Director of Blackfish, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, meets 10-year old Kirra Kotler for the first time at Pepperdine's Reel Stories Film Festival where "stories create reality" is celebrated.
Photo by Dana Fineman
The film Blackfish is critical about the way SeaWorld treats its killer whales and this has inspired people like Kirra Kotler from Pt. Dume Elementary in Malibu to ask her teacher and fellow students to stop visiting the theme park for their annual field trip. Her actions caught the attention of CNN and there is now pending legislation that would ban the use of performing orcas at California entertainment parks.
Presenting ideas for restoring the once-mighty Colorado River, Skylar Peak, Pepperdine alum and Malibu's new mayor joins Redford for an evening discussion with friends from the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, Bill Hasencamp, the Colorado River Program Manager at the Metropolitan Water District, and Barry Nelson, Senior Policy Analyst, Water Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Moderated by Rhiannon Bailard of Pepperdine's Center for Sustainability.
Executive Produced and Narrated by Robert Redford and Directed by award-winning filmmaker, Mark Decena, Watershed tells the story of the threats to the Colorado River and offers solutions for the future of the American West. Can we meet the needs of a growing population in the face of rising temperatures and lower rainfall in an already arid land? Can we find harmony amongst the competing interests of cities, agriculture, industry, recreation, wildlife, and indigenous communities with rights to the water?
Academy Award winning composer Michael Giacchino drew upon his family history to challenge students to serve a larger story. He brought scenes from his acclaimed scores to Up, The Incredibles, and the television series, Lost. Giacchino played five different musical themes he composed for the reboot of the Star Trek franchise. He noted how he was intimidated by the history associated with the series until Lost producer Damon Lindelof suggested the story was simply, "Two friends in boot camp." The resulting cue, "Enterprising Young Men" captured the ethos of the film. The evening was co-hosted by graphic design professor Dana Zurzolo and featured a poster contest won by senior Zach Tafoya. Read more about Giacchino's visit to Pepperdine in The Graphic.
Producers Kathy Eldon and Amy Eldon-Turteltaub brought their Emmy-nominated documentary, Dying to Tell the Story, to Pepperdine's Elkins Auditorium. The moving doc celebrates the enduring legacy of artist, photographer and activist Dan Eldon, who was murdered while covering the war in Somalia in 1993. The evening was a sobering reminder of the dangers that war correspondents endure in hotspots around the globe. The Eldons launched the Creative Visions Foundation to honor Dan and empower the next generation of "creative activists." Kathy Eldon noted how Dan inspired Blake Mycoskie of Tom's Shoes, reflected in the Spring 2011 collection, "Safari as a Way of Life." Pepperdine senior Karee Maxson currently serves as an intern with Creative Visions.
Five accomplished sitcom writers talked about "The Serious Business of Writing Comedy in Hollywood." The event was hosted by Dr. Leslie Kreiner-Wilson of Pepperdine's MFA in Screenwriting program and the student writing group, Courier 12. Speakers included (pictured left to right) Eric Zicklin (Hot in Cleveland), David Misch (Saturday Night Live), Chris Cluess (The Simpsons), Andy Guerdat (Sister, Sister), and Dean Batali (That 70s Show). The discussion in Elkins Auditorium included hilarious backstage anecdotes as well as sage advice for aspiring writers.
Mishy Turner, Austin Chapman, Kyle Helf and Robby DeVillez
A showcase for art, music, and social action at the Reel Stories Film Festival. 1200 moviegoers packed two theaters to see six films competing for the top prizes. Senior Austin Chapman was the night's big winner, taking the Grand Prize and the Audience Award for his poignant short, Eleven Eleven and the Reel Cause Award for his documentary, City of Widows. Kyle Helf won in the technical category for his cinematography for Contact. The winning student films can be viewed online here.
After an inspiring charge from Pepperdine grad, director D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia, and the new I Am Number Four) the awards were presented by filmmaker Randall Wallace (Secretariat, Braveheart). Wallace said, "I've been to the Oscars, I've been to the Golden Globes, this is better…This event [focuses on] what you are feeling in your heart, and what the people that made those movies are feeling in theirs."
Attendees also had an opportunity to view two Academy Award nominees for Best Documentary, Wasteland and Exit Through the Gift Shop. Both films follow artists into the streets, where their captivating work springs forth. Wasteland tracks Vic Muniz's majestic photographs of recycling crews in a Brazilian trash dump. Graffiti artist Banksy questions the role of art in his beguiling first feature, Exit Through the Gift Shop. The associate producer of Wasteland, Emilia Mello answered questions posed by Academy Award nominated documentarian, Roko Belic (Genghis Blues and the upcoming, Happy).
The Latino Student Association and the EMC co-hosted an evening with three-time Oscar winner, Oliver Stone featuring his documentary, South of the Border. In the film, Stone travels across South America interviewing presidents like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Bolivia's Evo Morales, and Argentina's Christina Kirchner. South of the Border juxtaposes American press coverage with playful images captured by Stone of Chavez riding a bicycle, Morales chewing on cocoa leaves, and Kirchner discussing shoes. A lively discussion with Stone pressed him on human rights abuses, the Castro regime in Cuba, and his thoughts on Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Premiere of the first feature film produced by Pepperdine undergraduates, Life is Not a Musical: The Musical. It juxtaposes happy tunes with the struggles of a young married couple. Over 150 students were involved in the rousing production, including writer/director Paul Casey, producer/composer Zane Miller, and cinematographer/actor Zach Garrett. It features twelve original songs composed for the film and Casey, Garrett, and Miller oversaw six months of post-production.
Dr. Jennifer Harriger, Assistant Professor of Psychology, appeared on Fox News to discuss her groundbreaking research involving toddlers and body image. A test for 3 to 5 year-olds was embedded within gameplay for CandyLand and Chutes and Ladders. Once toddlers chose a game character, Harriger would offer a wider but otherwise identically dressed character as a substitute. The children consistently chose thinner characters, including shocking reasons why they didn't want to play with the heavier game pieces. How did toddlers develop such strong stereotypes regarding weight and body image? And how might the media counteract such strong and early impressions already forming in children? Read more complete coverage of her research in The Graphic.
Ron Meyer, President and C.O.O. of Universal Studios addressed an enthusiastic crowd of students, alums, and luminaries from the Malibu community at the first "State of the Industry" conversation on Monday, November 29, 2010. Meyer demonstrated considerable candor as he reflected on his journey from a modest upbringing to co-founding the Creative Artists Agency and overseeing Universal Studios through fifteen distinguished years (and six ownership changes!). He also brought along exclusive previews of upcoming projects like the fifth edition of The Fast and the Furious and the alien comedy, Paul. Meyer answered an array of questions from the audience regarding the development, marketing, and future of feature films. While acknowledging the competitive nature of Hollywood, he also challenged students to adopt honesty and kindness as keys to enduring in the industry. Under Meyer's leadership, Universal has produced the Oscar-winning films Gladiator, Shakespeare in Love, and A Beautiful Mind and rousing hits like Bruce Almighty, Despicable Me, and The Bourne Ultimatum.
Two talented members of Seaver College's class of 2010, Seth Allison and Jeff Loveness had 'co-starring' roles on NBC's Thursday night staple, The Office. Allison and Loveness played college students embarking on a service trip to Mexico. Office manager, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) decides to get on their bus, inspiring Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) to follow suit. When Michael realizes he doesn't have a passport, Allison chimes in, informing him that you don't need a passport to enter Mexico. When Michael and Andy plead to stop the bus, Loveness quickly follows. He ends up riding back to Scranton with them. Congrats to Seth and Jeff for such a high profile guest appearance. See more of their work at The Randumb Show.
Actor Tsuyoshi Ihara, star of Letters from Iwo Jima, talked to students in Craig Detweiler's Entertainment Business about how to hone their craft. He discussed how his training in martial arts with Sonny Chiba prepared him for action roles as one of Takeshi Miike's 13 Assassins. Ihara-san also discussed the honor of working with director Clint Eastwood on the acclaimed Letters from Iwo Jima. He concluded with a preview of his next film set in Brazil, Coracoes Sujos. Ihara thanked the students for the opportunity to polish his English skills in preparation for upcoming roles.
"Have you ever been bullied?" Two 2009 graduates of Pepperdine's Comm Division, Lauren Parsekian and Molly Stroud, traveled across America, asking girls whether they had ever been teased, harrassed, or bullied by other girls. Their riveting documentary, Finding Kind, demonstrates how pervasive and problematic bullying has become amongst girls. Yet, it also challenges students to join the Kind Campaign to raise awareness, build up self-esteem, and establish stronger solidarity amongst women. After the screening in Elkins Auditorium, Lauren and Molly were interviewed by their professor and mentor, Susan Salas. Pepperdine professor Tom Shadyac, served as executive producer on the project.
Acclaimed production designer Alan Roderick-Jones brought his finest creations to Pepperdine classes taught by professors Dana Zurzulo, Ginger Rosenkrans, and Michael Furtney. Students crowded around tables to see original artwork created by Roderick-Jones for Star Wars including drawings and plans for the Millennium Falcon. Roderick-Jones also unveiled his designs for Universal/Vivendi video games like The Lord of the Rings and Van Helsing. For the students in graphic design, advertising, and public relations, Roderick-Jones offered a vivid example of an artist who has perfected his craft.
Pepperdine professor Tom Shadyac brought his most personal project, I AM, to Elkins Auditorium on the Malibu campus. I AM challenges viewers to shift their lifestyles from competition to cooperation, and from consumption to sustainability. It features interviews with renowned thinkers like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Bishop Desmond Tutu. Author Marc Ian Barash (Field Notes on the Compassionate Life) was on hand for the screening. Students brought strong questions about how to make a significant change to the post-screening conversation. I AM marks a fascinating shift from Shadyac's massive comedies like Bruce Almighty, The Nutty Professor and Ace Ventura. Yet, I AM also finds humor amidst our daunting social challenges.
Karin Sabin, a Pepperdine Comm Division grad, was recently chosen for the Directors Guild of America's prestigious Training Program for Assistant Directors. She is working on NBC's new series, Harry's Law, produced by David E. Kelley and starring Kathy Bates. The DGA Trainee program receives 15,000 applications and choses only 15 finalists each year. Sabin applied in October 2009 and went through three rigorous rounds of interviews. Her final interview came before 20 DGA members. Sabin's year long training program begins in July 2010. Pepperdine's Communication Division is proud of this bright Telecom major!
John Paul Lam, Pepperdine Class of '96, wrote and produced a song for Japanese R&B singer, MISIA for "Listen Up!," the official 2010 FIFA World Cup Album. His song, "Maware Maware," (Japanese for "Around and Around") is sung by MISIA and features M2J (a group featuring J.P. and Japanese Hip Hop artist DJ Muro). This Sony Entertainment release features songs from Shakira, R. Kelly, John Legend, and Wyclef Jean. Lam noted, "I am extremely honored to have my music included among so many great artists and to receive such wide exposure. I am also honored to have been invited by Sony and FIFA to perform alongside MISIA at the Sony Pavilion in Johannesburg, South Africa during the World Cup Games." Congrats, J.P.!
Craig Detweiler, director of the Center for Entertainment, Media and Culture weighed in on the controversies surrounding casting decisions for Prince of Persia and The Last Airbending. Cultural analysis by Detweiler on Hollywood's missed opportunities for appeared on entertainment industry site, The Wrap and on CNN.com. An extended interview was published at National Geographic's Pop Omnivore.
The Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture teamed with Don Lawrence and the Intercultural Affairs Office to bring screenwriter Antwone Fisher and his eponymous film to the Malibu campus. A crowd of two hundred students, staff and faculty gathered in Elkins Auditorium to watch Denzel Washington’s directorial debut. After the screening, Antwone Fisher offered behind-the-scenes peeks into the creative process that sparked his autobiography, Finding Fish, and the movie. Fisher’s warmth and humor shown through tales on the set and in the years since the movie premiered. His appearance was chronicled by the local media, including The Malibu Times and The Graphic.
The 16th season of The Amazing Race features Pepperdine graduates, Heidi Lesser-Wang '94, Steve Smith '76, and Allie Smith '08. Lesser-Wang is racing with her husband, Joe Wang. They are from El Segundo, California. Steve Smith played baseball at Pepperdine and has served as a Major League coach for the World Series champs, Philadelphia Phillies. Steve's daughter, Allie, graduated in 2008 with a degree in public relations. They are from Encitas, California. The Amazing Race is broadcast Sunday nights at 8pm. For a more detailed story, see The Graphic.
Almost 1000 people packed out Smothers Theater and Elkins Auditorium for the inaugural Reel Stories Film Festival. The star-studded evening was conceived, produced, and directed by students. It featured acclaimed documentaries like Red Gold and The Human Experience. The festival culminated in a red carpet ceremony for the top student films. Senior J.J. Starr won the grand prize for his documentary, "Waking Honduras." Accomplished industry professionals like Tom Shadyac (Bruce Almighty), Randall Wallace (We Were Soldiers), and Jonah Nolan (The Dark Knight) served as judges for the competition. Check out the award winning entries here.
Susan Salas, associate professor of telecommunications and director of broadcasting, participated in a panel about performance-enhancing technology in sports in the PlayIt4-Ward series on the Web site. Former NBA star, John Salley was amongst the commentators pitted against Salas, in the live commentary. Watch the panel
2009 Pepperdine grad Alex Blackmon won a Golden Mike Award from the Radio Television News Association of Southern California. His report, "Homeless in Santa Monica" appeared in March 2009 on Newswaves, a bi-weekly cable television newscast produced by students at Pepperdine University for its educational cable channel. Blackmon received the award in the category of Best Serious Feature Reporting, Division B at the 60th Annual Golden Mike Awards presentation dinner, January 23, 2010 at the Universal Hilton in Universal City. "This is a professional -- not a student -- competition in probably the most competitive television news region in the nation," noted Michael Murrie, Pepperdine professor of broadcast journalism.
Pepperdine's MFA in Screenwriting program hosted six expert panelists for a seminar on the business side of screenwriting. Christine Pechera of the student screenwriting group, Courier 12, welcomed the packed house gathered in the Fireside Room. Director of the Screenwriting program, Dr. Leslie Kreiner-Wilson introduced the distinguished panelists:Sheryl J. Anderson, co-executive producer of Charmed, three time Emmy winner Dick Blasucci from The Larry Sanders Show and MadTV, fellow Emmy winner Chris Cluess from The Simpsons and Cheers, former Paul Kohner literary agent Neal Stevens, and
Brent Lilley and Allan de Leon from the Mosaic Media Group that represents JuddApatow, Jim Carrey, and Will Ferrell.
Topics ranged from how to get started, how to get an agent, and how to get that all important first script sale.
CNN called upon Associate Professor of Communication Craig Detweiler for expert commentary on three recent news stories. He appeared on CNN International to analyze the blockbuster success of James Cameron's Avatar, was quoted in an article about tumultuous changes at NBC and Fox, and framed a recent study that demonstrated that "Sex doesn't sell in the movies."
Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis of Pepperdine's Graduate School of Education and Psychology appeared three time on the Dr. Phil show this fall. As an expert on childhood trauma, Dr. Bryant talked about the post-traumatic stress that Jaycee Lee Dugard may experience following her release from captivity and the challenges facing adult survivors of childhood physical and sexual abuse. Read more about Dr. Thema here.
Two graduates of Seaver College were competitive members of the Galu tribe on Survivor: Samoa. Erik Cardona and Brett Clouser lasted through numerous eliminations and trials. Perhaps Survivor producer Mark Burnett's graduation speech for the Graziadio School of Business and Management put Pepperdine in the casting spotlight. Or perhaps these two Waves simply had the right amount of camera appeal. Read The Graphic's article on Brett.
Pepperdine Student Wins National Video Contest
Junior Jeff Loveness’s filmmaking hobby has brought him scholarship money and YouTube stardom. He won $5000 in Sallie Mae's national "Tuition Tales" competition (view article) Only 100 votes separated first and second place. See Loveness's prize winning thirty second video here.
Adjunct film professor Barbara Nicolosi was featured in Pepperdine Magazine here: Screenwriter and Former Nun Barbara Nicolosi Forges New Ground for the Faithful in Hollywood
While in Sydney, Australia, Craig Detweiler, director of the EMC, was interviewed by Greg Clarke of the Centre for Public Christianity. Check out their conversation about "Finding God in Pop Culture" in this video podcast Film: A Matrix of Meaning