Students and peers praise Basinger

ALEXANDER PAYNE, director (“Sideways”):
“I was a big fan of Jeanine’s Anthony Mann book long before I met her. She is one of the five or 10 people who know more about film than anyone on earth. You can ask her anything about film; she’s seen everything and knows everything. And besides, she’s the sexiest woman over 70 I’ve ever met.”

MICHAEL BAY, director (“Transformers”), former student:
“Jeanine was pivotal for me at Wesleyan, especially in solving a crisis with my senior project. After another professor ripped apart my idea (a dramatic short with a rather un-PC commercial flair) and told me I had no future in filmmaking, I went to see Jeanine. She gave me a pep talk, saying, ‘You get up right now and go tell him you’re going to make that movie.’ That’s been helpful to this day.”

JOSS WHEDON, writer (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), former student:
“Jeanine has an insane amount of knowledge, yet she was and is still learning. Unlike other ‘gurus,’ Jeanie doesn’t need adulation; she’s just herself. She’s in evidence in all of my writing, and I still call her whenever I need help. She is a constant in my life — the person for whom I’ll drop everything.”

AKIVA GOLDSMAN, writer (“A Beautiful Mind”), Wesleyan alum:
“It’s extraordinary how her connections to people abide. She’ll always provide a lengthy, thorough, thoughtful and intelligent assessment of your work. Her passion for film is the cornerstone of a good, old-fashioned liberal arts education in its truest sense: You love something first, then you learn to understand it.”

DAISY VON SCHERLER MAYER, director (“The Guru”), former student:
“Jeanine helped me get my first film, ‘Party Girl,’ off the ground, and since then I’ve sought her advice many times. I am most grateful for her encouragement when I decided to take time off to have children. She wants her students to be both professionally successful and personally fulfilled.”

LEONARD MALTIN, film critic, author:
“We’ve known each other since I was a teenager. A few years ago, we went to lunch with June Haver, who opened up about her greatest sorrow: the untimely death of her fiance. Jeanine remembered his name. June was floored.”

JEAN PICKER FIRSTENBERG, president emerita, American Film Institute:
“Jeanine brought her knowledge, intellect and authority to the work of the institute. What was so remarkable was not only her passion for American film, but her ability to describe its cultural influence with both insight and humor.”

ROBERT GOTTLIEB, editor of Basinger’s books “The Star Machine,” “Silent Stars,” “A Woman’s View” and others:
“Jeanine is a serious scholar who really loves the movies, and it shows in the way she writes. She has a deep understanding of genre, for instance, yet she also collects movie-star paper dolls.”

RICHARD SCHICKEL, author, critic, director:
“Jeanine’s books are based on the best kind of research: They’re full of sensible, intelligent analysis, and they are written in the context of their moment and of our moment as an audience.”

LAURENCE MARK, producer (“Dreamgirls”), former student:
“When I first suggested that Jeanine teach a senior tutorial in film studies, she was slightly horrified by the idea — partly, I think, because she thought it might somehow take the popcorn out of the filmgoing experience. And yet, her extraordinary accomplishment has been not only to hang on to the popcorn for all of us but to add wisdom, perspective and insight to every kernel.”

ALEX KURTZMAN, writer (“Star Trek”), former student:
“She’s the best teacher out there: a firm hand, a mother, a friend. When I asked her why I never got an ‘A’ in her class, she said, ‘Of course not. That would have made it too easy for you.’ I think every time I make a movie now, I’m still trying to get that ‘A.'”

ERIC LICHTENFELD: author (“Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie”), former student:
“Jeanine was in the trenches with us. When she assigned our midterm papers, she wrote one, too. When she handed back ours, she would hand hers in as well. When she gave the final exam, an in-class essay, she stayed until the last person was done. My longest time was 13 hours, and I’m pretty sure that’s not the record.”
Lichtenfeld is correct. The record, according to Basinger, is 16 hours.

SAMMY WASSON, author (“A Splurch in the Kisser: The Movies of Blake Edwards”), former student:
“I once told Jeanine that I met a girl I really liked, but there was one problem: We disagreed on a crucial movie. I loved it; she hated it. Jeanine assured me that it didn’t matter, that people disagree about important things and are still very happy together, and then she asked me what the movie was. I said it was ‘Vertigo.’ ‘Dump her,’ she replied.”

ED DECTER, writer (“There’s Something About Mary”), former student:
“Jeanine didn’t teach me how to set up a tripod or focus a lens, but she taught me how to see film. Once in a lecture about the films of Otto Preminger, she was talking about his use of Cinemascope. She showed how he would fill the frame with a lot of elements that competed for the attention of the viewer; he wanted the viewer to decide what to watch onscreen. She compared him to Alfred Hitchcock who, she said, did not like Cinemascope. Hitchcock wanted the audience to look only at the things Hitchcock was pointing his camera at. Every single day I sit down to write a scene or frame a shot I think of this comparison and ask myself, ‘Is this a Preminger scene or a Hitchcock scene?’ And in that way, and thousands of others, Jeanine is with me every single moment of my career and my life. She’s not a professor, but rather a natural force, like the wind or gravity, always influencing the things I do.”

ZAK PENN, writer (“Fantastic Four”), Wesleyan alum:
“Kids who graduate from Wesleyan come to Hollywood to find that the place is like a distant branch of Jeanine’s film department. The community of Wesleyan filmmakers is a subculture, and Jeanine is their Lotte Eisner — the person who connects us all.”

LIZ GARCIA, producer (“Cold Case”), former student:
“Jeanine doesn’t teach you how to succeed in show business. She teaches you who you are. That’s the greatest gift you can give a person arriving in this town — it’s the levee against the flood.”

PHIL ABRAHAM, cinematographer (“The Sopranos”), former student:
“Jeanine made it clear to all her students that looking at great movies was the best way to learn how to make great movies. Screening films by Hitchcock and Sam Fuller and Anthony Mann and Vincente Minnelli was our collective rite of passage. It was sitting in these classes, watching how the form supports the content, and at times even creates the subtleties of the content, that I knew I wanted to be a cinematographer.”

DANIEL EDELMAN, producer (“Seven Out”), former student:
“Jeanine opened our minds to the idea that every movie made is a different world and should be taken on its own terms. She taught us to reinvent the tools and write new rules every time the lights go down. I have many more Wesleyan friends and colleagues today than I did when I was on campus, and they cut across more than three decades of film alumni. What attracts us may be the individual movies that we discovered ‘together’ in Jeanine’s classroom, but what bonds us is the way that each day we view the real world — our own experiences and those of others — on its own terms.”

OWEN RENFROE, director (“General Hospital”), former student:
“Jeanine introduced me to my passion for directing by showing me the works of the masters. The learning was always grounded in what I saw, how I felt and how it was done. She taught me about audience, artist, business, objective vs. subjective presentation, release of information, the art of omission and visual storytelling. I use these tools every single day I walk onto the set to direct a scene — every single day.”

STEPHEN SCHIFF, writer (“Lolita”), former student:
“Jeanine is an unlikely superhero: She writes these wonderful books about the cinema, books that combine wit, readability, critical acuity and scholarship in equal measure. On top of all that, she’s an unusually proficient empire-builder. What she’s accomplished at Wesleyan — not by force but by purring motherly persuasion — is astonishing: the strongest film department in any American university of Wesleyan’s size; a world-class archive that has made itself essential to American film scholarship; a world-class cinema complex that provides students with better film exhibition facilities than are available in all but the largest and most sophisticated American cities; and a community of successful alumni who all cherish the two things they have in common: a prominent place in a very exciting industry, and her.”

ANTHONY WEINTRAUB, writer-producer (“Tekkonkinkreet”):
“For Jeanine, there was little separation between life and art. I remember when a classmate (who didn’t care for musicals) asked her what it meant when someone started singing in one of these films, and she responded with all seriousness, “That’s what people do.” And if you’ve ever heard the story of how she met her husband, John, it’s like something out of a musical.”

ROCKY COLLINS, writer-producer-director (“Pants on Fire”), former student:
“Jeanine was the perfect combination of towering intellect and maternalism. Many years after graduating, I taught a screenwriting class and she gave me some advice. She said, ‘The kids have dreams, and your job is not to tell them how hard it will be to fulfill them. Your job is to let them believe anything is possible. The world will put them in their place soon enough, or not.’ If only all film teachers took the same approach.”

DAVID KENDALL, writer-producer-director (“Growing Pains”), former student:
“You leave Jeanine’s classes with a better understanding of film — as a unique art form, what its potential is and how to discriminate between the crap and the good stuff. And I understand how she communicates that because it works on a cerebral level. But here’s something she does that I don’t get: You leave her classes loving movies — more than you ever did — loving anything made with a moving camera. And that feeling for movies is part of the shorthand that connects a lot of Wesleyan alumni. When you meet somebody who’s been through Jeanine’s program, you know you’re getting somebody who understands film and is also passionate about it. I am always surprised when I find people who work in film and TV who aren’t really movie lovers. But that doesn’t exist among the people who were film majors at Wesleyan. It would be an oxymoron.”

LISA DOMBROWSKI, current Wesleyan film professor, former student:
“What’s so unique about Jeanine and the film studies program at Wesleyan is that they don’t just teach you to understand film, they teach you how to think like a filmmaker.”

DAVID EICHLER, PR-marketing executive, former student:
“Jeanine challenged us to think. And rarely a day goes by where her voice isn’t in my head, guiding me how to do something, approach a problem, work with someone. Aside from my mother and my wife, Jeanine Basinger will always be the most important woman in my life.”

DAN SHOTZ, producer (“Jericho”), former student:
“Jeanine has been a mentor, teacher and friend since my days at Wesleyan. Back then she taught us a lesson that I try to live my life by while working in this business. She would always say, ‘What kind of filmmaker are you going to be if you don’t get your butt out of this dark, dank screening room and go have real life experiences?’ Of course, she forced us to watch films every day and night to learn from the great filmmakers, but she also drove us to go live life to its fullest.”

DAN SILVERBERG, assistant director (“Hairspray”), former student:
“It was in Jeanine’s class that I learned the line, ‘All that matters is how it looks on the screen.’ She repeated this over and over, and it has resonated ever since. Now working as a first a.d., I make my living getting a movie done on schedule and on budget, but I never forget the importance and permanence of the final product that will be seen in the theater.”

“One thing that makes Jeanine special is her accessibility. She encourages you to call her when you need something or if you just want to talk. You, a curious college student, get the same treatment as her most successful, famous friends. She is also a wonderful storyteller. A fleeting comment or detail will remind her of a night she spent with Nicholas Ray or Frank Capra.”

DIANE KOLYER, documentary producer-director (“The Music in Me”), former student:
“In Jeanine’s classes, we learned how to look at movies, how to understand them and, in the end, how to understand ourselves — as students, as artists, as writers, as thinkers, as spectators, as consumers, as participants, as individuals. It was all there in the screening room, the curriculum of a lifetime.”

“Jeanine teaches film with a combination of a scholar’s seriousness, a fan’s passion and her own unique humor. (Her tongue-in-cheek lecture on Bugs Bunny’s use of comedy storytelling is a classic.) She can expound with equal and immediate insight on movies as different as ‘Notorious’ and ‘Skirts Ahoy!’ for she knows that each has something instructive to offer if seen with open eyes and ears. ‘We are what we see,’ she once said. ‘And we all see different things.’ ”

DANIELLE WOODROW, VP of current programming for FX (“The Riches,” “Rescue Me”), former student:
“Of all the lessons I was lucky enough to receive from Jeanine in her classroom, the one that has had the greatest impact on my career involves the time Jeanine almost killed the senior filmmakers for requesting an extension on our senior seminar paper. Brain-dead from too many hours at a flatbed and worried about deadlines, we figured a couple of extra weeks was a reasonable proposal. Needless to say, she didn’t go for it. In fact, she strongly suggested we get our heads checked instead. I could list the influences of Jeanine’s transformative lectures in almost everything I do creatively in my job. But it’s the work ethic she insisted on that allows me to exercise those skills in the first place. While my senior film sits deep in the back of my closet, the art of multitasking and prioritizing and just getting stuff done stays with me.”

LOUIE MAGGIOTTO, director (“America’s Most Wanted”), former student:
“Jeanine instilled confidence into each of us. She made us feel like we were not only getting all the tools we needed to succeed, but that we each had the unique gifts. There must be hundreds of former students that think they each are ‘one of her best students.’ It’s kinda become an in-joke among some of us.”

MATTHEW GREENFIELD, senior VP, Fox Searchlight (who has collaborated with Wesleyan grads Miguel Arteta, David Kendall, Paul Weitz, Daisy von Scherler Mayer and Mike White):
“When I was producing films with Miguel, Jeanine would give us creative input on the script, the editing, the whole process. And she fostered an amazing sense of community, both in the classroom when you’re in school and long afterward. Almost every project I’ve worked on has involved Wesleyan people.”

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