“Is this a joke?!,” was Mindy McKoin’s (Production – M.F.A. ‘12) first reaction upon learning that she had been selected for the Directors Guild of America Assistant Director Training Program. “After I settled down, I realized what I worked so hard for was finally coming true. It’s surreal. I’ve applied more than once and couldn’t believe I got it. All the work paid off.”
The Directors Guild of America Assistant Director Training Program is a highly competitive program aimed at aspiring ADs. The two-year program offers intensive on-the-job training combined with seminars and special assignments. As a trainee, McKoin will be working with seasoned DGA members who work professionally as second assistant directors, first assistant directors and unit production managers on the sets of various features, television series and commercials.
McKoin initially thought that being an assistant director wasn’t for her until she spoke with LMU production professor Charles Swanson. Swanson encouraged her to pursue the path, saying that her personality, and how she worked on set, are qualities that make a successful first assistant director. With that seed planted, McKoin was determined to hone her skills as an assistant director and found a seasoned assistant director in SFTV’s head of production administrator John Syrjamaki. Syrjamaki told her about the DGA Program and helped with McKoin’s application. “Without Charles and John, this wouldn’t be possible,” said McKoin.
As an SFTV graduate, McKoin’s experience in the production program has prepared her well. “LMU does such a good job at making us well-rounded filmmakers because we have to work on other people’s projects – you’re not one-dimensional. Working all those projects, I saw the difference of having a good assistant director versus a bad assistant director. It’s a balance of being super strict and being too relaxed. Being an assistant director is not about having a power trip. You have a servant’s heart helping others. You really shine by pulling the best out of people.”
Currently, McKoin is immersed in the required reading assigned to her and getting her DGA standardized resume ready. She also plans to get all her personal travel in because once the program starts she needs to be ready to work. According to McKoin, many of her assignments will be in Los Angeles, but she has spoken to past program trainees who have been assigned to projects all around the world.
To find out more about the program, watch the video below.
SFTV instructors do a lot when they’re not teaching classes, like shooting documentaries that get picked up by PBS! The Wedge: Dynasty, Tragedy, Legacy, directed and edited by SFTV instructor Ray Greene, has been scheduled for 12 airings on the Southern California PBS affiliate, PBS SoCal, with the premiere on Friday, May 23, 2014.
A deep archival piece filled with rare period film footage and historical photos, the documentary tells the tragic story of one of L.A.’s forgotten founding families, the Rogers of Newport Beach, who paved the Grape Vine and Alameda Street in the early 1900s, and owned the largest construction materials company in the world by 1920. After the scion of the Rogers family died at age 15 in a terrifying boating accident, his father, George Rogers Sr., sold his company and spent the last ten years of his life in a war against the treacherous waterway that claimed his son. Newport Harbor was transformed from the deadliest port of call on the West Coast to one of the finest small boat harbors in America, and a world-famous surf spot, Newport’s Wedge, was born.
The American Society of Cinematographers has honored alumnus Arden Tse (Production – B.A. ‘13) with a nomination for the Linwood Dunn Student Heritage Award for his cinematography in the film The Imperfect Method. According to Tse there were over 150 entries this year. Tse is one of 12 cinematographers from 10 film schools nominated.
The Imperfect Method was shot half in China and half in the U.S. The project itself was a mix of action, comedy, TV-drama, horror and documentary. This presented a challenge to Tse because of the many visual styles he had to shoot, which he believes is part of the reason the ASC took notice.
“I think the mixture of heavy eastern elements, 100s of monks and 200 sheep stampeding the Northern China field, and western culture could be something that is not usually seen in a film at student level,” said Tse. “It’s definitely the most challenging project I’ve ever done but frankly, also the one I had most fun.”
In 2013, Tse was nominated for the Ian Connor Award For Best Cinematography at Film Outside The Frame for his work on Electric Fade.
Lately, Tse has been shooting different projects including films with fellow Lions. He’s recently finished Fairytale directed by Kyle Laffey (Production – ‘14) and Starcrossed a feature film directed by Chase Mohseni (Production – ‘14).
Watch the Trailer for The Imperfect Method here:
There’s no such thing as wasted knowledge. This is a phrase that embodies Linda Gedemer. The part-time Recording Arts instructor, who has been teaching at LMU since 2004, has made a career out of combining education, on the job experience and teaching for 26 years. She will soon have earned her third degree, a PhD in Audio Engineering and Acoustics. This degree is on top of her undergraduate degree in Music Engineering and a Master of Science in Acoustics. She’s also learned on the job designing and building sophisticated audio, video, data and electronic control systems for a wide variety of commercial, educational and entertainment applications, plus she’s an award-winning sound editor.
“When I went into my undergrad, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do and once I was exposed to other areas of audio engineering, I changed my mind,” said Gedemer. “Since that happened to me, I thought that my experience would be a valuable thing for students at LMU.”
Her improvisational course in life has informed her teaching, enabling her to help students find their way in the world of audio and sound. As faculty advisor for the LMU Chapter of the Audio Engineering Society (AES), she regularly invites guest speakers to class where they offer career specific counseling. She said this often leads students to explore new fields and discover their passions at college.
Since RECA students often move from general interest in film and TV audio to game audio or live sound, Gedemer encourages them to take additional classes or outside electives that may not be directly in RECA. “Maybe a student who wants to study game audio will take an elective in computer programming, or I have students who are interested in acoustics who will take an extra class in mechanical engineering or physics,” she said. “They find out how to enhance their RECA curriculum based on the guidance of some of these guest speakers who talk to them about what opportunities and careers are out there.”
Gedemer also sets up student tours with companies such as Harmon/Kardon research facility to give them an up close and personal look at the “real world.” And she organizes networking events like the recent AES mixer that included Grammy Award-winner Andrew Scheps, and advises students to attend the annual AES conventions in San Francisco and New York. “The students will literally save up their money and carpool or travel together to attend these conventions because they realize the value of attending workshops and networking at these conventions.” Through these experiences, students find themselves seeking out new paths and directions of where they want to go in life.
The supplement to a good education is practical experience and this means internships. She actively motivates students to pursue internships as early as sophomore year in order to help them get jobs upon graduation. “The triple threat is a student with a good sound education, a strong work ethic and an internship sitting on their resume at graduation.”
Gedemer is taking her own advice: in addition to teaching and pursing her PhD, she is working as a post-graduate researcher at Harman International in the Acoustic Research department of the Corporate Technology Group, where she is the oldest known intern.