The Professors


Jeanine Basinger, Wesleyan University

Former students:
Michael Bay (2007's "Transformers"), Akiva Goldsman (2001's "A Beautiful Mind"), Joss Whedon (2005's "Serenity")
Whedon on Basinger: "Jeanine has always understood that the study of film is the study of the self -- obsessions are welcome, as long as they're brought to bear on what's actually onscreen."

John Canemaker, NYU

Former student:
Michael Dougherty (2006's "Superman Returns")

On being a good teacher: "A great teacher and friend of mine, (fellow animator) Jules Engel said, 'It's not what I give to the students, it's what I don't take away.' I always thought that was a great philosophy, and I try to incorporate that in my own work."

Drew Casper, USC

Former students:
James Foley (1992's "Glengarry Glen Ross"), Jay Roach (2000's "Meet the Parents"), Bryan Singer (1995's "The Usual Suspects"), John Singleton (2005's "Four Brothers")

What do you teach? "I teach film as a humanity. I don't teach it as theory, and I don't teach it as politics. It's not politics, it's not theory -- the two unfortunate things, poles, that film has gone to. So that's probably one of the reasons why they fill my classroom, is for the humanity, our humanity, a medium that shows concrete needs and desires and tells us about ourselves."

David Downs, Northwestern University

Former students:
Zach Braff (2004's "Garden State"), John Logan (2007's "Sweeney Todd")
On being a good teacher: "You have to be able to see the student, and each student has to have an individual space created around them in which they can feel comfortable and challenged to learn what you're trying to teach."

Milos Forman, Columbia University

Former students:
James Mangold (2005's "Walk the Line"), Greg Mottola (2007's "Superbad"), Kimberly Peirce (1999's "Boys Don't Cry")

Mangold on Forman: "When I would meet Milos at Columbia, and I would send in 40 pages I rattled off that week, and he had read them thoughtfully and marked them up thoughtfully, all the while still in the midst of a major career -- it has to touch you that someone's investing the most valuable commodity of all in you, which is their time."

Dezso Magyar, Chapman University

Former students:
Andrea Arnold (2007's "Red Road"), Darren Aronofsky (2006's "The Fountain"), Todd Field (2006's "Little Children")

What do you teach? "The important thing is, what is it you need to say? What is it you're passionate to say? You need to find out about yourself, what kind of stories you're dying to tell, because that particular personal conviction -- that passion -- is the only thing which is going to sing on the screen."

Ken Miura, USC

Former students:
Ben Burtt (Disney/Pixar's "WALL-E"), Ron Howard (2006's "The Da Vinci Code"), George Lucas (1977's "Star Wars"), Gary Rydstrom (2003's "Finding Nemo")

On being a good teacher: "I think that to be a good teacher, you've got to be part of the class. In other words, you're not just a guy up in the front lecturing. You become part of the class and work with the students rather than talk down to them."

Frank Patterson, Florida State University

Former students:
Melissa Carter (2004's "Little Black Book"), Ron J. Friedman (2006's "Open Season"), Jonathan King (2006's "Dreamgirls")

Friedman on Patterson: "Frank's an easygoing guy who's all about giving
students the freedom to make, and learn from, mistakes. He respects the students. It's all about his allowing students to stand or fall on their own. He'll support you when you try to stand, and he's pretty good about cushioning your fall, too."

Frank Pierson, AFI

Former students:
Patty Jenkins (2003's "Monster"), Jonathan Levine (Sony Pictures Classics' "The Wackness")

Why do you teach? "I truly enjoy it. It keeps me on my toes. One thing that is wonderful is to have students say, 'You know something? That's the way you'd do it, but that's a bunch of shit. I want to do it my way.' And you say, 'OK, how is your way?' and you suddenly say, 'Forty years ago, I should have thought of that.'"

Charles Ramirez Berg, University of Texas at Austin

Former student:
Robert Rodriguez (2005's "Sin City")

What do you teach?
"Basically I'm teaching at three levels. The first is the material: 'Citizen Kane,' Hitchcock, Scorsese, Spielberg. The second is critical thinking -- having students think for themselves. At the third, most important level, I'm teaching passion. See how excited I get about movies? Go out and find what gets you this excited. Find what you love, do it, and everybody benefits."

Robert Rosen, UCLA

Former students:
Patricia Cardoso (2002's "Real Women Have Curves"), Jonathan Dayton (2006's "Little Miss Sunshine"), Alexander Payne (2004's "Sideways")

Cardoso on Rosen: "When I was making my thesis film, I got to a point where I said, 'I'm not going to be able to make it.' He was really supportive and encouraging. He would show me different ways of doing things. He knows so much about film from different parts of the world, and also in history, that he has a perspective that very few people have."

Richard Walter, UCLA

Former students: David Koepp (2002's "Spider-Man"), Scott Kosar (2004's "The Machinist"), Audrey Wells (2003's "Under the Tuscan Sun")

What do you teach?: "You can do anything you want, if in three words I could put it like this: Don't be boring! As a member of an audience, I would rather be offended, disturbed, provoked, upset, saddened, or frightened than rendered bored."
comments powered by Disqus