Vol. 6 No. 3 - Fall 2012
Fall 2012
Food Bank Volunteer Event, Upcoming Mixers and Holiday Party, Screenplay Showcase Winners, James Ponsoldt Interview,
Alumni Updates and More!

Editor's Note
Hello fellow alumni, and welcome to the fall edition of the CUE newsletter! This quarter, we’ve got two great interviews with independent filmmakers working here in Los Angeles, and details on some exciting and brand-new events coming soon: a Giving Thanks-inspired networking event where you can join CUE for a volunteer shift at the LA Foodbank, and the launch of a new careers-in-the-industry focused roundtable program, which will feature an informal and intimate chat with an alum working in the industry. We’re also looking ahead to the annual CUE holiday party, so check out our save the date information below.

This is installment number three in the newly relaunched CUE newsletter, which we hope to continue to expand and improve in an effort to share useful information among the CUE community. Please let us know if you have ideas or suggestions. Likewise, CUE itself is looking to grow and will be holding an open board meeting soon for anyone interested in checking out how to become more involved. Details are below, along with updates from fellow alums.

As always, we invite you to shoot us a message with your news or suggestions by emailing us at editor@cue-network.org.

Austen Rachlis, SoA Film '08 and Kate Buhrmaster, SoA Film '08
CUE Newsletter Editors

You can also stay connected via the CUE Facebook page , the website and for those who are graduates of the School of the Arts, there is now an official School of the Arts Alumni Facebook group.

Volunteer with CUE -- November 3rd
Start your holiday season with a Saturday morning spent giving back, alongside fellow CUE members. We’ll be hosting a group of volunteers at the LA Food Bank from 9-12 on Saturday, November 3rd. Consider it a fun alternative to traditional mixers and networking events, and join us for a few hours spent sorting donations, meeting fellow alums, and serving your community.

Details on how to register can be found HERE.

Password: entertainment


Columbia SoCal and CUE Mixer -
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 6:30 - 9:30 pm
We'll be mixing it up with alumni from all of Columbia's schools and it promises to be a memorable night (but you don't have to be in the entertainment business to attend).

We have reserved space on the rooftop deck at this high end and trendy hotel bar; there will be are $4 beers, low-priced bottles of champagne, a small bar food menu, and plenty of nooks and crannies to carry on good conversation.

So come one, come all to mingle in style with your fellow Columbians and meet new friends along the way. RSVP soon to this exclusive event before all the spots are taken!

Register here!

Navigating the Industry - A Roundtable event with Beth Schacter -- November 15th
Join CUE for the first event in our new Navigating the Industry roundtable series! On Thursday, November 15th, CUE will be hosting an evening with Beth Schacter, writer/director of the indie film Normal Adolescent Behavior, who is currently working as a writer on the ABC Family series Bunheads. We’ll screen a recent episode over pizza and sodas, and then discuss Ms. Schacter’s experience working as a writer and director since graduating Columbia. The goal of this series of roundtables is to open a dialogue about the choices and challenges that come up in building a sustainable career in this industry. Attendance to each event will be strictly limited to ensure a casual, frank conversation.

Registration will be on a first-come basis, so watch your email and our Facebook page for details on how to sign up.

Annual Holiday Party -- December 12th
Save the date for our big Holiday Party
-- December 12th at St. Felix in Hollywood -- This year Columbia will be hosting the big gathering solo, so be spread the word and prepare to reconnect and spread the holiday cheer with some familiar faces!

Screenplay Showcase Winners Announced
The participants in CUE’s first annual Screenplay Showcase have been named! See below for info on the writers and their scripts. And stay tuned for further details on the showcase itself. Without further adieu, here are this year’s scripts!

ALL IN (TV Drama Pilot)
by Abdi Nazemian (CC ‘98)

BACK IN BLACK (or: How to Save America Without Really Trying) (Feature Comedy)
by Jon Stahl (Teachers College ‘00)

by Jonathon Roessler (FILM ‘07)

by Jessiline Berry (FILM ‘07)

IN HOUSE (TV Drama Pilot)
by Daria Polatin (THEATER ‘07)

Read more for full synopsis and writer bios...

If you're interested in directing or acting in scenes from the finalists' screenplays in the Annual Columbia Screenwriter Showcase please submit a headshot and/or resume and portfolio links to info@cue-network.org.

We're looking for alumni interested in helping out on our board. CUE was founded by and is run by Columbia alumni and what we do and are able to do as an organization is dependent entirely on this industrious and generous team (and it looks great on your resume!)

If you are interested in coming to our next open board meeting, email us at info@cue-network.org.


We are saddened to share the news that Steve Cohen ('93), an alumnus of the School of the Arts Film Program and adjunct faculty at NYU, passed away Saturday, September 29th. Steve is survived by his wife, Sabrina Dhawan ('02 SOA), head of Screenwriting in the Goldberg Department at Tisch School of the Arts, and their son, Kabir, age 5.

Steve grew up in Rochester, New York. After earning an MFA in Film at Columbia, Steve worked as a studio executive for Savoy Pictures before becoming a full-time screenwriter. His produced writing credits include The Bachelor, which starred Chris O’Donnell and Renee Zellweger, and an episode of the CBS one-hour drama Numbers. He also served as executive producer of the HBO movie Lonehero. Most recently, he was at work on a comedy entitled Her Perfect Wedding for PCH Productions.

Steve will be missed by his colleagues in film and television, his students and fellow faculty members at Tisch, and all of us in the School of the Arts community.

Interview with JAMES PONSOLDT
Since graduating with his MFA in 2005, independent filmmaker James Ponsoldt has directed the acclaimed feature Off the Black, starring Nick Nolte; developed his screenplay for Refresh, Refresh through the Sundance Labs, then turned it into a graphic novel; directed a short documentary and contributed to Filmmaker Magazine.

His most recent project, the indie feature Smashed, stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul. Smashed premiered to great reviews at Sundance, was picked up by Sony Pictures Classic and hit theaters in on October 12th.

For information on where the film is playing and to see the trailer, please visit the web site.

How did you come up with the idea for Smashed?

This film started as a conversation with my friend, Susan Burke, who became my co-writer on Smashed. Susan is sober, open about her struggles with alcoholism, and how she started AA meetings in her early 20s. One night we chatted about stupid things we’d both done while drunk. While sharing stories, we realized we had never seen a film that dealt with substance abuse in these terms: a story that tackled the issue in a way that was believable, but also real and funny. There was always an otherness about those films. Those characters were usually older, and the stories dealt with impact of their substance abuse on their friends and families. They weren’t stories where you went and enjoyed living in the film; they were stories – sometimes great ones – that left you feeling punished. We wanted to do something else. Once we started talking about it, the idea just became something I couldn’t get out of my head.

Susan’s stories were both funnier and more upsetting than anything I’d seen captured in films. She knew the ins and outs of the 12 steps, and she had a lot of personal experience to draw on. I knew this was something that would only work if we wrote it together, because to tell this story in broad strokes, without the specificity that Susan brought, would have been a disservice to the subject. Smashed is fictional, of course, but Susan’s perspective lent a critical authenticity to the project.

This is the first time I’d collaborated on writing with anyone, but it felt like the obvious and natural progression.

How did you decide this was the project you wanted to direct after the success of Off the Black?

There are a lot of stories I’m interested in telling, and after Off the Black I took another project, called Refresh, Refresh and based on an award-winning short story, through the Sundance lab. Moving forward with it was going to be tricky, for a lot of reasons. Small human dramas aren’t the easiest things to finance, and this one featured teen boys and violence and a setting in the high desert of central Oregon. It became clear it would be a slow process.

When the idea for Smashed came along, we just decided we wanted to write it in a way that money wouldn’t be an obstacle. We set it specifically in neighborhoods in northeast Los Angeles, knowing we could make it ourselves on a micro-budget if needed. Then, as it turned out, the project developed into something that connected with others very quickly and we were able to bring onboard producers and financiers.

Read the full article here...


This summer Sandi Tan (FILM ‘00) published her debut novel The Black Isle (Grand Central Publishing; 480pp, $24.99). Set on a fictional island in Southeast Asia, loosely based on a Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, it is a gothic coming of age story following Cassandra, a young “seer” over the course of 60 tumultuous years. This sweeping epic was a Publisher’s Weekly Pick of the Week in May, wherein they called it “a gripping historical novel... A gothic tale with scenes of grisly supernatural horror, its atmosphere full of dark omens and a sense of the macabre.” Similar praise has followed from Booklist, The Los Angeles Times, Vogue, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Sandi graciously shared an excerpt with us below. Be sure to pick up the book!

Online excerpt from THE BLACK ISLE....

Onlne Trailer...


RICARDO ACUNA (FILM ‘96): I am seeking your support and contribution to my kickstarter campaign for the completion of my first graphic novel THE REALM, a dark and gritty tale about a thief searching for buried gold in a Mexican ghost town. Go here for all the details, including the contribution levels and rewards you'll receive in return. Also, spread the word to everyone you know who's interested in a good old scary ghost story!

ANDREW BROTZMAN (CC ‘03, FILM ‘11): My first feature film as writer/director, Nor'easter, is appearing in competition at the 2012 Woodstock Film Festival, and is playing at the 35th Mill Valley Film Festival as well. The film was produced by Veronica Nickel, a 2010 SoA graduate and co-produced by Kristie Lutz, a 2010 SoA grad. Check it out at noreasterfilm.com or facebook.com/noreasterfilm.

DOMINIQUE (PHELPS) CLAYTON (CC ’04) is a former assistant to director Lee Daniels is now managing the news and special programs office at BET. She was involved with t the docu-series Second Coming: Will Black America Decide 2012? that premiered on BET October 19th. Dominique is also working on a book and blog with short stories and articles relating to old school, natural, and quirky parenting techniques which will debut next year.”

MARIA COLLIS (WRITING '87) and partner Erik Lundmark of Leomark Studios have acquired licensing rights to BAFTA winner Martin Gooch's feature film "Death," a delightfully quirky Gothic steampunk fantasy drama. Leomark will be showcasing "Death" along with its other films at the American Film Market, Oct. 31-Nov. 7 in Loew's Hotel, Santa Monica, Room 201.

JON GORACY (CC '06) is directing the feature film version of I'm Obsessed With You (But You've Got To Leave Me Alone) based on Genevieve Adams' play Improv'd that premiered in NYC this past February. Jon recently acted opposite Clive Owen in Guillaume Canet's Blood Ties. And also worked on casting the upcoming films, Lincoln and The Company You Keep, as well as the recently released Sundance hits Keep the Lights On and Smashed.

KENNY HARGROVE (SIPA ‘88): Hello Fellow Columbians! I'm producing my first play and it's a wonderful show with a great cast and an amazing director, so please come see it! We're presenting the rarely performed drama "Nora", which is celebrated film director Ingmar Bergman's stage adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's classic play "A Doll's House". This show, which caused riots and outrage when it premiered in the 19th century, is still relevant today as modern women continue to struggle for egality in a world still largely dominated by men. Previews began October 27 and the show opens November 3 at the Pacific Resident Theatre company: 703 Venice Boulevard, Venice, CA 90291, (310) 301-3907, http://www.pacificresidenttheatre.com/. kennyhargrove@yahoo.com

PAULA PURYEAR MARTIN (LAW ‘92): Revel In It Mag, the new culture & lifestyle blog about the Good (and Meaningful) Life launched on September 25, 2012. We're sharing our take on "the fully realized life" with posts on People, Culture, Style, Home & Family and Ideas. Our Launch Day Letter to the Editor is a great introduction to our site (you can read it here.) or you can visit our home page at www.revelinitmag.com and just dive in.

Follow Us On Twitter: @revelinitmag

Like Us On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RevelInItMag

Follow Us On Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/revelinitmag/

ITALOME OHIKUARE (CC ‘05): Good news! I just started my second year pursuing an MFA in Screenwriting at the University of Miami…and I already won an award! I wrote a spec script for the show "Mad Men" and it won 1st place at The Creative World Awards, an international screenwriting competition.

ALEXANDER POE (FILM ‘10) My new film, EX-GIRLFRIENDS, premiered at the Austin Film Festival on Oct 20th. The film is a comedy starring Jennifer Carpenter, Kristen Connolly and myself. Being distributed by FilmBuff, the film opens at the Quad Cinema NYC on November 30th day and date with iTunes and cable movies on demand. You can see the trailer at www.exgirlfriendsmovie.com along with stills and a synopsis etc.

EUGENE RAMOS (FILM ‘07) My Sloan-supported script, Newton's Laws of Emotion, was a semifinalist in the Nicholl Fellowships and the Nantucket Film Festival/Tony Cox Screenplay Competition. My Asian-American comedy, I'm Not Phil, is currently being considered for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab.

NICHOLAS SIMON (CC ‘92) I established Indochina Productions (Providing production services for Feature Films, TV Commercials andTV Shows), building on my 15+ years of experience in South East Asia (specifically Cambodia, Laos, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam).

Recently completed shooting sequences for ACT OF VALOR, TRANSFORMERS 3 (both in Cambodia) and tv commercials with smuggler/smirnoff (in Thailand) and Hungry Man/Hennessy (In the Philippines).



Submit Your Announcements!

Having a screening, show, reading or other event planned in Los Angeles? Let us know! Email editor@cue-network.org, be sure to include the event name, date(s) and times, alumni involved, a short description and a hyperlink to your website (if applicable).We will be posting event information on our website and including condensed announcements in our newsletters.

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