It's a great time to be an aspiring filmmaker. Affordable technology and digital cameras make it relatively easy to shoot a film. Editing software is intuitive and affordable. And social media and the Internet can provide free publicity.
But there's one thing ubiquitous technology can't do and that's teach the art of filmmaking. Technology can't explain to a student the profound impact of Orson Welles' use of lighting in Citizen Kane. It can't articulate the technical brilliance of Martin Scorsese's long opening shot in Casino. And it can't expound upon the surrealist beauty of the iconic dream sequence in Fellini's 8 1/2.
These distinctions are not lost on the Steve and Alexandra Cohen Foundation, which recently donated $5 million to the USC School of Cinematic Arts to provide need-based scholarships to qualified undergraduates with significant financial struggles.
The donation represents the largest single gift ever to the school and will create the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Fund for Student Support. The fund will ultimately provide financial assistance for the cost of attendance to 15 to 25 undergraduate Cohen Scholars, qualified students across all of the undergraduate degree programs at SCA, who received awards this fall.
Followers of the Cohen foundation shouldn't be surprised by this news. As we note in our Grant Profile on the foundation, while the group mainly funds in Connecticut and New York City, its arts philanthropy has recently been reaching west, to — you guessed it — Los Angeles.
Furthermore, despite the fact that a federal investigationinto insider trading at Cohen's SAC Capital is still not fully over, it's clear that legal troubles haven't put a dent in the group's charitable giving. Then again, it seems as if Cohen may have some extra change to be found in the couch cushions regardless. At over $10 billion, his net worth was three times bigger than the endowment of the famed Carnegie Corporation and more than twice as large as the Rockefeller Foundation's.
One last thing: Don't let our opening paragraph fool you. While it's important that aspiring film students understand the importance of pivotal scenes and directors, Cohen and USC also realize that the cinematic arts should be a viable career choice regardless of one's visionary ambitions.
The school offers practical classes and degrees, including screenwriting, digital arts and animation, and it helps graduates land coveted jobs in the industry that don't involve driving from Pasadena to Studio City to get Uma Thurman a cup of her favorite coffee.