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As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, our FTVM faculty and students have been continually rising to the challenge of teaching and learning in a number of unique and alternative ways. Please note that many of our guests from Fall of 2021 have been virtual visits.
On Wednesday, Dec 1, 2021, SHIN Dong-il, the director of Bandhobi (2009), virtually visited Assistant Professor Ungsan Kim's Film Culture in Korea course. This session was arranged to help students understand the week's theme of "Racism and Korean Cinema" better. As agraduate of the acclaimed Korean Film Academy, Shin has committed himself to making films of social and cultural minorities. A film about love and companionship between an undocumented migrant worker from Bangladesh and a rebellious South Korean teenage girl, Bandhobi is one of the very few South Korean feature films, where a non-Northeast Asian, non-White actor played a leading role. Students asked various questions, including migrant workers as film characters, controversies around the film, independent filmmaking practices, portrayals of Muslims in South Korean cinema, and many others. The session was the final of the four Q&A sessions with directors in this course.
On Wednesday, Nov 3, 2021, KANG Sang-woo, the director of Kim-Gun (2018), virtually visited Assistant Professor Ungsan Kim's Film Culture in Korea course. His film was discussed with the week's theme of "Democratization and Korean Cinema." Kang emerged as one of the mostpromising young directors in South Korea, when his film Kim-Gun won the grand prize at the Seoul Independent Film Festival in 2018. The film interrogates South Korean right-wingers' attempt to deny and revise the Gwangju Democratic Movement by tracing the identity of a mysterious man called Kim-Gun. Kim-Gun was previously screened at Michigan Theater as a part of 2020 Korean Cinema NOW, an annual film series organized by the Nam Center for Korean Studies.
On Thursday, December 2, 2021, veteran TV writer and showrunner Brent Forrester (The Simpsons, King of the Hill, The Office) visited Oliver Thornton's FTVM 311 class to talk about working in a writer's room, give advice about the rules of comedy writing, and answer students' questions about how to deliver a memorable spec script.
On Tuesday, November 16, 2021, FTVM 366: Reality Television welcomed two virtual guest lecturers --Jihoon Zun, Director of Unscripted Programming at HBO Max, and Henry Russell Bergstein, Vice-President of Casting for WarnerMedia.
Zun and Bergstein talked with students about how HBO Max and Warner Media casts unscripted programming and shared some anecdotes about attempting to diversify casts. More specifically, they talked about their experiences casting F Boy Island and 12 Dates To Christmas -- and discussed working on the drag-themed reality show Legendary.
Bergstein was just nominated for an Emmy Award for casting Succession.
On October 28, 2021, Jeff McKibben (Mr. Robot, FTVM '03) visited Oliver Thornton's FTVM 311 via Zoom to give insight and advice to screenwriting students about writing TV specs, working in a writer's room, and how to get started in the industry.
On Thursday, October 28, 2021, Associate Professor Amanda Ann Klein (East Carolina University) gave a guest lecture via Zoom in Associate Professor Hollis Griffin's FTVM 366 Reality Television. The class read from her book Millennials Killed the Video Star: MTV's Transition to Reality Programming (Duke University Press, 2021). Klein then talked to students about the gender politics of MTV reality programming targeting teen girls -- specifically Laguna Beach, The Hills, The City, 16 and Pregnant, and Teen Mom.
On Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021, Miki Dezaki, the director of Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of Comfort Women Issue (2018) virtually visited Assistant Professor Ungsan Kim's Film Culture in Korea course. His film was discussed with the week's theme of "Documenting the Wartime Sexual Slavery."
Students asked various questions, including Japan's denial of history and historical revisionism, violence inflicted on women, documentarians' ethical positionality, safety concerns as a filmmaker of politically sensitive topics, and many others. This is his second visit to Michigan following the special screening and Q&A event at the Michigan Theater last year Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of Comfort Women Issue (2018) is currently available for viewing here. (Login with UofM account is required).
On Wednesday, Oct 20, 2021, South Korean independent director Kyung Soon virtually visited Assistant Professor Ungsan Kim's Film Culture in Korea course as a guest. A feminist documentarian, labor activist, and adjunct lecturer of filmmaking at the Korea National University of Arts, Kyung Soon has made eight feature-length documentaries and produced numerous films as an independent director/producer since her directorial debut in 1999.
During this Zoom Q&A, she mainly answered students' questions about Red Maria (2012), a transnational documentary about women's labor, trauma, struggles, and dignity. With the week's course theme of "Women's Cinema" as a central discussion topic, students and director had a conversation about many different issues, including transnational filmmaking practices, representation of women, audience response and reception, dealing with authority and the state intervention, editing, and cinematography.
On October 22, 2021, "The Sklar Brothers" - UM Alums Randy and Jason Sklar stopped by North Quad's Studio A where they talked to students about finding and developing comedy and pursuing careers in the comedy world.
The Sklars are perhaps best known for hosting the show Cheap Seats, which aired for four seasons on ESPN Classic. They tour nationally as a comedy stand-up duo and their comedy specials have aired on Comedy Central, Netflix, and the Starz Network. Their hit podcast Dumb People Town is currently in development as an animated show with Sony. They have appeared on numerous series, including Better Call Saul, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
CJ Toledano, of Follow Through Studio, talked with FTVM 368: The Internet of Identities via Zoom on Monday, October 11, 2021. CJ conducted an in-depth conversation with the class about how he became a social media creative who writes, directs, produces, edits, and distributes original content for Bleacher Report, the NFL, and teams like the Detroit Pistons. He talked about creating content that speaks to fans and picks up on how people watch sports together -- and he discussed how he takes the fun of sports seriously. CJ closed his talk by answering students' questions about how to pursue this kind of work professionally.
During the panedemic, CJ (along with a small crew) produced Sneak This, a comedy sketch show about sneakerheads (sneaker collectors). The web series has been viewed over 50 million times across various media platforms.
photo credit, Tyler Ross, Atrossity Phototgraphy
TV writer Barton Dean visited FTVM on Monday, October 4, 2021, as the special guest of FTVM's Mitchell Scholar Visiting Professor, Janet Leahy.
Barton Dean (Taxi, Newhart, The Larry Sanders Show) learned his craft from his mentor, the world-renowned Jim Brooks. Mr. Dean later mentored TV writer Janet Leahy (Cheers, Cosby, Roseanne, Gilmore Girls, Boston Legal, Mad Men). During his visit, Dean and Leahy discussed the pivotal role a mentor plays in the lifelong career of a television writer and producer, and the ins and outs of finding a mentor today.
On Friday, October 8, 2021, FTVM Alum Andrew Laurich joined FTVM 403 on Zoom to talk about his writing and directing path and give feedback on student sketch scripts.
Laurich was ranked among the top comedy directors by Source Magazine in 2018 and his short film A Reasonable Request was nominated for a grand jury prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. He is currently in development of a feature film with 20th Century Fox and a TV series with Vice. He has directed award-winning campaigns for various brands. His political ad (Interview 2020) for the Take America Back PAC blew up Twitter days before the 2020 Presidential Election with nearly 5 million views in 48 hours. His PSA for Zero Cancer, starring Mike Rowe, was a winner at the 2019 AICP Awards.
On Thursday, September 30, 2021, Jason Bolicki, Founder and CEO of Exit Four gave a guest lecture via Zoom to Associate Professor Hollis Griffin's FTVM 366 Reality TV class. Bolicki talked about the development process, specifically walking the class through his company's dealings with Bravo and TLC. He also discussed some of the experiences he had while producing My Strange Addiction.
Jason Bolicki has developed more than 40 series for over a dozen major networks, including A&E’s award-winning 60 Days In and Undercover High, ID's People Magazine Investigates: Cults, Food Network's Kids BBQ Championship, Bravo's In a Man's World, and TLC's long-running hit series My Strange Addiction.
photo of Jason Bolicki, top left, from Exitfour.tv
On Friday, September 17, 2021, FTVM Alum Nick Hall ('02) visited Terri Sarris' FTVM 403, Sketch Comedy class via Zoom. Nick talked about his career and what it means to be a "creative producer."
Nick Hall is an LA-based producer whose company Hallogram has a "First Look" deal at HBO. He is currently in pre-production on Nicolas Winding Refn's Maniac Cop and Sam Levinson’s The Idol, both for HBO. On the feature side, Nick is producing the comedy Gay Bachelor Party with Lena Dunham for New Line/ HBO Max and Superbloom for Annapurna/ Film Nation.
Nick began his career working in the mailroom at UTA before becoming an assistant to UTA's Head of TV Literary. He went on to become an assistant for the Head of Comedy Development at Warner Bros TV where he was promoted to Manager of Comedy Development. In 2008 he moved to HBO and rose to Senior VP of Entertainment before moving to Amazon Studios, where he oversaw the scripted Comedy, Drama, and YA Departments. His executive credits at HBO and Amazon include Enlightened, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Girls, The Comeback, Looking, Transparent, Fleabag, I Love Dick, Too Old to Die Young, The Romanoffs, The Wilds, We Are Who We Are, and the recent hit series The White Lotus.