University of Texas redefines film school model with launch of film institute

Sept. 5, 2003

AUSTIN, Texas—In a move that will redefine the film school model, The University of Texas at Austin has established The University of Texas Film Institute within the College of Communication to give students highly specialized filmmaking experience on commercial feature films and more effectively prepare them for film careers.

The films will be produced through Burnt Orange Productions, LLC, led by its newly named President and CEO Carolyn Pfeiffer, a veteran film producer who most recently served as vice chair, master filmmaker-in-residence and head of the producing discipline at the American Film Institute Conservatory.

The University of Texas Film Institute plans to tap AMD64 digital technology from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) for use in all phases of filmmaking, from pre- to post-production. AMD plans to provide the institute high-end AMD Opteron™ processor-based workstations and servers to equip students with world-class digital film resources. AMD processors are being used by top filmmakers to power some of today’s most impressive digital effects.

The University of Texas Film Institute will reinvent the film school model by incorporating the production of feature films into the curriculum and training students in one of six areas of specialization: producing, directing, editing, cinematography, production design and sound. This model more closely matches the practices of the feature film industry where experts in their respective disciplines collaborate to produce a final product. The result will be students who are more effectively trained in the real-word aspects of feature filmmaking and are well prepared to work in the industry.

This endeavor is made possible in part due to a cooperative relationship with Burnt Orange Productions, a private, for-profit production company. Burnt Orange Productions will contract with The University of Texas Film Institute for production of eight to 10 high-quality, low budget independent feature films during its first three years of operation. The Film Institute will attract University of Texas faculty and students, and talent from the Austin film community and beyond, including professionals from Los Angeles and New York.

“This is an innovative public-private venture to promote academic success and entrepreneurship at the university, while stimulating economic development in Austin and Central Texas,” said Dr. Larry R. Faulkner, president of The University of Texas at Austin. “This may be the first time that the arts and humanities have participated in venture philanthropy of this nature and scale.”

Burnt Orange Productions will produce two types of films: co-productions involving third-party financing and outside talent in key creative roles, and in-house productions featuring students and faculty in key creative roles. Co-productions—ranging from $1 to $3 million—will be shot either on film or in digital format and will be marketed and distributed by third-party financing companies. Co-productions will be green-lit based on distribution prospects. Burnt Orange’s in-house productions—ranging from $500,000 to $1 million—will be shot in digital format and will be marketed by Burnt Orange Productions. The first film projects will be announced in the coming months.

“The University of Texas is revolutionizing the shape and form of a film school with a boldness worthy of a modern day D.W. Griffith,” said Jack Valenti, president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America and one of many entertainment industry luminaries serving on The University of Texas Film Institute advisory board. “Burnt Orange Productions is burning bright.”

“The college has several enviable resources: location in Austin, a solid base of alumni in the feature film industry and an existing top-ranked film program with a strong record of award-winning faculty and students,” said Dr. Ellen Wartella, dean of The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication, and one of the chief architects of this landmark venture. “These resources, coupled with our distinguished University of Texas Film Institute advisory board and the Burnt Orange Productions leadership of Carolyn Pfeiffer, amount to what will be an incredible force in the motion picture industry that will put The University of Texas in a class by itself among the nation’s leading film production programs.”

“The traditional film school model is built on the ‘auteur’ theory of individual authorship and creative control where students learn everyaspect of filmmaking,” said Dr. Thomas Schatz, executive director of TheUniversity of Texas Film Institute, former chairman of the Department of Radio-Television-Film and noted author of such books as “The Genius of the System and HollywoodGenres.” “We are working to augment that model and offer more choices for studentswho want to work in the feature film industry by emphasizing the developmentof specialized skills and enabling students to apprentice under professionals on commercially-viable films.”

About The University of Texas Film Institute

The University of Texas Film Institute is striving to revolutionize the film school model in higher education by providing specialized training in various aspects of feature filmmaking and incorporating a narrative component to give students real-world experience on high-quality, low-budget independent feature films with viable commercial potential. Based in the College of Communication, the Film Institute involves faculty, graduate students and advanced undergraduates from the Department of Radio-Television-Film and other units on The University of Texas campus. The Film Institute also draws on the considerable filmmaking talent in the Austin community and on alumni and others involved in the entertainment industry.

The University of Texas Film Institute’s advisory board includes distinguished motion picture executives and filmmakers, such as Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics; Thom Mount, head of production at RKO Pictures; Jack Valenti, president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America; and University of Texas alumni including Jordan Levin, president of entertainment at the WB Television Network; Thomas Schlamme, writer, director and producer, Warner Brothers Studios; and Mike Simpson, executive vice president and co-head of the motion pictures worldwide at the William Morris Agency.

About Burnt Orange Productions

Burnt Orange Productions, LLC, is a for-profit production company that will leverage talent and equipment from The University of Texas Film Institute and talent from the Austin film community to produce high quality, low-budget independent feature films. It is owned by The University of Texas Communication Foundation (a Texas non-profit support foundation).

For more information contact: Erin Geisler, College of Communication, 512-475-8071; Sarah Beck, AMD Public Relations, 512-602-4627.

Note to editors: Additional background information is available at The University of Texas Film Institute Web site:

  • Fact sheets
    • Burnt Orange Productions
    • University of Texas Film Institute
  • FAQ
  • Motion Picture Industry Overview
  • Biographies and photos
    • Carolyn Pfeiffer
    • Thomas Schatz

2 Comments to "University of Texas redefines film school model with launch of film institute"

1.  matala nkhoma marcus said on July 25, 2011

i would like to enrol for film or 3d training. please advice and send more information.

2.  Rylee Eklund said on May 20, 2012

Would like to get info on the school to possible attend next year