Sundance and the Oscars: A big week for UCLA's School of Theater, Film and TV
By David Chute January 30, 2012 Category: Arts & Humanities
Five Academy Award nominations and a brace of official selections in competition at the Sundance Film Festival capped an extraordinary week of accomplishment for students and alumni of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT) last week.
Oscar nominations for best film (2), best director, best screenplay and best animated feature were announced at the same time films by TFT alumni were screening at Sundance in the U.S. Dramatic and World Cinema Documentary competitions and a film written and directed by a current TFT student was being featured in the Short Film, International Fiction competition.
"This has been a truly remarkable and unprecedented week, by any measure, for any professional school of entertainment and performing arts," said Teri Schwartz, dean of the school. "This showing is a great testament to a UCLA education and the extraordinary depth and range of talent that is nurtured and developed at TFT. The Academy's and Sundance's acknowledgement of our students' and alumni's work underscores our school's impact and influence across the entire landscape of the entertainment and performing arts industry, both mainstream and independent.
"Our students and alumni are true creative leaders who continue to shine as the gold standard for great cinematic storytelling around the world. I could not be more proud of our students and alumni, and I am absolutely thrilled and honored to join everyone in the celebration of their outstanding achievements."
When the 2012 Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 24, TFT had reason to celebrate. Alexander Payne (M.F.A. '90), who directed and co-wrote the 2004 Oscar winner "Sideways," received three nominations, for best director, best adapted screenplay and best picture, for his work on "The Descendants," a film for which he won the Golden Globe Award for best motion picture–drama from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association on Jan. 15.
Director Gore Verbinski ("Pirates of the Caribbean"), an alumnus and TFT executive board member, joined Payne as an Oscar nominee. Verbinski made a departure from directing live-action films and received a best animated feature nomination for his first animated directing/producing effort, "Rango," a critical favorite starring Johnny Depp. The film has also received nine Annie Award nominations from the International Animated Film Society, the field's highest honor.
Alumnus and TFT executive board member Frank Marshall ('68), with more than 70 highly successful films to his credit over a landmark career, including "Jurassic Park," "The Bourne Identity" and "Indiana Jones," to name but a few, received a best picture nomination for "War Horse," a World War I drama based on the internationally successful, groundbreaking play.
Sundance Film Festival
At Sundance, two feature films with world premieres in competition were written and directed by TFT alumni. In the U.S. Dramatic Competition, James Ponsoldt ('10), a graduate of the TFT professional program in screenwriting, premiered "Smashed," starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Emmy winner Aaron Paul, from the TV series "Breaking Bad." "Smashed" topped off its festival premiere by receiving the coveted Special Jury Prize for Excellence from the Sundance jury.
In the World Cinema Documentary Competition, Marius Markevicius (M.F.A. '02) co-producer of last year's Sundance hit "Like Crazy," debuted as a writer–director with his passion-project feature documentary "The Other Dream Team," which tells the personal story of the extraordinary basketball players from Lithuania who surprised the world by snagging a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
Other Bruin highlights at Sundance included a rare screening of "Daughters of the Dust" (1991), a classic of African-American independent cinema written and directed by Julie Dash (M.F.A. '85), in a dazzling new print created by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. With opening remarks delivered by Dean Schwartz, the film played to a full and enthusiastic audience who treasured the opportunity to see this extraordinary cinematic masterwork.
The Short Film, International Fiction Competition featured "Playtime," a film written and directed by current student Lucas Mireles ('12), and produced by recent graduate Ryan Slattery ('11), which was made last year in Germany as part of a cinematic exchange program arranged by Barbara Boyle, chair of the UCLA Department of Film, Television and Digital Media, with the Internationale Filmschule Köln (Cologne). "Playtime" was inspired by the landmark silent feature "People on Sunday (1930)", whose production team included future greats Billy Wilder, Robert Siodmak and Fred Zinneman.
To read more about UCLA at Sundance and view videos, visit http://ucla.in/w5a1XA.
For more on UCLA alumni nominated for Oscars, visit http://ucla.in/xacB94.