May 28, 2013/For Immediate Release, high res.
(Winston-Salem, N.C.) Susan Ruskin has been named Dean of the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), a choice praised by campus leaders and film industry professionals. The appointment is effective July 1.
She has been interim dean for the 2012-13 year.
“Susan Ruskin has demonstrated her ability to lead our Film School into its third decade,” said Provost David Nelson in making the appointment. “Susan was chosen from a field of highly qualified candidates identified through a thorough, well-managed national search. Since joining our faculty in 2009, and becoming head of the producing faculty, Susan has exhibited her commitment to our mission. She is an accomplished filmmaker, a gifted educator, and a dedicated administrator.”
UNCSA Board of Trustees Chairman Robert L. “Rob” King III said, “The board and I are excited that Susan Ruskin has agreed to be our new Film Dean. We applaud the direction she is taking our School of Filmmaking, which will help position UNCSA Film nationally and internationally in the future.”
King said Ruskin was the obvious choice: “Her work as interim dean made her the person to beat.”
Nelson said Ruskin has expertise in creating real world experiences for film students. “She was instrumental in sealing a deal last year with Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner to shoot parts of his feature film YOU ARE HERE on campus,” Nelson said. “Our students got to work on that film, putting their training to work.”
Weiner agreed that Ruskin is an excellent choice for dean. “Under Susan's leadership, UNCSA has become not only a state-of-the-art facility,” Weiner said, “but Susan's real strength is preparing the students realistically for their future while filling them with inspiration.”
Doug Belgrad, president of Columbia Pictures, said, “I was thrilled to hear about Susan Ruskin's appointment as Dean of the Film School at UNC School of the Arts. She has a great passion for film and for filmmakers. And her combination of experience as a producer and more recently as an educator makes her a great choice to serve in this role.”
Director, producer and writer Andy Fickman (PARENTAL GUIDANCE, YOU AGAIN, RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN) said UNCSA film students are lucky to learn from Ruskin and to attend a school that she leads. “She's truly not just an academic talking about a field they have studied ... she is an accomplished Hollywood producer talking about a field she has mastered!” Fickman said.
“Any success I have had in the business as a director, writer and producer can directly be attributed to everything I learned from Susan Ruskin,” Fickman continued. “She has been my boss, mentor and friend for almost as long as I have been in Hollywood.”
Ruskin has taught producing at UNCSA since 2009. She was head of the producing faculty, and stepped in as acting dean when the former dean, Jordan Kerner, was in production for THE SMURFS 2. She was named interim dean after Kerner stepped down in June 2012.
Ruskin is a film producer and executive who began her film career in development for George Lucas’ LucasFilm. She was head of development for Robert Stigwood at RSO before she went on to associate produce WOMAN IN RED for Orion and Gene Wilder. She then became President of Production for Pal-Mel Productions. She also produced HAUNTED HONEYMOON with Gilda Radner, Gene Wilder and Jonathan Pryce. As head of production, she worked on the Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder movie SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL, and ANOTHER YOU among others.
Ruskin went on to become President of Production for Middle Fork, making ANACONDA for Columbia Pictures starring Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Owen Wilson and Jon Voight, and a film directed and written by the creators of the hit show STOMP, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, starring Kip Pardue, Lee Evans and Rose McGowan.
Fickman was senior vice president of Middle Fork at the time. “We had the good fortune of making the hit movie ANACONDA for Columbia Pictures,” he said. “It was a major learning experience for me to see how Susan navigated the jungle of Hollywood as well as the actual jungle of the Amazon!”
Ruskin also oversaw the production for the documentary GOOD ROCKIN’ TONIGHT with Middle Fork Productions and The Shooting Gallery for American Masters among others.
She was associated with a group of writers and directors at Western Sandblast where she is producing several projects in various stages of development. Ruskin sold a script she adapted to Enigma Productions, A GRACIOUS PLENTY, based on the book by Sheri Reynolds, and she is developing a screenplay with Fickman as director.
She has also been on the board of the Fountainhead Theatre Company where she directed two one-act plays, and served on the nominating committee for the 43rd NAACP foreign film award. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from New York University/Gallatin.
The School of Filmmaking first enrolled students in 1993, becoming the fifth of UNCSA’s conservatory programs, along with Dance, Drama, Design & Production, and Music. This year it awarded four master of fine arts degrees and 59 bachelor of fine arts degrees.
In 2011, The Hollywood Reporter named the UNCSA School of Filmmaking No. 12 on its list of 25 top film schools around the world. It was ranked eighth among U.S. schools, and second among public film schools.
Among UNCSA Film alumni are Jeff Nichols ’01, (MUD, TAKE SHELTER, SHOTGUN STORIES); David Gordon Green ’98, (PRINCE AVALANCHE, THE SITTER, YOUR HIGHNESS, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS); Danny McBride ’98, (THIS IS THE END, YOUR HIGHNESS, UP IN THE AIR, HBO’s Eastbound and Down) and Vera Herbert ’11, (CW’s Blink and MTV’s Awkward.)
UNCSA student and alumni films have been screened at prestigious festivals in the United States, including Sundance, South By Southwest, and RiverRun, and at overseas festivals including Cannes, Berlinale, and Deauville.
As America’s first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.