CCA Film Master Class: Zooming in on Michael Moore

What do filmmaking luminaries Gus Van Sant, John Waters, Barbara Hammer, and Werner Herzog all have in common?

Sure, each has an extensive career and has been honored with any number of prestigious industry accolades (think Oscars, Emmys, Teddys, Golden Globes, Sundance and Berlin Film Festival audience awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, GLAAD Media Awards, Career Achievement Awards . . . even a Filmmaker on the Edge award!).

But did you know each of these world-renowned filmmakers has paid a visit to California College of the Arts within the past three years? It's true. And what brought them to the college? Each was invited by the Film Program to teach a master class.

And they're not the only ones. Check out the complete list of Film master class participants.

(The program hopes to confirm Oakland-based Ryan Coogler, who directed Fruitvale Station, a film he completed at 26, will lead a master class in November!)

Meet Michael Moore

The latest filmmaker to join this impressive list is Academy Award-winning documentarian Michael Moore, who taught a private two-hour master class on Thursday, October 24, in CCA's Carmen M. Christensen Production Stage on the San Francisco campus.

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In keeping with his low-key persona, Moore sported his trademark ball cap and sunglasses. He even wore shorts -- all of which makes this influential filmmaker that much more approachable to students. Moore doesn't have time for pretenses; he's on a mission to save the world by using documentaries to point out injustices. In short, he's pretty awesome.

Moore is indisputably one of America's best-known and most controversial documentarians, whose body of work includes Roger & Me (1989), Bowling for Columbine (2002), Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) (the highest-grossing documentary of all time), Sicko (2007), and Capitalism: A Love Story (2009), among many others.

According to IMDB, Moore is "famous for his provocative populist documentaries that are unapologetic attacks on social wrongs, including those he considers callous business corporations and opportunistic right wing politicians."

Film chair Rob Epstein, himself a two-time Academy Award-winning documentarian, adds, "Michael loved being at the CCA and meeting the students. He told me, 'An art school like CCA is more important than ever to encourage independent thought and creativity. CCA is the Montessori of colleges!"

Cinema Visionaries

On the evening of his visit, Moore led a much-ballyhooed, standing-room-only public presentation in Timken Lecture Hall. This sold-out event was part of CCA's Cinema Visionaries series, a unique lecture series designed to bring film industry luminaries to CCA for public lectures and exclusive Film Program master classes.

The goal of the master classes is to bring to campus celebrated and established industry professionals, where they meet with a smaller-than-average number of students, usually in a private setting and capped at approximately 30 Film students to allow for a truly intimate exchange with the master filmmaker.

The Cinema Visionaries series launched in 2010 with a grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), and is now made possible thanks to the generous support of Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein.

Film Chair Rob Epstein

“The Cinema Visionary series master class gives our students an opportunity to be in direct conversation with internationally renowned filmmakers at the very top of their field,” explains Epstein.

“For students to have the chance to hear from and be in dialogue with such groundbreaking directors as Gus Van Sant, John Waters, Barbara Hammer, Werner Herzog, Lucy Walker, and Michael Moore -- among others -- in such a personal way is life-changing for them.”

Here’s how Dominique Seward, a senior Film student, expressed her appreciation to Epstein: “After the master class yesterday, I asked Mr. Moore if he could attend my jurors film screenings for senior projects. He expressed that he would try, and that he wanted to obtain my work to look at and to show in his film festival that he has every summer in Flint, Michigan.

“I was honored and humbled all at once. He asked if my work was attainable and for the screening schedules as well. Even if he can’t make it, I 'm just so honored that he was so open to my suggestion.

“Yesterday has truly changed my life and impacted me greatly.”

Editor's note: This was not the first time Seward got to see Moore in person. In February 2012, Epstein was invited to attend the third Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences “DOCS!” presentation (aka “Oscar DOCS!”), where in addition to providing the opening remarks, he was also asked to introduce the evening’s moderator: Academy Documentary Branch Governor Michael Moore.

Read related feature »

Young Cinema Visionaries Lecture Series

In addition to the Cinema Visionaries series is the separately funded* Young Cinema Visionaries Lecture Series, which also produces some of the Film Program's master classes -- in addition to public lectures.

Rachel Grady, codirector of Jesus Camp, The Boys of Baraka, 12th & Delaware, and Detropia, kicked off this series in fall 2012.

Mark Your Calendar!
Upcoming is Lucy Walker, twice nominated for an Oscar, who will be at CCA November 12 for both a master class and a public lecture. Her films include Waste Land (2010), a documentary feature that also won over 30 other awards including Audience Awards at both Sundance and Berlin; and The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (2011), about survivors of Japan’s 2011 tsunami, which also won the nonfiction jury prize at Sundance.

Sign up for event and lecture announcements »

New Graduate Program in Film

CCA’s MFA in Film is a laboratory for students to develop their work and a sustainable career, and by extension, to make a real impact on the future of cinema.

Watch the new MFA in Film video »

The new graduate program provides a groundbreaking approach to 21st century film education, unique multidisciplinary culture, and a diverse, award-winning faculty -- ideal conditions for developing thriving practices in today’s media landscape.

Learn more, including how to apply »

About CCA's Undergraduate Film Program

CCA's Film Program is co-chaired by Brook Hinton. Together with Epstein, they ensure the program explores the creative possibilities in expanded narrative frameworks, from linear to nonlinear forms, with the goal of guiding young artists and filmmakers to break new ground in storytelling.

Beginning with a solid foundation in narrative film and production practices, the curriculum advances to place the full range of filmmaking and new media arts practices in dialogue with each other.

Learn more, including how to apply »

Related Links

"10 Questions with Film Chair Rob Epstein" » (from the forthcoming issue of Glance)
Read how Michael Moore changed the rules for Oscar-nominated documentaries »

* Young Cinema Visionaries Lecture Series is made possible by a grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Note: The 2013 AMPAS Film Masters master classes are made possible from a separate AMPAS grant.