UNCSA has announced that independent filmmaker and educator Deborah LaVine has been named dean of the School of Filmmaking, effective July 1. LaVine will lead the conservatory’s film program, which in 2020 was ranked among the Top 10 film schools in the country, with a focus on cross-disciplinary work, innovation and developing strong career paths for film graduates in a post-pandemic entertainment industry.
Chancellor Brian Cole said, “As a respected working director, producer and award-winning filmmaker, Deborah has a passion and enthusiasm for the craft. She has an out-of-the-box collaborative style that will provide UNCSA students with the skills to navigate the changing entertainment landscape and better position them for successful careers in the film, television and streaming content industries.”
LaVine said, “It’s an exciting time to be at the UNCSA School of Filmmaking. From day one, the school offers students a hands-on approach to learning through innovative programs and utilizing state-of-the-art facilities. I am especially excited by the juxtaposition of experimental art and creating a sustainable future for students. There is a unique opportunity at UNCSA with five arts conservatories on one campus for cross-collaborative experiences that mirror the way the industry is evolving. We’ve seen more disruption in the filmmaking space than ever before, and students must be prepared to think differently and find new ways to tell stories. I’m inspired by the creative possibilities at UNCSA and honored to lead the program.”
LaVine is a working filmmaker and is currently partnering with “Coda” lead Troy Kotsur to develop a project they will co-direct. She has directed numerous award-winning short films including “Unintended” and “Lost Music,” as well as the feature film “Wild Prairie Rose,” which is available on multiple platforms and has received awards at film festivals across the United States and Canada. She has also directed a multitude of theatrical productions, including Deaf West Theater’s highly touted Los Angeles production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” staged in English and American Sign Language.
LaVine comes to the UNCSA School of Filmmaking from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) where she was program director of the graduate-level film directing program. LaVine developed an international exchange program between the film directing program and RISEBA University of Business Arts and Technology in Riga, Latvia; the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB); and the Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague, Czech Republic. She also developed the Guest Artist Workshop, hosting industry luminaries Chloe Zhao, Darren Aronfsky, Alfonso Cuaron, Ewan McGregor, Terence Nance, Nanfu Wang, James Mangold, Ramin Bahrani and more.
LaVine is the second woman to lead the UNCSA School of Filmmaking, which has had a majority female incoming class for the past two years. As dean, she will serve on the board of directors of RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem and the advisory board of the UNCSA Media + Emerging Technology Lab (METL). LaVine succeeds Susan Ruskin who served as dean from 2013-2019.
“I could not be more thrilled to welcome Deborah to an all-star team of leaders at UNCSA who will take our conservatory into the next era of cinematic storytelling,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Patrick J. Sims. “Her background in telling diverse stories as well as her ability to be a powerful role model for the entire student body in the School of Filmmaking will be invaluable. Deborah’s collaborative and enthusiastic approach, and willingness to dream big, will serve as the perfect complement to the amazing work of our talented faculty.”
Consistently recognized as among the nation’s best training programs for filmmakers, the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts has produced some of today’s most creative storytellers, including Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, Zach Seivers, Brett Haley, Rebecca Green, Jody Hill, Jeff Nichols, Vera Herbert, Martha Stephens, Aaron Katz and Zoë White.
The award-winning faculty in the School of Filmmaking have decades of real-world experience and a passion for mentoring undergraduate and graduate students in concentrations that include animation, cinematography, directing, film music composition, picture editing and sound design, producing, production design and visual effects, and screenwriting. The film school’s Media + Emerging Technology Lab (METL) is dedicated to the exploration and production of immersive storytelling content.
An annual trip to Los Angeles to screen thesis films helps connect students to the industry to launch careers, and partnerships with the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem and the Sundance Film Festival provide crucial practical opportunities.
During the pandemic, the School of Filmmaking at UNCSA maintained in-person instruction and continued producing student films, which were created using industry standard safety protocols and employing safety monitors. Students in the School of Filmmaking make more than 130 films a year with all equipment and financing provided by the university. During the COVID-19 pandemic, UNCSA has showcased third- and fourth-year films online, expanding the audience worldwide.
Several UNCSA alumni are associated with this year’s Oscar-nominated films: Zach Seivers was sound recording mixer and sound supervisor for Best Picture winner “Nomadland,” and Kaitlyn Ali was key editing production assistant for “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” nominated for six awards, including best achievement in film editing. Seivers also received a BAFTA nomination.
Two 2021 graduates of the undergraduate directing program were chosen for prestigious fellowships. Jo Hatcher was one of 11 screenwriters selected to participate in the Sundance Institute’s ninth annual Screenwriters Intensive in March, and Travis Stewart is one of 50 filmmakers nationwide who will participate in the Television Academy’s Summer Fellows program.
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May 25, 2021