A tribute to fathers and sons with special guests: Bruce and David Corwin from Metropolitan Theatres; Hawk Koch, president of the Producers Guild of American and entertainment attorney, Robert Koch; and Academy Award winning producer, Walter Mirisch and Lawrence MIrisch, owner of the Mirisch Agency.
Our projections of Jewish Faith, Ethnicity and Culture included clips from Mr. Mirisch's films West Side Story, In the Heat of the Night, and Fiddler on the Roof and Mr. Koch's films, The Way We Were, Wayne's World, and Keeping the Faith. What an opportunity to host two former presidents of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on the same stage!
Pepperdine University hosted an evening with George Schlatter, the award-winning creator and executive producer of the ground-breaking television show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. The tribute served as a benefit for the creation of the George Schlatter Comedy Collection at Pepperdine and featured such noted entertainment legends as Larry King, Lily Tomlin, and Tim Conway.
During his career, Schlatter was nominated for 15 Emmy Awards, winning twice for Laugh-In as Outstanding Musical or Variety Program and for Sammy Davis, Jr.'s 60th Anniversary Celebration as Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special. He was also nominated for a Writers Guild of America award in 1997. Schlatter has been credited for helping to launch the careers of such entertainers as Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, and Robin Williams. He was the creator and producer of the annual American Comedy Awards and the television program, Real People.
George Schlatter came to Pepperdine University to play football, but a campus job in the theater department altered his trajectory and the history of television. "We honor George's lifetime of service—to the art of comedy and the joy of laughter," said Craig Detweiler, director of the Center for Entertainment, Media and Culture. "What's more, this evening continues George's lifelong commitment to comedy by creating a gathering place and living laboratory at Pepperdine to learn the art of improv, and comedic writing and performance."
Women have played important roles in the entertainment industry from its earliest days, achieving success as artists and attaining leadership positions in the industry. Yet significant challenges still exist. How have leading women navigated the entertainment industry? What recent breakthroughs suggest a new era of opportunity has arisen? This symposium addressed the issues facing women individually and collectively in the entertainment industry.
Featured guests included: Suzanne dePasse, past president of Motown Productions (The Jacksons: An American Dream); actress Sharon Lawrence (NYPD Blue); director Lesli Linka Glater (The Newsroom); director Victoria Hochberg (Ghost Whisperer); Tom Sherak, past president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Nell Scovell, co-writer of the massive best seller, Lean In with Sheryl Sandberg; and the producers of the groundbreaking young adult series Lucy Fisher (Divergent), Nina Jacobson (The Hunger Games) and Melissa Rosenberg (The Twilight Saga).
Activist/Filmmaker Nikole Lim brought her new documentary, While Women Weep, to Elkins Auditorium for a special convocation program. Lim focuses upon three stories of hope with Kenyan women who have demonstrated strength and perseverance amidst abuse. Lim challenged the audience to tell stories of substance, pointing out how her movie led to the creation of a non-profit, Freely in Hope, which provides scholarships and launches micro-enterprises for women in Africa.
The Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture joined with Pepperdine's new Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies to host a screening of the award-winning documentary, The Last Survivor. It skillfully weaves four stories of genocide, finding common ground in survivors of The Holocaust, Rwanda, Darfur, and the Congo. Directors Michael Pertnoy and Michael Kleiman were on hand to answering questions following the screening. The panel discussion was co-hosted by Dr. Rebecca Golbert and Dr. Craig Detweiler. Find out more about this important doc, The Last Survivor here.
Pepperdine hosted an exclusive preview of the global warming documentary, Cool It, on October 25th. Cool It, directed by Sundance Award winner, Ondi Timoner, premiered at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival. It follows environmentalist Bjorn Lomberg, founder of the Copenhagen Consensus, as he seeks alternative solutions to pressing issues of AIDS, malaria, and malnutrition. Producer Terry Botwick and Professor Chris Doran answered questions following the screening. Cool It was named to the LA Times list of the Most Overlooked films of 2010.
The Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture hosted producer Tova Laiter and screened her Emmy award-winning drama, Murder in Mississippi. Three young civil rights workers were killed by Klansmen in Neshoba County during the Freedom Summer of 1964. Laiter talked about the origins of the production, from working with writer Ben Stein to casting actors Blair Underwood, Jennifer Grey, Thomas Hulce, and Josh Charles early in their careers. Laiter also served as a distinguished production executive, initiating projects such as Evita, Varsity Blues, and Nixon. The screening was held in conjunction with actor Donzaleigh Abernathy's lecture about growing up alongside Dr. Martin Luther King and her father, the Rev. Ralph Abernathy.
Filmmaker Daphne Valerius brought her documentary, The Souls of Black Girls to Pepperdine's Malibu campus. For her Masters thesis, Valerius talked to actors like Jada Pinkett Smith and Regina King about how women of color are portrayed onscreen. Several classes in Pepperdine's Comm Division studying issues of race and representation attended the screening. The evening was co-hosted by Donald Lawrence and the Office of InterCultural Affairs and featured special guest, Paress Salinas from Overbrook Entertainment.
Filmmaker Emilio Estevez offered Pepperdine students a special sneak preview of his new independent film, The Way. Estevez wrote, produced, directed and plays a son whose journey on the El Camino de Santiago is tragically cut short. Martin Sheen stars as a father completing the famous pilgrimmage route of St. James in Spain. Estevez challenged film majors "to create work they can be proud of". For two hundred plus Pepperdine students, The Way provided a vivid and timely example of the long, but satisfying route to making movies that matter.
The Spring 2010 semester started with a special screening of Touchstone's romantic comedy, When in Rome, starring Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel. Students, staff and alums packed the Mann Westlake Village 8 Theater to see the film and talk with director Mark Steven Johnson. He revealed about the joys and challenges of filming on location in Rome and New York City. Johnson praised his diverse cast of comedians including Will Arnett, Dax Shepherd, Jon Heder, and Danny DeVito. Students were encouraged by Johnson's journey from Minnesota native to Hollywood insider. Johnson emphasized his commitment to story that runs from his first hit, "Grumpy Old Men" through hits like "Simon Birch," "Daredevil," and "Ghost Rider."
John Lee Hancock brings breakout hit The Blind Side to campus
Students and staff filled Elkins Auditorium for a special screening of the surprise hit of 2009, The Blind Side. Director John Lee Hancock offered behind-the-scenes stories of convincing Sandra Bullock to play Southern dynamo, Leigh Anne Tuohy. He also talked about countless auditions before he discovered Quintin Aaron to play real life football prodigy, Michael Oher. Hancock drew upon his upbringing as the son of a Texas high school football coach to bring authenticity to the story. Student enthusiasm at Pepperdine reflected the positive word of mouth driving audiences to The Blind Side.
Producer Ralph Winter Unspools the X-Men
Blockbuster Hollywood producer Ralph Winter offered an overview of the entire X-Men series to enthusiastic Pepperdine students. Winter recounted the risks associated with the first X-Men film, as Fox Studios trusted director Bryan Singer to cast classically trained actors like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan as comic book heroes. Winter also showed students the rigorous rehearsals and blocking necessary to stage elaborate fight scenes in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Students were encouraged by Winter's rise from an undergraduate history major contemplating seminary, to industrial video producer for department stores, through overseeing post production on the Star Trek movies. Winter compared his role as on-set producer to a field general, organizing an army of gifted costumers, make up artists, and prop masters to create a 'mutant assembly line' of X-Men.
Script Guru Linda Seger addresses MFA Screenwriting students
Revered Hollywood script analyst Dr. Linda Seger spoke at the Weisman Museum of Art on October 15, 2009. Seger's books Making A Good Script Great and The Art of Adaptation serve as the standards in screenwriting. At Pepperdine, Seger offered wisdom gathered in her new book, Spiritual Steps on the Road to Success.
Seger suggested that the temptations arising from success are sometimes even more vexing than the struggles getting there. Her appearance was sponsored by Courier 12, Pepperdine's student screenwriting group and Ciao, a club committed to Italian.
Gary Sinise celebrates soldiers in The Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good
A rousing documentary following Gary Sinise and The Lt. Dan Band previewed at Pepperdine's Malibu campus. Director Jonathan Flora was accompanied by executive producer, Jay Hoffman, co-producer, Deborah Flora, and the star of stirring musical tour for the troops, Gary Sinise. Students from Pepperdine's ROTC program were encouraged by the footage Flora and his team gathered on army bases from America to Iraq. Sinise shrugged off the spotlight inherent in the film, preferring to highlight the courageous troops serving overseas.
Director Daniel Barnz brings Phoebe in Wonderland
Rising filmmaker Daniel Barnz screened his debut feature, Phoebe in Wonderland, in Elkins Auditorium. A school production of Alice in Wonderland offers Phoebe a refuge from a vexing diagnosis. Elle Fanning and Felicity Huffman star as daughter and mother, with Patricia Clarkson as a mysterious drama teacher. Barnz talked about his evocative use of color to convey Phoebe's imagination. He also offered an update on his next film, Beastly, slated for summer 2010 release.
Academy-Award nominated documentarian screens new movie at Pep
Adrian Belic, Oscar-nominated director of Genghis Blues, brought his latest global travelogue, Beyond the Call to Tom Shadyac's class on October 1, 2009. Beyond the Call follows three civilians who risk their lives to deliver humanitarian aid in war torn countries that most reliefs organizations have fled. From Afghanistan to Burma, Ed, James and Walt combine the adventures of Indiana Jones with the heart of Mother Teresa. Their organization, Knightsbridge International, merges "high adventure with service to humanity."
Colorful director Adrian Belic regaled Pepperdine students with stories from the shoot and tales from over 100 film festival screenings on five continents.
Martin Hynes and The Go-Getter visit Malibu
Filmmaker Martin Hynes screened his comedie road trip, The Go-Getter, in Craig Detweiler's Film 311 class. The Go-Getter premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and sparked the acclaimed band, She & Him, featuring Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. Hynes talked about how his indie film attracted such a strong cast, from leads Lou Taylor Pucci and Deschanel, through cameo appearances by Bill Duke and Maura Tierney. Students were intrigued by the substantial style and production values achieved on a modest budget. Hynes challenged the class to consider how limited resources actually demand more preparation.
Courier 12 hosts screenwriter Alex Litvak
Pepperdine students banded together to form, "Courier 12," a new club dedicated to the art of screenwriting. Club officers include MFA in Screenwriting students John Burd (president), Christine Pechera (vice-president), and Anthony Castellane (treasurer). Their first guest, screenwriter Alex Litvak has sold the million dollar spec script, Medieval, and is currently polishing the remake of Predator.
Litvak talked about his experiences as a production executive for directors like Renny Harlin, companies like Intermedia, and on films like Training Day and Terminator 3. He encouraged students to read as many scripts as possible, to figure out why certain scripts are being sold, and why particular screenplays are actually filmed. Litvak also recounted how he set up several TV pilots for the major television networks.
Award-Winning documentary, "The Third Wave," previews at Pepperdine
When a calamitous tsunami washed over Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004, filmmakers Alison Thompson and Oscar Gubernati decided to make a difference. They packed their bags and their camera for a two-week relief mission that turned into a year-long adventure. Their award-winning documentary, The Third Wave, is the ultimate volunteer story, demonstrating that “everyone is needed.”
Thompson and Gubernati brought The Third Wave to Pepperdine just prior to their Academy Award qualifying release. A rousing standing ovation followed the film. Students were moved by their heroic actions amidst the complications of catastrophe. The Third Wave raises important questions about how aid is distributed and how much of a difference individuals can make during times of crisis.
Entertainment Club hosts “New Media and Online Monetization
” The Entertainment Club at the Graziadio School of Business and Management hosted a panel discussion entitled, "New Media and Online Monetization," on September 15, 2009. Club president George Granados welcomed industry professionals from Microsoft, Yahoo, 20th Century Fox, and Xonger. As Senior Director of Business Development for Microsoft, Joe Michaels and his team created the Live Earth webcast and NBC’s Beijing Olympics website. Adam Zarlengo is a senior product manager at Yahoo!, putting his MBA from the Graziadio School to work. Hardie Tankersley serves as vice president of online content and strategy for Fox’s broadcast network. As the co-founder of Xonger, Dave Drever creates entertainment brands with robust cross platform integration.
George Granados asked candid questions about why so many new media companies have failed to turn their massive audiences into monetary rewards. While the panelists praised Hulu for building rapid brand awareness, questions of long-term profitability hovered over the proceedings. Can YouTube offset the avalanche of new content with enough diamonds in the rough? How much can producers and new media companies expect to earn from online series? While the panelists agreed that prospects remain promising, many entertainment companies may continue to struggle toward profitability in the short term.