UFVA 2013, part 2

Marion Knott Studios Dodge College UFVA 2013
UFVA 2013 @ Marion Knott Studios

So, my first attendance at the University Film and Video Association (UFVA) conference and it was a privilege, of course, interacting with my professional colleagues (many of whom, like myself, have 2-3 decades of experience as screenwriters in the entertainment industry — and a good number of whom were fellow UCLA Film School graduates), and quite illuminating touring the state-of-the-art Marion Knott Studios, the home of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts (7th best film school in the country, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

One highlight at Knott Studios is the collection of rare film stills donated by the Cecil B. DeMille Estate: here’s movie making from a hundred years ago, reminders of the tradition that is carried forth in modern foley stages, motion capture studios and green screen facilities down the hall.

Implicit in the panels and workshops (this year’s conference theme: Story First!) was the question of what an undergraduate education in screenwriting should actually look like in 2013.

“Back in the day (when we not only had internal combustion engines, we had cellphones),” studios bought original spec scripts and developed script projects; but development now is largely dead and studios buy a very small handful of original specs each year (and most of those are written by “name brand” screenwriters who could never set up these projects as unknowns).

Writer-director Spike Lee appeared recently on Bloomberg Television (in a fairly contentious segment) explaining why he — and Paul Schrader, and so many others — are now turning to Kickstarter as a project-funding source. In 2013 we have to be more entrepreneurial than ever if we want to get our media projects made, and more adaptable than ever to the vicissitudes of our trade and our calling.

I would tell you that UFVA 2013 had — and we at The Film School at SFUAD have — all the answers to what a cutting-edge media degree should be, but of course we didn’t and don’t. Somehow I doubt that they had it all figured out 50 years ago either, when Coppola and Scorsese were going to school — and that turned out OK. (Aristotle didn’t have it all figured out either; he made a lot of class notes while teaching in ancient Greece, and voilá, suddenly the Poetics.)

In the end, you learn your craft and hopefully find a unique voice — and that hasn’t changed even though production technology and distribution channels have all changed in ways utterly unforeseen 20 and 50 years ago (and 2400 years ago, in Aristotle’s case).

Hollywood Hills dusk from LACMA BCAM 8-2-13
Hollywood Nights; yep, Bob Seger warned you about them…

Stay tuned, because we’re busy innovating at The Film School — we’re not standing still. (Hey, we’ll crack the Top 25 list yet.)


Managed a quick detour to view the James Turrell retrospective at LACMA (very inspiring), and as the photo shows, I migrated between segments of the retrospective as dusk (and the marine layer) descended on the Hollywood Hills (the roof belongs to LACMA’s Resnick Pavilion).

The next evening, sped from the conference to John Wayne Airport for the last flight connection getting me home. Changing planes at Vegas’s McCarran Airport …

// Slot machines screaming “Wheel! Of! Fortune!” … Bleached blondes in rhinestone tanktops (somehow the Vegas dress code never really changes) … The Lucky Streak at LAS cocktail lounge playing Hendrix, Country Joe(!) and Neil Young’s “Old Man” … The poster for the film Casino prominently hung by the bar while some ole Tennesee Vol bores the bartender with his Fauknerian-family history and a barely 21 year-old Marine gets cut off after one too many … “He’s lit,” says the pourer to her boss. //

Traveling in the USA; you can’t beat it…

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