Vol. 7 No. 1 - Winter 2013
Writing Roundtable 2/11 (wait list only!), Mixer with Brown 2/28, Wreck-It Ralph, Event Recaps, Alumni Updates and More!
Hello fellow alumni, and welcome to the first 2013 edition of the CUE newsletter. This quarter, we've got lots of news on upcoming events and programming, including a fantastic networking mixer with the entertainment alumni of Brown University and the next installment in our Navigating the Industry roundtable series, a candid evening with three alums whose works were selected for the most recent Black List of "most liked" screenplays in Hollywood.
Phil Johnston (FILM '04) and Jennifer Lee (FILM '05), screenwriters of the highly lauded animated film Wreck-It Ralph. They recently won Best Writing at the Annie awards and Wreck-It Ralph is nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. We've profiled Ken Kristensen (FILM '08) on how a collaboration with a storyboard artist for a short film done while attending Columbia led to the launch of the new graphic novel, Todd: The Ugliest Kid on Earth.
And of course, we've got a wrap-up on events you may have missed as well as the usual notes and news from your fellow alumni in entertainment.
As always, we welcome updates from you and input on what you’d like to see in future editions - just shoot us an email at
email@example.com. Our aim is to make this newsletter and the broader CUE community a useful and enjoyable resource for all of you.
Wishing everyone a happy and fulfilling 2013!
Kate Buhrmaster (FILM '08) and Austen Rachlis (FILM '08)
Stay connected via the CUE Facebook page , our
website and for those who are graduates of the School of the Arts, the
of the Arts Alumni Facebook group.
Navigating the Industry: Roundtable with screenwriters Jack Paglen, Harry Kellerman and Roberto Bentivegna - February 11, 2013
CUE's latest programming endeavor - a series of informal, candid conversations with alums working in various aspects of the industry - will focus on the feature screenwriting arena this month with three writers who've earned recognition as having some of the hottest screenplays in Hollywood. The goal of the roundtable series is to open a dialogue about the choices and challenges that come up in building a sustainable career in this industry. Over some modest food and drinks, we'll chat about the paths thus far of three alumni screenwriters lauded with a place on the most recent Black List.
For those who don't know, the annual Black List, compiled from suggestions by film execs all over town, is the industry-insiders' list of "most liked" (but not yet produced) screenplays. Columbia alums earned four spots in 2012, and the three LA-based writers will be gathering to discuss how their projects garnered attention and how the Black List has affected their trajectory as screenwriters.
Attendance to these events is be strictly limited to ensure a casual, conversational environment.
This event has sold out, but there is a wait list, so if you are interested in attending, please RSVP at http://cueblacklist.eventbrite.com/
(Not sure you are getting our emails? Sign up at Cue-network.org and be sure to click on the confirmation email sent to you! Not part of our Facebook group? Join at www.facebook.com/groups/ColumbiaUniversityEntertainment)
The three wildly different projects, each in different stages of moving towards production, are:
Who Framed Tommy Callahan, by Harry Kellerman (FILM '07), is about an elementary school student who searches for the truth behind the candy bar ring conspiracy that got his brother expelled.
Transcendence, by Jack Paglen (FILM '06) is an epic love story set in a time where a dying scientist is able to upload his consciousness into the internet and, facing its global implications, must fight against the forces who are actively working against the existence of a singularity.
The Eel, by Roberto Bentivegna (FILM '10) is about an escaped convict who is ensnared in a plot by a corrupt Sheriff to kidnap the young heiress to an oil fortune, complicating his quest for freedom.
NETWORKING MIXER WITH BROWN UNIVERSITY ENTERTAINMENT FEB 28
CUE is joining forces with the entertainment alumni of Brown and taking over Bruhaus Pub in Brentwood for a night of food, drink and mingling!
Putting a California spin on a traditional pub, Bruhaus offers over twenty beers on tap and food ranging from beet salads to five different types of sausage. They also offer excellent Happy Hour deals for the first hour of our event. (We're talking $3 beers - you can't beat that!)
Mark your calendars: February 28th from 7PM to 10 PM for sharing a beer with your old friends and meeting some new ones over a plate of wurst.
RSVP Information to follow.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Recaps of recent events.
6TH ANNUAL CUE HOLIDAY PARTY
On December 12, Columbia alumni took over the delightful St. Felix Hollywood bar for our sixth annual holiday party. This year was a return to our roots with a Columbia-only invite list, and the East-Village-esque vibe of the venue was the perfect setting for alums from different programs to meet, mingle, and celebrate with special drinks and a steady stream of delicious snacks. For those who attended, we hope you enjoyed the evening and the company of Columbia connections both new and old. For those who missed out, pop by one of our upcoming events and check out the community that CUE is creating here in LA.
COLUMBIA SHINES AT SUNDANCE
In what is becoming something of an annual tradition, the creative efforts of Columbia alumni have garnered acclaim and support at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
A number of Columbia-affiliated projects sealed deals that will secure their path from festival circuit to theater showings.
Toy's House, written by Chris Galletta (FILM '10), sold domestic rights to CBS Films and had non-North American rights scooped up by QED International. Toy's House centers around three boys who venture into the wild with hopes of building a house and life in the wilderness.
Magnolia Pictures has picked up Prince Avalanche, a comedy that follows the dynamic between two men painting traffic lines on a country road. The original story was written by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson (FILM '08), and Tobias Munthe (FILM '08)) is credited as executive producer. Craig Zobel (Adjunct Faculty) was a producer on the film.
Director James Ponsoldt's (FILM '05) The Spectacular Now, which explores the evolving relationship between an alcoholic high school student and the studious girl he begins to date, was acquired by upstart distribution company A24.
Other films have attracted the attention of major media outlets. God Loves Uganda, a documentary investigating the ties between American evangelical churches, their missionaries and the standing of homosexuality in Africa, appeared on the New York Times homepage, Wednesday, January 23 with an accompanying video. Directed by Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams, the film was edited by Benjamin Gray (FILM '07) and Richard Hankin (FILM '92).
Columbia MFA graduates Phil Johnston (FILM '04) and Jennifer Lee (FILM '05) launched into the big leagues of animated feature films this fall with the release of Wreck-It Ralph, the hit they penned for Disney about an arcade-game villain who decides he's sick of being the bad guy. The movie has been successful both at the box office and with critics, garnering an Oscar nomination for best animated film. Phil and Jenn have also been nominated for an Annie award for best writing in an animated feature production. The two took time to answer some of our questions about their paths from Columbia to Hollywood, and how working in animation differs from live-action.
CUE: What was your path from graduating to writing Wreck-It Ralph? How did you decide to team up on this script?
PJ: About a year out of Columbia, I sold a movie and a TV show and had financing for a movie I was going to write and direct. The movie didn't get made, the show didn't get made and the financing fell apart. Hooray! In the following years, I finally got a movie made (Cedar Rapids) and a TV show (Ghosts/Aliens, which never aired). I came onto Wreck It Ralph in 2009 after meeting with the director, Rich Moore. He and I worked alone for about nine months, figuring out the characters and the story. Then the rest of the story team (the artists who draw the initial story boards) was put together, led by a guy named Jim Reardon-- a crazily talented dude who knows more about comedy films than can be considered healthy.
Ever since meeting the first day of orientation (a week or so before September 11, 2001), Jennifer and I have collaborated-- never co-writing but always reading and critiquing each other's work-- more honestly and harshly as the years have passed. So, over the years, we developed a shorthand of sorts. After more than 2 years on Wreck-It Ralph, I was finding myself getting too busy with a couple other projects to handle the day to day rigors of animation (which are profound and taxing!). Knowing Jennifer as well as I do, and trusting her implicitly, we brought her on as co-writer. She moved to LA from Brooklyn and dove right in. She was there every day in the story room, fighting the fights with the lunatic artists. From then until the film came out, we collaborated closely on the script.
JL: While at Columbia, one of my scripts won the Columbia Film Festival, and that got me my first manager. A couple of years later another one of my scripts was optioned (then went into turn around). My next script was optioned, too, by Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way. They're just now securing the financing after four years. I was also hired to write a Steinbeck adaptation that's somewhere in the pre-production stage. Yes, there's a pattern here -- a lot of work, a lot of potential movies getting made, and a lot of variables working against it. So, when Phil called me up one afternoon and said, "any chance you'd want to up and move to California…like…tomorrow?" I was ready.
Read the full interview here...
KEN KRISTENSEN (FILM '08)
On January 16th, Image Comics (The Walking Dead) published Ken Kristensen's comic book Todd the Ugliest Kid on Earth. A darkly funny story about a little boy navigating a grotesque world. The first issue sold out in 24 hours, and is now selling for ten times its cover price on eBay, and has gotten amazing reviews. The publisher is going back to press for a second printing of issue #1. Issue #2 hits stores February 13. Below Ken tells us how he teamed up with his storyboard artist from his Columbia short films, got inspired by Todd Solondz, and found his publisher at San Diego Comic Con.
It all started by finding My co-creator and artist on the series, M.K. Perker. He was and is a frequent illustrator for the New York Times Book Review and Op-Ed page, and at the same time he was partnering up with me as the storyboard artist and production
designer on my Columbia short films. Our artistic collaboration on every project
was so strong we decided to form a permanent creative partnership. We'd meet
every week at MK's Harlem apartment to brainstorm new projects.
Read the full article here....
Know someone who deserves to be in the spotlight? Send us an email and tell us!
MITCHELL BLOCK (BUSINESS '75), Academy Award winning documentary producer is holding workshops for the International Documentary Association on financing and producing documentaries on February 10 and 11 in Santa Monica. Day 1 is an overview of how to raise funding from both the public and private sector for documentaries. Day 2 focuses on individual filmmakers projects and looks at what needs to be done so they can obtain funding. (One can register for either or both workshops.)
Block has been an adjunct professor at USC School of Cinematic Arts for over 30 years and currently teaches a required class in the Peter Stark Producing Program. Block's most recent film POSTER GIRL was nominated for an Oscar in 2011. For information: (Note: Columbia U grads can register at the IDA Member rate.)
TEDDY DIEFENBACH (CC '06) co-founded game studio Rad Dragon. In November, the studio released Shove Pro, a comedy action game following fictional '80s Hollywood stuntman Lars Speedwagon, inventor of shoving over pedestrians during action movie chase scenes. This debut iPad/iPhone release has been covered by press such as G4TV, Kotaku, and Game Developer Magazine with universally positive reviews.
MARIA ESSEN (FILM '98) The Swedish mini series "Hinsehäxan" that I wrote for Swedish Television was released on DVD January 30. The series was nominated for a Swedish Emmy Award for Best Drama and was broadcast on Swedish Television in January 2012.
LAURA GOODE (CC '06, SoA '08) and MEERA MENON (CC '06) are now in post-production on their first feature film, FARAH GOES BANG. The film follows three women who go on a road trip to campaign for John Kerry in 2004, one of whom is struggling to lose her long-lingering virginity. Goode and Menon, collaborators and friends since their undergraduate years, began co-writing the FGB screenplay in 2010, raised $81,160 on Kickstarter to fund production in April 2012, shot principal photography in June and July 2012, and are now aiming for a spring premiere on the festival circuit. Please visit www.farahgoesbang.com for updates and to learn more.
JULIA OTHMER (CC '98): I am a plano-playing singer songwriter, currently doing an artist residency for the month of January and performing in the 30A Songwriter Festival this weekend. I am finishing up an album, which I have been recording in Stockholm and LA.
My next full band L.A. show is on Saturday, February 9 at WitZend - an intimate music venue in Venice. Would love to invite all my fellow CUE-ers.
Saturday, February 9, 8:30PM
Lincoln Boulevard (@ Superba)
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