Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Article in the AJC

Atlanta Business News http://www.ajc.com/business/ 5:08 p.m. Sunday, August 8, 2010
By Tammy Joyner tjoyner@ajc.com
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Film students spend most of their college years creating their craft, so few graduate understanding how the industry works as a business.

Emory University hopes to change that this fall with a new program that will combine the artistry of filmmaking with the left-brained fundamentals of business.

The school's new concentration in Film and Media Management will give students a broad immersion not only in the creative side of filmmaking, but real-world experience in distribution, marketing, finance and other business elements of film and media. In turn, business students interested in film will get a chance to learn how film and other media evolve artistically.

"They've taken a leaf from our notebook," said Al Lieberman, marketing professor and executive director of the Entertainment Media and Technology program at New York University's Stern School of Business. In 1996, the business school began offering courses tailored to undergraduate film students. "Emory, to the best of my knowledge, is probably the first school to have picked up on this and looking at it as an opportunity.

The two-year program, which starts in a student's junior year, is a collaboration between Emory's Department of Film Studies and the Goizueta Business School and comes as Georgia is carving out an impressive role in the film industry. "The growth of the [film and media] industry in Atlanta has made it possible for us to connect our students to meaningful experiences and better prepare themselves to launch their careers. Film is going to end up being a huge part of Atlanta's economy in the not-to-distant future," said Andrea Hershatter, associate dean and director of the Bachelor of Business Administration program at Goizueta Business School.

"This is now the best time to be making film and television in Atlanta," said Matt Bern-stein, a film historian, professor and chairman of Emory College's film studies department. "This kind of [recent] expansion is bringing so much work to Atlanta."

The heads of the film department and business school at Emory realized the need for the program two years ago after business and film students were brought together to create a television pilot in a TV production class.

The business students naturally gravitated together as a team and came up with good ideas to market and distribute the product but couldn't really execute the ideas. The film students could create trailers and commercials but didn't have the logistical or marketing know-how, Bernstein said.

Beyond the classroom, the gulf between the creative and business sides has led to huge failures in the industry. Who can forget "Heaven's Gate"? Released in 1980, the Western was a lavish recounting of the dispute between land barons and European immigrants in 1890s Wyoming. The movie, which cost $44 million - a fortune at the time - was deemed "the biggest flop ever" by film critics. Its financial and creative excesses eventually sank United Artists studio.

"The business people didn't have an ongoing communication with the creative people and the creative people had the sense the business people couldn't really contribute," Lieberman said. "They felt the business people were only interested in curtailing them, not really supporting and facilitating.

Creating a better link between filmmakers and financiers is every bit as critical today.

The industry has ushered in a new age of filmmaking, where films and other forms of media are conceived and displayed on more than just big screens in theaters: on the Internet, in video games, on cell phones, personal digital devices and other platforms.

"It's a vast industry," said Eddy Von Mueller, a lecturer in Emory's film studies department. "A lot of [film studies] people get upset if they leave college and don't become a movie star or director. They think there's nothing else. We want to give them an idea of how rich and vast it is. There are careers that exist now that didn't exist a few years ago."

To get a better sense of what Emory's program needed, Bernstein, Von Mueller and Hershatter met with alumni in Los Angeles - among them agents, producers and network executives - to find out what areas of media they wished they had learned about while at Emory.

The alumni gave them pointers on how to better prepare students for careers in film and media and committed to help students in the program. Emory alumni work in talent agencies, movie studios, television and other parts of the industry.

Emory began teaching filmmaking on a regular basis about two years ago. Courses include documentary, avant-garde, narrative fiction filmmaking and screenwriting.

The inaugural Film and Media Management program will have 10 film students and 10 business students. It will be open to juniors and seniors this year but limited to juniors after that.

The concentration, which offers five courses, is not a minor for film studies students or business school students and will not appear on a student's transcript.

It will, however, give students a chance to learn more about the multifaceted media industry. Students will be teamed with industry professionals during internships in the program. By its end, students will be expected to develop, pitch and create a pilot for their ideas in a course called "Content Creation."

"We're not trying to be UCLA or NYU," said Hershatter. "We're trying to work within our region to leverage Emory's resources and position our students in a unique experience."

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