USC receives Academy of Motion Picture donation

The Academy donated $3 million to the new cinematic arts complex

Steffi Lau, staff writer
Daily Trojan
February 29, 2008

Two days before the 80th annual Academy Awards, the USC School of Cinematic Arts announced it had been given an award of its own by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

"The Academy has an old and unique relationship with the school," said Leslie Unger, the director of communications at AMPAS. "We wanted to continue it as the future moves forward with the new facility."

The Academy donated $3 million to the construction of the School of Cinematic Arts' new complex, a year and a half after filmmaker and USC alumnus George Lucas donated $175 million.

The Academy's extensive grant program donates to film programs around the world, generally ranging from a couple thousand to $20,000, Unger said.

Most of Lucas' $75 million gift has gone to the cost of construction of the new cinema complex, but the rest is going toward the endowment of the school, said Marlene Loadvine, associate dean of the School.

The new complex will cost $100 million, and Lucas has been involved in helping the School obtain the additional $25 million, she said. Lucas approached the Academy, which played a key role in the School's founding, to contribute to the construction cost.

The new complex in expected to be finished in December 2008.

The Academy's relationship with USC began in 1929, when Douglas Fairbanks Sr., the first president and founder of the Academy in 1927, wanted to create a training program for filmmakers to encourage the development of film as a new art form, Loadvine said.

Fairbanks asked schools around the country, including Harvard and Columbia, to help him start a film education program, but none were interested.

Rufus Von KleinSmid, however, who was USC's president at the time and a friend and fencing partner of Fairbanks, was interested.

The two decided to create a lecture series on filmmaking and called it "Introduction to Photoplay."

In Feb. 1929, Fairbanks gave the first lecture of the series to the university's student body in Bovard Auditorium.

The lectures were compiled into a book called "History of Photoplay" and then evolved into a number of film courses.

This led to the creation of a film department, and what would later be named the School of Cinematic Arts, in 1984.

"We consider Fairbanks the founder of our school," Loadvine said. "Next year will be the 81st Academy Awards as well as our 80th anniversary, so we're very much in sync. We grew up with Hollywood. Its growth has paralleled the growth of our school."

Since the founding of the School, a substantial number of USC film graduates have gone on to become members of the Academy, she said. Almost every year since the founding, a graduate of the cinema school has been nominated for or won an Academy Award.

In honor of the relationship with the Academy, the courtyard of the new complex will be named after the Academy, Loadvine said. Additionally, a statue of Fairbanks, commissioned by Lucas, will stand on the site.

"It's important to Lucas for students to come here and know that they are part of a legacy, that we're not just something that cropped up like the iPod," Loadvine said. "It's important to him that when they take courses here, they realize the heritage, that film is an art form that preceded them."

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