academic environment, which I think was new for everybody.
What excites you about this collaboration?
I’m just so proud of our students. Taylor Yard looks gorgeous and they’re getting so much practical experience; they’re learning so much — and they don’t have to come up with their own film ideas and concept. What the other faculty bring is a rich knowledge and connections within their field so that the students can really focus on translating what they’re researching into something very visually vibrant and engaging in this documentary form.
Will this collaboration continue once the three docs are completed?
I would love that. [UCLA TFT Lecturer] Steve Anderson, who teaches VR, and I have been talking about doing a VR project next year. These environmental stories would be perfect for a VR treatment, so we’re considering that. Allison is also applying for a variety of grants so that we can continue to work together in some capacity.
Posted: March 19, 2018
THE WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST FOUNDATION PRESENTS UCLA TFT WITH A SIGNIFICANT GIFT FOR THE CREATION OF THE HEARST THEATER LAB INITIATIVE
The gift will advance UCLA TFT and its Department of Theater with the establishment of a Distinguished Playwright-in-Residence Program
Teri Schwartz, Dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (UCLA TFT), one of the world’s premier institutions for entertainment and performing arts education, announced on March 14, 2018 that the William Randolph Hearst Foundation (Foundation) has gifted $250,000 to UCLA TFT to create the groundbreaking Hearst Theater Lab Initiative. This transformational donation is in keeping with a series of innovative initiatives created by Dean Schwartz, in partnership with faculty and visionary donors, to support UCLA TFT’s central vision as a pre-eminent storytelling school — one whose mission is educating and developing a new generation of diverse, humanistic artists, industry leaders and scholars to use the power of story to not only entertain, but to enlighten, engage and inspire change for a better world.
In alignment with the School’s vision and mission, the Hearst gift is designed to advance UCLA TFT’s outstanding Department of Theater as a destination for playwriting excellence. The Hearst gift funds three transformational pillars under the umbrella of a dynamic laboratory for playwriting and storytelling: First, a new Distinguished Playwright-in-Residence program will launch in 2018 that will allow for award-winning playwrights from around the world to be in residence at UCLA TFT to develop and showcase exciting new works and to give inspiring master classes to students. As a result, UCLA TFT will be home to, and a magnet for, some of the world’s greatest dramatists who will help to galvanize, shape and define our culture. Second, the Hearst gift will fund the annual undergraduate and graduate student playwriting season, thus strengthening opportunities for playwriting students to develop and showcase their works and to advance UCLA TFT’s educational mission to develop the next generation of diverse humanistic storytellers. Third, the Hearst gift will provide vital grants for UCLA TFT’s outstanding, award-winning Theater faculty to develop and showcase new plays and works-in-progress.
For nearly 50 years, the Hearst Foundation has been a dedicated supporter of UCLA and UCLA TFT. It has a rich history of working with educational institutions that demonstrate uncommon success in preparing students to thrive in a global society.
Dean Schwartz recognizes the significance of creating multi-dimensional opportunities to advance the School’s vision and prepare its students for professional careers in entertainment and performing arts. “The magnitude and impact of the Hearst Theater Lab Initiative are breathtaking. Through this visionary gift, the Hearst Foundation allows us to put into action our shared belief in the power of story, and specifically the power of playwriting and theater, to make a profound difference in the world,” she says. “This gift allows us to be a magnet for remarkable playwrights to create and develop new works at UCLA TFT’s Department of Theater. It will also foster a dynamic environment in which new emerging voices and innovative new forms of theater will have the unparalleled opportunity to be developed.
“The Hearst Theater Lab Initiative is destined for great distinction,” she continues. “We are deeply grateful to the Hearst Foundation for their belief in our vision and mission, and equally excited to see how this new initiative will inspire our students, in particular, to achieve their greatest potential.”
“The Hearst Foundations are pleased to support vital organizations like UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television who are making a positive difference in their communities,” says Paul “Dino” Dinovitz, executive director of The Hearst Foundations. “We look forward to the many ways the art and practice of theater in California will advance under Dean Schwartz and her vision for the Hearst Theater Lab Initiative.”
The Department of Theater has undergone tremendous growth and change in the past several years, reimagining theater arts with provocative new productions such as Life on the Praça Roosevelt, Sonnet for an Old Century, the West Coast premiere of the musical Steel Pier and the captivating restaging of Euripides’ overlooked classic Helen. Once a two-year program, UCLA TFT’s highly selective Playwriting Program transitioned to a three-year program in 2003, training emerging theater voices to explore multiple platforms including writing for the stage, film, television and web-based media. Core to the Playwriting Program is the interdisciplinary collaboration students enjoy with their peers in acting and directing, challenging the conventions of live storytelling, and presenting fully realized new works during UCLA TFT’s annual New Play Festival. The School boasts award-winning alumni who are working on and Off-Broadway, and in film and television.
Posted: March 14, 2018
28th Annual LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards Winners
UCLA TFT alumni Corwin Evans (M.F.A. ’09) and Nancy Keystone (B.A. ’85), and lecturer Josh Epstein were winners at the 28th Annual LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards ceremony, which took place on Monday, Jan. 29 in Downtown Los Angeles. Evans won in the category of Video/Projection Design for his work on SoulArt’s Plasticity, Keystone won in the category of Direction of a Musical for her direction of the East West Players’ production of Next to Normal and Epstein won in the category of Lighting Design (Large Theatre) for his work on the Geffen Playhouse Playhouse production of The Legend of Georgia McBride. Additionally, alumna Hana Kim (M.F.A. ’12) was presented with the 2017 Sherwood Award for innovative and adventurous artists by Center Theatre Group. This award is endowed by the Sherwood family and is accompanied by $10,000 to further Kim’s artistic work.
Epstein, Evans, Keystone and Kim were among seven Bruins who were nominated for Ovation Awards in five categories.
LARRY CEDAR (M.F.A. ’78)
Featured Actor in a Play — Sylvia (Rubicon Theatre Company)
DREW DALZELL (Lecturer) (with Noelle Hoffman)
Sound Design (Large Theatre) — Wicked Lit 2016 (Unbound Prods.)
CORWIN EVANS (M.F.A. ’09)
Video/Projection Design — Plasticity (SoulArt)
Video/Projection Design — Rose and the Rime (with Hillary Bauman & Chris Hutchings; Sacred Fools Theater Company)
NANCY KEYSTONE (B.A. ’85)
Direction of a Musical — Next to Normal (East West Players)
HANA KIM (M.F.A. ’12)
Video/Projection Design — The Gary Plays – Part 2 (Open Fist Theatre Company)
PABLO SANTIAGO (Lecturer, M.F.A. ’13)
Lighting Design (Large Theatre) — Zoot Suit (Center Theatre Group)
JOSH EPSTEIN (Lecturer)
Lighting Design (Large Theatre) — The Legend of Georgia McBride (Geffen Playhouse)
Posted: January 30, 2018
Alumnus Reed Van Dyk’s award-winning “DeKalb Elementary” is now an Academy Award-nominated film
By Noela Hueso
DeKalb Elementary, a 20-minute film written and directed by Reed Van Dyk (M.F.A. ’17) while he was a student at UCLA TFT, is inspired by an actual 911 call placed during a school shooting situation in Atlanta, Ga. The story, which focuses on the interaction between a troubled young gunman and the school secretary he takes hostage, has been making an impression at festivals around the world, earning critical acclaim and winning accolades, including the Grand Prix at the 2017 Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Festival and a Special Jury Award at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival. He was also the recipient of a 2017 Princess Grace Award Graduate Film Scholarship and a finalist in the “For Live Action” category at the BAFTA Student Film Awards. On Tuesday, Jan. 23, the film garnered its biggest distinction to date when it was named one of five films nominated for a Short Film (Live Action) Academy Award.
A day after the Oscar nominations were announced, Van Dyk, 32, spoke with his alma mater about the recognition, his film, and how his UCLA TFT education informed his filmmaking style.
How did you find out DeKalb was nominated for an Oscar?
I set my alarm and woke up to see the live [5 a.m.] announcement. My girlfriend and I were both half asleep but we watched it on my phone. Two minutes later I found out the film was nominated. I was really, really proud and happy.
Your film has gotten so many accolades and so much attention thus far, you must be overjoyed with the reception.
When you make a movie, you just hope that it works as a film and then you’re hopeful it can play a few festivals. This story seems to have connected with people, so it’s nice; when these things happen, it just means more people get to see the film. It’s a story that I loved when I first heard it so I’m glad more people get to share in that.
Why do you think people have connected to it so well?
When I first stumbled on that 911 call on the internet — I was doing research for another film I was writing — the audio of that situation really held me captive; it touched me in a deep place; that probably has something to do with it…what [the school secretary] was able to see in someone who was scary, at first glance. He was not a “bad guy,” he was someone who was shaped by really tough circumstances and obviously confused. It was a cry for help. There was something unexpected about that.
The film is understated and that’s what makes it so compelling. Was that your intent?
My tastes run outside the mainstream — I prefer something that isn’t sensational, isn’t overly dramatized but gets life as it is. Early on, I was explicit about not wanting to take what happened and turn it into something that was ultimately false…that didn’t capture what was inherently interesting and moving about what transpired between them. There’s a lot that could have been done in terms of the filmmaking where the tension could have been amped up. It just felt exploitative and wrong to do something like that with a real situation.
What filmmakers do you admire?
I could talk to you for an hour about that. It’s much easier to talk about the films and filmmakers I love than it is talking about my own film. There are a number of European filmmakers who are my film heroes. I love Michael Haneke (The Moor, The Piano Teacher), an Austrian filmmaker who works mostly in the French language; I love the Belgian Dardenne Brothers (The Kid with a Bike); and I really like Steve McQueen’s films — Shame and 12 Years a Slave and Hunger; I love Paul Thomas Anderson’s films. These are the folks I get excited about. There’s an intelligence guiding their movies.
Have you seen Paul Thomas Anderson’s Oscar-nominated Phantom Thread?
I’ve seen it twice. There’s a strangeness about it that is so intriguing. It’s idiosyncratic. It doesn’t feel quite like anything you’ve seen before. That’s very attractive.
Are you trying to convey a message with your film?
I don’t see it that way. It’s about trying to leave enough room for people to engage with it themselves. I got what I got from the  phone call and maybe somebody else got something different out of it.
Is that the approach you will take with all your projects going forward?
Yeah. I like something that Michael Haneke says: That filmmaking is like balancing precision and clarity with abstraction; he also describes it as building a ski jump for the audience — you build it and you let them ride off it. You’re creating room for multiple interpretations. There’s nothing more powerful than having your own private experience with a movie and not feeling like it is hammering you over the head with a message.
What was your biggest takeaway from your time at UCLA TFT?
I learned how to fight for what matters to me; to make films on my own terms and to know when to compromise and when not to. TFT allows a lot of room for the filmmakers, which I appreciated. It really is what you make it. I had some great teachers. They introduced me to different filmmakers and helped me break down movies and deconstruct films to see the choices that other directors and writers make.
I was ambivalent about going to film school but it ended up being really good for me. It gave me a place to exercise my craft and to practice, practice, practice, with some helpful guidance along the way.
Why were you ambivalent?
I applied on a lark. The ambivalence was partly financial — it’s a big investment. [Prior to attending UCLA TFT] I was trying to build my own film school, in that I was exercising the muscles as best I could on my own. I became attracted to the idea of doing that alongside other people who were doing the same thing and learning from my classmates and their work. I liked the idea of working outside of a vacuum. I’ve also made close filmmaker friends and that’s pretty invaluable.
At what point in time did you decide to become a filmmaker?
I was an actor when I was a young kid; I grew up outside New York and I was doing musical theater. I really wanted to be a musical theater actor in New York City and I went to [Cornell University] with that intent. Then I got interested in straight acting and then directing. I directed a play and that led to a film class where I made a film that won a student Emmy Award. That was encouraging, I thought. I liked film directing more than anything else I had done. It was right at the tail end of my undergrad experience that I thought, “I think this is the direction I’m going.”
But before you started UCLA TFT, you were doing some projects on your own.
I was. I worked for a feature director, Elizabeth Allen, for 2 1/2 years from the very beginning when her film, Ramona and Beezus, was greenlit until it was released in theaters. That was a great education and an amazing time. It was riding shotgun, getting to see a real director who is freelance, writing and working on her own stuff. I watched her and thought, “Would this work for me? Could I do this? Does this suit me?” It was a big help in clarifying that this was the job for me.
Posted: January 31, 2018
THE INAUGURAL Spark Change: Social Impact Entertainment Summit DEBUTS IN FEBRUARY
The Skoll Center for Social Impact Entertainment and creative activist organization Creative Visions, with support from Participant Media, have partnered to present the Spark Change Summit 2018. This first-of-its-kind summit — never before has there been an event that defines this emergent field and its players so effectively — is designed to connect students, rising filmmakers and established artists with leaders in social impact entertainment. Taking place at the UCLA TFT James Bridges Theater on Friday, Feb. 23, admission is free.
Speakers will include:
Bonnie Abaunza, founder, The Abaunza Group
Peter Bisanz, executive director, Skoll Center for Social Impact Entertainment
Pat Chandler, CEO, Creative Visions
Wendy Cohen, president, Picture Motion
Geralyn Dreyfous, co-founder, Impact Partners Film Fund
Kathy Eldon, co-founder, Creative Visions
Jon Fitzgerald, founder, Cause Cinema
Holly Gordon, chief impact officer, Participant Media
Daraiha Greene, multicultural engagement, Google
Davis Guggenheim, documentary filmmaker, An Inconvenient Truth, He Named Me Malala
Zach Ingrasci, co-founder, Living on One
Katherine Keating, publisher, VICE Impact
Rory Kennedy, The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
Lena Khan, director, The Tiger Hunter
Senain Kheshgi, managing director, MAJORITY
Florencia Krochik, director, and Andrea Savo, producer, Pathways
Mary Mazzio, director, I Am Jane Doe
Hayley Pappas, head of RYOT Films
Rick Perez, Sundance Institute
Ted Richane, Vulcan Productions
Teri Schwartz, dean, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
Isha Sesay, CNN
Darnell Strom, Creative Artists Agency
Amy Eldon Turteltaub, co-founder, Creative Visions
Jon Turteltaub, director and producer, National Treasure
The half-day seminar is intended to inspire new ideas, foster innovative thinking and energize the next generation of impact media makers. It will feature conversations with industry experts who are creating media that triggers insight, empathy and action, on topics ranging from story creation to funding and distribution. There will also be engaging pop-up discussions, media and interactive programming.
Spark Change Summit 2018
Friday, Feb. 23
9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
UCLA TFT James Bridges Theater
235 Charles E. Young Drive N.
Los Angeles, CA 90095
For more information, visit the Spark Change Summit website.