HOLLYWOOD — Biola University’s acclaimed Cinema and Media Arts Program (www.biola.edu/cinema-and-media-arts-ba) recently sponsored a Studio Task Force Dinner at CBS Studios in Los Angeles with special featured guest speaker, Batman executive producer Michael Uslan. An industry legend who’s on the forefront of film and television development and content exchange with China and Korea, Uslan is a true fanboy-turned-producer — and the bestselling author of "The Boy Who Loved Batman," and the just-released Comic Book series "Lone Ranger / Green Hornet" published by Dynamite Entertainment.
The evening was hosted by Jack Hafer, CEO of Boulevard Pictures and CMA’s director of special projects, and high-profile invited guests included Biola alumni including director Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange), producer Matt Malek (Scorsese’s Silence, and To The Bone starring Keanu Reeves), director Michael Carney (upcoming Paramount feature, Same Kind of Different As Me) and Vine and YouTube star Zach King.
Hafer noted that the Studio Task Force event was “a very special opportunity to be able to have someone at the level of Michael Uslan speak to the CMA program at Biola University. He brings such a wealth of experience, expertise and connections. The audience, which included donors, partners, students and faculty, feel connected to the industry and gain insights from its major players which inspire and equip them to face the real challenges and demands of the industry.”
Snagging major player Uslan as the speaker was a major coup, adds Hafer. “Whenever you have Michael Uslan speak, he brings much more than industry wisdom. He brings everything encased in a narrative of a boy who grew up with a dream and actually got to achieve it. This is the story we all want for ourselves. So the audience is hanging on every word. We would have Michael back even a week later, and can’t get enough of him. He’s simply one of the most entertaining speakers you’ll ever hear.”
Uslan spoke at length about the increasing globalization of the movie industry and upcoming Asian partnerships, pointing out that, “The times they are a changin' and we need to be producing global content capable of playing across not only borders but cultures, as well, and not simply continue to make movies for American high school and college boys who play video games. To do this effectively, we have reached out to our friends in China and in South Korea, with whom we have spent years cultivating friendships and trust. We come to the table as full partners in this mutual goal. In China alone, we will have the potential of reaching 1 1/2 billion new consumers for what we do.” Looking ahead to new Batman projects, he reports that next for the multi-billion dollar franchise is the February 10 release of The LEGO Batman Movie. This November, Justice League will arrive in theaters. In between, some terrific animated Batman movies will be coming direct to DVD with some appearing first theatrically.” Uslan also talked about the impact of new technology and, in particular, the rapidly approaching future of virtual and augmented reality. “The best way I can describe the immediate future of virtual reality and augmented reality is that we are akin to Hollywood in the year 1925,” he explains. “In 1925, there was lots of ‘talk’ about this upcoming thing called ‘talkies,’ which most people dismissed as some gimmick or fad. If as a producer in Hollywood in 1925 you were not yet engaged in that technology with the right company, by the year 1927 when The Jazz Singer premiered, you would be irrelevant as a producer and your company would be bankrupt. That is what I believe will be the impact of virtual reality and augmented reality within two short years from now.”
After a lively Q&A session with Uslan, Hafer wrapped up the event by addressing the year ahead for CMA. “The Cinema and Media Arts program at Biola is growing in all ways — in enrollment and in new programs with additional high-profile faculty,” he reports. “We just invested a million dollars in new equipment, an enlarged facility is planned and a new Graduate Program is scheduled to be launched by fall of 2018. Our internship program — which is one of the best in the country — is based in our close relationships with top studios and production companies. The relevance of our programs and level of talent being produced is also reflected in the recent achievements of several of our alumni, including Scott Derrikson, Vine and Youtube sensation Zach King, Universal Theatrical Division executive Chris Herzberger, and former Sony Imageworks executive and current vice president at Lucasfilm, Rob Bredow — just to mention a few success stories.”
Meanwhile, Hafer adds that Boulevard Pictures has “seven upcoming TV and film projects we are just about to announce. One of the projects, Thirty-Eight, is with Matt Malek who just produced the recent Scorsese film Silence.