Director Robert Zemeckis Funds Digital Arts Center


The School of Cinema-Television’s new Zemeckis Center will offer students experience in high-tech production techniques.

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The University of Southern California recently completed its second most successful fund-raising year ever, surpassed only by fiscal year 1994 ? which included Ambassador Walter Annenberg’s historic gift of $120 million for the creation of USC’s Annenberg Center for Communication.
Total cash raised during fiscal year 1998 was approximately $174 million. That compares with $154 million last year, $128.5 million in fiscal year 1996 and $138 million in fiscal year 1995. In record year 1994, USC received some $225 million from alumni and friends of the university.
This latest success comes on the heels of the announcement that USC raised its sights for the Building on Excellence campaign to $1.5 billion by the year 2000. The initial campaign goal of $1 billion was passed at the end of February 1998 ? two-and-a-half years early.
As of Aug. 31, 1998, the campaign total exceeded $1.113 billion. Among recent gifts to the campaign are the following:

• A $1 million gift from alumni of the USC Marshall School of Business who work at Arthur Andersen LLP and the Arthur Andersen Foundation. The gift will establish MarVEL, a virtual electronic library, at the Marshall School.

•A $75,000 gift from Edison International (formerly Southern California Edison) to the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, to provide scholarship support to NAI graduates attending USC.

Academy Award-winning director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) has donated $5 million to create a digital arts facility for the USC School of Cinema-Television, from which he himself graduated in 1973, Dean Elizabeth Daley has announced.
Almost all cinema-television students will take classes in the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts, which will incorporate the most innovative technical advancements for storytelling to help train the filmmakers and television creators of the future, ensuring them hands-on experience with a variety of high-tech production techniques, Daley said.
“The School of Cinema-Television takes pride in immersing students in the process of producing film and television from day one,” she said, “and with a one-of-a-kind studio like this, we’ll be able to provide the hands-on experience with digital tech-nology that’s so vital in today’s industry.
“This gift is especially appropriate coming from alumnus Bob Zemeckis, whose groundbreaking work with special effects and CGI [computer graphic imaging] has established new technical and storytelling standards.”
Construction will begin in May 1999 on the 20,000-square-foot building, which formerly housed the Colburn School of Music and is strategically located in the Figueroa Corridor, which the city has proposed as a multimedia industry development center. The student television broadcasting service Trojan Vision will continue to occupy part of the building, the first structure to be added to the School of Cinema-Television complex since 1984.
To create versatile facilities capable of embracing technical developments, the building will be completely renovated and new equipment installed at a cost of $15 million. The studio will feature non-linear digital editing and shooting systems, digital stages with motion-control computers, CGI classrooms and multimedia cable connections, a screening room with studio-quality 16mm, 35mm and video projection capabilities, a digital editing “bullpen” with at least 60 stations, suites for digital sound and picture editing, and digital compositing equipment such as a Quantel Domino special-effects workstation.

Director Robert Zemeckis pioneered the melding of animation, live action and special effects into a novel form of entertainment with such films as his Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Contact and the Academy Award-sweeping Forrest Gump, the fourth-largest grossing film ever made.
Zemeckis has maintained strong ties to the School of Cinema-Television and an active interest in encouraging the creative potential of young filmmakers. He has been a popular USC lecturer in past years, is a member of the Cinema-Television Board of Councilors and regularly mentors student projects.
“USC was a great inspiration to me and an important stepping-stone for my career,” he said. “I’m hopeful that what I’m giving back to the university will give students the same opportunities that were afforded me when I was a student.”
Zemeckis joins other entertainment
figures whose names adorn facilities at the school, including Johnny Carson, Cecil B. DeMille, Harold Lloyd, George Lucas, Marcia Lucas, Louis B. Mayer, Steven Spielberg and Ann and Jack Warner.
“Bob is a true innovator,” said George Lucas. “He creates the kind of elegant, breakthrough effects that other directors wish they’d thought of, weaving them seamlessly into his stories. A state-of-the-art center dedicated to Bob Zemeckis is a wonderfully fitting tribute to his legacy.”

Photograph Courtesy
Paramount Pictures

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