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Summer 2003
Chairs of Distinction
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Jonathan N. Zakin says he established the endowment to honor retired UCLA screenwriting instructor Lew Hunter. “I started to write screenplays as a hobby and Lew mentored me,” says Zakin, chairman of the San Francisco-based Proxim Corp., which provides wireless networking products. “He took a lot of time with me, and I was impressed with that. When he retired I thought it would be nice to honor not only what he did for me, but what he did for the school. I hope the endowment raises the screenwriting image within the industry and helps individuals make some great movies.”

Colleary has taught screenwriting off and on at UCLA since 1995. Since his first writing job with B-movie king Roger Corman, he’s worked at Warner Bros., Disney, Paramount, Dreamworks, Sony and Universal. In addition to his motion picture screenplays, his TV credits include Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Darkman III and Bump in the Night.

Colleary’s graduate seminars are run “as if it were a typical screenwriter development deal,” with the eight students (selected from 20-30 applicants) working out of Colleary and Werb’s West Hollywood office. “Students write individual screenplays in 10 weeks and contribute to the work of the others,” he says. “The strength of the program is that you have a safe place for a free exchange of ideas.”

In addition to supporting Colleary’s work, part of the Hunter/Zakin endowment helps to finance the School of Theater, Film and Television’s annual Screenwriting Showcase, in which five students spend five weeks to cast, rehearse and present a 15-minute stage-reading excerpt from their film.

“It’s a big event,” Colleary says. “We get a big industry audience. A lot of careers have been launched from this program.”

Having a chair, Colleary says, brings some much-needed cachet to screenwriting. “When I tell people I am the chair, they take more notice,” he says with a smile. “People take you more seriously.”

Roberta G. Wax is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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