Mar 23, 2017
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Academy of Art Developments
by Steven Middlestein
The Academy of Art provides a massive presence, through its over 40 properties, in downtown San Francisco. photo: courtesy the Academy of Art
THE ACADEMY OF ART, ONE OF THE
biggest art and film schools in the world, as well as one of the biggest property owners in San Francisco, recently received a $60 million dollar fine for flaunting the city’s zoning laws. The case has been winding its way through the courts for almost a decade even as the Academy solidified its role and reputation as an important arts institution, local, nationally and internationally.
“I’m not inspired to write about this slap in their face,” remarked Karl Cohen, cineSOURCE writer and animation expert, who has been covering it for over four years—see one of his articles
—but just got out of a long hospital stint after bypass surgery.
“It is long overdue. They admitted they were breaking laws and were stalling a decent institution’s responsibility to comply and correct/change what they were doing.”
In point of fact, cineSOURCE has long been a big fan of the Academy’s film department. In 2010, we interviewed its multi-talented director Diane Baker and learned about her adventures as a Hollywood starlet, then star, then filmmaker and, finally, film school dean, see
Another watershed Academy-cS moment came when I met one of Ms Baker’s students, Milan, the epitome of an art film artist, given her films looked as if she had painted them directly on the acetate, which she still uses, see
In fact, she went on to create cineSOURCE’s one and only centerfold, which appeared in the paper’s last print issue (2010). The project started when I noticed a tattoo of a large Fuji Super 8 camera on her upper arm and suggested that she let me photograph her for a centerfold.
“Sounds good,” said Milan, who goes by one name, “but I can also handle the photography.” See her masterful self-portrait
The lawsuit against the Academy, filed by San Francisco city attorney, Dennis Herrera, alleged that over three-quarters of the Academy’s now-40 buildings, including their HQ on New Montgomery Street, were out of compliance with historic preservation, zoning or signage laws. Moreover, the school had illegally turned 160 affordable residential units into student housing, see the December 19th SF Chronicle
Now, with this legal decision behind them, AAU can get back to the ennobling business of art/film education in a manner befitting the “decent institution“ that it is. And, hopefully, this “ennobling business” will once again include cineSOURCE.
Ironically, although the Academy spends millions of dollars annually on advertising—as anyone who has watched late-night TV knows, it has only placed one ad for a single month in cineSOURCE online. Apparently, while late-night TV couch potatoes match their target demographics, cineSOURCE readers do not.
This is a tad odd, given that we have published numerous articles on the Academy; we share their “San Francisco: One big film school” paradigm; we hear from Academy students all the time, indicating they read cineSOURCE; and if a single cineSOURCE reader went on to attend AAU and pay the over-$100,000 fee, 5% of that would be enough to cover three years of cineSOURCE’s top-of-the-page ad, netting them over two million views in that time period.
In addition, cineSOURCE has published a bunch of pieces by AAU alums—the best being, along with Milan's, those by Skye Tallone.
Also a talented filmmaker, Ms Tallone has a great eye/ear for the film business’ more complex aspects, see her “
The Entertainment Surveillance Complex
” and “
Final Plummet: Why Films Fail in Act Three
Getting back to cineSOURCE's focus on San Francisco as a great place for filmmaking—be it actual locations, aesthetics or ideals, four interesting discoveries appeared in the recent cS article “
Holocaust Film/Books: What’s Been Achieved/Missed
A) Film noir’s focus on evil emerged in Hollywood in the 1940s to investigate the phenomena of Nazism, without looking at it specifically; B) It was developed largely by Jewish or gentile German refugees drawing on German expressionist cinema; C) It was often filmed in San Francisco, the closest urban setting to LA; and, D) two decades after San Francisco became the central cinematic metaphor for decadence and corruption, it was obliged to switch to Summer of Love themes.
That’s a lot of iconographic code switching for one town, hence the need for a forum to discuss it.
Indeed, San Francisco remained a very cinematic city until it started to gravitate towards too chi-chi, upscale and clean, not to mention nerdy and techy, leaving it to Oakland to fill that funky, radical, alternative void.
Of course, the techies have important stories to tell, considering how much they control our contemporary life, but, since engineers are often allergic to the fuzziness storytelling, they will have to support local artists and authors enough to ferret those narratives out.
Nevertheless, no matter how yuppie San Francisco becomes, it will always stand as a beacon for sexual freedom, edge-pushing, East Meets West and other important issues.
Hopefully, the Academy of Art as well as cineSOURCE will be there to serve that evolution. If you agree with the latter, please subscribe
Steven Middlestein is a writer, editor and movie fanatic and can be reached
Posted on Dec 23, 2016 - 01:47 PM