October 20, 2005
Vol. 25 No. 3

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    Writer, producer Schamus to reflect on film career as Presidential Fellow in Arts

    By Jennifer Carnig
    News Office


    A leading contributor to the American independent film industry will headline the season opening event in the 2005-2006 Presidential Fellows in the Arts Series, a program that brings a cross-section of distinguished artists to the University for residencies and offers the public a rare chance to experience eminent talent in an intimate setting.

    James Schamus, writer, producer and co-president of Focus Features—who most recently collaborated with film director Ang Lee on the upcoming release Brokeback Mountain—will present a special sneak preview screening of one of his company’s forthcoming films. Schamus also will offer reflections and take audience questions during the presentation, which will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17 in Max Palevsky Cinema. Schamus’ visit is presented in collaboration with Doc Films.

    Having worked on more than 100 films over the past 15 years, Schamus is widely regarded as one of the most important independent producers in the country. As co-founder of Good Machine, a New York independent production company, Schamus has partnered with such filmmakers as Lee, Todd Solondz, Nicole Holofcener, Pedro Almodóvar and Ethan and Joel Coen. Since 2002, as co-president of Focus Features, a division of Universal Pictures, he has overseen the release of such films as Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries, Fernando Meirelles’ The Constant Gardener, Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation and Roman Polanski’s The Pianist.

    James Schamus

    Schamus also has collaborated with Lee on all of his feature films and is reuniting with the director on Brokeback Mountain, which will be released later this year. The duo’s earlier films together include the Academy Award-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which Schamus co-wrote and executive produced; The Hulk, which Schamus also wrote and produced; Ride with the Devil, which he produced and adapted; The Ice Storm, which he produced and adapted, earning him the Best Screenplay prize at Cannes; Sense and Sensibility, which he co-produced; Eat Drink Man Woman, which he co-wrote and associate produced; The Wedding Banquet, which he co-wrote and produced; and Pushing Hands, which he produced.

    In addition to his work in the film industry, Schamus teaches film theory and history at Columbia University and is the author of a book to be published next year on Carl Dreyer’s film, Gertrud. He was the 1997 Nuveen Fellow in the Humanities at the University.

    The Presidential Fellows in the Arts Series seeks to showcase the vibrant traffic between artistic theory and practice that takes place at the University and to foster the vitality of the arts on campus. The series, entering its second year, brings to the University a varied roster of distinguished artists from all arts disciplines for short residencies. These include a public presentation as well as a more intimate educational program for University students and faculty such as a workshop, seminar or master class.



    Each residency is organized and presented in collaboration with University departments, centers and arts organizations. Last year, actress, professor and playwright Anna Deavere Smith and graphic artist Neil Gaiman inaugurated the series. As part of Schamus’ November residency, he will lead a critique of original student work by student filmmakers in the University’s Fire Escape Productions, and lead a critique on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with graduate students and faculty members.

    Tickets for Schamus’ appearance go on sale Monday, Nov. 7. The cost is $15 general, and $5 for students with a valid ID. Tickets may be purchased by calling (773) 702-8080, e-mailing concert-office@uchicago.edu or visiting the box office from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday at 5720 S. Woodlawn Ave. People with disabilities who believe they may need assistance may call (773) 702-8080 prior to the event.

    The University Presidential Fellows in the Arts Series is made possible through the generosity of the Arts Planning Council and the Office of the President. Other events in the series include a film retrospective of the documentary work of alumni Gordon Quinn and Jerry Blumenthal (See story below.), whose Kartemquin Films created Hoop Dreams, and an extended, three-year residency with 500 Clown, a Chicago-based circus arts and improvisational performance group, whose members will teach classes and participate in seminars on creative writing, adaptation and clown work.