Biola media conference inspires filmmakers

The 18th annual Biola Media Conference gathered many students interested in the film industry.


Voice actor director Ned Lott gives a lesson about voice directing by inviting attendees to act out scenes from famous animated movies during a breakout session. | John Buchanan/THE CHIMES

Anne Marie Larson, Writer

Voice actor director Ned Lott gives a lesson about voice directing by inviting attendees to act out scenes from famous animated movies during a breakout session. | John Buchanan/THE CHIMES

Biola students and other interested listeners gathered at the CBS Studios back lot in Studio City to hear from a variety of speakers from the film industry Saturday May 4 at “Great Directors,” the 18th annual Biola Media Conference, which launched the Great Cinema Masters Series. This new series will focus on directors working today, and offer workshops and networking events to encourage and equip new members of the industry while inspiring seasoned filmmakers, according to a press release.

Learning from success

Logan Alesso, a sophomore film major, felt encouraged by the directors’ stories as they were interviewed onstage.

“They all struggled with similar things that I’m going through now as a director,” he said, saying he realized these directors were like him once.

A lively performance by the Faithful Central Bible Church gospel choir from downtown Los Angeles set an energetic mood at the beginning of the conference.

Jack Hafer, chairman of the cinema and media arts department, discussed the need for prophetic imagination- being countercultural like the Biblical prophets. In a video, Hafer awarded Peter Docter, a writer and director at Pixar Animation Studios, the 2013 cinema masters series best director award. Docter was unable to attend but may be able to come next year if the conference is held in the fall.

Finding a voice

During the event, Stan Williams, author of “The Moral Premise,” interviewed rising directors Ryan Coogler and Destin Daniel Cretton. Coogler directed “Fruitvale Station,” the Sundance Festival film that won the Grand Jury Prize and the audience award for U.S. dramatic film. Cretton directed the 2013 South by Southwest Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize winner “Short Term 12.”

“I can share with them a little bit of what I wish somebody would have told me when I was in college: It’s OK to be yourself and you don’t have to be a certain type of person to make it in this industry or any industry,” Cretton said in a personal interview.

The idea of being yourself resonated with students.

“A lot of what he was saying was so affirming of things I’ve been hoping it’s OK to believe and hoping it’s OK to live by: things like pacing, things like ‘be who you are, it’s OK,’” said Lindsey Eastburg, a senior film major.

Film majors had the opportunity to meet with successful alumni at the all-access lunch.

“Not everybody can be like, ‘Oh, I can give you a job,’ but they can say, ‘I will work with you in the future.’ It’s cool to meet people,” said Steven Maertens, a senior film major.

Preparing for the future

One of the eight workshops offered was “Directing Actors” by Ned Lott, who has cast many voice actors for Pixar and Disney animation. Attendees volunteered to read through parts of scripts from popular movies such as “Tangled” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” While they read, Lott directed them on how to manipulate their voices to achieve the desired sound.

“This was a great experience. I really enjoyed the chance to perform and to get some good direction,” said Duran Smith, a junior film major.

Another workshop offered was “How to Put Your Portfolio Together For Special Effects and Animation” by Rob Bredow and Armand Serrano, who, according to the event schedule, are two of Hollywood’s biggest art design, animation and special effects directors. They gave attendees the opportunity to show their portfolios for review.

In the last conference session David McFazdean received the Biola Media Award for integrating his faith into popular culture with excellence. Afterward Kenneth Ulmer, the senior pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church, spoke and compared ministry to being “on a theater stage in which no one wants to buy a ticket.” Hafer closed the conference with a prayer of blessing.

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