A New Approach to Film and Media Education, In Partnership with UC Irvine

MediaU is setting out to do something different than traditional film schools. Something different, and something better. Real-world trial and feedback are central to this educational paradigm, and that’s just what MediaU is seeking out with its pilot course.

“The first course we’re doing is called Directors & Actors: Casting!,” MediaU founder Adam Leipzig tells me. Leipzig is thrilled to be working in partnership with respected film industry professionals and with the prestigious University of California, Irvine, which is an accredited institution within the University of California system. Students who complete the course will earn three credits through UCI Division of Continuing Education.

So is the course aimed at directors or at actors? The answer is in line with MediaU’s novel and holistic approach: it’s for BOTH actors AND directors , not to mention casting directors, as well as anyone invested in learning what makes for a great casting experience.

“It’s about the audition process,” says Adam. Actors who take the course will observe and practice skills that will help them to show up at an audition and be great in the room. Forming a connection with the director is key, Adam notes, and it’s critical that actors understand “the ways that they are coequal in the audition process, and how to approach auditions and callbacks well.”

Directors, meanwhile, will take away vital lessons about how to create a relationship with the actors and make the best casting decisions for their project.

As instructor Peter D. Marshall, whose Making the Magic Happen: The Art and Craft of Film Directing serves as the textbook for the course, says, “I firmly believe that the casting process directors learn from this course will make them a better ‘actor’s director,’ enabling them to find, audition, and cast the best actors for a role – actors who will be able to give them the ‘magic performance moments’ all directors look for.”

Adds Adam, “The audition process is so important, because casting your project well is really 80 to 90 percent of the success of the project.”

So why focus on casting for the pilot course? Simple, Adam tells me: “We chose it because we think it’s a really fun course, and nobody else is doing it.”

Creating the course was a blast for Peter too. He says his favorite part of creating the pilot course, “was the studio day when we shot all the auditions and callbacks with our four wonderful actors. I didn’t want it to end.”

Following  a successful pilot launch, Directors & Actors: Casting! will be the first of three in a sequence of courses focused on the partnership between directors and actors. The second course explores that partnership in the rehearsal process, and the third will be about directors and actors in production, on the set. In addition to course credits from UC Irvine Continuing Education, MediaU students will earn a certificate — in this case, “Directors & Actors: Working Together” — after completing three specialized courses in a particular area, along with two Foundation Courses, which Adam aptly describes as, “really practical information that everybody should have in order to be in the media business.” Learners choose between Storytelling & Narrative, Production Planning and Management, or Business & Ethics. Better yet, they can take all three. An additional course offering will focus on creative entrepreneurship, a subject Adam understands well.

“We’re not going to be the people who say,’Here’s a course on how to operate a camera.’ If you want to figure out how to operate a camera, we’re happy to help you, but you can look at the owner’s manual, or go to YouTube, and you’ll learn how to operate a camera. We’re trying to offer process experiences.”

Those hands-on, trial-and-error learning experiences, developed and guided by real, working professionals, with the support and partnership of UC Irvine, are the hallmark of MediaU, in the pilot course and beyond.

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Marissa Flaxbart

Author Marissa Flaxbart

Marissa Flaxbart is a writer, creative, and development consultant for film and television who lives and works in Los Angeles.

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