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"It's a very accelerated program," Gordon said.
"It's beyond what anyone else is doing."

Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Film Makers

By Jackie Young


Independent filmmakers will soon find a valuable resource in the red rocks of Sedona. Those who want to take a two-day seminar or a year-plus-long filmmaking program now have a now option other than traveling to New York or Los Angeles.

They can enjoy the splendor of Red Rock Country and its proximity to Hollywood's power brokers, while immersing in the minutiae of their craft at the Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Film Making, at Yavapai Community College's new Sedona campus at the Sedona Cultural Park.

Dan Gordon, a faculty member and award-winning screenwriter, announced the creation of the innovative film school at last month's fabulous Sedona Film Festival Gala. The new film institute is targeted at the special needs of indie filmmakers.

Instead of spending thousands on tuition at a major four-year-institution, Gordon suggested that anyone driven by the passion it takes to make an indie film should invest a year and a lot less tuition in the Zaki Gordon Institute. By the end of two years, Gordon promised, the students who follow the curriculum plan will have an indie script, trailer and film to shop around to distributors. He called the program the first of its kind. And he would know, as an industry insider himself and the father of a son who did the more expensive, traditional four-year school film degree program.

For, in addition to his personal investment as a faculty-member, Gordon brings a moving personal and emotional investment to this now school. The school takes its name from Gordon's son, a talented filmmaker, whose work was screened at last month's Sedona festival.
"Waiting for Mo," Zak Gordon's first indie film, highlights the concerns of an interesting group of upper middle class San Fernando Valley, California, high school seniors following their graduation. The film was made in 1996 by the younger Gordon, a graduate of New York University's Tisch School for the Arts (film major). At age 22, just six months after he graduated from college, Zaki perished in a tragic car accident in December, 1998.

In a weird turn of events where life imitates art, Zaki's movie explored at least one of his characters being troubled by the death of a friend in a car accident.

In introducing the institute and Zaki's film, Dan Gordon appeared to be battling back tears as he touted his son's accomplishments dating back to around age five, when he first told his father he had an idea for a film. He also told of how his son had published his first novel by the time he was 19 (Davin, Delacoud Press, 1995).

Gordon's obvious love and admiration for his son left few in the small, packed room at Sedona's Harkins luxury theatre complex with dry eyes that morning. It was hard to decide which was more moving, the father's testament to his son's genius or his son's lasting legacy in film to his adolescent passion for life.

Yavapai College's Sedona Center for Arts & Technology opens in May, when the Zaki Gordon Institute also open its doors with its first two-day seminar, May 27-28, at the scenic new campus, located in the Sedona Cultural Park, just across the street from Sedona Red Rock High School, off Hwy. 89A, in West Sedona.

Leading the May seminar will big director-producer Dan Myrick, hailed as "the guru of Indie filmmakers" for his work directing the popular Blair Witch Project," which so far has made its investors some $145 million in sales (as of early April 2000). Myrick made the film, which even made it to some Northern Arizona theatres, on a $30,000 budget, using the Internet to market the film. In addition to showing a director's cut of the film, Myrick will share with seminar participants how the film was made and marketed.

The May seminar is just one in a series the Institute will offer leading up to its opening in late August, according to Keith Harwood, acting director of the Sedona Center for Arts & Technology. Other faculty at the Institute, Harwood said, will include actress Linda Gray, a veteran of the popular "Dallas" television series, teaching acting; Russell Cooper-Mead and other famous names from Hollywood; as well as teachers from four-year schools, including UCLA and New York University.

These and other major players in the film industry will be included in the faculty for the intensive film program and many of its seminars open to the public and its students at the Sedona campus.

The Institute, which will be limited to 25 students, will involve one year of course work and a second year devoted to making a film, Harwood said. By the end of the first year, students will be expected to have completed a 15-minute thesis-style film short and their film's script with assistance from faculty like Gordon, he said.

Faculty will also assist students in their second year as they attempt to sell their screenplay, seek financial backing from investors and get the film ready for distribution, he added.

"It's a very accelerated program," Gordon said. "It's beyond what anyone else is doing." In-state annual tuition for the Institute will be $2,750 per student. Out-of-state annual tuition will be $7,750.

Harwood said the focus will be on serving local students first and foremost. The cutoff for admissions for this fall will be mid-to-late summer.

The curriculum introduced for Fall 2000 enrollment will integrate short-term workshops with core classes in analysis, image, sound and story work. Students will also have hands-on access to state-of-the-art digital media equipment along with the mentoring they will receive from leading film industry professionals and visiting artists, according to school brochures.

"It's going to be first-class!" Harwood promised.

For more information, contact Yavapai College at (520) 204-2691 or write to Keith Harwood, in care of Yavapai College, 1725 West Hwy. 89A, Suite 5, Sedona, AZ 86336.

A web site also has been set up at www.sedonacenterorg.
Additional information will be posted on the web site as it becomes available.

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