The Most Dynamic and Imaginative Place to Learn
Editor's Note: This column was written after opening night at the Chicago International Film Festival.
Bruce Sheridan | Photo: Kieran McMillan
The first time the Film & Video Department hosted the University Film & Video Association (UFVA) Conference in 2005, we set a record for attendance. Fast forward seven years to summer 2012, and we did it again—around 450 delegates and vendors converged on campus to discuss the “state-of-the-art” in film education and consider the impact of our rapidly changing world on how young people prepare to “author the culture of their times.” Although the UFVA is a North American organization, this year I extended an invitation to leading international educators and they came from as far away as the Czech Republic. We were particularly honored by the presence of the two leaders of CILECT, the international organization of film and media schools, President Maria Dora, and Executive Director Stanislav Semerdjiev.
This year the theme was “Imagination is the 21st Century Technology” and we kicked the conference off with a very inspiring presentation from Peter Sims, author of the bestselling Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries
. Drawing from his thorough and insightful analysis of leading creative innovators as diverse as architect Frank Gehry, the PIXAR team, and Starbucks CEO Charles Schultz, Sims challenged delegates to see creativity as an incremental, dynamic process that must embrace risk, self-reflection, and reiteration to deliver its full potential. His analysis was particularly prescient for filmmakers, who need to be creative individuals and creative collaborators.
The Film & Video Department Conference Planning Team, under the leadership of Eileen Long and Charles Celander, outdid themselves in every way, not least being the spectacular end-of-conference banquet at the Adler Planetarium. Chicago turned in a glorious summer night and our visitors couldn’t stop turning to take in the panorama of the city through the ceiling's high glass panels that surround the Planetarium’s banquet room; or, maybe the speeches weren’t as compelling as those of us giving them thought they were!
Around the time the UFVA Conference was taking place, the feature documentary on sports concussion called Head Games
, which I produced with director Steve James (Hoop Dreams
and The Interrupters
), was completed. We released Head Games
in late September with excellent results: glowing reviews in publications such as the New York Times
, inclusion in Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter
's “Oscar Threats” list, and the Best Documentary Award at the Boston Film Festival. This is the first project I have been involved with that was released via Video On Demand the same day as it premiered in cinemas—an excellent way to get up to speed with the rapid changes in film marketing, exhibition, and distribution. It’s amazing to realize that your film is immediately available in more than 100 million homes via cable services, but the most astounding aspect for me has been the rent/buy options through Amazon, iTunes, and Facebook.
was made because concussion in sports is one of the major public health issues of our time. Although public interest in this subject is driven by developments in professional sports leagues such as the NFL and the NHL, the film is targeted at the need (and the right) of young participants in contact sports and their parents to be fully informed about the risks, consequences, and options. To meet that target we decided to create a style of visual effects distinct from the network television graphics we see every Sunday. The reviewer in Variety
commented on the success of this aspect and in doing so was calling out work done entirely by faculty, staff, students and recent alumni of the Film & Video Department in teams led by Jim Rohn, David Tarleton, and Adam Jones.
I am writing this the morning after opening night at the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF). Columbia College is proud to be the Presenting Partner of CIFF for the fourth consecutive year and last night was as good a start to proceedings as we could wish for. The opening film was Stand Up Guys
—starring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin—and it was fun to spend a little time in the green room pre-show with the three stars, director Fischer Stevens, producer Tom Rosenberg, and an immaculately suited Jon Bon Jovi (who provided two songs for Stand Up Guys
). The film is very good and had the packed house hooked from the opening. I was able to facilitate the attendance of many Film & Video faculty, staff, and students, most of whom also made it to the after-screening reception.
Over the next two weeks the department will be deeply involved with CIFF, which is an excellent way for students to see new films from all around the world, to meet filmmakers (often first-time feature directors), and engage in panels and presentations that make important connections to how the cinema is evolving in this digital age. I will moderate the panel on distribution and am very pleased to have John Mossman and Vincent Singleton also on board as moderators—Mossman for “New Directors: The Art of Collaboration” and Singleton for “Black Perspectives: Voice and Authenticity in Black Cinema.”
Those are some recent and current adventures to share. Of course, what lies ahead is just as exciting. Thanks to all our faculty, staff, and students for continuing to make the Columbia College Chicago Film & Video Department the most dynamic and imaginative place to study and practice professional creativity for the cinema.
Bruce Sheridan, Chair
Film & Video Department