Tag Archive | "school of communication"

New Media Workshop Attracts—and Nurtures—New Talent


New Media Workshop Attracts—and Nurtures—New Talent

UM News

Camille Von Simson, rising senior at LaSalle High School in Coconut Grove, focuses on the Everglades for the climate change project.

Camille Von Simson, rising senior at LaSalle High School in Coconut Grove, focuses on the Everglades for the climate change project.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (July 17, 2015)—Within an hour of arriving on campus July 5, the students in this year’s Peace Sullivan/James Ansin High School Journalism and New Media Workshop settled on the issue that would consume them for the next three weeks: how climate change will affect South Florida.

Now more than half way through the residential summer program, many of the students are as passionate about educating their peers about the threat rising seas pose to their futures as they are about pursuing careers in journalism.

“Our research showed that by 2060 sea levels in South Florida could rise 3 to 6 feet, which will affect all of us profoundly,” said Dayany Sotolongo, an incoming senior at SLAM!, the Sports Leadership & Management Charter Middle/High School near Marlins Park in Miami. “I’ve learned more about climate change and the conservation efforts we can take part in to reverse it in these few days than I ever learned in school, and I’m really proud of that.”


Tsitsi Wakhisi, associate professor of professional practice, reviews the photos high school students Alissandra Enriquez and Daniel Saiz took during a photojournalism bootcamp.

Sotolongo is among the 20 students from Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties selected for this year’s highly competitive workshop, which enables students with a strong interest in journalism to live on campus and work with faculty and staff to produce a printed newspaper, Miami Montage, a website, and videos dedicated to a topic of interest to South Florida youth.

In past years, students have explored issues related to homeless and undocumented youth, but this year there was almost immediate consensus about the issue that could have the greatest impact on their futures.

“They were brainstorming about different topics that are relevant to youth in Florida, and climate change quickly emerged as the most relevant,’’ said workshop administrator Steve Pierre, who credits his own workshop experience seven years ago for fueling his passion for journalism and for his current job as a communications specialist in UM’s Department of Human Resources.

“I would not be where I am today without everything I learned during those three weeks,” Pierre said. “Thinking back on it now, I was shy. I had never conducted an interview. I was a decent writer, but I didn’t have much experience or practical skills. I had never even seen some of the equipment we used. I did more in those three weeks than I had done in my entire life.”


Students Phillip Bootsma and Ciro Salcedo, on a simulated photo assignment, collect information about their subject, Mariah Schuemann, Intensive English Program professor.

Now in its 32nd year, the workshop, which is sponsored in part by the James Ansin and the Ansin Family Foundation, WSVN-Channel 7, Peace Sullivan, the Dow Jones News Fund, the Miami New Times, the John T. Bills Scholarship in Journalism Fund at The Miami Foundation, and the Jeanne Bellamy Scholarship in Print Journalism Fund at the Miami Foundation, concludes Saturday with a celebratory luncheon where the students will share their work with their families.

But their opportunities are just beginning. In addition to gaining valuable skills, workshop participants also compete for internships at local newspapers, a $1,000 Dow Jones scholarship, and, through special funding from the Ansin Family Foundation, a four-year scholarship to the University of Miami.

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Students Screen Top Films in Los Angeles, Fill UM with Pride


Students Screen Top Films in Los Angeles, Fill UM with Pride

By Robin Shear
UM News

At Raleigh Studios Hollywood, UM alumnus Paul Orehovec shows UM film students and recent graduates around the set of Major Crimes, the TV series he co-produces with fellow 'Cane Michael Robin, A.B. '85.

At Raleigh Studios Hollywood, UM alumnus Paul Orehovec, far left, shows UM film students and recent graduates around the set of Major Crimes, the TV series he co-produces with fellow ‘Cane Michael Robin, A.B. ’85.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (June 5, 2015) —From a migrant worker in Beijing to a would-be “Marielito” in Cuba, from hacking computers to “hooking up” in college, the ’Canes Film Showcase offered a wide variety of subject matter and style for the 450 attendees who filled the Directors Guild of America Theater on Hollywood’s famed Sunset Boulevard last Thursday.

The annual event, in its 10th year, showcases five student films selected by judges as the best of the ’Canes Film Festival, held each spring at UM. Those students then get to travel to Los Angeles to mingle with an impressive array of industry professionals and alumni.

“I swell with pride when I see the quality work our students produce,” commented School of Communication Dean Gregory Shepherd after the screening. “The quality is tied to the education they receive and the amazing job our faculty are doing.”

In addition to a Hollywood who’s who that included industry veteran David Isaacs (M*A*S*H, Mad Men), A.B. ’71, actor Dawnn Lewis, B.M. ’82, and director John Herzfeld, ’69, among many others, there were a number of University Trustees in attendance, along with Interim President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, who called the students’ films “fabulous,” citing their “incredible professionalism” and impressive range of subject matter.

The films included Espionage 101, Home, I Want to Beat Up Clark Peters, The Mermaid, and El Mar y Él. Tony Mendez, producer and director of El Mar y Él, grew up in Miami and took his inspiration from his uncle’s tale of trying to leave Cuba in the 1980s. Mendez said HBO Latino has optioned his project in the U.S. and that it is set to be released in October.

The highlight of the showcase came when audience members had the chance to vote via Internet for their favorite film. I Want to Beat Up Clark Peters, about a college guy who seeks revenge after the woman he’s casually seeing starts seeing someone else, won both the City of Angels audience favorite award and the Best of the Fest Award from the professional panel of judges.

Accepting the awards, Joseph Picozzi, the movie’s writer, director, and producer who graduated this spring from the School of Communication, credited his cast and crew of fellow ’Canes, many of whom were in the audience.

“It’s great that people like it. There were some amazing films that also deserve the same recognition,” said Picozzi. “I saw a story that wasn’t being told about the hook-up culture. It’s something all of my friends were going through.”

Picozzi said he plans to move to Los Angeles in July with a fellow ’Cane to pursue his chosen career.

It’s a decision Paul Orehovec, B.S.C. ’02, encouraged as he showed a group of 20 UM film students through the inner sanctum of Raleigh Studios Hollywood, where he has worked for “one third of his life.”

The students had ample opportunity to ask technical and detailed questions, examine advanced camera equipment, and see a working set, thanks to Orehovec, co-producer with Michael Robin, A.B. ’85, of the TV series Major Crimes.

Speaking from his experience of 11 seasons with the studio, Orehovec urged UM students to get out of Miami and give L.A. a shot.

“There’s this excitement about being here, about creating. I highly recommend it. At the very minimum give it a try,” he said. “I learned more in my first year of being here about the way things actually work than can ever be taught in school. You just have to be in it, you just have to see it. It’s an adventure. It’s fun.”

But it’s also highly competitive, he noted. “Out here you’re a small fish. You have to work harder, but the reward is definitely bigger.”

Kenny Langer was one of those inspired by Orehovec’s pep talk. This year was the first time screenplays were judged at the Canes Film Festival at UM, and Langer’s feature-length Villify was the inaugural winner. Langer, who received recognition Thursday evening, is shopping around his script about a closeted teen who agrees to sleep with his best friend’s girlfriend to help break them up. Like Picozzi and several other recent UM film grads, Langer plans to move to L.A. in the coming months. “Here I go!” he exclaimed with a smile.

UM is also going to L.A., noted Dean Shepherd, with its Los Angeles semester program launching in January 2016.

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Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Cements Stardom in Hollywood

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Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Cements Stardom in Hollywood

By Robin Shear
UM News

Photo by Michael Tran/Getty Images

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s size 14 shoes and former pro wrestler mitts are immortalized in cement at the TCL Chinese in Hollywood. Photo by Michael Tran/Getty Images

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 21, 2015) – The earth stood still in Hollywood on Tuesday, May 19, as the star of the forthcoming earthquake-themed blockbuster San Andreas planted his powerful hands and feet in wet cement in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre.

Following in the foot and handprints of such legends as Marilyn Monroe and Robert DeNiro, UM alumnus Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, B.G.S. ’95, stepped into Hollywood history, immortalizing his size 14 shoes and former pro wrestler mitts ten days before the scheduled premiere of his new action movie, which opens May 29.

Surrounded by family and fans, Johnson, who has a string of winning films and TV appearances to his credit, underlined his personalized slab with the word “Blessed!” And right now he seems particularly so, heading into a summer that includes San Andreas, about a rescue helicopter pilot on a mission to save his estranged daughter in the wake of a massive earthquake in California, and Ballers, the new HBO series filmed partly on UM’s Coral Gables campus that’s set to debut June 21.

Introducing Johnson at Tuesday’s event, San Andreas director Brad Peyton said, “He’s humble, he’s gracious, he’s kind, he’s attentive.”

Thanking his family, team, and multitude of fans, Johnson recounted how seeing movie hero Indiana Jones at age 8 inspired him.

“I knew I wanted to be that guy who was charming with the ladies, cool. The tough guy—but doing it with a smile,” he said.

The future champion of Hurricanes football and World Wrestling Entertainment made his own whip out of a stick and string and then got his first pair of boxing gloves to start building himself physically—“anything I could do to change my life with my hands,” he explained.

Fast forward a few decades, and Steven Spielberg, the director of the movie that spawned Johnson’s  childhood hero, sent him a letter “out of the blue” that read, “You’re going for it. You keep going for it,” recalled Johnson before taking the cement plunge.

“I’m so proud of this moment. I’m so grateful. Not only does it symbolize hard work. It symbolizes the people I have around me supporting me in my hard work,” Johnson said, singling out his family, his team, and his fans, whom he called part of his “extended family.”

Johnson shares the iconic distinction with another UM alumnus and big-screen hero, Sylvester Stallone, B.F.A. ’98, who on June 29, 1983, became the 148th person to be honored by the theater.

This June 5, Stallone will be on hand during the University of Miami Alumni Association’s own blockbuster weekend in Los Angeles, California. The Rocky and Rambo star will be recognized for his outstanding career achievements with the Edward T. Foote II Alumnus of Distinction Award during the first-ever Regional Alumni Awards Ceremony.

The evening before, on June 4, the School of Communication and UM Alumni Association will join forces at the Directors Guild of America to present the 2015 ’Canes Film Showcase, featuring top student films from the Motion Pictures Program and a pantheon of judges from the industry, many of whom are alumni. The evening’s emcee will be Jason Kennedy, B.S.C. ’04, co-host of E! News.



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Motion Picture Students Adapt Stephen King’s 9/11 Story for the Screen

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Motion Picture Students Adapt Stephen King’s 9/11 Story for the Screen

By Maya Bell
UM News

UM alumnus Jonathan Franklin, the film's director of photography, shoots actress Juliana Harkavy "falling" from the World Trade Center on the patio of the Bill Cosford Cinema.

UM alumnus Jonathan Franklin, the film’s director of photography, shoots actress Juliana Harkavy “falling” from the World Trade Center on the patio of the Bill Cosford Cinema.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 15, 2015)—Facing certain death after the planes hit the World Trade Center, Sonja D’Amico jumps from a window. Yet as she plummets 110 stories, she is enveloped not by raging flames but by soothing thoughts of her beloved.

Last week, School of Communication students and graduates filmed that scene, adapted from a 9/11 story by Stephen King, in the unlikeliest of places—the patio outside the Bill Cosford Cinema. Of course, when the 30-minute nonprofit, noncommercial film premieres at film festivals, no one will know that. No one will see that actress Juliana Harkavy, who portrayed Alisha in The Walking Dead, was actually standing on an improvised stool, her wind-swept mane blown by a hand-held fan, as UM alumnus Jonathan Franklin rolled back and forth on a loaned camera dolly to capture her beatific expression.

But that’s the magic of movies, and of turning a compelling story into an even more compelling screenplay. Which is what Barbara Leibell, a lecturer in the School of Communication, hoped to share with students in her scriptwriting class when, in January 2014, she asked King’s permission to adapt The Things They Left Behind—his story about a man haunted by the appearance of objects that belonged to colleagues who perished in the twin towers—into a screenplay.

It wasn’t an unusual request. Through what King calls his Dollar Babies program, the best-selling author has probably launched a number of careers, including celebrated director Frank Darabont’s, by granting aspiring filmmakers the right, for the price of a $1, to adapt his stories for film. A week later, King gave his consent, and Leibell and about 20 of her students, both former and current, got busy.

Sara Werner, a graduate of the School of Communication’s Master of Fine Arts motion pictures program whose short on human trafficking, Aurora, won best film at the 2012 Canes Film Fest, is the director. She and Franklin, a fellow M.F.A. grad and the film’s director of photography, are shooting the script, written and adapted by Jake Gillman, who graduated May 7 from the School of Communication with a major in scriptwriting. He called the exhausting year-long process of getting the script “to the point we were satisfied” an “amazing opportunity” and the day last week when the crew recreated the collapse of the towers in the Miami office set of the TV show Graceland an “emotional, thrilling, humbling and really nerve-racking” experience.

“The office was a mess. There was soot everywhere. It was so real I had to step outside,” Gillman said. “Being from New York, 9/11 hits close to home. It’s a sensitive subject, so you want to do it and Stephen King’s story justice.”

Under Leibell’s guidance, Gillman and his team expanded King’s narrative. They turned their version of The Things They Left Behind into a dreamy love story, with actor Tom Frank, who appeared on Dexter, playing the bereaved boyfriend of the woman whose red sunglasses turn up in his New York apartment—donated by The Filling Station Lofts, a firm dedicated to fostering film and arts in Miami—a year after she jumped.

After reading the script, Mike Gabriel, the former CIO of HBO, and Missy Jenkins, former aide to Newt Gingrich, donated funds. Respected industry professionals, including David Frankel, director of The Devil Wears Prada and Marley and Me, and Howard McCain, director of Outlander, agreed to serve as mentors. And Maria Elizabeth, a hair stylist and make-up artist from Virginia, offered her services and time for free.

“When I read the script I cried. It spoke to me,” Elizabeth said outside the Cosford last week, in between freshening Harkavy’s lipstick and tousling her hair. “I think it will speak to a lot of people, so I wanted to be part of it.’’

Still, the students, who include costume designers from the Department of Theatre Arts and script supervisors from the College of Arts and Sciences, face the same daunting challenges many filmmakers face: long hours, no pay, and a limited budget. The producer, Xinyue Chen, an M.F.A. film student who already has spent countless hours securing permits and low-cost or donated locations and equipment, and negotiating salaries for the cast, (all Screen Actors Guild professionals who have agreed to work for $100 a day) says she’s running on adrenaline. But, she too, is thrilled with the opportunity.

“Every morning, I wake up stressed because I know there will be new troubles coming,” Chen said.”This film is a big challenge for student filmmakers. But when I see the footage we made together, I know it is worthy. I’m so proud of it.”

She and the rest of the students also know that adapting a King story could be a steppingstone, if not a career-maker. After all, Darabont, who adapted and directed two multiple Academy Award-nominated films, The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, from two Stephen King stories, was one of the first Dollar Babies. He asked King’s permission to write and direct his first film, the author’s The Woman in the Room, when he was 24.

“King liked Frank’s work so much he continued working with him on major projects,” Leibell said. “So this is a great honor and opportunity for our students. No matter what happens, they’re all learning valuable filmmaking skills, getting material for their reels and resumes, and making a beautiful, meaningful film.’’

To support post-production costs of the film, email Leibell at DLeibell@miami.edu or call her at 305-582-6571.



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Brats, Baseball, and Brains: UM Celebrates 10th Family Day with the Miami Marlins

It wasn’t just another day at the ballpark, but a festive outing that celebrated outgoing UM President Donna E. Shalala’s remarkable 14-year tenure, the dedication of UM faculty and staff, their bonds with family, friends, and colleagues, and the promise of bright, young minds. The University of Miami’s annual Family Day with the Miami Marlins, held Saturday at Marlins Park in Little Havana, was all that and more. At the West Plaza, thousands of UM employees and their families and friends visited the Faculty and Staff Thank U tent, where they received orange U rally towels and enjoyed a panoply of pregame festivities, including face painting, autograph sessions with current and former Marlins players, photo opportunities with the Sebastian the Ibis and Billy the Marlin, and more.

Shalala, who was feted with a video tribute that played on the park’s jumbo screen, and UM Police Chief David Rivero threw out first pitches before the Marlins blasted the Philadelphia Phillies 7-0 in a stadium dotted with ’Canes waving those orange towels and pumping orange-and-green foam Us given to those who arrived early. But the Marlins weren’t the only winners, as the Miami Marlins Community Foundation awarded two generous scholarships to deserving ’Canes—Chelsea Mulkey, for her studies in the School of Education and Human Development’s Sport Administration Program, and the School of Communication’s Daniel New, who received the Suzanne Rayson Scholarship in Broadcast Journalism. Rayson, who served as the Marlins director of broadcasting from 2002 to 2008, passed away after a battle with cancer.

An estimated 19,000 UM employees and their guests participated in this year’s Family Day with the Marlins, the tradition begun 10 years ago to show the U’s appreciation for faculty and staff, who in addition to transforming lives every day through teaching, research, and service, have contributed more than $35 million to Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami.

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