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Posted by on July 8, 2013 in Students



So You Want To Do An Internship?: Networking and The Informational Interview

By Daniel Blair, Guest Blogger

I had my internships with Silver Pictures and Threshold Entertainment, but it wasn’t all I planned to accomplish during my time with the Ladder Program. I was in Hollywood! How could I make the best of my time there? I decided to do as many informational interviews as I could and attend as many events as possible outside of the Ladder Program curriculum.

I emailed the company that did motion capture for “Avatar” and asked if they had any internship positions. Unfortunately, they don’t have internships, but recommended some other locations. I asked if they were available for an informational interview.

“Sure! Come on down!” they said.

So I did.

I got a tour of “Pandora” and a walkthrough of their studio.  After the tour, the Head of Business Development talked with me about how to get into the motion capture field, the skills they were looking for in production assistants, where the future of CG is headed, and how their business model works. The most important trait they look for is reliability—showing up on time, and working, not hanging out, when you were on set.

I met with the owner of one of Hollywood’s top Previsualization companies, thanks to Heidi Banks. I didn’t want to waste the owner’s time, so when I met with him I asked the questions I had prepared and got ready to leave.

“That’s it?” he said. “I scheduled more time than this! You better have some more questions for me.”

I put my notes away and grilled him on absolutely everything I could think of, from how the company got its name to how their role in Hollywood is changing. It was awesome and has fundamentally changed how I view the future of the entertainment industry.

I also attended the Visual Effects Society monthly meeting and met many of the special effects artists who make Hollywood movies possible. They talked with me about how to get into their side of the business, especially what workshops to attend to brush up my skills and network. If you are looking at getting into special effects The Gnomon School was recommended very highly because they place most of their students in jobs by the time they graduate. I met comic book artists and writers at a ‘speed story pitching’ event, which was like business speed dating. I met the producer of “I Robot” and the producer of “Breaking Bad” at a networking breakfast. They were both very approachable and the opposite of what I expected to find in Hollywood.

I went to a question and answer session with Robert Zemeckis, thanks to a theater newsletter I subscribed to, and listened to him describe in detail what he looks for in a project when reading a script. I even got the chance to talk with the artist who made the new superman costume for “Man of Steel” at a low-budget weekend film that I helped shoot.

Finding these events depended on a lot of Internet searches, social networking, and talking with people. I searched groups, I volunteered to help coworkers with events, I subscribed to Los Angeles event lists, I searched for society meetings online, and I made sure to ask my roommates and coworkers about any event that sounded interesting. If my commute to work had been shorter I would have attended Screenwriter Guild and Directors Guild events. I plan to do this when I go back to L.A.

Doing two internships gave me a diverse range of experiences and showed me the creative and business side of the entertainment industry. Yet, the most important thing I think I learned during my semester in Hollywood was how to contact people. Hopefully, I will be able to leverage what I learned into a career in the entertainment industry after I graduate.

Finally, one of the greatest things about my experience as an intern was working with Heidi Banks, executive director of the Ladder Program. She introduced us to top Hollywood screenwriters like Steven McFeely, who wrote “Captain America” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Steven actually attended our weekly class as a guest lecturer. I know how to get internships and navigate Hollywood now, but I would never have gained this knowledge without Heidi’s instruction and dedicated work on my behalf.

No matter what internship you decide to do, I hope you have a similarly amazing experience.


If you’re interested in The Ladder Program and want more information, click here.

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Posted by on May 17, 2013 in Guest Blogs


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So You Want To Do An Internship?

By Daniel Blair, Guest Blogger

I’m a senior in the Film Department who wants to produce movies—Hollywood movies.  Fortunately for me, the University of Utah offers school credit for internships in Hollywood through The Ladder Program, directed by Heidi and Steven Banks.

Steven Banks is a professional screenwriter and University of Utah graduate who teaches a screenwriting workshop at the University about once a year. I took his class twice. Spring 2010, the class was titled “The Hollywood Storytellers” and focused on how script development works in the entertainment business. Spring 2012, the class was titled “Pitching in Hollywood” and focused on how to pitch a story in order to sell a script that you have not yet written.

I enjoyed Steven’s insider perspective on the film industry. I imagined Hollywood as a giant impersonal machine, but Steven explained how most people involved are really trying to make good stories. He talked about The Ladder Program after class one day and I became fascinated with the idea of actually experiencing Hollywood while still in school.

The Hunt

Once accepted into The Ladder Program, Heidi began helping me and the other interns fine-tune our resumes and brush up on our telephone interviewing skills (with practice interviews).  Heidi also helped me compile a list of production companies that matched my filmmaking interests. I researched these companies on Deadline Hollywood, the main Hollywood news site, to make sure I was up-to-date on their projects. After I was thoroughly prepared, Heidi turned me loose to contact production companies and apply for internships.

The internship preparation and hunting was hard work. I started contacting production companies in early July, two months before I arrived in Los Angeles for the fall semester program.

I called and emailed, but most importantly, I followed up.

I quickly learned it’s not that hard to get in contact with production companies, if you know where to look. Their phone numbers and addresses are listed on IMDB PRO. Other interns used the ‘Hollywood Screenwriting Directory’ to find contact information. If you are looking for an internship or job opportunity in Hollywood I recommend looking through the Temp Diaries Job List. They post new positions almost every week and the big production companies post here regularly.  Just make sure you know where you will be living as a long commute in LA can be brutal!  Through my research, I also learned that many production companies only accept interns enrolled as students in university programs. Keep this in mind!

Cold contacting these companies was a little scary at first, but for the most part the “gatekeepers” were very friendly. I later learned almost all of the receptionists and assistants I spoke with had been interns and had a soft spot for neophytes. Some of them had even been interns just a few weeks before I called!

This is not to say the process was without its snags.

I was stood-up twice for a phone interview with a company that eventually offered me an internship. Follow-up was the key here. The interviewers told me they appreciated that I followed-up with them to reschedule the interview, because it showed them I was really interested in their company.

All this hard work paid off.

By the time I arrived in Hollywood at the start of the Fall 2012 semester, I had too many internship offers!  All of the places were great, so I had to take other factors into account.

I chose two production companies that had recently undergone serious changes to their structure (moving locations and a new president). I figured that companies in a state of flux would be more accessible to interns. I was right and it worked out great.  The transitional nature of the companies meant that my learning curve was happening at the same time the regular employees were getting used to their new space and coworkers. I shared office space with executives at both companies, a stark contrast to interns at other companies who often found themselves in rooms further from the action.

I worked at Silver Pictures (“The Matrix,” “Die Hard,” & “Sherlock Holmes”) and Threshold Entertainment (“Mortal Kombat”).

The Internship

At Silver Pictures, my main job was to read scripts and write reports on them. It was like doing book reports all over again, except on some of the hottest scripts in Hollywood for people who make really awesome movies. The summary or ‘coverage’ went to the producers who would then decide if the project was worth pursuing.  Some of the scripts I read will be movies in a couple of years. I’ll make sure to point that out to everyone I know when they’re released.

The most important part of this internship was understanding story structure and being able to analyze a script’s strengths and weaknesses (critical thinking skills!). As a new intern I received Blake Snyder’s book ‘Save the Cat,’ which is a guide for understanding story structure in film. It’s not enough to say a script is good or bad; you have to explain why.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the most interesting things I learned was that almost everyone in the office had been an intern or a production assistant (or a paid intern) before they were hired.  This was important because they had real world advice on how to move from being an intern to employee in the entertainment industry. A Vice President, who was an intern 10 years earlier, sat down with me and explained the ephemeral Hollywood corporate ladder. He talked with me about networking and offered advice about internships—he suggested that doing an internship with a talent agency would make me a desirable studio employee. He even talked with me about how he put together “The Book of Eli”—everything from finding the script to casting the directors and Denzel Washington. Talking with him about scripts and story was the most fun thing I did in Hollywood.

At Threshold Entertainment, I worked in business development. My job was to research and contact companies outside of Hollywood to develop their products or brand into animated media. Threshold was focused mostly on media markets outside of films, such as commercials, amusement park rides and TV shows and it was interesting to see the business side of the entertainment industry. I learned so much about research and networking it made my head spin. We practiced how to get past “gatekeepers” and talk directly to the head of a company by researching their past and current projects. My manager was amazing at knowing exactly what information she needed to present to talk directly with a company’s decision makers.

I learned how to find market shares of industries, how to use industry conferences to locate experts in a given field, how to contact people on LinkedIn for business relationships and how to research foreign investors and potential business partners. Here, I learned the entertainment industry extends far beyond film and TV to just about every business imaginable when commercials and advertising are included.

The most important skill I picked up at Threshold was my ability to use search engines and scour the Internet for hard to find information. This was very similar to finding contact information for production companies. Every industry I looked into had its own network of connections and publications that would quickly get you up to speed on their projects.

My internships were both incredible learning experiences and invaluable tools in planning my career path. Instead of an ethereal idea of what the entertainment industry was, I met people who had made it into the industry and listened to their advice on how to pursue my dream job. While the internships were not glamorous, they built my confidence with real world experience and helped me plan my future.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of the series “So You Want To Do An Internship?: Networking and The Informational Interview.” We’ve got the rest of Daniel’s story, and it will continue this week. If you’re interested in The Ladder Program and want more information, click here


Posted by on May 15, 2013 in Guest Blogs


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Semester In Review

Congratulations to our graduates in the College of Fine Arts and to all of you who successfully completed another academic year!! It’s been a busy one, but you did it. In honor of all that you’ve accomplished, we’d like to highlight some of the outstanding student work that’s been produced in the College this Spring semester– performances, art exhibits and video games. We’ve filled this post with lots of pictures and links to video. Enjoy!


The Ballet Department produced several performances this semester that once again showcased intricate choreography, as well as our ballet students’ skill and talent–Showcase II, Utah Ballet: Choreographers of the Far East, Ballet Senior Show.  Check out these pictures from Choreographers of the Far East, performed by Utah Ballet.

Utah Ballet-61

Photo Courtesy of Luke Isley

Utah Ballet-237

Photo Courtesy of Luke Isley

Utah Ballet-214

Photo Courtesy of Luke Isley

The Ballet Department also presented the second annual Live To Dance Concert, which highlighted different jazz styles including Hip Hop, Contemporary, Lyrical, Fosse, Broadway, Thrash and more.


Photo Courtesy of Luke Isley


Photo Courtesy of Luke Isley


The students in Film and Media Arts Department were busy this semester. Our Film students spent their learning animation techniques and the art of making films this semester. Check out this trailer of a film directed by graduate students Miriam and Sonia Albert-Sobrino.

Anuncio de “As Vacacións do Verdugo” – “The Executioner’s Vacation

Our Entertainment Arts & Engineering undergraduates and graduate students spent the past year designing video games. They celebrated their hard work last month during EAE Fest, which unfolded over three days: EAE Demo Day, Animation Fest, and EAE Machinima Fest ’13.  During EAE Demo Day, the campus community were invited to play upcoming Master’s thesis games, including Last March of the Dodos, Race of the Zodiac, and Drop Drop, as well as undergraduate capstone projects Magnetic by Nature, Avatar Trials: Ninja Uprising, and Heroes of Rock. For more video game trailers, click here.

The following pics are from EAE Demo Day.

EAE Day 1

Photo Courtesy of Rachel Leiker

EAE Day 2

Photo Courtesy of Rachel Leiker

EAE Day 3

Photo Courtesy of Rachel Leiker

EAE Machinima Fest ’13 featured the excellent work from this year’s CS 3660 class–Machinima is the creation of animated movies using a 3D video game engine. Here’s one of the many animated movies that were screened. Entitled “Shooter,” the film explores what happens when a character in a first person shooter, stuck in an endless loop, believes there’s something more to life…more than what he was programmed for. The following EAE students worked together to create the film: Evan Orton, James Burns, Wendy Chidester, Mike Veblungsnes, Remington Sorenson, and Matthew Lawton.

Shooter,” by Evan Orton, James Burns, Wendy Chidester, Mike Veblungsnes, Remington Sorenson, and Matthew Lawton


The Theatre Department was busy producing interesting and provocative works. They put on A Flea in Her EarThe Eccentrics, Reasons to be Pretty, and Spring Awakening. A great season! Check out this clip about Spring Awakening, a play that “celebrates youth and rebellion in a daring fusion of morality, sexuality and rock & roll.”

Spring Awakening

Here are some pics from A Flea in Her EarGeorges Feydeau’s play about mistaken identities–“a classic French farce of marital mayhem.”


Photo Courtesy of the Theatre Department


Photo Courtesy of the Theatre Department


The Modern Dance Department staged several fantastic performances that showcased our modern dance students’ abilities–Performing Dance Company, Student Concert I, Senior Concert I: Spin Cycle & Senior Concert II: Tumble Dry. Here are a few photos from Senior Concert I.


Photo Courtesy of Benjamin Mielke


Photo Courtesy of Benjamin Mielke


Photo Courtesy of Benjamin Mielke


The students in the The Art & Art History Department were busy creating intricate art works, pioneering a campus art walk, and collaborating across the College. 

Joining forces with the Student Museum Advisory Council (SMAC), the Art History Student Association (AHSA) put on the 1st Annual Campus Art Walk, highlighting some of the unnoticed art pieces that cover the University’s campus.


Photo Courtesy of Kira Jones


Photo Courtesy of Kira Jones


Photo Courtesy of Kira Jones

The Campus Art Walk coincided with the Annual Student Exhibition Opening, which was quite the event. If you weren’t able to attend this year, we suggest you mark your calendar for Spring 2014. It’s an art show you don’t want to miss, complete with student art work displayed on all three floors (and outside!) of the ART Building. PLUS lots of delicious food to snack on as you wander around looking at the art.


Photo Courtesy of Amelia Walchli


Photo Courtesy of Amelia Walchli


Photo Courtesy of Amelia Walchli

Finally, Art students and Theatre students came together to work on a project. The students from ART 4460: Environmental/Installation and THEA 4700: Theatre Lighting III collaborated to create “Fervor,” An Experimental, Multi-Sensory Experience.

Fervor,” An Experimental, Multi-Sensory Experience. 


The students in The School of Music not only had a busy concert season, but our undergraduates and graduate students spent their time participating in several projects. For the third year, the Student Advisory Committee (SAC) organized a Chamber Music Competition. Students also participated in The Piano Outreach Program and Music Education at Uintah Elementary.

The Piano Outreach Program provides undergrads and graduate students the opportunity to teach piano to Title I elementary students after school. Check out some pics of these students in action.


Photo Courtesy of April Waters


Photo Courtesy of April Waters


Photo Courtesy of April Waters


Congratulations again to all our graduates and to all of you for another amazing semester! If you were involved in a project or performance this past semester that you’d like us to know about, leave us a comment below.


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Sheep! The Musical

What does a “community-engaged” artist look like?

Undoubtedly, there are many versions, just as there are many ways to incorporate art into a community or a community into art. The phrase can encompass a lot of territory.

When artists engage in this kind of work they often need a skill set that includes good communication, team building, fundraising and marketing skills along with the ability to plan and execute a performance/artwork/film. Artists need to be able to have honest conversations about the money and time required for the work to be high quality and engaging. They also need skills that will help them relate to community members, partners and other collaborators—all of whom may have different agendas on the table.

This spring semester, students (53, to be exact!) from Professor Jennifer Bauman’s Exploration and Fine Arts LEAP classes got the chance to explore their own identities as “community-engaged” artists while developing the skills listed above—invaluable skills, whether you’re a student who wants to work in or outside of the arts.

The LEAP students worked with children from Neighborhood House to bring to life the original production that is “Sheep! The Musical.” Inspired by the idea of Little Bo Peep losing her sheep, the students created a play that tells the story of where the sheep travel while they’re missing.  They have quite the adventure and Bo Peep must travel to far off lands to find them—all the way to an Army Land, a Ballerina Land and a Cat Land. Meanwhile, a wolf, disguised as an artist, is also trying to find the sheep.

Spoiler Alert: The wolf is the reason the sheep wander off in the first place!

“Sheep! The Musical.” Official Trailer

During the fall semester, LEAP students raised the money they needed for the production, worked to build community and learned about the population the LEAP program works with at Neighborhood House. This semester, the students wrote the storyline, the script and the music. They choreographed the dances and created the set design (lights, sound, props), the costumes and even the documentary film about the production of the play. The students were also responsible for the press, publicity and event planning around “Sheep!”

In the end, the LEAP students contributed countless hours to the development of “Sheep!” They befriended and mentored the children at Neighborhood House through months of continued service. They also worked with Neighborhood House children to develop the characters of the play—the children are the masterminds behind the cats, ballerinas and army men.

Ultimately, the LEAP students created a play that showcases creativity while providing a story “that teaches kids about responsibility and inclusion,” says Fine Arts LEAP student, Sara Seastrand.

They learned how to forge and maintain relationships in ways that help an artist gain support for their project and establish their presence within the community. They also developed skills needed to be a “community-engaged” artist, many of which they will need after college, no matter what profession they choose.

You can see “Sheep! The Musical” and the documentary film, which highlights the work behind the production, Thursday, April 25 at 6:30 pm in The Hayes Christensen Theatre in the Marriott Center for Dance (MCD).


In 2007, Professor Jennifer M. Bauman started the Fine Arts LEAP Program. She developed the idea of putting on a play (and creating a documentary about putting on a play) to promote the LEAP seminar theme of community. Together the students and Neighborhood House children explore community from multiple angles—from theory to practice—and bridge the divide between the east and west sides of the Salt Lake community.


Neighborhood House is an organization that provides “quality care for low-income families based on their ability to pay.”


Posted by on April 24, 2013 in Students


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Environmental Art Adorns New Trax Station

Your link to the happenings throughout the College of Fine Arts, interpreted by us, the spring 2013 MUSE Arts Journalist Interns. 

By Lindsey Wilbur, Guest Blogger

The long-awaited Airport TRAX line (part of UTA’s existing Green Line) had it’s grand opening this past weekend!

With the opening came the debut of new artwork by Shawn Porter, an artist among us here at the U. There’s no doubt that the new TRAX line has students at the U looking forward to airport access via light rail, but it’s the art installation adorning the new platform at the intersection of North Temple and 1950 West that’s generating excitement for students in the College of Fine Arts.

Porter’s artwork, entitled Spatial Perception, has changed the landscape of the TRAX line that runs along North Temple.

Porter works as the Facility Supervisor of the ART Building and proposed his idea to disseminate an environmental message in artwork along the new TRAX line, in a letter, to the Salt Lake City Arts Council. He was later commissioned by UTA to create his installation.

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Photos Courtesy of Holly Christmas and Shawn Porter

Porter worked tirelessly behind the scenes of UTA’s light rail construction, with the help of his wife, Holly Christmas, friend, Mike McGlothen and sculpture professor in the Art and Art History Department, Dave Eddy.  At times Porter says the team formed an assembly line grinding, cutting, and welding steel to form the reed grasses that shoot up through a water-like wave of steel.  Porter also cast bronze birds for the art installation by employing lost wax, a process that uses wax to form a mold of a sculpture before it can be cast in bronze.

Even with the help of his supporters, Porter’s project was a two-year undertaking that required him to adjust his regular work schedule to accommodate three-day weekends devoted to working on his artwork.

Though Porter had to commit his weekends to the project, he said that reaching out to the community is one of the rewards he gets out of creating public art.

Porter’s motivation to increase the local public’s awareness of Salt Lake’s natural environment formed during his own development as an artist.  Porter’s art has roots in furniture making that, while always aesthetic, grew away from practicality and became more and more artistic until Porter’s skills expanded to include wood bending and sculpting.  While utilizing the Salt Flats as an aesthetic location to photograph some of his work, Porter’s own eyes were opened to the wildlife inhabiting the Great Salt Lake environment.

“People think of the Great Salt Lake as a smelly wasteland,” Porter said, “but it’s an active ecosystem.  If they get out there they might think otherwise.”

Porter’s installation is an attempt to change people’s perception of the Great Salt Lake as a “smelly wasteland.” He hopes they are able to see it as the necessary environment that it is for a variety of wildlife.

Redwinged Black Birds and Wison’s Phalarope are two species of birds that inhabit the area Porter incorporated into Spatial Perception.  In fact, according to Porter, the Great Salt Lake is actually the largest breeding ground of the Wilson’s Phalarope.

In addition the artistic design of his artwork, Porter considered how he could incorporate the diverse group of people who will be exposed to Spatial Perception.

At its location on North Temple and 1950 West, the TRAX stop provides service to the Utah State Library for the Blind and Disabled. To include these citizens in the conversation, Porter included brail inscriptions of prose he wrote that describes the liveliness of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem.

Porter says it is a relief to see the successful completion of his work; and now you can enjoy the fruits of his labor!


The e-zine 15 Bytes and Salt Lake City Arts Council, in partnership with Salt Lake Gallery Stroll, invite you to take a stroll via TRAX this Friday, April 19, 6-9 pm as part of your monthly Gallery Stroll. According to 15 Bytes, “the first 200 art lovers who show up at Mestizo Gallery after 6 p.m. on the 19th will receive a free ticket to ride the new TRAX line that evening.”


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1st Annual Campus Art Walk

Your link to the happenings throughout the College of Fine Arts, interpreted by us, the spring 2013 MUSE Arts Journalist Interns. 

By Ian Anderson, Guest Blogger

SMAC 4.9.13

Student Museum Advisory Council (SMAC)

What’s my goal for the 1st Annual Campus Art Walk? That it will help decode and bring to light some of the pieces of art that contribute to our aesthetically pleasing campus.  As a member of the Art History Student Association (AHSA), my hope is that the Art Walk will unearth a few of the U’s artistic roots for fellow students.

Joining forces with the Student Museum Advisory Council (SMAC), AHSA’s aim for the 1st Annual Campus Art Walk is to highlight some of the unnoticed art pieces that cover our campus. Stemming from the enthusiastic success of the Gallery Stroll in downtown Salt Lake City, we hope the Art Walk will facilitate awareness of art on campus—along with the specific, unique, pleasurable joys that only art can generate.

Pieces from various colleges and buildings on campus will be featured in the Walk. For example, did you know the new David Eccles School of Business building (the Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building) has an installation piece that is shaped like the Great Salt Lake and changes color due to the influx of the world’s stock market? Or, that the Marriott Library has a special collection of over 100 vignettes chronicling the lives of Vietnam veterans?

ART&ART History

Art History Student Association (AHSA)

The Marriott Library and the Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building are just two of the many spaces where you’ll find art during the Walk. There were no requirements for chosen pieces—students hope to celebrate the many mediums of art!

One unique aspect of the Art Walk is the opportunity it affords students in the Art History Department. A virtual map made-up of the highlighted art on campus will curate the Art Walk. The map features a collection of critical essays (written primarily by students, along with some faculty) about the works included in the Walk. The expectation for these essays was kept purposely ambiguous—the hope is that this virtual map will demonstrate both students’ personal interest and excitement in specific works of art.

There will be a printed map guide available to strollers, and on the guide will appear a QR code that links to a Tumblr webpage dedicated to the event. Strollers can access all the featured art and the accepted essays by visiting.

The Campus Art Walk is free and will take place tomorrow, Thursday, April 11 from 5:00-8:00pm. Strollers are encouraged to begin their night at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) patio, where refreshments will be served and live music can be enjoyed. Working as the event’s home base, the UMFA patio can provide an enjoyable bookend for a stroller’s evening.

While the U’s aesthetic entities may seem unknown, students from both SMAC and the AHSA hope to make art works on campus approachable and enjoyable for all. The Campus Art Walk is one exciting step in the direction of this goal.


Unable to attend the Campus Art Walk? Here are a few pictures from the event.

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Photos Courtesy of Kira Jones


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What’s that you say, a Mockumentary?

Today’s April Fools day, so we thought it only appropriate to share a short mockumentary film that’s been circulating around the College of Fine Arts.

It’s a film created by Alyssa Tolman, a second year graduate student in the Department of Modern Dance.

Alyssa made the film last semester for her final assignment in the department’s ScreenDance course, which is taught by Ellen Bromberg.  The course introduces students to various forms of dance on screen and gives them hands-on experience with videotaping and editing dances made specifically for the camera. It also provides students with a brief overview of aesthetic, historic and cultural representations of the body through image and media, and offers a context in which to explore the dancing body.

Alyssa’s final assignment was to create an 8-10 minute documentary that included dance or any type of movement form.

Alyssa decided to have fun and try something that included an element of humor. Making a mockumentary about dancers made the most sense to her.

Everything else, she says, “really just fell into place.”

Dancer. A Documentary. By Alyssa Tolman

Hannah Bowcutt (Senior in the Ballet Department) and Jamie Myers (3rd year Graduate Student in the Modern Department) star in the film, as both dancer and actress. Both the Modern Dance and Ballet Department supported the project.

Alyssa explains that the departments let her invade their classes and then film them for a piece dedicated to making fun of them. “I couldn’t have asked for more gracious participants.”

The funniest thing to come out of the project, she says, is the online attention it’s gotten. “Dancer. A Documentary.” has had 45,000+ views (and counting), from 148 countries in the past 3 months.

She never thought more than a few people would watch it online, let alone “like” it.

Of course, the film has gotten a bit of negative attention as well.

Even though the description (and the content) clearly states the film is a mockumentary, some comments express outrage about the inaccuracies laced throughout it.

“The fact that ‘Dancer. A Documentary.’ has reached an audience who believes it to be a sincere documentation of a modern and ballet dancer’s life tells me that it has certainly traveled a great distance from our community here at the University of Utah,” Alyssa explains.

What do you think about the film? Leave us a comment below.


Posted by on April 1, 2013 in Students


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Leaving My Glyph

By Amanda Newman, Guest Blogger

Amanda Newman is a Modern Dance student who received funding through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) to assist with the site-specific performance piece, Glyph. The program provides undergraduate students and faculty members the opportunity to work together on research or creative projects. We asked Amanda to share her experience and what she learned working on Glyph as a collaborator, logistics manager and dancer.

Here you are. In this moment. Reading this blog post.

This moment is soon going to pass, just like a million other moments in your life. Soon enough, your life will also pass. (Bear with me while we get through the deep stuff here).

When your life does pass, both from this present moment and from this life, people will still know you were here, right? Your life will be recorded in the world, both purposefully and accidentally, in some form or another—your dirty dishes, old birthday cards, file folders on your laptop, Facebook posts to friends, your obituary.

With the weight of all this talk of past and future on your shoulders, how do you remain saturated and alive in the present moment?

I’ve been immersed in these questions since last summer, when I was approached by Department of Modern Dance Professor Ellen Bromberg and College of Architecture and Planning Professor Jim Agutter. They shared with me their vision for Glyph, a multi-media, site-specific performance they were planning to create specifically for the layered space and sweeping walls of the main lobby area (the Canyon) of the new Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU).  I was invited to apply for a grant from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) to fund my participation as collaborator, logistics manager, and dancer in the culminating performance.

With the UROP acceptance email still fresh in my inbox (Thanks, Jill Baeder and the UROP team!), I started meeting with Ellen and Jim on a weekly basis. We waded through questions of past, present, and future, mark-making and trace-leaving, individual and collective histories and more. It was difficult (borderline impossible) to pin down these lofty clouds of thought. It was even more challenging to translate them into the concrete performance concepts that would eventually be Glyph. At different points in the process, we wanted dancers suspended from the ceiling! Dirt on the ground! A website! Flowing red dresses! Interactive touch screen monitors!

Alas, we had to contend with reality.

So, using the chisels of our budget, our timeline, and our manpower, we carved out the following plan:

On two Wednesday evenings in February, the museum would be filled with 14 dancers in red from the Department of Modern Dance performing unique, self-choreographed and partially improvised solos throughout the NHMU Canyon and Past Worlds exhibit (the room with the dinosaurs!). Enormous expanses of text compiled from hundreds of obituaries (some of them loved ones lost by the collaborators and dancers) would be projected onto the walls of the Canyon. By dancing in front of a motion-capture camera (think Xbox Kinect technology), the dancers could manipulate the text, allowing for a visual ebb and flow that matched the dancers’ movement through the space. The dancers would slowly collect into a series of improvised duets and small clusters and, eventually, into a sea of moving bodies that built to a spectacular crescendo before it unraveled once again into the second loop of the performance.

Sounds like a great plan, right? Here’s the even cooler part: it worked.

Yes, there were dancers late to rehearsal, bodies tired from dancing on cement, miscommunications with the technical crew, and inboxes flooded with emails between the Glyph team and the museum staff (who were amazingly patient, accommodating, and gung-ho!). But it worked.

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Photos Courtesy of Amanda Newman and Ellen Bromberg

On February 13 and 20, we transformed the already breathtaking museum into an ethereal crossroads of time, space, technology, and the human body. After the first performance of Glyph, one of the dancers told me, “That was the first and the last thing I ever thought it would be.” It’s not often that dancers get to: a) Dance in and around audience members taking pictures on their iPhones, b) Dance for nearly an hour and a half straight, and c) DANCE NEXT TO DINOSAURS.

Being part of Glyph was nothing short of an amazing journey. Challenging, of course. But it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Through Glyph, I began to realize that, as a dancer and a human being, I am not compelled to create art or live a life that exists to be distilled, codified, and preserved. Rather, I am intrigued by art-making and life-living that changes, grows, and alters/is altered by the past, present, and future within which it is created.

If you’d like to hear more about Amanda’s experiences designing, creating, and performing Glyph, you are invited to attend her presentation at the University of Utah Undergraduate Research Symposium on Wednesday, April 3 at 1:05pm in the Olpin Union Building (Ballroom East).


Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Guest Blogs


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Between Two Worlds with Mira Nair

Guess who’s coming to the College of Fine Arts for the David P. Gardner Graduate Lecture?

Filmmaker, Mira Nair!

Perhaps you’ve heard of her? She’s the talented director behind the film “The Namesake” and, most recently, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.”

The Namesake, 2006, Director Mira Nair

We’re excited to have Nair on campus and wanted to make sure you know that you’re invited to hear the celebrated filmmaker speak about her work. Nair’s films often challenge stereotypes and generational assumptions. This is one of the many reasons why we like her. Nair is a filmmaker who exemplifies the artistic, personal, and professional growth, development and achievement that can come when an artist infuses their work with risk-taking and innovation.

If you’re free Wednesday, March 27 at 5:30 pm—we hope you are—stop by Kingsbury Hall to hear Nair speak about her experiences as a filmmaker in both Hollywood and in independent cinema. Listen to her talk about the craft of filmmaking, as well as the issues she so passionately explores in her films: the tug of competing worlds felt by millions of immigrants and ways to bridge the gap between cultures, races and genders.

Nair’s talk, “Between Two worlds: Creating Identity,” is free and open to the public.

You’re also invited to a free screening of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” which will take place in the Orson Spencer Hall Auditorium on March 27, directly after Nair’s lecture. There will be limited seating at this screening, so if you want to see the film be sure to attend the lecture, where you’ll be able to pick up a ticket. There will be a Q&A after the screening.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, 2012, Director Mira Nair

Two of Nair’s films, “The Namesake” and “Monsoon Wedding,” will also be screened during the week in celebration of her visit. For more information, click here.

As we mentioned, Nair’s visit is part of the Gardner Lecture series, which features distinguished scholars and artists from the humanities and the fine arts, in alternating years. The lecture series was founded in the University’s Graduate School in honor of former President David Pierpont Gardner.

A few of the past lecturers:

  • Judith Jamison, Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
  • Stephen Macedo, a Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the director of the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University.
  • Robert Hughes, the Art Editor for Time Magazine.

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