The Hollywood Reporter, one of the entertainment industry’s most esteemed publications, has made it a happy summer at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, having selected both the School of Drama and the School of Filmmaking as among the best in the nation.

In its Aug. 14 issue, THR published its selection of “The Top 25 American Film Schools,” and UNCSA’s School of Filmmaking ranked 11th, its highest-ever placement on the publication’s annual list, which was inaugurated in 2011. Other notable industry publications, including Variety, MovieMaker, and The Wrap, have also lauded the School of Filmmaking.

The issue features an interview with outgoing School of Filmmaking dean Susan Ruskin, who recently accepted the position of dean and executive vice-president of the American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory in Los Angeles. (The AFI ranked fourth on THR’s list.)

“The reason for film schools is you truncate the process of learning and create a safe space for people to find their voices,” she said. “We can be the sandbox that everybody experiments in. We can say (to the studios) ‘Come play with us,’ because this is the generation that is going to be creating content.’”

Filmmaker Brett Haley (I’ll See You in My Dreams, The Hero, and the upcoming All the Bright Places), who graduated the School of Filmmaking in 2005, added that he thought the school’s principal attraction is its size. “You’re in this small town, and you’re surrounded by artists, and you’re just focused on that.”

The article described the School of Filmmaking “a tiny Southern film school,” consisting of 890 undergraduates and 152 graduate students, and highlighted its 30,000-square-foot New Media Building, which houses the departments of animation, production design, motion capture, gaming, digital design, and visual effects, as well as the two new MFA programs in creative producing and screenwriting.

Associate Dean Henry Grillo was recently named interim dean of the School of Filmmaking for the 2019-’20 academic year.

In June, THR ranked the UNCSA School of Drama as among the Top 5 undergraduate theater programs in the world. This is the third consecutive year that the School of Drama was so recognized by the magazine.

“This is a great honor for our School of Drama,” former UNCSA chancellor Lindsay Bierman said. “The Hollywood Reporter speaks to industry insiders, and the recognition reaches influencers. Dean Scott Zigler and his faculty are providing world-class education and training for actors who will shine on stage and screen.”

This is only Zigler’s second year as dean, and he has fashioned a program that teaches entrepreneurship as well as acting and directing.

“Students who study acting today are going to have careers spanning many platforms, and our training is meant to prepare them for all opportunities – theater, film, television, web content, and even forms of media content we may not have seen yet,” he said. “Our alumni are entrepreneurs whose creativity and originality create opportunities throughout the industry. They are finding early success on a variety of platforms.

“Our alumni are known for their top-quality acting skills, their strong discipline and work ethic, and their versatility – the qualities you would expect from rigorous conservatory training. We want graduates of the UNCSA School of Drama to be as respected for their discipline and professionalism as they are for their talent and artistry.”

Applications to the School of Drama reached a new record for the class of 2023, with 915 applicants to fill a class of 32 – a 25% increase over 2018.

For more information about all the goings-on at UNCSA, visit the official website.

See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2019, Mark Burger.

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