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USC Dedicates Three New Endowed Chairs


USC School of Cinematic Arts, SCA, professors Bruce A. Block, Michael L. Fink and Alex B. McDowell were installed as the first holders of three new endowed chairs in the areas of Cinematic Design, Visual Effects and Production Design, on March 13 at the Cinematic Arts campus. These newly installed chairs were established with the contribution of longtime SCA supporter George Lucas through the George Lucas Family Foundation.

Block was installed in the Sergei Einstein Endowed Chair in Cinematic Design, Fink in the George Méliès Endowed Chair in Visual Effects, and McDowell in the William Cameron Menzies Endowed Chair in Production Design. “In the mold of the filmmakers they are named after, these new chairs represent innovation in the cinematic arts,” said Elizabeth Daley, SCA dean, prior to the dedication. “Bruce Block, Michael Fink and Alex McDowell have each made singular contributions to their fields. They are doing important work in our industry, while simultaneously preparing the next generation of innovative storytellers.”

Most recently, SCA dedicated the Michael Kahn Endowed Chair in Editing, which was funded by Steven Spielberg’s Wunderkinder Foundation. The three new endowed chairs joined a long list of endowed positions from entertainment industry luminaries and companies such as Time Warner, Hugh M. Hefner, The Cecil B. DeMille Foundation, Patricia Hitchcock O’Connell, Ray Stark, Victoria Oakie, Stephen K. Nenno, the Mary Pickford Foundation, Katherine and Frank Price, Marcia Lucas, Electronic Arts, the Dana and Albert R. Broccoli Charitable Foundation, Martha DeLaurentiis, Microsoft, Walter and Marcia Kortschak, Stephanie Rothman, and the Wunderkinder Foundation.

Lucas funded the Kay Rose Endowed Chair in the Art of Sound and Dialogue Editing and, jointly with Spielberg, the Ken Wannberg Endowed Chair in Music Editing and the Conrad Hall Endowed Chair in Cinematography. The total number of endowed positions at SCA is currently at 24, a record for a program in the Cinematic Arts in the country.

The Sergei Einstein Endowed Chair in Cinematic Design is named after the filmmaker and influential theorist, known for introducing the dialectic montage into film. Block’s producing and consulting credits include What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday, As Good As It Gets, Stuart Little and Father of the Bride. Block has worked in motion picture and television production for more than 35 years. He has also directed documentaries and animated films for museums, commercials, the IMAX format, and NASA simulations. Additionally, he’s conducted seminars in visual structure for studios including Blizzard, Blue Sky, Disney, Dreamworks, ILM, Lucasfilm, and Pixar. His book, The Visual Story, has been published in six languages and is employed worldwide.

The George Méliès Endowed Chair in Visual Effects is named after the French illusionist and filmmaker known for pioneering many technical and narrative developments in the early days of cinema. Fink has worked in visual effects for more than thirty-five years. Fink began working in film on The China Syndrome in 1977. Additional credits include Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, Batman Returns, The Golden Compass, Avatar and Life of Pi. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects for Batman Returns in 1993 and won the Oscar in that category in 2008 for The Golden Compass. Fink is on the Executive Committee of the Visual Effects Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and is a founding member, board member and current vice-chair of the Visual Effects Society.

The William Cameron Menzies Endowed Chair in Production Design is named after the first Academy Award winner for Art Direction, who is widely remembered for his work on Gone with the Wind. McDowell has more than thirty years experience as a narrative designer. His credits as a production designer include Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fight Club, Minority Report, Watchmen and Man of Steel. McDowell was a visiting scholar to MIT’s Media Lab from 2006 to 2011. He is a Getty Research Institute scholar and on the Executive Board of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Designers Branch. In 2006, he was awarded Royal Designer for Industry by the UK’s Royal Society of Arts, and in 2013 the Designers & Art Directors President’s Award. McDowell is creative director of USC’s World Building Media Lab and the thought leadership network, USC 5D Institute. He remains a practicing designer, working in multiple media with the company he leads, 5D Global Studio.

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