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Alumni News: (Production) Life after Film Studies at Berkeley
By Marilyn Fabe
Despite our emphasis at Berkeley on film theory and history, a number of our graduates have gone on to successful careers in film production. Some of them I only hear about indirectly. A senior in Film Studies who was interviewing for a place in UCLA’s Film Production Program told me how surprised she was to discover that her interviewer, William McDonald, head of the Department of Cinematography at UCLA, was a film student at Berkeley in the late seventies. I got news of another ex-student, Camille Cellucci, through a Film Studies major who was doing an internship at Camille’s production company, All Good Films, this past summer. Other past students have contacted me. Andy Given, Executive Producer of Glory Road, phoned last spring to arrange for Taylor Hackford, director of Ray, to come to Berkeley to talk with Film Studies majors. Other students such as Tiffany Shlain, Josh Greenberg and Mollie Caselli keep in touch with me. I wrote past student Mark Yardas because I kept seeing his name in the credits of films and wanted to include him in the newsletter. I encourage all Berkeley Film Studies alumni to contact me or e-mail their news to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can include more “Life After Film Studies” write-ups in future newsletters.
Mollie Caselli (’05), who was a double major in Film Studies and Mass Communications, began work as a Production Assistant at CBS 5 right after graduation. Her work mostly involves assisting producer/directors, but she has also been writing stories for the AM and Noon newscasts, and next month she will get some producing experience. She works the “fun” morning shift from 3:30 AM to l PM. She is not sure how long she plans to stay with CBS, but so far she loves the experience of working for the #6 largest news market in the country.
After graduating from Berkeley, Camille Cellucci (’85) created Industrial Light and Magic’s intern program. While there she worked on such films as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Willow, and The Abyss. After working briefly for Digital Domain, she joined Sony Pictures Imageworks as a producer, working on Speed, Phenomenon, Michael, and City of Angels among others. Her more recent credits include Motion Capture Producer for the visual effects sequences of The Matrix sequels. She was visual effects producer for Titanic, which won an Academy Award in the category of best visual effects. Currently she is writing and directing prize-winning short dramas for her own production company All Good Films.
Andy Given (’80), Executive Producer of Glory Road, is currently Senior Vice President of Production Administration at Columbia Pictures. He has been an Adjunct Professor at USC Film School for ten years, and also serves on the Executive Advisory Board for the College of Letters and Science at U.C. Berkeley. Andy has had a rich and varied career in Hollywood production, working on a long list of fiims including Oliver Stone’s Alexander the Great, T3: The Rise of the Machines, Laws of Attraction, Basic, Mindhunters, Suspect Zero and Masked and Anonymous for lntermedia films, and he was Co-Producer on the Sony Pictures release National Security. Andy got his start in production at Universal Pictures where he worked from 1990 through 1999, rising to the rank of Sr. V.P. of Physical Production. Before that he worked on several feature films and over 100 commercials and music videos. He has been married for 17 years. He and his wife Yoko have two children, daughter Annie and son Eli.
Larissa Voloshin (’95) has been living in France since 1998. She is the head of production for Metropolitan Films.
Josh Greenberg (’96) went on to graduate school in film production at USC where he received an MFA. His thesis film, Rave: the Musical, won the Jack Oakie Comedy Screenwriting Award. Last year he sold his first studio script to Universal, Delaware McChoad, a spoof on Indiana Jones adventure movies.
William McDonald (’81), head of Cinematography at UCLA’s Film School, received his Master of Fine Arts in Cinematography from UCLA in 1986. William has won numerous film festival awards in short fiction films and feature documentaries. Ladies: A Portrait of Female Cartoonists, which William made with his wife, filmmaker Pamela Beere Briggs, aired on PBS, The Learning Channel, and had a successful theatrical run through the Landmark Chain. In his twenty-first year of teaching, William has balanced work as a filmmaker with work in academia.
Tiffany Shlain (’95), whose short film Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness was a hit at Sundance last year, has just come out with another short, also accepted to Sundance. The Tribe is a serious/playful documentary spoof that uses the figure of the Barbie doll, created by a Jewish woman, to explore issues around assimilation and Jewish identify in the 21st century. Tiffany made the film in collaboration with her husband, Ken Goldberg, artist and professor in the school of Engineering at U.C. Berkeley. Tiffany will come to Berkeley in April to screen and discuss her film
Mark Yardas (’90) graduated from the UCLA’s Director’s program in 1995. His short film Soapy Soapy Samba, a dark comedy involving father/son incest, received a UCLA spotlight award and he traveled with it around the world from Sundance to Tel Aviv. But the myth that a successful short catapults its maker into a successful directing career proved to be just a myth. He decided he had better learn a craft. Digital editing was still in its infancy, but he got good at it by cutting sound on other students’ shorts. By the time he graduated ($70,000 in debt), he was cutting sound on independent features. Less than a year later he entered the Motion Picture Editor’s Guild, enabling him to begin cutting films on what he calls “the big industry assembly Line.” His list of features include: Boogie Nights, Ali, As Good as it Gets, and Something’s Gotta Give. Last May he cut Bewitched. “What an embarrassment,” he writes, “and what a cliché! I’d come to LA to be the next Fellini and instead found myself working on the same mediocre crap that I’d hoped (in my youthful naiveté) to one day partly improve upon.” The upside is that Mark can make enough money to stay out of the industry most of the year and to work on his own projects. But there’s a downside too: ‘The rampant cynicism of Hollywood post-production can be a real force to overcome.” Mark and his wife Mara also ran into years of challenge when their first son Dante developed Hydrocephalus shortly after his birth. In order to share the experience and wisdom they gained in seeing their son through this ordeal (Dante is doing fine now) they created a DVD entitled “A Family’s Guide to Hydrocephalus.” This work proved to be such a valuable resource that it is currently in distribution around the world from Australia to Uganda. But the combination of Dante’s health issues and the alienation of working in a film industry that shares none of his values put Mark into a creative crisis. “I really couldn’t think of something to say that felt worthy of all the trouble and expense of moviemaking. Isn’t there enough entertainment in the world?” But last year that mood began to lift. Mark found a story that he is eager to tell and is at work on developing a screenplay.