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Starting Out In TV Roundtable PDF Print E-mail
Written by CUE Editors   
Tuesday, 24 July 2012 01:37
With CUE members making their mark on a broader spectrum of the entertainment industry than ever, more and more are finding success and inspiration in scripted television.  We sat down with a few recent alums who are in the early stages of exciting television careers to talk about how they chose television and how they went about breaking in.

Scott Burkhardt (Film ‘08) served as Staff Writer on the first season of Smash (NBC) where he wrote the episode “Hell on Earth.”  

Grace Edwards (Film ‘10) worked as writer’s assistant for Comedy Central’s Ugly Americans as well as the pilot for Come Inside with Amy Schumer.

Jon Haller (Film ‘09) works as Script Coordinator on the ABC show Last Man Standing starring Tim Allen.   His episode “Ding Dong Ditch” aired as part of the show’s first season.

Berkley Johnson (Film ‘05) is a writer for New Girl (FOX).  He wrote three episodes in the first season:  “Thanksgiving”, “Landlord” (with Josh Malmuth), and “Fancyman II” (with Kim Rosenstock).  

Edward McGinty (Film ‘06) is a researcher on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and plays one of the ward bosses on the show.  He also co-founded CUE.  

Can you outline the route you took from graduation to your current position?

SB: I was taking a class called TV as a Dramatic Medium in my second year at Columbia and one day Evangeline Morphos, our professor, came in and said Theresa Rebeck was shooting a pilot for CBS and needed an on-set assistant. I was supposed to go to Phoenix, AZ to visit my Dad for Spring Break but after interviewing with her and getting the job, I canceled that trip and worked with her on that for two weeks. After that, I worked with her part time for the next five or so years. She was supportive of me and liked my work so when Smash came around she offered me a writing job on the show.
Opening Nights with Director Robert O'Hara, SOA Theatre '96 (Directing) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris Erric Maddox, SOA Theatre '03 (Acting)   
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 02:34

On October 15, a group of Columbia and Tufts University Alumni gathered at the Kirk Douglas Theatre to view fellow Alumnus Robert O'Hara's premiere of yet another successful show, "Eclipsed."  Going to the theatre in Los Angeles can be a little unnerving because one never really knows what to expect.  "Will I be entertained? Should I have stayed at home and watched TiVo?  Or, better yet, watched a movie on the treadmill?" As soon as the lights dimmed, however, I was reminded why I continue to go to the theatre, despite the occasional blunder: I might just buy a ticket for a show like Robert's, one of power, intrigue, and age-defying laughter.

I have known Robert for many years, as we both went to Tufts University for our undergraduate degrees, where I had heard about this mysterious up-and-coming director.  Nonetheless, my first time actually meeting him was in New York City while I was still at Columbia, where he had already cemented himself in the theatre world directing critically acclaimed shows like "Insurrection" at the Public Theatre.  

At that moment, I realized "this guy is special.  This guy needs to be followed."  And at that time, being a young actor as I was, this was an important epiphany; it was, and still is, important to create alliances with strong directors, writers, and producers.

So after all of these years, after accepting his Obie and traveling the world, it was reassuring to see this very unassuming young man mount a larger-than-life show.  It made me think, yes we can.  And he continues to do so.

CM: Robert, you are working a lot these days?  Did you anticipate that your life would be like this upon graduating from Columbia's MFA Directing program?
RO: Yes, I am working a lot these day, and I'm grateful for the work, but it does take its toll on the body and mind, though I always hoped that I would be able to make a living as a writer and director. So to answer your question, I hoped for this, but of course, no one knows what a theatrical career will be like, because there are so many outside forces involved.

Kathryn Bigelow unlocks the HURT LOCKER PDF Print E-mail
Written by NaRhee Ahn (SOA Film '99)   
Sunday, 31 May 2009 13:55

Hurt LockerKathryn Bigelow SOA Film '79 is the recipient of Columbia University's 2009 Andrew Sarris award for alumni achievement. As a conceptual artist turned filmmaker, Kathryn studied at The San Francisco Art Institute and The Whitney Museum Independent Study Program before entering the graduate film program. In her multi-genred career, Kathryn has brought to the screen society's outcast bikers in THE LOVELESS (1982); vampires in a wild wild west in NEAR DARK (1987); Jamie Lee Curtis as a tough cop in BLUE STEEL (1990); Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in the mother of all undercover FBI agent infiltrating surfing bank robbers flicks POINT BREAK (1991); STRANGE DAYS (1995) written and co-produced by James Cameron featuring a kick-ass Angela Bassett protecting Ralph Fiennes; THE WEIGHT OF WATER about complicated families (2000) and K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER (2002) starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson. In her own words, Kathryn's experience at Columbia wasn't the actual set up for her film career even though her thesis film ironically was titled THE SET-UP. "I transitioned from art to film while at Columbia, completing my first film, THE SET-UP, with voiceover commentary by cultural theorists Syslvere Lotringer and Marshall Blonsky."

I asked Kathryn if being a pioneering female action director in Hollywood was difficult and if looking back, she would have done anything differently. While she chose not to answer that question, she did say, "I choose projects that are artistically interesting and possess challenging subject matter." The statement is succinct and liberating. Any filmmaker, regardless of gender, race or creed, ought to have the freedom to speak about and interpret whatever subject matter they wish. Just so long as they accept the responsibility of having taken whatever that particular point of view is as an individual.

Kimberly Peirce Breaks It Down For You PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janet Harvey, SOA Writing ‘98   
Wednesday, 18 February 2009 16:11

Kimberly Peirce and Ryan PhillippeIn both her work and her life, director Kimberly Peirce SOA Film '96 defies stereotype and speaks from the heart. Her debut feature, BOYS DON'T CRY, drew comparisons to BADLANDS and IN COLD BLOOD for its stark, achingly honest portrayal of murdered teen Brandon Teena — and incidentally, won a shelf full of awards including two Golden Globes and an Oscar for its two young stars, Hilary Swank and Chloe Sevigny. Her long-awaited follow-up, STOP - LOSS, takes on a radically different subject — the Bush administration's policies in the Iraq war — but still explores a territory that is profoundly and distinctly American, with passion, sensitivity, and a rare gift for observation. Her storytelling comes out of integrity that is, as she puts it, "my gyroscope, my emotional compass."

I had the opportunity to sit down with Kimberly and discuss her journey as a filmmaker, how her experience at Columbia has shaped her as an artist, and the part they don't teach you in film school: the practical skill of navigating the insanity of studio development. For her, it's all part of the same job: telling the story she wants to tell.

JH: So, why Columbia? And how has your experience there informed your approach to directing?

KP: First of all, I chose Columbia because there was an emphasis on writing and working with actors, and I think both are completely essential to directing. The more you can write, the more you can see yourself re-written, the more times you can see your writing acted out by actors, that's invaluable. Because in that process, you are learning how dramatic structure works and learning how to see and hear it at work. You're seeing what a good story is. Story and character are really at the heart of everything.

On the Red Carpet PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mimi Chen, Journalism ‘80   
Tuesday, 17 February 2009 00:00

With the Oscars looming around the corner on February 22nd, we're happy to note nominations for folks affiliated with Columbia. The 12 nominations earned for the 81st annual Academy Awards include 8 for MILK, produced by James Schamus, who headed the project, produced by Focus Features.

Nominations for MILK include Best Picture; Best Actor (Sean Penn); Best Supporting Actor (Josh Brolin); Best Director (Gus Van Sant); Best Original Screenplay (Dustin Lance Black); Achievement in Costume Design (Danny Glicker); Achievement in Film Editing (Elliot Graham); and Achievement in Music (original score) (Danny Elfman).

Also from Schamus' Focus Features, IN BRUGES earned a nomination for Best Original Screenplay (Martin McDonagh).

Two SOA Film alumni also picked up nominations. Courtney Hunt '94, picked up a nod for Best Original Screenplay for FROZEN RIVER, a film about a single mother involved with a dangerous smuggling operation. The movie's star Melissa Leo also drew a best actress nom. FROZEN RIVER won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Feature at Sundance 2008 and a veritable avalanche of other awards.

Maureen A. Ryan '92, who is also on the faculty, was nominated for Best Documentary for MAN ON WIRE. The film, about tightrope walker Philippe Petit, has already garnered numerous awards, including Best Documentary from the recent Critics' Choice Awards.

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