As the future of film and television rapidly evolves in a world of often breathtaking and industry-changing new technologies, a new $3 million gift to the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan honors an industry pioneer and U-M alum (Class of 1939), and offers undergraduate students the chance to take the reins as the next generation of entertainment industry leaders. The generous gift, given by the Patricia W. Mitchell Trust, will establish the John H. Mitchell Professorship in Entertainment. Screenwriter and LSA faculty member Jim Burnstein has been appointed as the inaugural professor to serve in this role.

“It is an honor to be chosen as the inaugural John H. Mitchell Professor,” said Burnstein. “FTVM is a leader in teaching and developing diverse creative talent in the writing and production of film, television, and virtually all forms of media. Our faculty is committed to our students’ deep understanding of the history and theory of the fields in which they hope to practice. It is our special mission to expand the knowledge of what it means to be an ethical leader in the entertainment industry as represented by John H. Mitchell himself.” 

A U-M alum, Burnstein is the director of the university’s nationally recognized screenwriting program and a veteran Hollywood screenwriter with over 30 years of experience. His screen credits include Renaissance Man, D3: The Mighty Ducks, Ruffian, and Love and Honor, the latter two films co-written with Garrett K. Schiff. He has also served as the executive producer of the award-winning independent film Ocean of Pearls and is currently working with Schiff on The School of Jeff, a television series with Big Bang Theory executive director Mark Cendrowski, and The Rats, a screenplay co-written with U-M alum John U. Bacon based on his book Let Them Lead.

The gift will also support the John H. and Patricia W. Mitchell Experiential Support Fund, designed to prepare students to be ethical leaders in the entertainment industry. Both the professorship and student fund will be housed in LSA’s Department of Film, Television, and Media. 

“This new gift provides indispensable and expanded support for LSA and FTVM as we continue the vital work of fostering a diverse community of ethical media professionals,” said Anne Curzan, dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan. “The Mitchell Trust’s commitment to the knowledge of ethical entertainment, experiential student learning, and creative thought is in alignment with our mission as a college, and we are deeply thankful to them for this gift.”

To date, the Mitchell Trusts have donated more than $20 million to the University of Michigan, with $8 million of that going to FTVM to support students, faculty, and programming focused on ethics in leadership and experiential learning. Funding has launched several initiatives in LSA, including: The John H. and Patricia W. Mitchell Scholarship Fund, The John H. and Patricia W. Mitchell Internship Scholarship Fund, John H. Mitchell Visiting Professorship in Media Entertainment, and the John H. Mitchell Critical Conversations Fund.

“We are excited about the establishment of the John H. Mitchell Professorship in Entertainment and the John H. and Patricia W. Mitchell Experiential Support Fund,” said Bill Allen, trustee of the Patricia W. Mitchell Trusts and retired president and CEO of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation. “By supporting faculty and students, we are honoring the legacy of John, and his and Patricia’s commitment to preparing future generations of leaders for the entertainment industry.”

The student fund will support FTVM undergraduate students who aspire to have a career in the entertainment industry. The fund will support experiential learning and programs, including attendance at film festivals and industry panels, and access to the latest production technologies in entertainment. The professorship is for tenured FTVM faculty who have demonstrated a deep knowledge of and practiced ethics in leadership, and supports the creative side of ethics in leadership in entertainment. Burnstein will move into this new named professorship in January 2024.

To learn more about the Department of Film, Television, and Media, visit the FTVM website.