Film Program Highlights 2015-2016

April 6, 2016

Our alumni, students and faculty have had another truly amazing year in the Film Program. Here are the highlights of our most exciting news that include many projects that you probably binge-watched (Making a Murderer, we know you watched it).

Submarine, directed and co-written Mounia Akl, co-written by Clara Roquet, produced by Cyril Aris, and co-produced by Andrew Li is an official selection of the 69th Cannes Film Festival, competing in the Cinefondation section. It’s one of 18 films from among the 2,300 works submitted this year by film schools from all over the world. Fifteen countries from three continents are represented.

Film Program alumni have also had a truly amazing year. Writer/Director Jennifer Lee '05, best known for her Academy Award-winning animated feature Frozen, teamed up with Phil Johnston '04 on the story and screenplay for Zootopia, which hit number 1 at the box office and has earned nearly $900 million worldwide to date. Lee is also bringing Frozen to Broadway and is working on a sequelFrozen 2.

Thirteen Columbia Filmmakers had their work shown at Berlinale this year. Balcony, a short film written and directed  by Toby Fell-Holden ’13, won the prestigious Crystal Bear for Best Short in Berlinale’s Generation Program. Old Stone, the debut feature by Johnny Ma ’14, was one of the more hotly anticipated films premiering at the festival. The film was produced by Jing Wang '15 and Chi-an Lin '10. Ming Kai Leung '06 was the DP, Pei-Ju Hsieh '14 was the script supervisor and Avram Dodson '15 was the assistant editor.

Twenty-eight Columbia filmmakers have work at the Tribeca Film festival this year. The Fixer, a thriller about a journalist who transitions from covering the war in Afghanistan to local crime in a small Northern California town, is directed by Ian Olds ’06 and written by Olds and Paul Felten ’04. Joe Murphy ’08 edited the feature, which also stars Writing Program alumnus James Franco ’11. Current students Yi Liu and Chieh Yang had their short film Ping Pong Coach selected for the festival. The short was made as a part of the Columbia curriculum.

Television writing professor Frank Pugliese has been tapped to be the newest show runner for the hit Netflix seriesHouse of Cards, starring Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey, now in its fifth season.

Directing professor Ramin Bahrani released his feature 99 Homes, a docudrama about the early 2000s mortgage crisis, starring Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield. The film received the grand prize at the Deauville Film Festival and earned a Golden Globe nomination for Shannon.

Rebecca Thomas ‘13 is set to direct two filmsLooking for Alaska, the adaptation of the bestselling young adult novel by John Green and The Little MermaidMeet The Blacks, written by Nicole DeMasi '13, opened in theaters nationwide on April 1. Andy Parker '11 has signed a multi-year deal with Universal Cable Productions/NBCUniversal to write two new projects.

Film professor James Schamus made his directorial debut with Indignation, which went to the Berlinale and Sundance, and earned critical praise for its depiction of a young Jewish man’s cultural, religious and romantic struggles at an Ohio college in 1951.
Professor Katherine Dieckmann wrapped her feature Strange Weather, starring Holly Hunter, Carrie Coon and Kim Coates. Brooke Sebold '03 was the on-set editor.

Simon Kinberg ’03 received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture as a producer of The Martian. The filmwas nominated for seven awards in total. Kinberg has been tapped to write the remake of the 1976 film Logan’s Run, and will act as executive producer of the forthcoming superhero series, Legion, picked up by FX , and Hellfire, picked up by Fox. X-Men: Apocalypse, which he co-wrote and produced, is out this Memorial Day weekend. Read more about his amazing year here.

Moira Demos ’08 and Laura Ricciardi ’07 have achieved enormous success with their Netflix series Making a Murderer, which has been watched by millions of viewers since it became available for streaming on the site in December. Numerous news organizations, among them The New York TimesRolling Stone, the Today Show andNPR, have covered the ten-year effort that Demos and Ricciardi put into making the film. They recently signed with the talent agency CAA, and won a 2016 Distinguished Achievement award from the National Council on Crime & Delinquency.

Netflix has also ordered the 10-episode series Gypsy, a psychological thriller written by Lisa Rubin '13, who was recently hired by DreamWorks to adapt the best-selling novel Food Whore into a feature length film.

In other television news, Lilah Vandenburgh '06 has written an upcoming episode of The Flash, and alumnusOliver Refson ’05 is a writer/director on the hit UK series, Uncle.

Also on the festival circuit, 25 of the films at Sundance this year bore the work of Columbia alumni and faculty members; their jobs on the various projects included producer, writer, director, post-supervisor, script supervisor and actor, among many others. White Girl by Elizabeth Wood ’13 premiered at the festival and has been compared to the cult classic Kids—it recently sold to Netflix!

Eleven Columbia filmmakers screened at South by Southwest, and four shorts by Columbia filmmakers—Toby Fell-Holden and current students Stephen LeeNelicia Low and Clara Roquet—screened at the prestigious Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival this year.

James Ponsoldt's '05 The End of the Tour received two Independent Spirit Award Nominations for Best Male Lead and Best Screenplay. Writer/director John MagaryMyna Joseph and Russ Harbaugh ’07 were also nominated in the Best First Screenplay category for his film The Mend.