Production Perks presents: An Evening with Director/SCA Alumnus James Foley and HOUSE OF CARDS

May 8, 2014, 7:00 P.M.

The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108, George Lucas Building, USC School of Cinematic Arts, 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007

Production Perks presents:
An Evening with Director/SCA Alumnus James Foley & House of Cards

Moderated by SCA Film & Television Production Division Prof. Tom Abrams
7:00 P.M. on Thursday, May 8th, 2014
The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007

The event will begin with a screening of the Season Two Finale from House of Cards.

About SCA Alumnus James Foley

Themes have always been vital to James Foley’s filmmaking. The complexities of his films have drawn the best and brightest actors-ranging from Gene Hackman and Al Pacino to Sean Penn, Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon. His debut film, the teen thriller RECKLESS starring Aidan Quinn and Daryl Hannah, established his unique ability to combine suspense with complicated, unsentimental character portraits. He next directed the critically admired AT CLOSE RANGE, starting Sean Penn, Christopher Walken, Christopher Penn and Mary Stuart Masterson in a story that probed to the dark heart of family ties by exploring the relationship between a criminal father and his coming-of-age sons.

Switching gears again, Foley directed Madonna in her first major leading role in the screwball comedy WHO’S THAT GIRL?, before delving into the noir world of Jim Thompson in the acclaimed AFTER DARK, MY SWEET starring Jason Patric, Rachel Ward and Bruce Dern. Foley dove head first into Thompson’s disturbing, morally ambiguous world of drifters, loners and small-time criminals, creating one of the truest tributes to the noir master’s work. Foley next moved from back roads criminals to big-time con-artists, from dark drama to black comedy, adapting David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning GLENGARRY GLENN ROSS to the screen. Featuring a stellar cast including Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino and Kevin Spacey, the no-holds-barred screen version brought Mamet’s scorchingly funny tale of moral chaos to cinematic life.


Foley’s subsequent film shifted the director another 180 degrees - this time into a poignant and poetic Depression-era family drama, TWO BITS. Here, Foley’s theme of family bonds and conflicts is dipped in a lush, nostalgic mood. Al Pacino and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio star in the moving story of an elderly grandfather who announces rather suddenly that he is about to die. Following the elegiac tone of TWO BITS, Foley returned with a bang to contemporary times with the taut, edgy exercise in terror, FEAR, featuring his first collaboration with Mark Wahlberg and also starring Reese Witherspoon. Retreating into the halls of justice, Foley then directed THE CHAMBER, based on John Grisham’s best selling novel about a young lawyer who defends his racist grandfather awaiting execution on Death Row. Starring Gene Hackman, Chris O’Donnell and Faye Dunaway, the film explores Grisham’s most morally intricate story - again touching upon themes of family connections and illusions that die hard.

His next venture, the urban thriller THE CORRUPTOR, reunited Foley with Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg starred with Chow Yun Fat in the labyrinthine story of two cops, attempting to build a bond while trying to make a difference in New York City’s Chinatown, both following their individual senses of duty until they dangerously collide. CONFIDENCE continues in that tradition with Ed Burns, Rachel Weisz, Andy Garcia, and Dustin Hoffman. A fast paced, time bending con-game, CONFIDENCE explores Foley’s fascination with intricate relationships and a character’s ability to stretch morality, trust and family-like bonds to their thinnest.


Twice in his career, Foley has stepped briefly away from cinema for forays into innovative television. In 1990, he directed David Lynch’s groundbreaking, surreal series TWIN PEAKS, collaborating with one of television’s most acclaimed casts. More recently, he directed for David Fincher’s HOUSE OF CARDS, a game changing series starring Kevin Spacey that launches Netflix’s first foray into original programming. But his heart truly lies with the big screen, the power of which initially lured him into filmmaking.

Foley was born in Brooklyn and raised in Staten Island, New york, son of a lower-middle class Irish-Italian family. He was on a clear path to becoming a clinical psychologist after graduating from SUNY Buffalo when he decided, on a whim, to take a summer course in filmmaking at NYU. The immediate and emotional response to his (albeit one minute long) films convinced Foley that this was where he wanted to concentrate his heart and mind. He never looked back.


Foley moved to California and studied film at USC. It was the heyday of gritty, realistic, intelligent 70’s filmmaking and Foley was mesmerized by films like “Serpico,” ”Dog Day Afternoon,” “The French Connection,” “Coming Home” - films of moral and psychological complexity, but also mainstream appeal, which continue to influence him. The strength of his student films led to early mentoring by Hal Ashby and later Scott Rudin, leading to his first film project, RECKLESS, in 1984.

Since then, Foley has worked to avoid what he calls “ghettoization” of his filmmaking style, straddling as many different genres, tones and moods as he can and working with as a wide a range of acting talents as possible. The result has been a career that combines the fierce independence of the personal art film with the exciting finesse of mainstream entertainment.

About SCA Associate Professor Tom Abrams, MFA

Tom Abrams is an award-winning screenwriter and director whose work has been recognized in both the United States and Europe, including an Academy Award Nomination, an Emmy Award for Animation writing, and prizes at the Berlin, Cannes, and Karlovy Vary Film Festivals. A working screenwriter for more than 20 years, Tom’s scripts include HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL for Warner Bros., THE CAPTAIN'S WIFE for Fox 2000, THE AMERICAN PRINCESS for New Line Cinema, THE BATTLE OF ONO for John Woo and Chow Yun Fat, METAL MACHINE for James Jacks at Universal, and GAMEBOY CHARLIE for Bruckheimer producer, Chad Oman. His most recently produced project was SMOKING ACES:ASSASSIN’S BALL for Universal Pictures. Tom is also an international film consultant who’s worked in more than 15 countries around the world.

About Production Perks

A speaker series hosted by the SCA Film and Television Production Division, featuring workshops, masterclasses and Q&As with top television and film directors and actors. Admission is free, although you must be a USC student, faculty or staff member to attend.

Check-In & Reservations

This event is free of charge and open to the public. Please bring a valid USC or State ID, or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 6:30 P.M.

All SCA screenings are OVERBOOKED to ensure seating capacity in the theater, therefore seating is not guaranteed based on RSVPs. The RSVP list will be checked in on a first-come, first-served basis until the theater is full. Once the theater has reached capacity, we will no longer be able to admit guests, regardless of RSVP status.


The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $10.00 at USC Entrance Gate #4, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & Royal Street. We recommend Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Please note that Parking Structure D cannot accommodate tall vehicles such as SUVs. Metered street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.

Contact Information

Name: Alessandro Ago