UCLA unveils high-profile advisory panel

Some of show business’s most powerful figures signed on this week to a new board of advisers at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television, assuring its stature as one of the nation’s top schools for industry-related studies.

The executive committee of the new board, appointed by the school’s dean, Gilbert Cates, includes co-chairs Michael Ovitz, Debbie Allen, Quincy Jones, Sherry Lansing, Ron Meyer, Rick Nicita and Jack Rapke.

“I think recent efforts that we’ve made for this school reflect the importance with which the university holds this entire department,” Cates said yesterday, shortly after holding his first meeting with his new board of advisers.

Also sitting on the board are Jeff Berg, Peter Guber, Peter Chernin, Warren Cowan, Samuel Goldwyn Jr., Warren Littlefield, Mike Medavoy, Tom Pollock, Rob Reiner, Jeff Sagansky, Martin Scorsese, Jack Valenti, Larry Gelbart, Norman Lear , James Earl Jones, Mark Canton, Bob Daly, Sally Field, Larry Gordon, Tom Hanks, Fred Hayman, Barry Hirsch, Bob Iger, Jerry Katzman, Edward James Olmos, Jerry Perenchio, Henri Petit, Cecilia DeMille Presley, Leonard Rabinowitz, Terry Semel , Sylvester Stallone, Irwin Winkler and Bud Yorkin.

“It’s only been recently that this department was given a school status,” Cates said. “That has put it up with the same level as the school of medicine, the school of law, the school of dentistry and so on. That was the first step.”

The creation of this board of advisers forges a direct and powerful link with the entertainment industry, one that goes far beyond UCLA’s earlier ties with its more famous alums.

Cates said he is designing a new program for the school whereby students will study all three disciplines–theater, film and TV– as opposed to concentrating on one.

“Up to now, I think you found that most film students believed that theater students were studying a dead art,” he said. “And most theater students felt that those studying film were superficial people looking to just make money.”

Cates said the reality of how the business operates, the fact that many industry professionals write, direct or act in several disciplines, prompted him to make the school operate on a similar basis.

“Neil Simon doesn’t just write for the stage,” he said. “He also writes for film and television, and so do many others.”

Cates said such meshing of programs “has, to my knowledge, not been tried anywhere else in the country.”

As for his appointment of the advisory board, which took him a year to accomplish, Cates said his goals are fourfold. “First of all, I’m looking for some kind of interaction with these board members as to what we’re teaching and what the professional community is looking for from our graduates,” he said.

He also wants the board–and the studios and production companies and theaters that they represent–to be unofficial mentors to the students.

Third, the board will be a “resource development” link for the university. In other words, they will help in fundraising, but Cates said this is not a high priority.

Finally, the board will give the state-run school the kind of muscle that could be helpful when it comes to battling it out with politicians, especially as state officials look for ways to slice away at the university’s budget.

“Let’s just say that if the governor gets a letter from this board, he’ll look at it carefully,” Cates noted.

This move comes on the heels of UCLA’s recent decision to buy the Westwood Playhouse (Daily Variety, Jan. 18), located across the street from the campus. Cates’ department will administer seasons there that offer professional work for the public and at the same time provide an arena for academic study.

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