While movie buffs gear up to watch the Oscars on television on Sunday, the 15 students in the Department of Film and Media Studies’ Los Angeles off-campus study program are attending Oscar events sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the organization that awards the coveted Oscars.
“We are attending some extraordinary events at The Academy that feature the nominees in various categories,” says program leader Mark Williams, an associate professor of film and media studies. “And we will visit the Academy Archive and their new museum project at the end of the term.”
Dartmouth alumni with a shot at 2014 Academy Awards include nominees Chris Meledandri ’81, the producer of Despicable Me 2, whose film is up for “Best Animated Feature.” Meledandri arranged for students to visit his Illumination Entertainment production company earlier in the term. Additionally, Meryl Streep, who spent a term enrolled at Dartmouth as a 12-College exchange student from Vassar in 1970, is nominated in the “Best Actress” category for August: Osage County.
Program participant Varun A. Bhuchar ’15, who says he’s “pretty obsessed with the Oscars all the time,” has been attending the pre-awards events. “It’s interesting to see what the filmmakers and professionals have to say in person,” he says. “The short film showcase was really awesome because the category is so diverse and the filmmakers typically come from all around the world.”
Despite all the recent opportunities, Williams says, “the term is moving into crunch time—Dartmouth classes end March 7—with many assignments and much research to complete. So we are balancing our commitment to cultural excursions and meetings with industry veterans with giving the students sufficient time for their work.”
In addition to teaching “Media Industries Studies” and “Race and Place in Los Angeles,” Williams has been leading an independent study course with an alumni guest list that reads like a Hollywood who’s who. It includes Chris Miller ’97 and Phil Lord ’97 (The LEGO Movie), Oscar nominated screenwriter Buck Henry ’52 (The Graduate, Catch-22), and Shonda Rhimes ’91 (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal).
A dinner meeting with Rhimes was “truly memorable,” Williams says. “The students learned a great deal about the television industry, the significance of diversity in practices of representation, and the creative process overall—and it was funny and unguarded and charming and insightful.”
Members of the Dartmouth Club of Los Angeles and DAEMA (Dartmouth Alumni in Entertainment & Media Association) joined Williams and the students for the event.
Kelly Sundberg Seaman contributed to this story.