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Arts & Entertainment

    Creating 'Coco'

    He may not have shed any tears, but Daniel Arriaga was clearly emotional as he talked about his full-circle journey from a wide-eyed Academy of Art University student to now a senior director at Pixar Animation Studios. 

    “This is a real dream come true to be back here at my school,” Arriaga said. “To be able to stand here is really the moment I can say ‘I made it.’”

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    Humor and Poignancy Meld in School of Acting's Production of 'This'

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    In the chair: Roman Reyes (Tom) and Tiffani Williams (Marrell). On the sofa: Carlos Carrillo (Jean Pierre); Zoe Foulks (Jane) and Mario Mazzetti (standing). Photo by Bob Toy.

    At first glance, the lives of the four smart, urbane college friends in Academy of Art University’s School of Acting’s recent production of This look as bright as the lights of New York City, the play’s setting. But as Melissa James Gibson’s Obie award-winning play unfolded at the 620 Sutter Street Theatre, the audience quickly grasped that wasn’t the case. Teetering on the brink of middle-age, none of the characters are thrilled with the view. The play brims with witty dialogue that drew lots of laughs from the audience. But the more serious notes of disappointment and regret that permeate This were equally compelling.

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    School of Acting’s 'This' explores friendships and infidelity

    The five young actors in Academy of Art University’s upcoming production of This, might not seem to have much in common with their older characters in the Obie award-winning play by Melissa James Gibson. This revolves around four long-time, seemingly successful friends—and one new acquaintance—on the cusp of middle age who are having some regrets about the paths they’ve followed. When two of the characters commit adultery, all of them must examine their friendships and their lives.

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    Five Questions With 'Lady Bird' Writer/Director Greta Gerwig

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    Saoirse Ronan and Greta Gerwig on the set of Lady Bird. Photo by Merie Wallace. Courtesy of A24.

    Greta Gerwig has found what she loves doing the most in her field of work: Directing. “It’s the happiest I’ve ever been,” Gerwig shared during the San Francisco stop of the press tour for Lady Bird, her solo directorial debut.

    The film, also written by Gerwig, follows a Sacramento-based high school senior Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who goes by the self-given name of Lady Bird, and is ready to fly the coop, so to speak, for college on the East Coast. Throughout the course of the school year, the headstrong Lady Bird deals with many of the things people go through as teenagers, from experiencing her first love to having a falling out with her best friend along with regular back and forth arguments with her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), an overworked nurse. Powered by stand-out performances from Ronan and Metcalf, Lady Bird is a relatable coming-of-age film, that unfolds beautifully on-screen, dealing with the everyday frustrations and realizations of growing up.

    Gerwig, who received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Frances Ha and was most recently on the big screen in 20th Century Women and Jackie, is already receiving well-deserved Oscar buzz for Lady Bird. Academy Art U News sat down with the actress, writer and director to find out more about her much-lauded film, including how the mother-daughter chemistry developed between Ronan and Metcalf and what she found to be the most rewarding aspect of making Lady Bird.

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    Capturing Real Life

    MPTV alumnus Dennis Bersales has built a career creating powerful imagery and videos

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    Photo by Dennis Bersales.

    Dennis Bersales has a keen sense for the surreal, even in everyday life. A 2005 graduate from the School of Motion Pictures & Television at the Academy of Art University, Bersales has lent his eye to commercial fashion and industrial film projects, but his most fascinating works come in the form of still life captures, particularly of those set in his family’s origins, the Philippines. Often shot in stark black and white, Bersales’ work encapsulates a different side of life than what most are familiar with, including poverty and some of the more explicit sides of the country’s culture.

    Bersales took that imagery to another level by using it to backdrop a number of music videos for death metal bands Death Cross and Retox. His most recent one was for a Death Cross song called “Obedience School,” where the visuals are centered around the centuries-old Philippine sport of sabong, or cockfighting, which is a fully legal billion-dollar industry. The video was appealed and removed by YouTube due to the subject matter, but Bersales stands by his storytelling and depictions of life through his lens. 

    Academy of Art U News spoke to Bersales on his work and what drives him to create and share such powerful imagery.

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    Behind-The-Scenes Talent

    Three Academy School of Communications & Media Technologies graduates join instructor Matty Staudt at iHeartMedia

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    (L–R) Academy of Art University School of Communications & Media Technolgies alumni Casey Franco, Zayana de Awis and Ricardo Ayar. Photo by Kirsten Coachman.

    When Matty Staudt invites you to take a tour of iHeartMedia, you don’t say no to the opportunity. In a similar vein, Staudt received a different kind of offer, one he also couldn’t turn down but that required a shift in schedule and responsibilities. 

    Earlier this year, iHeartMedia, a leading media company with the largest audience reach in the United States, put an offer on the table where he would be in charge of the seven stations it owns and operates in the San Francisco Bay Area, including spearheading its podcasting initiative. Of course, he said yes.

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