Tag Archive | "school of communication"

Interactive Media Program Ranks in Top 25


Interactive Media Program Ranks in Top 25

Special to UM News

InteractiveMediaCORAL GABLES, FLA. (March 17, 2016—University of Miami School of Communication’s Interactive Media Program has earned the No. 23 spot on The Princeton Review‘s just-published list saluting the top 25 graduate schools to study game design for 2016.

The Princeton Review chose the schools based on a survey it conducted in 2015 of 150 institutions offering game design coursework and/or degrees in the United States, Canada, and some countries abroad.

The company’s 40-question survey asked schools to report on everything from their academic offerings and faculty credentials to their graduates’ starting salaries and employment experience. Among criteria The Princeton Review weighed to make its selections: the school’s academics, facilities, career services, and technology.

“This ranking is a tribute to the quality of our faculty and the innovative curriculum they have built. Graduates from this program are being hired into fantastic positions in great organizations. It’s a pretty amazing accomplishment, given how new our program is,” said Gregory J. Shepherd, dean of the School of Communication.

The Interactive Media program aims to prepare a new generation of innovators and leaders in the field of interaction design. Its mission is to explore the use of technology, design, human behavior, and their impact on communication. The multidisciplinary curriculum brings together students from different backgrounds to learn about game design, web design, mobile, data visualization, interaction design, and other emerging technologies. The program trains students to research, prototype, design, and build projects in business, social, academic, and cultural contexts.

“It has long been our mission to help students find – and get into – the schools best for them,” said Robert Franek, Princeton Review Senior VP/Publisher. “For students aspiring to work in the burgeoning field of game design, we strongly recommend University of Miami School of Communication’s Interactive Media Program and each of the other schools that made our 2016 lists. These are truly the ‘cream of the crop’ institutions from which to launch a career. Their faculties are outstanding. Their facilities are awesome. And their alumni include legions of the industry’s most prominent game designers, developers, artists, and entrepreneurs.”

The Princeton Review’s full report on this project at www.princetonreview.com/game-design also features a companion list of “Top 50 Undergraduate Schools to Study Game Design for 2016.” It includes profiles of the schools with application information and links to the school sites.

For the fourth consecutive year, The Princeton Review teamed up with PC Gamer, a monthly magazine published by Future plc as its reporting partner on this project. PC Gamer has a feature on the list in its May issue available on newsstands March 29. The feature has information on some of the schools’ unique programs, class offerings, prominent professors, and alumni.

The Princeton Review developed its Top Schools to Study Game Design project in 2009 with assistance from a national advisory board that helped design the survey instrument and methodology. Board members included administrators and faculty from respected game design programs, and professionals from some of the top gaming companies.

The Princeton Review is also known for its annual rankings of colleges, law schools, and business schools in dozens of categories, which it reports on its site, and in its books including The Best 380 CollegesThe Best 295 Business Schools, and The Best 173 Law Schools. The company is not affiliated with Princeton University.

– See more at: http://www.com.miami.edu/news/2016/03/17/university-miami%E2%80%99s-interactive-media-program-named-princeton-review-2016-list-top-25#sthash.hSP97eSn.dpuf

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School of Communication to Host Coral Gables Comedy Festival

ComicCure2CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 16, 2016) — Comic Cure brings the Coral Cables Comedy Festival to the University of Miami campus on Thursday, March 31, when more than 20 local comedians will take the stage at the Bill Cosford Cinema to compete for the title of “fan favorite.” A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Public Relations Experience Program (PREP) in the School of Communication.

“As a UM alumnus, it’s not only rewarding to bring my work back to the very campus that taught me so much, but I feel it’s my responsibility to provide a learning opportunity for students,” explained co-founder Benjamin Leis. “UM and the School of Communication have such amazing programs, organizations, and offerings. We hope to highlight a few that evening.”

Leis has had a special connection with the University of Miami since he stepped foot on campus as a freshman from Philadelphia in August of 2004. He was an active campus leader having pursued a degree in broadcast journalism and political science. After graduation his involvement with the University continued, as a volunteer leader for seven years and as a professional working for the UM Alumni Association for about five years.

In Comic Cure’s special festival format, more than 20 comedians divided between the two shows perform their best material in three-minute sets. At the end of each show, the audience votes for their favorite, choosing which comedian wins the grand prize and bragging rights.

Tickets are available in advance for $20 at CoralGablesComedyFestival.com. Tickets are also available for $30 the night of the show at the Cosford Cinema, 5030 Brunson Drive, Coral Gables, Fla. 33143, as long as seats are available. People 18 and older are welcome with discounted tickets for students. Parking is available for free on campus. Doors open at 6 p.m. with shows at 7 and 9 p.m.

PREP is a faculty-supervised course for students to take their knowledge out of the classroom and into the workplace. PREP is designed to provide students with hands-on experience “doing” their future careers. PREP provides a supervised workforce for special events, non-profits, and sports organizations throughout South Florida.

Comic Cure produces live comedic events showcasing local performers to raise awareness, volunteers, and funds for local charities. Created by Leis and his brother, Richy, in 2015, Comic Cure combines the passions of both brothers while supporting deserving non-profits within the community.


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Take This Short Survey to Help Advertising Students

Did you know that UM’s advertising program is the first in the nation to place in the top four out of more than 150 schools in the National Student Advertising Competition four years in a row, with two of those top-four finishes rendering the team national champions? You can help the school’s NSAC team gather the research they need to reach first place again by taking and sharing this quick survey, www.tinyurl.com/miami-nsac.

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UM’s Brothers Grim Are Sundance Bound

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UM’s Brothers Grim Are Sundance Bound

By Julia D. Berg
UM News


From left, co-directors Eric Mainade, Andres Meza-Valdes, and Diego Meza-Valdes are headed to the 2016 Sundance Film Festival to screen their horror short.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 13, 2016) – University of Miami School of Communication alumni The Meza Brothers, a.k.a. Andres Meza-Valdes, B.S.C. ’09, and Diego Meza-Valdes, B.S.C. ’09, are headed to the 2016 Sundance Film Festival to showcase Boniato, their 23-minute short horror film featuring migrant workers on a boniato (sweet potato) farm who cross borders into a supernatural world, a metaphor for the murky underground network into which many undocumented workers fall.

This is the Meza Brothers’ eighth short in the horror genre and the first they’ve co-directed with seasoned stuntman/action director Eric Mainade, who came up with the initial story concept.

Excitement was running high in December as news of Boniato’s selection by Sundance—launched by Hollywood legend Robert Redford and held annually in January in Park City, Utah—rippled through Miami’s indie film community.

“All I kept yelling was ‘No! No!,” recounts Andres Meza-Valdes, 31, about the moment he heard the official news by phone from Lucas Leyva of the Borscht Corp., an open-source collaborative funded in part by the Knight Foundation to help seed interdisciplinary collaboration and regional filmmaking in Miami.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Meza-Valdes said. “I was with my parents, so they got the scoop firsthand, which is cool because it was nice to share the moment with them. Then, I called my girlfriend. You know, the important people in my life who have contributed for so many years and had to put up with the craziness and stress that come with making an independent film in Miami!”

His co-director and younger brother, Diego, 30, admits he “cried, for real” upon receiving the news. “It’s the coolest thing to happen to our career so far.”

Boniato is one of just eight short films selected for screening January 22-29 in the Midnight Shorts category at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. A total of 72 short films will be screened, selected from 8,712 short film submissions; 123 feature-length films were selected from 12,793 submissions.

The siblings had to wait a few weeks for the official announcement. “It was a bit of torture,” said Andres. “We even thought at any minute one of our friends was going to reveal it was all a big prank. When it became public, it felt like a sigh of relief. We called everyone: the actors (Carmela Zumbado, Felix Cortes, Alex Garay), our DP, ADs, PAs, friends, extended family, haters on the Internet. I even wrote to one of my heroes, [director/producer] Michael Bay. He doesn’t know who I am, but I wanted to tell everyone who inspired and/or helped me out.”

The Boniato project—singled out for awards last year at the Diabolique International Film Festival, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, Fright Night Horror Weekend, and Freakshow Film Festivalbenefitted from having an experienced producer, fellow alumnus Cory Czajkowski, B.S.C. ’07, on the team. “Cory is a special dude,” said Andres. “On top of being producer, he works on the sound, and with horror/action this is so important.”

In addition, two UM Frost School of Music jazz alumni, Adam Robl, ’07, and Shawn Sutta, B.M. ’09, composed the music tracks for the film. “These guys are just A-plus talent,” said Andres. “They really helped make the whole movie feel ‘big’ and delivered a production value we could only dream of achieving.”

For those squeamish about watching horror films, Diego suggests the genre is innate in fairy tales. “Our culture has always been fascinated with dipping our toes in fear. So when people say they aren’t fans of horror, I always ask if they’ve seen Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.”

Diego explains that when shooting Boniato, the team was striving to create a plot that is more similar to the European or Asian style, where tension builds more gradually than in typical American horror flicks. “We wanted to create an entertaining horror roller coaster, using socially relevant content, driven by fantasy.” To add to the film’s intrigue, there is purposely very little dialogue during the first five minutes; then all of the dialogue is in Spanish, with English subtitles.

“We like to call it ‘theater in front of the lens,’ ” said Diego. “For Boniato, Eric Mainade brought in his amazing stunt team to perform acrobatic action, high-flying choreography, and horror sequences—but he was also making sure to give the characters true motivations, and making them feel grounded. That way, the audience cares about what they’re watching.”

Mainade came up with the original script concept while driving to a movie shoot on the small ranch he and a fellow stuntman lease amid the massive, commercial fields in southwest Miami-Dade County.

“Day after day, I witness all sorts of surreal moments out in the fields—from barefoot Haitians working in horrid conditions, to little kids working all day in the elements. Every character in this movie was inspired by the countless faces in these very fields,” he said.

The Miami-based Borscht Corp. hooked him up with The Meza Brothers, and the three fleshed out the script, with a production estimate of $14,000. Borscht Corp. provided some initial financing and a few production aides, and introduced them to cinematographer Antal El Hungaro. “Beyond that,” Mainade explains, “it was a family affair, with my wife, Kristina, as the production manager; Diego’s wife, Veronica, in charge of wardrobe; as well as numerous other friends and family doing whatever needed to be done.”

After Sundance, the team plans to adapt Boniato into a feature.

As a youngster, Andres was drawn to exploring the horror genre. Diego was quick to join in his brother’s pursuit. “I’m the classic little brother who tailed after my big brother. My brother and I have been directing films together for so long, it’s almost as if each of us has evolved into the counterpart of the other. He was always including me in his love, so as a brother I am forever grateful for that.”

Andres describes his younger brother as relentless, honest, and giving. “Diego is an editing machine,” Andres said. “He looks at film in a radically different way than me, and I love that. He puts the film together in his head when on set.”

Reflecting on how the School of Communication prepared them for a career in motion pictures, Andres is effusive. “Oh my God—in so many ways. Ed Talavera, Christina Lane, Jeffery Stern, Tom Musca—these professors changed our lives.” Diego has continued his connection to the University and works as a videographer in University Communications.

This is not their first award-winning work, but it is their first time at Sundance.

“We were not expecting this at all,” said Andres. “Horror isn’t the most respected of genres and after making eight shorts we’ve sort of made peace with the fact that a lot of mainstream outlets just aren’t interested in these types of films. On the other hand, the genre also has it’s own ecosystem and community that we love being a part of.”


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Brothers Grim Gain Acclaim for Their Horror Films


Brothers Grim Gain Acclaim for Their Horror Films

By Maya Bell
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 14, 2015) —As motion picture students in UM’s School of Communication, Andres and Diego Meza-Valdes were known as the blood brothers, shorthand for the crazy duo who had an unquenchable thirst for horror films—both watching and creating them.

“We even had keys to the Cosford Cinema, and would screen all kinds of weird stuff through the night,’’ remembers Diego, now manager of video production for UM’s Office of Communications and Marketing who, like his older brother, graduated in 2009. “People would wander in, see what was on the screen, and, wide-eyed, head right back out.”

Now, fellow horror and indie genre film aficionados are streaming to The Meza Brothers work, most recently their first action thriller, Boniato, which, co-directed with stuntman Eric Mainade and co-produced by another UM motion pictures alum, Cory Czajkowski, now an archives assistant in Special Collections, won the Best Short Film award at the Diabolique International Film Festival, in Bloomington, Indiana, last month.

Then, this past weekend, the 23-minute Boniato, which puts a terrifying spin on the horrors of being an undocumented migrant worker in the U.S., was among the nine international films shown at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, known as one of the best horror film festivals in the world.

“It’s a great honor,” said Diego. “It legitimizes all the work we put into that film. We’ve known about that film festival since we were kids.”


Andres, left, and Diego Meza-Valdes literally grew up reading horror magazines and watching horror films.

As kids, they also were avid readers of Diabolique Magazine, which has presented its eponymous film festival for the past nine years. To the chagrin of their Cuban mother, the Meza brothers’ Chilean dad, Alberto Meza, professor emeritus of art at Miami-Dade College, whose prints often featured monsters and goblins, used to buy his sons the publication dedicated to horror cinema.

“We grew up on horror movies,” Diego said. “We would rent all kinds of scary stuff from the video store, and my mom would drive us back to return it.”

Now, their mom, Grisel Valdes, UM’s director of student employment and assistant dean of enrollment management, couldn’t be prouder of her sons, or the education and experiences they received at UM. Since graduating with double majors—Diego in motion pictures and studio art and Andres in motion pictures and theatre arts—they’ve been dubbed the “Future Stars of Horror” by SexGoreMutants.com. They’ve also collected other awards for other horror shorts, including The Room, which opened Edinburgh’s Dead by Dawn Festival and won the jury prize at the Freakshow Film Festival.

Their last film, Play Dead, premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival and went on to play more than 20 other international festivals, winning numerous jury and audience awards before being distributed on FearNET. It was recently released online, where it has been viewed several hundred thousand times, featured on Vimeo, and named Short of the Week for its “abundance of style” and “auteur streak.”

Filmed in Spanish, Boniato, named for the Cuban sweet potato picked in the fields of south Miami-Dade County, was inspired by the plight of illegal immigrants who live in the shadows—an issue particularly important to South Florida. But being a horror film, the short stays away from politics and policy and focuses on a young, undocumented farmworker who, while trying to escape her lonely, exploitative life, discovers a sinister subterranean network that is preying on the long-ignored migrant workers above ground.

“We wanted to explore our backgrounds a little bit—of being immigrants in a foreign land,” Diego says of the plot. “But we grew up on horror films, so we mixed disparate concepts and tied them together. Horror is the glue.”

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