Sunday, March 4, 2012

Oscar Welcomes SD High Arts, International Studies Students

San Diego High students
San Diego High students at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills.
How do you motivate students? At the San Diego High schools of Media, Visual and and Performing Arts, and International Studies, you take them to the Oscars, the Oscar symposiums on foreign language films and makeup and hair. A bus full of students and staff left San Diego High at 7 a.m. on Feb. 25,  to go to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences headquarters in Beverly Hills. Arts teacher Arlene Harris has been attending the symposiums for several years. This year as she was considering the event she decided to see if she could get tickets to bring students with her. Kirk Ankeney, Arts and International Studies principal, said, “You get the tickets, I’ll get the bus.” And they did. Arlene decided since she was able to get 40 student tickets to “spread the wealth” and asked three other teachers to join her in inviting students and attending. Daren Sparks teaches digital media, Ian McAvoy teaches drama for Arts, and Philippe Poncey teaches Drama for International Studies. Harris and the other three teachers invited excited film buff students.
Arriving at “Oscar’s house,” they all trooped through the lobby exhibiting “Uncharacteristic” beautiful new photographs of the Oscar nominees. The exhibit is called “Uncharacteristic” since it is of the actresses and actors as themselves, not their nominated film characters.

The symposiums are held in the Academy’s second floor Samuel Goldwyn Theater with state-of-the-art technology and a huge Oscar statue on each end of the stage. The group from San Diego High Arts and International Studies took 52 of the 1,012 auditorium seats.

From 10 a.m. to noon, the foreign film directors took center stage. San Diego High saw Michael Roskam, director of Belgium’s entry Bullhead; Joseph Cedar of Israel’s Footnote; Agnieszka Holland, Polland’s In Darkness; and Asghar Farhadi, Iran’s A Separation. Each director introduced crew sitting in the audience; Farhadi also introduced his film’s leading actor and actress. Holland was the only female director nominated this year.

Several minutes of selected clips were shown of each movie so the audience could know a bit about each project before the discussion began. The directors were asked questions by the moderator, Mark Johnson, chair of the Academy's Foreign Language Film Executive Committee. San Diego High attendees were fascinated to learn how and why the films came to be made, some “insider” info on what happened during the filming. Universally it was heard, “I want to see those” as the symposium ended. Student, Melissa Jasso said, “It was really cool. I’d never seen what actually went into making a movie.”

Onto the bus and over to Farmer’s Market for lunch. Then, back to Oscar’s house.

The makeup and hair artists took the stage from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. by film. Harry Potter #8 was the one most San Diego High attendees were gleefully anticipating. It was the second film presented in the symposium. The three makeup and hair artists showed stills from the transformations into goblins, werewolves, and other characters. They discussed the prosthetics used, the hair pieces—wigs, beards, mustaches. San Diego High learned that it was difficult to keep it all on Hagrid since the actor was usually dressed in wool, physically big, and tended to sweat. Dumbledore’s actor was known to stud his beard with potato chips or other items between takes. Two of the artists worked on all eight films, one on Deathly Hallows, parts 1 and 2.

The first film highlighted was Albert Nobbs. Again the makeup and hair artiss took the stage. But left an empty seat stage right, much to the audience’s confusion. Academy Governor Leonard Engelman happily asked Special Makeups Designer Matthew Mungle if there was anything else. Mungle smiled broadly and announced they would be joined by a special guest -- Glenn Close walked out onto the stage and sat with the artists. The audience stood clapping and thrilled as Close entered. Close was particularly adamant that she needed Martial Corneville to make the wigs for the character of Albert. She had worked with him on other films, the first being 101 Dalmatians with her amazing Cruella DeVille hair.

After Harry Potter #8’s time on stage came The Iron Lady. Again the makeup and hair artist took the stage. But left an empty seat stage right, again. This time, Engelman delightedly nodded and the J Roy Helland introduced his friend of 37 years, Meryl Streep. The roof almost came off the auditorium with the roar of enthusiasm as the audience shot to its feet, wildly clapping in welcome. As everyone took their seats, the two makeup and hair artists discussed Streep’s transformations needed to portray former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Streep said she would not have done the movie without these two particular artists. She began working with Helland in 1982 on Sophie’s Choice.

The next part of the symposium was 10-minute clips from each film, followed by all of the makeup and hair artists on-stage together. This concluded with audience Q&A. San Diego High “Russ” reporter, Mindy Powers was able to ask a question of the Harry Potter artists. “That was totally cool,” according to Mindy.

When the symposium ended, the 1,000+ went downstairs to the Academy’s lobby where there was a light buffet -- good luck getting any food with 1,000 people there -- and, more importantly, displays set up with prosthetics, wigs, photos, bald caps, and more with the makeup and hair artists available for discussions.

At 5:15, San Diego High was on the bus ready to go home. Harris introduced the Academy’s education director to everyone. Randy Haberkamp told the students that they are exactly who he wants to see at the Academy events. He encouraged all of them to get onto and sign up for the activity calendar available by email, that many of the events are $5 to free, some are on weekends. He gave Harris 84th Academy Award posters to be distributed to everyone. The San Diego High group thanked him for making the trip possible, then happily went south toward home.

Staff attending included Arlene Harris and Ian McAvoy, Arts; Theresa Aviles, Arts; Philippe Poncey, Sylvia James, International Studies; Mark Brickley, Harris’ student teacher; Kirk Ankeney, principal of Arts and International Studies.

Harris is already looking forward to the possibility of taking another group of film buff students next year. She’s been promised 50 tickets.

For more information, contact Harris at 619-525-7457, ext. 1103