Tag Archives: Film School

Onward…

Columbia FilmToday is my last day as Chair of the Film Program at Columbia University.

It’s been a great four years and I’m very proud of our accomplishments over that time.

The end of my chairmanship should not be much of a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. The position is a rotating one among faculty, and Columbia has very strict term limits. I’ve also mentioned it numerous times (albeit off-handedly) in recent writings and speeches. I’m pleased that my colleague Maureen Ryan will be the next Chair. She is more than capable of taking up the mantle and bringing the program to the next level.

Meanwhile, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be back to concentrating on teaching rather than administrating, back to producing and consulting on marketing and distribution of indie films, and perhaps paying more attention to this blog.

Stepping back has already given me the opportunity to think about things with a clearer head, and I share with you now some words that were part of my speech at this year’s Columbia University Film Festival in both New York and Los Angeles.

In the last few years, we’ve seen enormous shifts in the technology of what we do, in the ways in which audiences consume what we create and in the general perception of the value of our work. Some people, given what they read in various publications, might draw the conclusion that we’re heading toward a day when 12-year-olds with iPhones will be born with all the necessary skills to create works of art. Other reports would indicate that theatrical movie-going is dead and that TV has supplanted the movies as the main art form of the 21st century.

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My Columbia Graduation “Speech”

columbia speechAt the Columbia School of the Arts Graduation Ceremony every year, the Chairs of the four programs (Film, Theatre, Writing and Visual Arts) get the opportunity to make some short remarks prior to handing out the diplomas to their students. This tradition has developed into a good-natured competition.

After doing a rather traditional speech my first year as Chair of the Film Program, I found myself being jealous of the other Chairs, as they were able to organically incorporate their disciplines into their speeches. The Chair of Writing delivered something quite poetic, the Chair of Theater was very theatrical, and the Chair of Visual Arts worked with props to make a do something, well, visual. I felt left out.

Over that summer, I got the idea to make a film that would be my speech, and I recruited a group of students to work with me on it over the next academic year. They did a fantastic job and only made one creative mistake…which was casting me in the lead.

The video we made was a hit at graduation that year, and I decided to keep using it since the audience would be different each year. That was also the reason I never posted it anywhere…until now. Since this was my last year as Chair, I now feel like I can share it with the world.

There are many inside jokes in it, so don’t be surprised if some of it doesn’t quite make sense. Also, you should know that the video ends with me entering Miller Theater, which is where the ceremony takes place. When it goes to black, you have to picture at that moment, a spotlight hits the podium on stage and there I am.

So here here is my graduation “speech” for all to see.

I would like to thank the many students and alums who collaborated on the film, especially the Producer, Rachel Brenna; the Director, Jennifer Gerber; and the writers, Nicole DiMasi, Michael Piech and Keola Racela. And thanks to the members of the faculty and staff who were brave enough to participate. This was very much a collaborative effort, and an example of why collaboration is at the center of what we do in the school.

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Columbia Giving Day. Join in the Fun and Help Support Our Students.

Columbia University has designated October 24th as “Giving Day.” It has set up a competition among all the schools that make up the University, backing it with up to $400,000 in matching funds. All of the funds will go to student support.

In case you didn’t know, attending an MFA program at a major university like Columbia is a very expensive proposition, made even more so by the fact that our film students create their own productions while they are learning their craft. Students in Columbia’s Film Program make an enormous commitment to attend, in the belief that what we offer is well worth the price. We owe it to them to do whatever we can to ease that burden.

Let me just say that competing with the Business School or the Law School to raise money seems quixotic at best. But I’m a Cubs fan. What can I say? To quote a certain current President, every small contribution matters. As little as $10 can make a difference. Can you help us out?

All you have to do is go to:

https://givingday.columbia.edu/

Just make sure you click on “School of the Arts” (It’s the very last school in the drop down list). Then on the next page, designate “Film” as the fund you want to support.

Let’s show those other schools that people still care about the arts enough to support them.

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Filmmaker Magazine on the Columbia Film Program

The following article by Charles Lyons appears in the current issue of Filmmaker Magazine. Click on a thumbnail to get started…

Here’s a link to PDF of the piece.

(reproduced with permission)
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