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Guest Artists: Current Academic Year

Niija Kuykendall, Senior Vice President of Production at Warner Bros.

Niija Kuykendall, Senior Vice President of Production at Warner Bros. Pictures, discussed her experience in the industry -- including her rise to her position -- during an open session on Thursday, April 5, 2018, in Angell Hall, Auditorium A. Kuykendall also spent some time in SAC engaging in a discussion with SAC senior screenwriters in the SAC conference room. 

Kuykendall is currently in post-production on the films A Star is Born starring Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga and Godzilla 2. Kuykendall joined Warner Bros. Pictures in 2008 and has been profiled as one of Variety’s “Hollywood’s New Leaders”, Glamour magazine’s “35 under 35 Women in Hollywood,” and Essence magazine’s “13 Power Players in Hollywood." 

Creator and Showrunner Jim Kouf & Producer Lynn Kouf

On Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, Creator and Showrunner of Grimm Jim Kouf and Producer of Grimm Lynn Kouf visited Oliver Thornton's SAC 411 (Writing for Television II: Pilots) class to answer questions about careers in film and television as well as give feedback on the pilot specs in development. On Friday, February 9, the Koufs visited Director of Screenwriting Jim Burnstein's SAC 427 (Screenwriting III); during their visit, they read the first five pages of students' screenplays and offered a critique of their work. The Koufs concluded their visit in Jim Burnstein and Robert Rayher's SAC 423 (Practicum for the Screenwriter) in which they offered their commentary on two full scripts - the work of Katrina Duclos and Arianna Gelderloos. 

Disney Pixar Artist Chris Bernardi

On Wednesday, November 15, 2017, students filled the Natural Science Auditorium to hear Disney Pixar Artist Chris Bernardi's one-hour presentation on Disney's new film, COCO. This event was sponsored by FVSA, the Screen Arts & Cultures Film and Video Student Association; members of WOLV TV were also present to hear the presentation and interview Bernardi afterwards. 

Producer Peter Jaysen

On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, Peter Jaysen visited Director of Screenwriting Jim Burnstein's SAC 427 (Screen-writing III) class and conducted a workshop wherein he reviewed a ten-page sequence from each student’s screenplay. On Thursday, November 9, Jaysen visited Oliver Thornton's SAC 311 (Writing for Television: The Spec Script) in which he held a Q & A with students about careers in television and sat in on table reads of a few of the students' spec scripts; later that afternoon, in Thornton's SAC 411 (Writing for Television II: Pilots), Jaysen listened to student pitches and gave feedback for the six pilots the students have been developing over the course of the semester. On Friday, November 10, Jaysen conducted a pitch session for interested students of Thornton and Burnstein wherein he listened to pitches and gave advice on how to strengthen a pitch. During the session, Jaysen also talked about the entertainment business and how one should go about pursuing a career in this field. 

Peter Jaysen speaks to recent graduate and former SAC 410 student Kathryn Orwig, offering advice on how to strengthen her pitch by investing in character development over plot detail. 

Jaysen talks to Peter Donahue (BFA Theater & Drama major and an actor in the 404 TV Pilot Production) and Ryan Rosenheim (BFA actor in Theater Performance; BFA Creative Wriitng major; SAC 410 student) during the pitch session.

Animator David Knott

On Tuesday, October 24, and Wednesday, October 25, 2017, Animator and U-M Alumnus David Knott visited UM to share his experiences in and knowledge of the field of animation. In Matthew Solomon's SAC 236: The Art of Film, Knott gave a lecture about the storyboard process used for animated films and discussed his career and a few examples of his work, including Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast,  while emphasizing the crucial importance of revision for all forms of expression. While in Chris McNamara's SAC 306: New Media Practices, Knott discussed his own career trajectory and talked about the current field of animation. Finally, Knott led an open session -- attended by SAC students, students from the STAMPS School of Art & Design, and members of the Animation Club -- on the art of animation wherein he demonstrated how to create a storyboard using a short script he wrote. 

Screenwriter Tian Jun Gu

On Thursday, October 12, 2017, Screenwriter Tian Jun Gu visited Oliver Thornton's SAC 311 (Screenwriting for Television) and SAC 411 (Screenwriting for Television II) classes to discuss his experiences in the business, focusing on his work on the Netflix series House of Cards

On Friday morning, October 13, 2017, Jun Gu visited Director of Screenwriting Jim Burnstein's SAC 427 (Screenwriting II) class, listened to students read the first five pages of their original screenplays, and offered his commentary on their work. 

On Friday afternoon, Jun Gu visited Oliver Thornton and Robert Rayher's SAC 404 (TV Pilots) course, and listened to a table read of Courtney Carroll's TV pilot Interlopers by a group of actors from the Department of Theatre & Drama. After the table read, Jun Gu offered his commentary on the script. 

Producers David Levien and Brian Kopppelman

On Thursday, October 19, 2017, co-creators, executive producers, and showrunners of Showtime's hit drama series Billions, Levien and Koppelman held an open session in room 1300 of the Chem Building. The two talked about the film and television industry, their partnership, their experiences showrunning, and conversed with the audience, addressing questions. 

Over the past two decades, this screenwriting/producing/directing team has created an influential and diverse body of work in both film and television. Some of their most noteworthy credits include Rounders, Ocean's Thirteen, Solitary Man, The Illusionist, Runaway Jury, Tilt, ESPN's 30 for 30 (This Is What They Want), I Smile Back, The Girlfriend Experience, and Joe Berlinger's Tony Robbins documentary, I Am Not Your Guru. ​​Levien is also the author of six novels, including four in the celebrated Frank Behr series. Koppelman is the host and creator of the hit podcast The Moment with Brian Koppelman.