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MICA Aims to Make Baltimore a Filmmaking Powerhouse; Launches M.F.A. in Filmmaking in Film Center with JHU

MICA’s M.F.A. in Filmmaking Is Enhanced by JHU and Maryland Film Festival Partnerships

Posted 08.06.14 by MICA Communications

Filmmaker Tarek Turkey shooting the Wall Hunters project for documentary "Vacant View." Photography by Julia Pitch.

BALTIMORE--MICA will launch its M.F.A. in Filmmaking in fall 2015 in 10 E. North Ave., the future home of the MICA and Johns Hopkins University (JHU) film center. The center, located in Baltimore's Station North Arts and Entertainment District, represents the colleges' commitment to offer nationally competitive filmmaking programming by combining complementary strengths. Further enhanced by a Maryland Film Festival (MFF) partnership, the new MICA M.F.A. program continues the College's tradition of creating groundbreaking educational programs at the forefront of emerging art and design practices by responding to a technology-driven realignment and democratization of the film and media industry.

"MICA is committed to helping define Baltimore as an international center for filmmaking," said Samuel Hoi, MICA president. "We aren't thinking small. Our aim is to create a nexus that enables all of the region's film, cinema and animation resources to achieve synergy and grow dramatically."

MICA's M.F.A. in Filmmaking has been designed to take advantage of a revolutionary shift in the industry that reframes the ways films are distributed, produced, funded and consumed. In addition to teaching practical filmmaking skills, the curriculum positions students to play a vital role in developing new cinematic communities and building a sustained filmmaking career anywhere in the world-including Baltimore, itself a burgeoning location for films such as Lotfy Nathan's '09 documentary 12 O'Clock Boys, and shows such as HBO's Veep and Netflix's House of Cards.

"The M.F.A. in Filmmaking emphasizes collaboration and sustainability. Filmmaking is a team sport with a number of key creative positions, including director, writer, editor, producer and cinematographer. One person cannot do everything, so the program fosters teamwork," said Patrick Wright, director of MICA's M.F.A. in Filmmaking and chair of the undergraduate Film and Video Department. "The industry is changing, and one has to be smart and flexible to sustain a career in filmmaking."

Students from MICA and the JHU undergraduate Film and Media Studies program will share a state-of-the-art center located steps away from MFF's future home of the MFF Parkway Film Center. Together this collective network gives students access to faculty and resources from two world-class educational institutions as well as connections to the professional world of international films and filmmakers.

Over the years, the MFF partnership with MICA has introduced students to blue chip filmmakers, including Barry Levinson, Alex Gibney, Ellen Kuras and D.A. Pennebaker. The MFF Parkway Film Center will host public independent, international cinema screenings throughout the year while also offering programming targeted to the academic community, such as visiting filmmaker talks, seminars and reviews.

"The timing is perfect for the MFF Parkway Film Center and new MICA and JHU academic film programming because the changes in the industry are such a new development in the history of cinema," MFF director Jed Dietz said. "Technology is helping film as an art form expand. The three institutions-MICA, JHU, the Maryland Film Festival-get it. It's a big deal, what's happening in the industry and what's happening here. It's going to change everyone involved, and it's going to change Baltimore."

MICA's M.F.A. in Filmmaking allows students to pursue a personalized curriculum while learning all aspects of filmmaking. The curriculum integrates a broad understanding of cinematic history with diverse technical experience-from generating ideas and writing to production, post-production and delivering a film to its intended audience. The program has an emphasis on the business of filmmaking and is ideal for students interested in visual storytelling in either nonfiction or fiction, with first year students working on short film projects and crewing for second year student thesis films.

"The goal is for film students from both MICA and JHU to work on projects together, to have access to classes in both programs and to form the same kind of collaborative environment we've created in the past," said Linda DeLibero, director of the JHU Film and Media Studies undergraduate program, which will also be housed at 10 E. North Ave. "Working together under one roof means that we'll finally have what we've dreamed of for a decade: a hub of collective filmmaking and film education that draws on the best of what each school has to offer."

The M.F.A. in Filmmaking builds on a 15-year history of developing successful filmmakers in the undergraduate Film and Video Department at MICA and the filmmaking concentration, offered in partnership with JHU's undergraduate Film and Media Studies program. Recent MICA alumni mentored by the film and video program include: Abbi Jacobson '06, co-creator of the Comedy Central show, Broad City, which premiered in 2014 and has been renewed for a 10-episode second season; Nathan, whose 12 O'Clock Boys opened at SXSW and aired recently on Showtime; and Errol Webber '08, who became the youngest cinematographer ever to shoot an Oscar-winning film when the documentary short, Music by Prudence, won in that category.

Wright, leading the new MICA M.F.A., has screened films internationally and co-produced the 2010 Oscar-winning short documentary, Music by Prudence, and made films on HIV/AIDS, clergy sexual abuse and Ann Coulter, one of the most controversial political commentators of our day. Wright recently worked as editor on the 2012 feature documentary, See You Soon Again, about Baltimore-based Holocaust survivor Leo Bretholz, and he is currently editing a documentary on a high school located in a traditionally urban Appalachian neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Eliza Hittman, the filmmaker in residence during the MICA program's inaugural year, is an award-winning filmmaker, born and based in New York City. Her critically acclaimed debut feature film, It Felt Like Love, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in NEXT and the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Tiger Awards Competition in 2013. It Felt Like Love was featured in the 2013 Maryland Film Festival, and Hittman participated in a MFF screening at MICA in 2014. She was recently named one of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Film.

The film center further expands MICA's presence in and commitment to Station North-one of the nation's first state-endorsed Arts & Entertainment Districts. MICA's graduate facility Fred Lazarus IV Center (131 W. North Ave.), now including the adjacent building at 1801 Falls Road, resides in the heart of the arts district.

The MICA/JHU collaboration, which found common ground in the restoration of an historic movie theater, is consistent with the recommendations of the Homewood Community Partners Initiative, a collaboration of communities, universities, businesses and civic groups aimed at strengthening 10 central Baltimore neighborhoods.

Image caption: Filmmaker Tarek Turkey shooting the Wall Hunters project for documentary Vacant View. Photography by Julia Pitch.

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 65 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. Redefining art and design education, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.