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Report of the Iranian Motion Picture Delegation at the LA-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - Day 6


A full day’s visit to USC School of Cinematic Arts was the scheduled program of the 6th day for the Iranian guests of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Last year on the 80th anniversary of the University of Southern California, acclaimed American filmmaker and USC alumnus George Lucas donated US$175 million to expand the film school with a new 12,700 m2 facility including 4 soundstages and a number of new educational buildings, explained Assistant Dean of the School of Cinematic Arts Mr. Alan Baker. In the entrance courtyard of the School, the logo of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is embossed high on a tall arch. Mr. Baker offered the additional information that the Academy has also donated US$8 million in the past year to build this entrance arch at the School. The air was filled with the pleasant aroma of coffee. To the right of this structure was the entrance to the School’s student café, the location of the new studios built with the financial assistance of George Lucas. The Iranian delegation was led to the Student Production Office, with 22 fully equipped desks for handling the student production activities and communications, and walls and partitions all covered with student film posters. Showing a folder full of pictures and addresses of actors, Mr. Baker explained that a large number of actors have completed the necessary forms to announce their readiness to act in student projects for free. He also added that there is a rich archive of pictures from different locations that might be needed for student projects. 

Students of this School take parallel courses to study all the fields simultaneously. They are all required to experiment cinematography, set design, directing, producing and editing.

The Iranian filmmakers were also taken to visit the production and sound effects rooms. Everywhere around the hallways of this building, American film posters in other languages can be seen, part of the George Lucas personal collection donated to the School. The direction signs at this School offer information in Braille for the blind. The picture editing facility of this School has 150 editing sets in 4 halls of open workshop environment. There are also 10 private audio editing offices available to students from 9:00am to midnight. Students can use this facility based on scheduled appointments to work on their own hard disks which are held by the School. The offices are available in a variety of floorings including moquettes, stones, tiles, carpets, parquets and gravel. In addition, there are shelves of accessories like telephone receivers, boots, different shoes (sport, classic, heels), door handles, door bells, a variety of ropes and chains, rackets (tennis, badminton, etc.) and gloves. The students are required to generate and record all the sound effects themselves. Also, there is a sizeable archive of student film music available at the School, which can be used for new student projects at no cost for the material and moral rights. Questioned if this School has branches or affiliates outside the USA, Baker answered that the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts (RSICA) has been opened at the Kingdom of Jordan after the Royal Film Commission of Jordan joined forces with the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and three Iranian students are currently enrolled at this school.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts employs 80 full time and 150 part time instructors, each of whom supervise at least one four-hour workshop each year. Theoretic classes have a maximum capacity of 40-60, which goes down to 30-40 for the rest of the classes. Due to their special importance, screenwriting and producing classes are assembled with fewer than 20 students, to give the instructors a better chance of monitoring the students’ works. 

Next on the tour was the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts, followed by the Electronic Arts Game Design Lab which was introduced to the visitors by a student of Iranian origin. Working on programs that are somehow different and more sophisticated than the usual level available at the market, the center tries to research this area and promote the taste of the computer games’ audiences.

The Iranian filmmakers continued their talks with the School’s Dean and four of the professors over lunch. The professors showed great interest in learning more about the education process in Iran, and Farhad Tohidi and Alireza Raisian were the ones who provided most of the answers. After lunch, the visitors were directed to the international cinema class which was in session. With the arrival of the Iranian filmmakers, the instructor gave the podium to the Academy’s director of special events and exhibitions Ellen Harrington, who introduced the guests to the students. After the introduction, the instructor asked the projector operator to start Abbas Kiarostami’s “Close Up” from the minute 17, and then asked the Iranian filmmakers to talk about the cinema of Iran. Reza Kianian provided a comprehensive account of the 108 years of cinema in Iran, the formation of Iranian cinema, the stage actors’ crossover to cinema and the birth of the new wave of Iranian cinema under the influence of the French Cinema. He then referred to Kiarostami’s filmmaking career, adding that for years he has constantly been experimenting new approaches in his filmmaking, stripping his cinema of elements like actors, cinematographers, set designers and so on. He also mentioned that Kiarostami has just finished a film in Italy in which he has worked with a professional DP and a famous French actor, which indicates a new return to narrative cinema, albeit in his own fashion. For the rest of the session, Mohammad Mehdi Asgarpour, Farhad Tohidi and other members of the delegations provided answers to a variety of questions posed by the students, including the filmmaking process in Iran from production to screening and monitoring and censorship, the requirements for presenting one’s work in Iran, the influence of foreign filmmakers on the works of Iranian filmmakers, the presence of women filmmakers in the Iranian cinema, and whether or not the future of cinema belongs to film prints or digital movies.

The program wrapped up at 16:30 amid a prolonged round of applause by the appreciative students.



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