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A Producer is the person who gets the project made. A creative and entrepreneurial self-starter, the producer has the talent for turning his or her artistic vision into a tangible product - and a good producer into a critical and/or commercial success. The Peter Stark Producing Program will expose an aspiring producer to the full spectrum of the entertainment business. Students will learn every step of the creative process, from development through distribution. Starkies discover and hone the creative, entrepreneurial, and managerial skills needed to succeed in their career path through classes in creating and developing stories, entertainment history, economics, studio management, budgeting; marketing, and independent producing. Starkies will know how to practically take a project of any media - film, television or interactive - from script to screen, large or small.

Stories

Stark Alum Discusses her vision of an international media empire

Georgina Gonzalez
Student Profile

An interview with Stark grad Melissa Rosenberg

Melissa Rosenberg
Alumni Profile

A long-form interview with the Chair of the Peter Stark Producing Program

Larry Turman
Faculty Profile

Degree Programs

Graduate
Masters of Fine Arts

The Peter Stark Producing Program is an innovative, two-year (four-semester) full-time graduate program designed to prepare a select group of highly motivated students for careers as producers and executives of film, television, and new media.

View Degree Requirements External Site

View Faculty External Site

Learning Objectives

MFA in Producing for Film, Television and New Media

  • Understanding the history and present realities of the entertainment industry landscape with understanding and awareness of the dynamic evolving nature of the field.  The faculty of working professionals brings up-to-date information and strategies to the classroom, enabling students to develop a current and savvy skillset, knowledge base, and network of contacts.
  • The primacy of ideas and story (the “Art”) is our focus.  We also teach how to navigate the business to bring your ideas to life (the “Commerce”).
  • Broad and deep practical knowledge of the profession of producing for the variety of arenas within the entertainment industry (features, television, digital media). plus, knowledge of other creative roles in content creation, thus enabling the students to choose a specific direction and also remain flexible and broadly-skilled.
  • Always practical, especially as it pertains to their own specific career path, including internship experience, individual and group projects (from short films to film and television show pitches) culminating in the conception, development and completion of an individual thesis project. 

Career Connections

Producing is an entrepreneurial endeavor. The film industry does not have a formalized recruitment program, thus students must expect to exert considerable ingenuity and persistence to secure their initial job. Some jobs do come through contacts made directly or indirectly through the Peter Stark Producing Program, such as summer internships, our mentor program, graduates, instructors and industry friends.

One large family-friends, alumni and students of the Peter Stark Producing Program gathered for a group shot at the program's 25th anniversary celebration.
(October 2, 2005)

All second-year classes are held in the evening so students who are eager to start their careers can do so. Second-year Stark students are allowed to seek employment in the industry, produce a film or work on writing or developing a script, provided that all classes are attended and a 3.0 GPA is maintained.

Internships

The completion of an eight week internship is a requirement for graduation. One way of doing this is our summer internship program (in the summer between the first and second years) in which The Stark Program arranges introductions and secures interviews at film, television and new media companies. These internships are paid and most are full-time. Though The Program has been able to secure enough paid positions in the past, they have no control and are dependent on enough companies choosing to select a Stark student. These paid summer internships are not guaranteed. Students often find internships on their own or through postings The Program receives (some paid and unpaid).

Internship students work with and observe functioning professionals on a day-to-day basis enhancing understanding of how industry business is conducted and hopefully to establish working contacts. Some internships have evolved into permanent employment.

We solicit major film studios or networks, independent production companies or agencies for summer internships in the areas of film development, agency, marketing, and television. Internships run for a minimum of 8 weeks, and the salary received is usually between $300-$400 per week. However, students cannot plan on internship money for summer living expenses as some companies elect to donate payment to the program, and the student receives these funds in the form of tuition credit.

Guest Lecturers & Alumni

Peter Stark faculty invite guest lecturers with specific expertise to provide in-depth information. Typical guests range from award winning Producers, Writers and Directors to top Agents, Managers and Studio and Network Executives.

Peter Stark Producing Students in the Peter Stark Office.

Peter Stark graduates are important to the program. Some alumni teach or guest lecture for Stark classes, some serve on our Board of Mentors and others are panelists for Thesis Oral Examinations. Many make themselves available for student career counseling, while some contact the program if they are looking to employ a Stark student or graduate. Each year, the program updates and publishes a Stark Alumni Directory to facilitate contact and networking.

Mentor Board

Peter Stark Producing Program Chair
Larry Turman with Mentor Board
member Edward Saxon, Stark '84

The Mentor Board consists of top industry professionals. They advise on an individual basis and are a valuable, ongoing link to the film and television industry, helping to ensure that the Peter Stark Producing Program remains cutting-edge in its teaching and philosophy.

Board members serve as individual mentors for soon-to-graduate students to provide counsel and support as students begin their careers.

Mentor Board

  • Stephanie Allain
  • Bonnie Arnold
  • Carol Baum
  • Craig Baumgarten
  • Albert Berger
  • Laura Bickford
  • Adrienne Biddle
  • Todd Black '82
  • Michael Bostick '90 (Stark)
  • Nicole Clemens
  • Stuart Cornfeld
  • RJ Cutler
  • Sean Daniel
  • Beau Flynn
  • Gary Foster '80
  • Dana Fox '00(Stark)
  • David Friendly
  • Richard Gladstein
  • Matthew Gross
  • Lianne Halfon
  • Dan Jinks
  • Polly Johnsen '95 (Stark)
  • Mark Johnson
  • Rachel Kaplan
  • Evan Katz '86 (Stark)
  • Arnold Kopelson
  • Roy Lee
  • Jennifer Levine '96 (Stark)
  • Andy Licht '81 (Stark)
  • Laurence Mark
  • Kevin Misher
  • Neal Moritz '85 (Stark)
  • Mace Neufeld
  • Keri Putnam
  • Michelle Raimo Kouyate '95 (Stark)
  • Edward Saxon '84 (Stark)
  • Cathy Schulman
  • J.C. Spink
  • Suzanne Todd '86
  • Mike Tollin
  • Paula Wagner
  • Janet Yang
  • Julie Yorn

Special Productions

The Stark Program provides funds for selected Stark students to initiate and produce up to three 20-minute films. Second-year Stark students, alone or in teams, originate and make these projects.

Tony Bill (far right) accepts his
Academy Award for The Sting

Special Productions are selected on a competitive basis. Decisions are made by the Program Director along with industry professionals who then serve as advisors on the productions. The Stark producers then "hire" a director and crew from the Stark Program or other SCA programs. An individual Stark student may assume only one major role - Writer, Director or Producer. Completed films can be screened at the School of Cinematic Arts First Look series. They have been selected to show at outside film festivals from Sundance to Deauville.

Special Productions Advisors

Tony Bill

Tony Bill is an Academy Award-winning director/producer. Among his directorial credits are My Bodyguard, Untamed Heart, Five Corners, and Flyboys. His feature production credits include The Sting, Hearts of the West, Taxi Driver, and Going in Style.

Noted for his discovery and support of new talent, he acted in the first films of directors Steven Spielberg, Terrence Malick and Francis Ford Coppola. He commissioned and produced the first screenplays of David Ward, John Patrick Shanley, Terrence Malick, and many others.

Additionally, he has directed or produced numerous movies, television films, commercials, and episodes for television. He lives with his wife, producer Helen Bartlett, in Venice, California, where they maintain a film production company, Barnstorm Films.

He is the author of Movie Speak (Workman Press, 2008), the definitive compendium and history of the language and lore of film sets, and is a commercially-rated pilot and an experienced long-distance ocean-racing sailor.

Recent (2016) projects include Going in Style for New Line/Warner Bros and, with Helen Bartlett, Pitch: a pilot for a new series for Fox Television.

Robert Shapiro

Starting in the mailroom at The William Morris Agency, Robert Shapiro rose through the ranks to Senior Vice-President, Managing Director and head of their International Motion Picture Department, where he represented some of the industry's most prominent stars and filmmakers.  Shapiro served as President of Warner Bros. Worldwide Theatrical Production Division for over six years. Among the 50 Plus films produced during his tenure include the Superman films, Hooper, Private Benjamin, Going in Style, The In-Laws, Altered States, National Lampoon's Vacation, Time After Time, Every Which Way But Loose, The Shining and Chariots of Fire.  Additionally, Shapiro produced many critically acclaimed and successful films including Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Black Beauty, Arthur 2 On The Rocks, There Goes My Baby, Dr. Jekyll & Ms. Hyde, My Favorite Martian, Disney Channel’s Cadet Kelly, NBC's Movie Of The Week The Summer My Father Grew Up and Walt Disney’s Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.  He executive produced Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun.  He directed the second unit on several films including Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, as well as directed two episodes of The Dick Clark Show and the FOX TV series Beyond Belief.

Films Shapiro has been associated with have garnered several Academy Awards and nominations. He has also been nominated for a Golden Globe Award and received the prestigious Christopher Award as well as the Genesis Award for Best Picture (Black Beauty).   Shapiro is currently developing and preparing several films that will be released in 2016-17. Shapiro is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, where he serves on the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship selection committee, The Animated Feature Film Nominating Committee and The Foreign Language sub-committee. He is also a mentor to graduate school filmmakers at the Peter Stark Program at USC. He has taught classes and has been a guest lecturer at USC, UCLA, NYU, Emerson College, University of Nebraska, University of Utah and the Los Angeles Film School.

Ruth Vitale

Ruth Vitale is the Chief Executive Officer of CreativeFuture, a broad-based creative community coalition that includes film and television companies, independent production and financing companies, unions, guilds, talent agencies, and other members and supporters of the creative community. CreativeFuture promotes the value of creativity in today's digital age and embraces expanded audience access to content in ways that reward creativity. Vitale has been at the forefront of independent film production and distribution for more than three decades, including as Founder and Co-President of Paramount Classics and as President of Fine Line Features. During her tenure at these companies, she launched the careers of many successful filmmakers such as Paul Greengrass, Sofia Coppola, Scott Hicks, John Hillcoat, and Craig Brewer. She has also worked with established talent such as Sam Raimi, Roger Michell, Jonathan Demme, Paul W.S. Anderson, Patrice Leconte, and Barbet Schroeder. Her films have won three Oscars and received 16 nominations as well as 18 Golden Globe nominations and two wins. At Paramount Classics, she released such award-winning films as The Virgin Suicides, Sunshine, You Can Count on Me, Sidewalks of New York, Bloody Sunday, Mostly Martha, The Singing Detective, Enduring Love, The Machinist, Mad Hot Ballroom, and Hustle & Flow. Fine Line produced and distributed such highlights of independent film as the Academy Award-winning Shine; The Sweet Hereafter; Love! Valour! Compassion!; Twelfth Night; Gummo; and The Winter Guest. Vitale also served as President of UBU Productions' feature film division from 1988 to 1991. Among other positions, she was Senior Vice President of Production for United Artists, where she oversaw production on Child's Play, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, and Roadhouse. As President of Production for Vestron Pictures, she broke ground with the highest-grossing independent film of the time, Dirty Dancing. She was also Director of Acquisitions for The Movie Channel. Most recently, Vitale was President of First Look Pictures and the owner of The Film Collective, a consultancy business that helps financiers and companies with the strategic planning for their films in the worldwide marketplace from development and production through distribution. Vitale is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Larry Albucher (Physical Production Mentor)

Larry Albucher has had a long career in all aspects of physical production, serving as former Vice President of Feature Production at Paramount Pictures, Vice President of Production at Columbia Pictures Television and as a unit production manager/assistant director for over 30 years.

Contact Information

Graduate Peter Stark Producing Program
School of Cinematic Arts
University Park, SCA 366
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211
Phone: 213.740.3304
Fax: 213.745.6652
pstark@cinema.usc.edu