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For the new chair of its film program, ranked No. 8 on Earth in The Hollywood Reporter’s new Top 25 Film Schools list, Columbia University School of the Arts announced today that it’s chosen somebody who’s a part of film history himself: Ira Deutchman, a founder of Cinecom, creator of Fine Line Features, and managing partner of Emerging Pictures. You’ve heard of Steven Soderbergh, The Player, Hoop Dreams, My Own Private Idaho? Deutchman is a big reason why. He succeeds Jamal Joseph, chair for the last five years. The school was the brainchild of Milos Forman, now professor emeritus.
“It’s more or less true that everyone in the specialty film world worked for him at one time or another,” says Film Society of Lincoln Center associate programmer Scott Foundas. “You know, he’s like a cat that has nine lives and always lands on its feet. He certainly was at the forefront of the whole digital cinema revolution. He just kind of sees the currents there very early on and has great success with it. He practices what he preaches. He is not of the ‘if you can’t do, teach’ persuasion. He does and he teaches.”
“I’ve been teaching at Columbia for 24 years now,” Deutchman tells THR. “I used to have mixed feelings in the earlier era of film school, because it was a place for people of privilege. I see the value of it much more than I used to, because of changes in the business. Everybody with a cellphone believes they’re a filmmaker now. In reality, they just simply don’t have the craft and the talent. Just because you learn to use a word processor doesn’t mean you’re a writer. Now that everybody owns the tools, it’s wonderful that everybody can become a filmmaker. But that doesn’t mean that everybody should. What we’re doing is taking the people who have the raw talent and working with them to turn them into major talent.” Columbia produced luminaries like Kathryn Bigelow and Lisa Cholodenko, who credits the school when she wins big prizes.
Deutchman beefed up the creative producing program last year, focusing on new media, transmedia and TV producing.
“We’re bringing in some new adjunct faculty: Amy Robinson, the great producer, Lance Weller, who’s famous for his transmedia work, David Grubin the documentary filmmaker. The kinds of things we change have more to do with bringing more in, to make sure we’re covering every aspect of film, but no major changes in the program [are afoot]. We don’t want to be ossified, we want to be on top of everything that’s going on. The students are so far ahead of us in some ways, we end up learning from them.”
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