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August 26, 2008

Launching Legends

Opening Day Reception Brings Newest SCA Talent Together

By Mel Cowan

Alumnus Ari Sandel, left, greets freshman production student Bryanne Cooke, while alumna Kam Miller, second from left, speaks with Steven and Nita Bryant.
Rogers and Hammerstein, Martin and Lewis, Lennon and McCartney, Lucas and Spielberg—entertainment history is replete with stories of partnerships that trace their roots back to the single moment when two people’s paths crossed. And so it was on August 20, when hundreds of new undergrad and grad students came together for the first time in Queen’s Courtyard to meet the faculty and staff who will shape their educational experience, and perhaps the teammates who will be with them throughout their careers.

"This truly is a family here at SCA; one that looks out for and takes care of everyone in it," said Dean Elizabeth M. Daley. "And let this reception today be symbolic of the way your next four years will be: working together as colleagues, and as family."

"You will hear this more than once, but look around you today. The people you see here may very well be the people you work with for the rest of your life," Daley added.

SCA has a long-standing tradition of fostering partnerships that not only withstand the trials of the entertainment industry, but also create films that garner critical and commercial acclaim: producer Brian Grazer, '74 and director Ron Howard, (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13 ); writer-producers Scott Alexander, B.A. '85 and Larry Karaszewski, B.A. '85 (Ed Wood, The People Vs. Larry Flynt ); and Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, both B.A. '73 (I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Back to the Future).

Taking the dean's words to heart, many of the students circulated freely through the crowd at the reception, introducing themselves to each other and their soon-to-be instructors.

Critical studies freshman Taylor Wildeson, left, and her family, Gary, Karen and Cooper Wildeson, listen to Associate Dean of Student-Industry Relations Larry Auerbach.
Associate Dean of Student-Industry Relations Larry Auerbach spoke warmly about the atmosphere at the reception. "It's wonderful to see these all these eager young people here to attend what I consider to be an incredible school, in a city where their chosen industry is dominant, and getting a golden opportunity to learn their craft and begin making the relationships that will last their entire career."

Following the reception, Auerbach and Bonnie Chi, director of Student-Industry Relations, co-moderated a panel called "How to Navigate the Next Four Years," featuring SCA alumni Kam Miller, M.F.A. '03, writer for Law & Order: SVU; Ari Sandel, M.F.A. '05, director of the Oscar-winning short film West Bank Story; and Jason Shuman, B.A. '96, producer of Bangkok Dangerous and The Messengers.

Members of the incoming class also had the opportunity to see samples of outstanding productions done by their immediate predecessors, with the screenings of A Day’s Work, and Viola: The Traveling Rooms of a Little Giant. The directors from both projects, Rajeev Dassani, M.F.A. '07, and Shih-Ting Hung, M.F.A. '05, were on hand to talk about the films as well as the thrill of winning the 2008 Student Academy Awards.

"This town is a tough one to move around in on your own. Student-Industry Relations is here to help you make those moves," said Auerbach, stressing that students should begin the process of learning about the industry as soon as possible. "Students shouldn't wait until they have three months before they graduate to come to us and say 'What do I do now?' Because at that point, they've wasted a lot of time."

Vanessa Black, production freshman, was excited about the start of classes. "All the other students I've met here are so energetic and passionate about making movies," said Black. "That just makes you want to get in and start working."

Vanessa's mother, Paula Black, expressed pride at her daughter's achievement. "I hope she realizes how selective this school is, and how great it is just to be here today," said Black. "The school has such an amazing history, and with the new building, it really looks like it has an exciting future."

"As soon as I saw she had gotten the thick envelope, I knew that was it," said Louis Aveyard, of his daughter Victoria, a freshman in the writing division. "She applied to a couple other schools, but this was where she really wanted to be. It'll be tough to let her go, but she'll be doing what she loves."

Incoming critical studies/theater double major and 2006-07 regional Student Emmy winner Brandon Winfrey echoed Auerbach's remarks about the importance of the industry presence at the school. "A big reason I ended up here was that several alumni from my high school went to USC, and are now in the industry," said Winfrey. "Knowing I have that connection is a great feeling."

When asked about his double major, Winfrey said, "I want to be an actor, but I also want to get a broad base and take advantage of all the opportunities the school has to offer."

With a determined look, he added, "I want to do it all."