January 28, 2013

Fruitvale Sweeps Sundance

Sundance Hit is a Trojan Family Affair

By Valerie Turpin

Ohanian, Shawver, Coogler and Gorannson at the 2013 Sundance Film

Graduates of the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) have a reputation for sticking together after they graduate. Fruitvale, the Grand Jury and Audience Award Winner at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, is a prime example of this practice, with fourteen USC graduates in the credits, four of whom met during the production of an SCA student film. Fruitvale was written and directed by SCA alum Ryan Coogler ‘11, with seven other Trojans who either attended or graduated from three different schools in key creative roles.

Coogler attributed much of his success to studying at SCA, saying, “USC was the place where I learned how to make films; it’s the place where I met most of the crew that [worked] on this film. I learned so many things [in SCA production class] 546 that I used later on in the feature filmmaking world. Pretty much everything I learned about movies, I learned at SC.”

Poster of Fruitvale

Fruitvale was developed by the Sundance Labs and is the first film to win both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize since Precious in 2009. In addition to Coogler, other SCA creatives responsible for Fruitvale are Producers Nina Yang Bongiovi (Annenberg) and Forest Whitaker (School of Dramatic Arts), Co-Producer Sev Ohanian ‘12, Associate Producers Haroula Rose and Gerard McMurray ‘11 and Editors Michael P. Shawver '12 and Claudia S. Castello ‘12. The film featured music by Ludwig Goransson (Thornton School of Music). The Office PA was current SCA student Mahin Ibrahim and additional Post-Production Sound was provided by David J. Turner, Kimberley Patrick and Matthew Breault. Ephraim Walker (Gould School of Law) also aided the filmmakers as a Bay Area Consultant.

Transitioning from the student film level to the big screen can be intimidating to many filmmakers starting out. However, Producer Ohanian found the switch to not be as difficult as expected, thanks to his time at SCA. “Honestly, it’s not as different as you might think,” explained Ohanian. “Pretty much every situation that we would come across, we would ultimately look at each other and think, ‘Wait, how did we do that in [SCA production course] 546?’ or ‘What was that like in [SCA production course] 508?’ Personally, I’m always hearing my professors’ voices in my head when I’m dealing with situations on set. USC really, really prepared us for this experience.”

While students at USC Cinema, Coogler, Shawver, Castello and Goransson worked on the short film Fig, which won the DGA Student Film Award in 2011.  Fig was also honored with a faculty award for outstanding producing at the USC Cinema-produced First Film Festival.

Fruitvale was purchased for distribution by the Weinstein Company and will be coming to theaters soon.

For more information, please visit: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2334649/