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Guest Artists: 2018-19

Producer Stacey Sher

On Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Angell Hall, Auditorium C, Producer Stacey Sher conducted an open session to talk about her work in the industry. Three-time Academy Award nominee, Sher has produced more than two dozen major motion pictures amassing nearly $2.2 billion at the global box office. Her many critically acclaimed and commercially successful production credits include such notable titles as Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp FictionDjango Unchained ,and The Hateful Eight; Steven Soderbergh’s Erin Brockovich, Out of Sight and ContagionGarden StateReality Bites; and Get Shorty

During her visit, Stacey Sher visited Jim Burnstein's FTVM 427, the advanced screenwriting seminar, and went over the six writers’ first five pages of their new feature-length screenplays. In addition to giving each writer great notes about how to best open her screenplay, Ms. Sher also gave this group of graduating women invaluable advice about how to begin their careers in the entertainment industry.

Director/Screenwriter Nancy Savoca and Producer Rich Guay

Director of Screenwriting Jim Burnstein poses with his FTVM 427 (Screenwriting III) class alongside guests Director/Screenwriter Nancy Savoca and Producer Rich Guay. During their visit, Savoca and Guay conducted workshops with three different FTVM classes: Burnstein's FTVM 427, Giorgio Bertellini's FTVM 316 (Screening Italian Americans) and Matthew Solomon's FTVM 335 (Authorship and the Archive).

On Friday, March 22, 2019, Nancy Savoca and Rich Guay conducted a special master class in Jim Burnstein's FTVM 427, the Screenwriting Program’s advanced seminar. Savoca and Guay gave separate notes from their director and producer perspectives on all six writers' first 5 pages and offered specific strategies for the best ways to open each individual story in order grab their readers’ attention…and get them to keep reading!

On Thursday, March 21, 2019, Savoca and Guay visited Giorgio Bertellini's FTVM 316: Screening Italian Americans. In class, they discussed the personal and professional trajectory that led to True Love (1989): how they started writing the film, the challenges of casting and finding financial backup, the filming, and the distribution. Several students asked questions about logistics, casting, and the film's overall meaning and significance. It was en engaging conversation. 

On Friday, March 22, 2019, Savoca and Guay visited Matthew Solomon's FTVM 335: Authorship and the Archive class. They talked with the students, Phil Hallman, two other librarians, and Solomon about the students' ongoing work on a Hatcher Library Exhibition which the class is putting together as the final FTVM 335 course outcome this term based on the Nancy Savoca papers in the Screen Arts Mavericks & Makers Collections held in the Special Collections Research Center. During a discussion of about 45 minutes, Savoca and Guay were able to answer a number of the students' questions, some of which related to specific items they had examined in the archives.

TV Writer/Showrunner Matthew Nix 

On Monday, March 11, 2019, in Angell Hall Auditorium C, FTVM faculty Victor Fanucchi (at top left ) introduced TV Writer/Showrunner Matthew Nix (USA's Burn Notice), who joined students for an open session to share information about his work in the industry. During his visit, Nix visited Oliver Thornton's FTVM 311 (Screenwriting for Television) class to talk about his own experiences creating and running a variety of television shows and then gave feedback on the story questions students had about their own specs. He also visited Thornton's FTVM 411 (Screenwriting for Television II) class wherein he listened to students' pitches for their original pilot ideas and helped to workshop both their concepts and pitch delivery.

View Matthew Nix's Show Reel Here 

Writer/Producer Kath Lingenfelter 


On Wednesday, February 27, 2019, in Angell Hall, Auditorium C, Writer/Producer Kath Lingenfelter conducted an open session to talk about her work in the industry. Lingenfelter is currently in a multi-year deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment to develop and produce projects for television. She was formerly a writer and co-executive producer on HBO's massive hit program Westworld, which was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series at the 2017 Emmys. Prior to that, she was a writer and supervising producer on The Leftovers, and a writer and supervising producer for House, M.D.

During her visit, Lingenfelter met with Oliver Thornton's FTVM 311, Screenwriting for Television, students to talk about how she got her start in the industry and what it is like to write for a variety of different shows. She also talked about the realities of the changing industry when it comes to streaming vs. network. Lingenfelter also met with Thornton's FTVM 411, Screenwriitng for Television II, in which she heard pitches from students and gave them advice on how to craft a memorable pilot spec script. 

VP of Worldwide Content Operations & Strategy at Lionsgate, Mark Sgriccia 

On Friday, February 22, 2019, in North Quad Studio A, Vice President of Worldwide Content Operations & Strategy at Lionsgate, Mark Sgriccia, met with FTVM students to discuss how studios distribute content and how theatrical, domestic, and streaming operations are all part of the film business today. Associate Professor Sheila Murphy (bottom left) introduced Sgriccia.

As Vice President, Worldwide Content Operations & Strategy at Lionsgate, Mark Sgriccia leads a team charged with promoting digital standards and practices, expediting content fulfillment and recognizing savings in metadata and supply chain initiatives.  Prior to his current role at Lionsgate, Sgriccia spent 10 years at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in varying capacities, including Budgeting & Forecasting, Financial Operations and Digital Sales.  Sgriccia is currently co-chair of the DEG Technology and Operations Committee and earned a Bachelor’s degree (FTVM & Organizational Studies) from the University of Michigan and Masters of Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University.

Producer Peter Jaysen and Acting Coach Pamela Guest 

Fresh off his Award as Best Producer of an original television movie (Fahrenheit 451) at the Producers Guild Awards, Peter Jaysen came back to his alma mater, the University of Michigan, from February 6-8, 2019, to work with FTVM 427, the advanced screenwriting seminar of six students, FTVM 423 (Practicum for the Screenwriter), and FTVM 311 and 411 (Writing for Television I and II).

In FTVM 311, Jaysen took students through the story about his journey from Ann Arbor to award-winning producer in Los Angeles, answered their questions about working in the industry and gave advice about making the move to Hollywood. In FTVM 411, he taught students about the art of the pitch and worked with them to perfect concepts for their own original television series. 

In FTVM 427, Jaysen reviewed the first 5 pages of their new screenplays in depth and afterwards discussed ways to break into Hollywood. Mr. Jaysen also visited FVTM 423 (photos below) for a reading of the two scripts that will be produced this semester for their premiere at the Traverse City Film Festival this summer. He gave the writers valuable notes for their next drafts and answered questions from both production teams on how to solve problems they were facing or anticipating. Following this two hour session, Mr. Jaysen and Ms. Guest answered whatever questions the students had about working in Hollywood.


Acting Coach and Casting Director Pamela Guest workshopped scenes from the two FTVM 423 screenplays. The actors cast from Musical Theatre and Theatre and Drama, and the Directors from FTVM, took notes and developed the scenes under Guest’s guidance.  Primarily, students worked on the actors connecting their character to their real lived life, in order to make the characters as complex and real as the actors, themselves.  This, coupled with working on the flow, dynamics and the meaning of the scenes workshopped was the central focus of the two days of work.

TV Agent (ICM Partners) Andy Stabile 

On Friday, Nov 2, 2018, FTVM alum Andy Stabile visited the Department and spoke with students about his career and the television industry.  Stabile is a TV agent in the International Television Department at ICM Partners, active across all platforms including broadcast network, streaming, cable, syndication, foreign, documentary, and branded content. He shared his insights about pitching creative projects and other tips on working in the industry. 

Nickelodeon's David Knott (Director) and Julie Kinman (Recruiter)


Producer and recruitment head Julie Kinman and Animator (and Michigan alumnus) David Knott of Nickelodeon held an open session on Wednesday, October 24, 2018, in MLB 4 at 7:00 p.m. for students interested in internships and careers at Nickelodeon.

Knott and Kinman also made presentations in Chris McNamara's FTVM 306 (New Media Practices)about the art and business of animation and digital media. On the following day, Knott conducted a storyboarding workshop wherein students all participated in creating a short visual treatment from a script. 



At far right (above), FTVM's Chris McNamara introduces the guests before the open session. 

Producer Jonathan Baruch

Producer Jonathan Baruch hosted an open session about the industry for FTVM majors  on Friday, October 5, 2018, in MLB 2. Baruch is the founding partner at Rain Management Group/StoryBy, a media company that manages careers of artists and produces/packages content in all areas of entertainment. Under his leadership, the company has successfully transitioned from traditional media to also creating and packaging original content for the digital space, brands, live performances and Broadway.  

Writer/Director Alex Richanbach

On Friday, October 5, 2018, Writer/Director Alex Richanbach Skyped from Los Angeles with Terri Sarris' FTVM 403 Sketch Comedy class. Richanbach gave his feedback on student sketch drafts, answered questions, and talked about the comedy industry in L.A. He and Sarris also sent students off to group-write sketches, then reconvened to table read and offer feedback on the scripts.

Formerly a writer/director with Funny or Die, Richanbach's most recent feature IBIZA was released on Netflix earlier this year. The film was written by Lauryn Kahn and produced by Gary Sanchez and Good Universe, and stars Gillian Jacobs, Vanessa Bayer, Phoebe Robinson, and Richard Madden. On the commercial front, Alex has directed commercials starring Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Demi Lovato, Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, DJ Khaled and many others. He also helmed the mega-successful Undercover Lyft campaign, which regularly received a billion media impressions per episode.

Randy and Jason Sklar (The Sklar Brothers) 

UM Alums Randy and Jason Sklar (The Sklar Brothers) visited Terri Sarris' FTVM 403 Sketch Comedy class on Friday, September 21, 2018. During their visit, they shared tips on comedy writing and performing and talked about their careers in comedy.

Photo credit for group shot, John U. Bacon; thanks also to Jim Burnstein
Photo credit for photos at right and gallery below, Mary Lou Chlipala

The Sklar Brothers, are a post-modern take on a stand up comedy duo. Neil Strauss of the New York Times once wrote “Their comedy accepts the reality of being twins but does not use it as a crutch. Instead, they work their physical and mental similarities and correspondences, their status as imperfect carbon copies of each other. In their comedy the straight man is often an echo.” They have released 4 critically acclaimed comedy albums, have had two Comedy Central Half Hour Presents specials, and currently have a one hour stand up special on Netflix, titled “What Are We Talking About” Their next one hour special will appear on Seeso in 2017.

Info above extracted from The Sklar Brothers' Website 

Unless otherwise noted, all photos on this page credited to Mary Lou Chlipala