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ELA Faculty Fall Newsletter
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ELAF-AAUP Interim Executive Board: Dan Viafore (treasurer), Jennifer Vandever (president), and Julian Higgins (vice president)

Letter from the President of ELAF-AAUP

Welcome to the inaugural issue of the ELAF (ELA Faculty)-AAUP newsletter where you’ll find news, updates, and profiles of our faculty.

2016 is an auspicious year for Emerson LA as it marks our 30th anniversary.  My students are sometimes surprised to learn this program existed long before moving to our new location on Sunset Boulevard and so are some of our Boston colleagues.  When I took part in AAUP’s summer institute I met a few fellow Emerson faculty who were surprised to hear I’d been at Emerson for 16 years.  Wasn’t the program only three years old?  "Actually," I told them, "add a zero to that."

Emerson has had an LA presence since the early 1980’s but 1986 was the first year in which Emerson offered a semester-long program under the supervision of Professor Gregory Payne.  1987 marked the establishment of the LA “Center” under the leadership of Geraldine Wallach initially within the Department of Continuing Education.  Wallach remained in that position until 2000 when Jim Lane assumed the role of Executive Director of the LA program in which he served until 2014. 
 
An important part of the ELA narrative that sometimes gets lost is how critical adjunct faculty were in the establishment and ongoing success of the LA program.  Since its earliest years, ELA has relied almost exclusively on LA-based adjuncts.  Currently, part-time adjuncts comprise 95% of the resident faculty.  Our faculty draw from the local entertainment and communications industries and bring with them a wealth of experience, professional connections, and skills.  A third of our faculty have taught at the college for over a decade; our longest serving member has taught here for 21 years.  As one of the longest running programs of its kind, ELA’s longevity and successful expansion owe a great deal to the adjunct faculty who have taught and mentored students with such dedication.  It’s their accomplishments we hope to celebrate and acknowledge in this newsletter.
 
And there is much to celebrate.  In September the ELAF ratified its first union contract which offers access to benefits, increased wages, a grievance procedure and increased campus security.  The contract isn’t perfect but it is a very important first step.  We owe a debt of gratitude for the hard work of our fellow AAUP chapters on the Boston campus in preserving the integrity of the teaching profession and paving the way for our union.  We look forward to working together in making Emerson College a place where educators and students can continue to thrive.

I hope you'll take a moment to read about some of the faculty's accomplishments in the past year and get to know two of our faculty better in our FACULTY SPOTLIGHT.  In this issue we talk with our longest serving faculty member, Brad Lemack and one of our newest, Leticia "Letty" Garcia.

Best wishes for the holidays and the new year,

Jennifer Vandever
ELAF-AAUP Interim President

Visit ELAF-AAUP online at Twitter and Facebook.
 

Faculty News & Updates



Robert Cavanagh
recently published "Time Is Luck: El Modo Procesal, Melodrama, y Michael Mann." The article, translated for the Spanish press Shangrila Ediciones's Michael Mann: Creador a la Vanguardia, traces director Michael Mann's exploration of the procedural mode throughout his career in film and television.  Forthcoming in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues is “Sports As Never Before: Isolating Celebrity Athletes in Football as Never Before, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, and Kobe Doin’ Work.”  This article looks at three poetic documentaries based on the same conceit: the use of multiple cameras to isolate a single athlete during the course of a team game. The article explores the way these films play on the boundary between sports coverage and documentary and foreground aspects of sports that are typically marginalized by dominant aesthetics.  (Robert teaches Satire, Parody, Irony: Case Studies for the Post-postmodern Market, Sports Media Communications, and the Internship Course)

Debra Epstein is a consultant for Tantrum Management, a management company for writers that specializes in underrepresented voices and diversity for representation in television.  (Debra teaches two sections of Pilot Writing for Television)

Julian Higgins served as producing-director on GUIDANCE, a half-hour dramatic thriller series from Awesomeness TV. The show premiered November 14 on Verizon's mobile streaming platform, Go90 (available in the App Store), as well as on television overseas. Julian produced the season and directed seven of the eleven episodes. Earlier this year, Julian's most recent film, WINTER LIGHT – based on a story by bestselling author James Lee Burke – was named a top-ten finalist for the Academy Award for Live-Action Short. The film recently played its 46th film festival and is being distributed on television and streaming by Shorts International. (Julian teaches The Business of Directing and the Internship Course)


Paul Mandelbaum’s short story, “Sochi, 2014,” imagined through the eyes of Vladimir Putin, appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of The Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal and has been reprinted online in The Barcelona Review:  (Paul teaches L.A. Stories and the Internship Course)

Ellen Snedeker is currently writing a feature script, “Sunrise in Memphis,” for Carol Burnett and CBS Films, based on a short story by Carol’s late daughter, Carrie Hamilton.  She is also pitching a horror series, “Postmortem” that she developed with producer Brian Gilbert, and is writing a feature biopic about the artist J.C. Leyendecker. (Ellen teaches Disney Animation: The Magic of Story, Feature Film Story Development, and the Internship Course)

Jennifer Vandever's second novel, American Tango was published in June. Publishers Weekly praised the book as "perceptive, bittersweet, and sometimes darkly funny."  Vandever read from her new novel at ELA in November and answered questions about the novel and writing process for the ELA website.  The book is available online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. She is currently shopping a political comedy screenplay, October Surprise with producer Scott Foster.  (Jennifer teaches Screenwriting Workshop, Women in Film, Screwball & Romantic Comedy and the Internship Course)


Dan Viafore has mixed music on animated feature films Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Road Chip, and The Secret Life of Pets. He's engineered contestant vocals on seasons 10 and 11 of NBC's hit show The Voice, and had the pleasure of recording and mixing fellow faculty member Randy Miller's scores for two feature length documentary films: Eddie Rosenstein's The Freedom to Marry, and Kenneth A. Carlson’s The Heart of Nuba, produced by Maria Shriver. This week he's begun mixing composer Chris Gabriel's score for feature length comedy The Relationtrip. (Dan teaches Music for Writers, Producers, & Directors and the Internship Course)


Laurel Westrup
 published an article over the summer in the journal Projector called "The Long and the Short of Music Video" exploring the history and relationship between music videos and short films with an examination of Thriller.  (Laurel teaches Short Musical Film & Music Video and the Internship Course)

Micah Wright co-wrote and co-directed the feature horror comedy “They’re Watching” available now on Netflix.  He's currently planning the sequel.  (Micah teaches Virtual Reality Filmmaking, one of the first courses of its kind.  Read more about it here.)


 

Faculty Spotlight: Brad Lemack
 
What’s your background?
After graduating from Emerson many years ago, I began my professional career in Boston in television talk and news programming. I came to Los Angeles in the early 1980’s to work as a television publicity executive for pioneering producer Norman Lear. I launched Lemack & Company Talent Management/Public Relations in the mid-1980’s to focus on talent brand development and redevelopment.
 
What’s your current project?
In addition to my client and academic responsibilities, I am at work on a passion project – producing, directing and writing a documentary titled “Actorvism,” which explores the impact and risks of celebrity activism on political and social issues. I’m also working on a revised edition of my book, “The New Business of Acting: How to Build a Career in a Changing Landscape,” due out in spring 2017.
 
How long have you been teaching at ELA?
 For 21 years this semester, since 1995.
 
Which course(s) do you teach?
I teach four courses that I created: “The Business of Acting,” “The Business of the Business,” “ELA UCB Improv” and “Entertainment PR.” I have also taught a section of the Internship class for most of my time at Emerson Los Angeles.
 
Do you teach anywhere else?
 I also teach a strategic communications public relations course and an internship class for the Elon University Los Angeles Program and a course titled “Surviving the Industry” for the MFA Program at California State University, Los Angeles.
 
What’s one of your most memorable experiences teaching at Emerson?
 It’s more of a memorable category for me, rather than one most memorable experience. It’s relationship building – and it’s one of the greatest joys I have experienced as a teacher when a great student transitions from college to the professional world and becomes a trusted colleague and valued friend in the process and as a result.
 
How would you describe the Emerson student?
 There isn’t one, single description that would apply to any group of Emerson students. Having been one, I know for sure that we’re all different. We may all share a passion for expression and achievement, but how we each work to earn that is vastly different. I will say this … I think that we all share a knack for marching to the beat of our own drummer and not being afraid to take on a challenge or a risk in the pursuit of our long-term goals, both personal and professional.
 
Is there a piece of advice you find yourself giving to students frequently?
I frequently talk about career journeys – and that, specifically, each person is on their own, individual path. Don’t fret, stress or envy what you perceive to be an important opportunity when it comes along for someone else; no one has the ability to take away from you something that is meant to be yours. Embrace and support the success of your classmates and friends; you will all rise up in this business together and how joyful it will be to one day open doors for each other when and as you can.
 
Do you have a teaching philosophy? If so, what is it?
 Learning how to apply what you are learning academically to the professional world in which you seek to build and earn your professional career is a key, in-the-classroom philosophy for me. Academics and scholastic preparation are critical, but these lessons and experiences are of little value, in a global sense, unless you also learn how to merge that knowledge with your passion to accept and conquer the challenges that will soon lie ahead in the launching, the pursuit and the growth of a meaningful and well-balanced career.
 
 
Faculty Spotlight: Leticia Garcia

What’s your background?

I’m a Mexican-American SoCal native, growing up in the bicultural borderlands that is the Imperial Valley. I received my M.A. in Shakespeare Studies from the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, UK, where I completed my thesis on spatial identification in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.
 
What’s your current project? Since beginning my doctoral program in the fall of 2012 at UC Irvine, and now beginning my fifth of study, my doctoral work critically examines the implications of Shakespeare in México through a study of cross-cultural artistic exchange between Mexican theatrical culture and Shakespeare as a global industry. My dissertation addresses these relationships in a twofold fashion: first, and primarily, by reading ideas of Mexican national culture that have been produced in politically constrained fields; and second, by remapping a vast—but familiar—terrain of national culture in México. Such a reconstruction, impacts mediated interactions, including exchanges that are conducted with instruments of culture, most importantly in works of literature, and for my interests, theatre.
 
How long have you been teaching at ELA? This is my first semester at ELA and I am so happy and proud to have joined such an innovative, hip crew of educators, practitioners, and artists.
 
Which course(s) do you teach? I’m currently teaching a VM/LI course titled: U.S. Latinx Theatre and Performance. The course examines the emergence of Latinx Performance on stage and screen, in the United States, from the 1960s to the present. Students read plays, view films, and explore the representation of Latinx culture in the media as a potent creative and political force in the United States. Representative works by Latinx playwrights, performance artists, and filmmakers are discussed in light of issues such as labor and immigration, gender and sexuality, generation gaps in Latinx culture, hybridized identities, and interculturalism.
 
Do you teach anywhere else? For the past two years I have taught a course at UC Irvine on the Development of Western Drama. I have also TA’d on courses on the History of Rock and Roll and Shamanism and Performance.
 
What’s one of your most memorable experiences teaching at Emerson? My first group of students at ELA have opened up a new world of thought and possibility for me and my teaching. They have allowed me to develop new lines of inquiry for my field of study that force me to confront the world of theatre in new ways. It’s been a welcome, happy task to work with such fabulous students.
 
How would you describe the Emerson student? The ELA student is hungry with curiosity. They are creative, intelligent, and open to delving into uncharted, unknown territories. 
 
Is there a piece of advice you find yourself giving to students frequently? I am always reminding students that they need to give themselves time to do their work. Rushing through a project will only create anxiety and unnecessary stress. I think it’s important that students try to minimize stress in their academic life. It makes for much happier, committed students.
 
Do you have a teaching philosophy? If so, what is it? My approach to research and teaching is through critical theory and practice, and I am devoted in developing, strengthening these methods in the completion of my dissertation and professional development. I am dedicated to differential learning strategies and enjoy working with students on an individual basis and in groups. In my teaching experience, I have worked with a diverse demographic of students: engineering, international, scientists’, etc. and have been able to integrate varying disciplinary interests to suit our classroom atmosphere. Issues of inclusion are central to my teaching, and one of my pedagogical pillars is devoted to exploring how do texts and performances function to include and exclude individuals and groups, as well as to examine how are texts included or excluded in cultural and canonical formations. My teaching emphasizes the relationship between texts and their historical-political contexts. This pedagogical approach emerges from my research and theatrical experience, which is intensely concerned with the interaction between dramatic text and the theatrical-political collective of bodies, objects, spaces, audiences, sounds, and so forth that is convoked and orchestrated on the performance scene. I find this relationship provokes students to think critically and creatively about texts, dramatic or otherwise, and the interaction of these texts with the contexts in which they emerged, with our cultural moment, and with their own lives. I aim to guide students in understanding texts and performances as embedded in but also provocatively engaged with their historical moments. My task, as an instructor, is to be aware of the emotional and intellectual currents that constantly flow between students and the literature we examine. Of equal importance, however, is that I am attuned to my own effect on the overall atmosphere. My first request of my students is to follow suit: they too, I implore, should not simply read the assignments and listen to my words, but also be aware of their own thoughts and reactions as we sift our way through the semester’s entanglement of history, texts, and theory. My conviction is that, by aiming for this self-responsiveness, we can slice through the assumptions, shortcuts, jargon, and general static that often descend upon university classrooms and reinforce the worst stereotypes of literary analysis. Instead, by becoming responsive, I contend, we can become responsible for our own individual voices—as critics, yes, but also as world citizens.
Copyright ©  2016 ELAF-AAUP, All rights reserved.


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