“Four Friends” give million-dollar gift to film and video studies

October 13, 1998
Contact: michigannews@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—Two components of the University of Michigan’s Program in Film and Video Studies will benefit from a $1 million gift from the Four Friends Foundation.

Robert Shaye, a U-M alumnus and founder of the Foundation, says the gift was made to “launch what we hope will become the premier screenwriting program in the country.” The gift honors two professors who influenced Shaye during his undergraduate years at U-M.

The gift will make possible the Donald Hall Collection, named for poet Donald Hall who taught at U-M in the ’60s and ’70s. The Collection will provide a library of scripts and tapes of motion pictures made from these scripts. Equipment for viewing these movies will also be made available. The gift also provides for a librarian to build and oversee the Collection.

The second aspect of the gift will be the James Gindin Visiting Artists and Master Classes Program, named for a former professor of English at U-M. This program will bring two to four working screenwriters to campus each term to hold one- to two-week seminars and conduct master classes for students who have completed at least one screenplay.

“Studying with screenwriters who are currently working in the business will provide a tremendous opportunity for our students,” says Gaylyn Studlar, director of U-M’s Program in Film and Video Studies. “We have excellent students and a dedicated and talented faculty. The gift from the Four Friends Foundation gives us the extra we need to offer a really outstanding screenwriting program.”

Jim Burnstein, coordinator of the Program’s screenwriting curriculum and a working screenwriter, notes that “the talent, discipline, and attitude of the students I teach is truly inspiring. When they have the chance to study with some of the best screenwriters in the country, many of them will become very skilled with this medium.”

The first screenwriter scheduled to participate in the Gindin Visiting Artists Program is Kurt Luedtke, Academy Award-winning screenwriter of “Out of Africa.” “Michigan’s screenwriting program is special,” he says, “in part because Burnstein is a superb teacher, but also because the university offers an excellent environment and lots of support for young writers. Add to this the opportunity to work with the best in the business, and you have an outstanding program for anyone interested in becoming a screenwriter.”

Several students from U-M’s screenwriting program have found success in the past year. Adam Herz sold his “East Grand Rapids High” to Universal Studios. Daniel Shere sold “Goat Cheese is Dead” to United Artists, and Craig Silverstein optioned his “Hungry” to Go Girl Entertainment with Bryan Singer, director of “The Usual Suspects,” agreeing to produce.

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