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Summer 1998
Modern Times
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The film school faculty back then was an interesting group comprised of industry professionals, academics and former servicemen, who had learned how to shoot film during the war. A canny use was also made of local talent, including director Billy Wilder and screenwriter Nunnally Johnson, as guest-star lecturers.

In a 1950 LA Times article descriptively headlined “Courses at UCLA Boost Movies to Lofty Realm of Cap and Gown,” MacGowan explained his approach: “We try to give our students the whole picture of theater arts -- at the very least with the hope of broadening their intelligence, their interest in and enjoyment of those arts, at best, so that they may eventually find jobs in the educational and entertainment fields.” He stressed the program’s seriousness of intent: “Our students are not kidding themselves about getting into the studios. They know -- because it is the first thing we tell them -- they will not find the quickest route to a swimming pool in Beverly Hills here!”

Solid public affirmation of the value of a UCLA film education came 25 years later, marking both the consistency of the program and changes in the industry. In 1972 UCLA film school alum Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather was released to astonishing critical and box office success. Coppola was the first of a wave of film school grads to make it in Hollywood. This coterie of young directors -- Coppola, USC’s George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and NYU’s Martin Scorsese among them -- were dubbed “the movie brats” and in the course of a decade, changed Hollywood for the better.

The seventies were a Golden Age of American filmmaking. And dominating the decade, for the first time in the history of the movies, were directors trained in university film schools. The studios had previously been cautious about film school grads. But a dismal box office slide throughout the 1960s and the emergence of a young, well-educated film audience signaled to the industry that it was time for a change. In particular, Coppola's success with a highly stylized, idiosyncratic rendering of a classic Hollywood genre piece like The Godfather seemed to suggest that film schools, after all, had the answer.

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