From Tulane to Hollywood


Mary Sparacello

Professor of Practice Mary Blue looks on as her Advanced Digital
Filmmaking I course students assemble
Kneeling in front -  Max Cohen-Hanes, Ethan Gordon
Standing l to r - Megan Belknap, Emily Ogden, Jessica Appelbaum,
Katy Chappellie, Mary Blue, Mary Lachapelle, Kay Morris

Tulane University alumni and parents are increasingly making it big in the film industry, and a pair of Tulane professors are hoping to tap into that growing network by launching a summer program to give students a first-hand Hollywood experience.

The School of Liberal Arts is developing a five-week program on the contemporary film industry that would begin with two weeks of class at Tulane, then a week in Los Angeles before returning to Tulane for the final two-week course. Students will receive six credits for the two courses.

“We want to give students a realistic experience of what they can expect if they choose a career in Hollywood,” says Professor Mary Blue, director of the digital media production program at Tulane, who is proposing the program with Professor Connie Balides, director of film studies. These programs are affiliated with the Departments of Communication and Theatre and Dance.

The California trip would offer the young filmmakers an intensive introduction to how Hollywood works. Tulane students would meet with movie industry professionals such as writers, directors, producers, agents and studio heads.

Possible participants include Jimmy Horowitz ’83, President of Universal Pictures; Sanford Panitch ’89, President of Fox International Productions; Elizabeth Daley (NC ’65, G ’66), dean of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts; David Lonner ’84, CEO of Oasis Media Group; Steven Pearl ’85, co-owner and producer at Scarlet Fire Entertainment; and Tulane parents Nicolette and Joshua Donen, a producer of the Emmy-winning Netflix series “House of Cards.”

This would not be the first time Tulanians who are successful in the movie industry have shared their wisdom with aspiring Tulane filmmakers. At Homecoming in 2011, Horowitz, Lonner and Pearl were members of a prestigious panel of five industry executives, writers, and actors who spoke to Tulane students interested in breaking into the movie business.

“The Tulane to Hollywood panel demonstrated not only the great success of our alumni but also the intense interest of our students,” says Carole Haber, dean of the School of Liberal Arts. “This new summer program continues where the panel left off. Where previously we brought Hollywood to Tulane, we will now be taking our students into the heart of the movie industry.”

In the four weeks of the film course spent at Tulane, students would draw connections between analyzing the movie industry and the practicalities of making films.

Left to right - Nicole Kuaea, Kay Morris, Katy Chappellie, and
J.P. Stiles

“We’re giving them a framework for understanding what they will experience when they’re in Hollywood,” says Balides.

Recent alumni who majored in film studies and digital media production at Tulane are already making their mark on the entertainment industry, and they say the trip to Hollywood would give current students much-needed practical exposure.

“It doesn’t matter how talented you are or how great your script or reel is... Trying to break in without understanding the landscape and how the business works is like trying to survive level 5 rapids without a paddle. Or a boat. Or even knowing how to swim,” says Andy Cochran, a 2003 Tulane graduate who is a screenwriter in Los Angeles. “And the only way to learn how the business works is to be here and learn from the people already in it.”

Cochran sold a screenplay to Paramount and MTV Films a year after his graduation from Tulane, where he majored in film studies and English. He wrote the script for “Adult World,” a movie starring John Cusack and Emma Roberts that is set to be released in January.

Tulane alumna Amy Leonard is in her second year at the acclaimed Peter Stark Producing Program in the School of Cinematic Arts at USC. In addition to her classes, she is interning at premium cable network Starz in the original programming department.

“Learning how to navigate the film industry is an entire course of study in itself,” says Leonard, who graduated from Tulane in 2012 with a major in digital media production and communication. “Learning what it’s like, coming here, would be really invaluable to a student at Tulane if they’re not sure whether they want to come work in Los Angeles. Or even if they are sure they want to come here, it’s good to know what to expect.” 




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