“Penn Pioneers” Heads West

October 1, 2014

Alumni help Cinema Studies conference make its Los Angeles premiere.

Just two weeks after the Academy Awards, the Cinema Studies program rolled out the red carpet in Los Angeles to celebrate Penn’s starring role in the film industry.

Panelists Michelle Nader, C’87; Kathy DeMarco Van Cleve, C’88, W’88; Alex Toumayan, C’11; Timothy Corrigan, Professor, Cinema Studies — photo courtesy of Jay Matsueda

Thanks to Columbia Pictures President Doug Belgrad and Christine Belgrad, the Penn Film and Media Pioneers West conference welcomed a standing-room-only audience of 120 alumni, parents, students, and faculty members at Sony Studios on March 15. The half-day conference was launched in 2006 to bring together Penn people working in film and media and to recognize the University’s long involvement in the field. This year’s event focused on “Writing in the Digital Age” and “The Producer as Artist.”

“There are so many Penn grads in Southern California now,” says Doug Belgrad, who has been involved with Penn Pioneers for several years. “Bringing the conference to the West Coast allowed for greater participation among alumni who are already involved in the industry or who are interested in becoming involved. Christine and I were so pleased by how many people participated and how much everyone seemed to enjoy the event. [Panelists] Marc Platt and Stacey Snider were incredibly informative and entertaining. The way they approach their work and their love of the process inspires all of us in the entertainment industry.”

The Belgrads have long been dedicated to the program and are delighted their daughter is now pursuing a major in Cinema Studies. “People are drawn to the entertainment industry for different reasons, and Cinema Studies gives these students a background in the industry in a traditional humanities program,” Christine Belgrad says. “It is not only teaching the students about film, but it is teaching them how to think overall.”

“The program does a terrific job of educating students about the history and cultural significance of film. There are other schools that emphasize the craft of filmmaking, but Penn’s cinema studies program helps students think critically and broadly about cinema in a way that fits with the rigorous academic ambition of the College of Arts and Sciences,” Doug Belgrad adds.

Cinema Studies director Peter Decherney believes the program’s close relationship with alumni like the Belgrads has been central to its success. “It means a lot to the students to talk to alumni about what’s going on in film and media and to see how their academic work has remained beneficial. It also helps us. Hearing about changes in the industry and new projects people are getting involved in helps us look at our curriculum and keep it relevant.”

Alumni Featured at Penn Pioneers West:
Doug Belgrad, C’87, PAR’15, PAR’17, President, Columbia Pictures
Kathy DeMarco Van Cleve, C’88, W’88, Novelist, Screenwriter, Film Producer
Michelle Nader, C’87, Producer and Writer; Executive Producer, Two Broke Girls
Marc Platt, C’79, PAR’05, PAR’08, PAR’12,  Producer, Marc Platt Productions
Stacey Snider, C’82, Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, DreamWorks Studios
Alex Toumayan, C’11, Creative Director, Omnia Media