The creative muse spans east and west

Shiona Mackenzie


Steven J Ross/AOL Time Warner Professor and Dean Elizabeth Daley, and Associate Dean, Academic Affairs, Dr Richard Jewell of the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television (USC) were hosted by CityU, 12 to 17 September. Their itinerary mixed business with pleasure--discussions of ideas for collaboration with CityU's School of Creative Media (SCM) were preceded by sightseeing in Hong Kong and Macau over the week end. They also visited CityU's Applied R & D Centres in Zhuhai, in keeping abreast of infrastructure developments in the region. In 1997 and 1998, they came to CityU as consultants to help set up the SCM, its facilities and programmes.

On this trip, the exchange of views on CityU's Creative Media Centre, the new edifice planned to house the SCM from 2007 on, proved inspiring and Dean Daley was impressed with CityU's SCM. "It's remarkable for the School to have this new facility... I think it's particularly important for the students to know that they're working in a place that is also made by an artist..." she said. "This School is rather unique in Asia. There's no other place that I know of, where students are invited to come and explore the new media and to have a chance to find their own voices, and to be a part of a very important industry to develop... as an intersection for all of Asia. The School's very young and when I look at what's happened here in the last five years, I'm, frankly, amazed. I think it's been a remarkable advance."

The SCM is in a unique position in the world

Dean Daley emphasized the SCM's privileged role in the bigger picture. "Hong Kong now sits in a very unique position in the world, because you are the gateway to Southeast Asia; you're the gateway to the mainland; you easily could be a very important gateway between western culture and eastern culture. One of the ways we are all going to learn to understand each other, probably even more than through our governments, is going to be through the way we tell stories, the way we entertain ourselves and the way we communicate. And that's what this School is about."

Previously, she voiced her hopes for the future of the SCM, "What you want to see come out of this School is people who are going to lead the industry. You're a School where the next generation-the first real generation-of media makers in the new Hong Kong will come from." On several occasions during the six-day visit, Dean Daley expressed pride in the SCM's achievements, "While ideas of five years ago have blossomed here, it's clear that a lot of innovative thinking from within the School itself also has shaped the School as it is now."

Dean Daley has overseen initiatives at USC such as the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts, an all-digital US$15-million production facility, and received a Life Achievement Award from the International Electronic Cinema Festival Tokyo/Montreaux, in 1997. A Member of the Directors Guild of America, she has produced television programs, videos, documentaries and gallery events since the 1970s, published numerous articles and crisscrossed the globe to lecture on creativity, the entertainment industry, interactive media and communications.

Dr Jewell was honoured as Gamma Sigma Alpha Professor of the Year, USC, in 1999. He has published articles and co-authored several feature screenplays and books, such as A History of the Sound Film in America and The RKO Story. In addition, he has consulted on projects by the Universidade Moderna, Lisbon; the University of Texas at Austin; DreamWorks; and the Museum of Modern Art (New York), among others. Dr Jewell sits on a number of accreditation panels and advisory boards around the world, including the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation, for the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and the Education and Training Advisory Board Committee, American Film Institute.

The USC attracts and produces internationally renowned talent

The University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television was established in 1929. Founding faculty included Douglas Fairbanks, D W Griffith, and William C DeMille. Today, the USC is the most prestigious school of its kind, having achieved international acclaim through its quality programmes shaping renowned graduates such as Producer Brian Grazer (A Beautiful Mind), Director George Lucas (Star Wars), Writers Al Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville, Shanghai Noon), Cinematographer Conrad Hall (American Beauty), and many more sound designers, film editors, documentary and independent/avant garde filmmakers, as well as industry executives.

In the SCM Screening Room, 16 September, Dean Daley and Dr Jewell gave a talk on the history of the USC. They described how its ongoing success in attracting and producing talent and industry leaders has been driven by a philosophy of collaboration among both students and staff. The USC upholds a "total film-making approach" in which theory and practice go hand-in-hand, and actively discourages auteurism.

Dr Jewell explained that the deterioration of the studio apprenticeship system of the 1950s and the burgeoning audience for independent films in the 1960s forced Hollywood to look to the universities, such as USC, for talent. Dean Daley elaborated on the USC's approach, underscoring the fact that creative media springs from a great and long continuum of the humanities and that entertainment is no longer marginalized. "The integration of image, sound and text is the way of 21st century communication," she asserted.

The talk was followed by a USC student film, and a brief Q&A session, during which the necessity of multimedia literacy was further expounded, concluding the event.

This visit has led the two schools into considerations of future cooperation via student/faculty exchanges, summer programmes and joint projects. CityU's President, Professor H K Chang summed up, "It has been reassuring to have luminaries Dean Daley and Dr Jewell affirm our School's vision and potential at this important juncture."





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