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Film News Roundup: Paul Allen’s Vulcan Productions Backs Oliver Sacks Documentary

In today’s film news roundup, Paul Allen comes on board an Oliver Sacks documentary, the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival unveils its lineup, and animation veteran Teresa Cheng gets a USC post.

DOCUMENTARY BACKING

Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions is backing the documentary “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life” in partnership with Steeplechase Films, American Masters Pictures, Motto Pictures, Passion Pictures, and Tangled Bank Studios.

Directed by filmmaker Ric Burns (“New York,” “Andy Warhol”), the film attempts to provide an exploration of human consciousness and the intimate relationship between art and science. Burns shot footage in the months before Sacks died in 2015, including more than 80 hours with the physician himself, his partner, and his closest family, friends, and colleagues.

Allen and Carole Tomko, general manager of Vulcan Productions, are executive producers of “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life,” along with Julie Goldman of Motto Pictures and Michael Kantor of American Masters Pictures. Vulcan said Friday that the film is part of its commitment to the advancement of brain science. Allen is the founder of the Allen Institute for Brain Science and has contributed more than $500 million toward efforts to answer questions in neuroscience.

“We’re so thrilled to be in partnership with Vulcan, whose incredible commitment to science and storytelling, understanding and human connection, we felt a profound affinity with,” says Burns. “Oliver Sacks was an ecstatic voyager — a brilliant and intrepid researcher into the remotest and most inscrutable reaches of the human mind and experience — an explorer on a lifelong quest for consciousness, connection, understanding.”

Sacks wrote “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” “An Anthropologist on Mars,” and “Awakenings,” which inspired the 1990 feature film starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams.

FILM FESTIVAL LINE-UP

The Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival has scheduled Susan Froemke’s “The Opera House” as its opening night film on Nov. 30 in Sag Harbor, N.Y., Variety has learned exclusively.

The closing night film on Dec. 4 will be “Killer Bees,” Ben and Orson Cummings’ look at the world of the Bridgehampton basketball team as they prepare to defend their state championship title. The festival’s Friday night spotlight film will be Susan Lacy’s “Spielberg” and the Sunday night spotlight will be “Letters From Baghdad,” exploring Gertrude Bell’s life and her impact on society following World War I, from directors Sabine Krayenbuhl and Zeva Oelbaum.

Documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus, whose work includes “Love, Marilyn,” “Bobby Fischer Against the World,” and “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” will receive the Lumiere Career Achievement Award at the festival’s gala on Dec. 2. The ceremony will be followed by a conversation with the director and a screening of one of her films.

Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Helen Whitney, director of “Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death,” will receive the Filmmaker’s Choice Award.

UNIVERSITY APPOINTMENT

Veteran animation executive and producer Teresa Cheng has been appointed the new chair of the John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Cheng replaces Professor Tom Sito, who served as chair of the division for three years.

Jeffrey Katzenberg said, “As a member of the School’s board, I couldn’t be happier that Teresa will be leading the division. We worked together at DreamWorks for 17 years, so I know how well she mentors creative talent and understands the animation business on a global scale. She’ll be a great asset to students as they prepare for the professional world.”

Cheng most recently served as the general manager of Lucasfilm Singapore and previously oversaw production for the joint venture between DreamWorks Animation in the U.S. and the newly established Oriental DreamWorks in Shanghai. Feature film credits include “Shrek Forever After,” “Madagascar,” “Batman & Robin,” and “True Lies.”

During her 17-year tenure at DreamWorks, Cheng traveled extensively to evaluate CG studios in Shanghai, Nanjing, Taipei, Seoul, Mumbai, Bangalore, Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. Cheng also worked in visual effects at Warner Bros., Rhythm & Hues, and Digital Domain.

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