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From Oscars and Rad Games to Blockbusters and Indie Sensations: CalArts School of Film/Video’s World

Posted: September 2, 2014 6:35 p.m.
Updated: September 2, 2014 6:35 p.m.
CalArts MFA Film Directing Program student Sandra Powers directs performers during the production of her film “Etsa y Nantu.” Scott Groller/Courtesy photo CalArts MFA Film Directing Program student Sandra Powers directs performers during the production of her film “Etsa y Nantu.” Scott Groller/Courtesy photo
CalArts MFA Film Directing Program student Sandra Powers directs performers during the production of her film “Etsa y Nantu.” Scott Groller/Courtesy photo

CalArts School of Film/Video by the numbers:

2014: The Hollywood Reporter ranked CalArts among the top five film schools in the United States

2014: Ranked number one among the Top 100 Animation Programs in the U.S. by Animation Career Review

2013: Among five U.S. film schools selected to work with Google Glass

2012: 20 percent of films in Sundance Film Festival’s Shorts Program were made by CalArts filmmakers

2006: The only American college to be honored with a retrospective screening series,

Tomorrowland, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York

2001-2014: Eight Oscars for Best Animated Feature won by CalArts alumni

Last May, at California Institute of the Arts’ (CalArts) graduation ceremony, President Steven Lavine conferred an honorary doctorate to a distinguished alumnus--Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios John Lasseter. Dr. Lavine remarked, “John’s remarkable career exemplifies CalArts’ experimental ethos and creative spirit.”

Along with such celebrated filmmakers as Brad Bird, Brenda Chapman and Tim Burton, the Toy Story director was among CalArts’ legendary first generation of animation students. These alumni of the Character and Experimental Animation Programs in CalArts’ School of Film/Video redefined the industry—and have delivered a substantial economic punch. Animated feature films made by CalArts trained directors have generated more than $30,000,000,000 in box office grosses since 1985. CalArts’ founders Walt and Roy Disney would be proud.

Animation is just one area of the Santa Clarita-based Institute’s top ranked film programs. School of Film/Video faculty, students and alumni excel in all disciplines of the cinematic arts. One of the Institute’s six schools, the School of Film/Video has educated generations of outstanding animators, live action-filmmakers and game designers. These “Calartians” impact the culture and economies of the Santa Clarita Valley, Hollywood and beyond.

“Our 400 students represent the widest spectrum of animation, dramatic, documentary and experimental filmmaking of any U.S. school,” said Steve Anker, Dean of the School of Film/Video from 2004-2014.

CalArts live-action filmmakers bring creativity to studio blockbusters and independent hits. In 2013, alumnus James Mangold’s Wolverine earned $416 million worldwide, becoming the second-highest-grossing X-Men film. Recent alumna Eliza Hittman’s independent first feature, It Felt Like Love, was included in Sundance’s touring series. 2010 graduate Pacho Velez’s documentary Manakamana won a Golden Leopard at the 2013 Locarno Film Festival.

The Institute contributes significantly to the creative economy of the region and the world. This year, Disney Animation’s blockbuster Frozen, directed by alumnus Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, earned the Oscar for Best Animated Feature and grossed $1.3 billion worldwide, becoming the top-grossing animated film to date. Burbank-based Cartoon Network’s current roster of alumni creator/directors includes Adventure Time’s Pendleton Ward, Regular Show’s J. G. Quintel, and Uncle Grandpa's Peter Browngardt. Nickelodeon’s long running hit SpongeBob SquarePants, created by CalArts’ Stephen Hillenburg, is consistently rankedas television’s top animated series.

Locally, video game development company WayForward was co-founded, in 1990, by Voldi Way and CalArts students Rob Buchanan and Matt Bozon. Today, more than 100 employees work at WayForward’s 19,000-square-foot facility in Santa Clarita. “We have benefited greatly from having a deep source of animation and story talent nearby at CalArts.” said General Manager John Beck. “We expect to enjoy the benefits of that relationship for years to come.”

In July, Anker stepped down as Dean to pursue new projects and teach. He is succeeded by award-winning film and video maker Leighton Pierce. Looking to the future, CalArts’ newest dean plans to “cultivate dynamic, vibrant and integrated educational experiences for moving-image and sound makers in the 21st century.”


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