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Summer 1998
Modern Times
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The university-trained auteur directors of the seventies set a new course for the industry as a whole and presided over the transition from bad studio films to personal genre pictures and then, alas, to the event film that so dominates the box office today. On a parallel track, however, UCLA-trained directors virtually created the independent film industry. In the forties, fifties and sixties, independent films more often than not were "B" pictures made and released by small studios like Monogram or AIP. But for nearly three decades now, UCLA film school grads have found success by insisting that their work is an alternative to mainstream commercial filmmaking. Spheeris, Anders, Nava, Nunez, Burnett, Alex Cox and Paul Bartel, all UCLA-trained, together comprise a who’s who in contemporary independent American filmmaking. And quite fittingly, UCLA film school alum Geoff Gilmour now runs the Sundance Film Festival, the annual indie-pix showcase.

Today, the independent spirit pervades the curriculum; any single orthodoxy is discouraged. The department remains committed to student-made, student-owned films. Film production at UCLA is whatever a student can make of the opportunity and experience. Should something terrific come out of it (and often enough it does), the student, not the university, holds the copyright. As the industry has changed, more and more university-film school educated producers, directors, screenwriters, creative technicians and performers have found work. The studios’ current infiltration by film school graduates, along with growing student interest in studying and participating in the business of making movies, has brought film education full circle. UCLA’s film department now has an acclaimed Independent Producer’s Program taught is by film school faculty, and harkening back to "The Introduction to the Photoplay" courses offered in the twenties, by an all-star cast of industry players: Peter Bart, Variety editor and former studio exec; Peter Guber, Mandalay Entertainment CEO and legendary Hollywood player; super-agent Arnold Rifkin, Joe Roth, chairman of Disney Studios; and Fox VP Thomas Sherak.

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