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Summer 1998
Modern Times
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The so-called auteur renaissance came as no surprise to the filmmakers themselves. Ray Manczarek, founding member of the legendary rock group, The Doors, and a one-time UCLA film school student, put it bluntly: “Hollywood’s gotta change. They’re going to get rid of those old fogies and we’re gonna take over. They can’t stop us. There are too many of us.” In a 1968 interview, Coppola was only a bit more circumspect in observing, “I don't think there'll be a Hollywood as we know it when this generation of film students gets out of college.”

Coppola's prediction, on the eve of his enormous critical and commercial success, reflects a bravado that seems, in retrospect, very much a sign of the times: The brat pack of which he was a member were all college students in the turbulent late sixties. But a quick survey of even a short list of UCLA film school alumni (see sidebar) suggests that throughout its 50 year history of educating filmmakers the program has nurtured a remarkable spirit of independence.

Following in Coppola’s footsteps came classes of critically acclaimed filmmakers and screenwriters unparalleled in the annals of university film education. From the neo-noir formalism of screenwriter-director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Mishima) to the post-punk hipster entertainments of Penelope Spheeris (The Decline of Western Civilization, Wayne’s World), UCLA filmmakers have influenced the medium in original and lasting ways.

Faculty in the film school are quick to point out that the success of its graduates should not be measured in terms of box office grosses or tabloid celebrity. UCLA has trained more women directors as well as men and women of color, groups routinely shut out of the industry, than any other university program. Spheeris, Allison Anders, Charles Burnett, Victor Nunez and Gregory Nava made student films at UCLA and then got to make features because of the films they made at UCLA.

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