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ASU film students learn alongside Hollywood pros

Hollywood film grip Craig “Cowboy” Aines and ASU student on the "Car Dogs" set.
November 18, 2013

Some 100 ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts students are learning how to prep, film, edit and publicize a feature film alongside veteran Hollywood professionals this semester, thanks to a new internship program and the independent film "Car Dogs."

Starring George Lopez ("Lopez Tonight"), Patrick J. Adams ("Suits") and other prominent actors, "Car Dogs" is currently being shot at a vacant car dealership in Scottsdale, Ariz. The set is also a working classroom, as Hollywood cinematographers, producers, designers and artists are serving as mentors as well as department heads, with students holding supporting positions alongside.

“You can teach students how to make a film in a classroom, but the opportunity to get hands-on experience from professionals is priceless,” says F. Miguel Valenti, the Lincoln Professor of Ethics and the Arts and the founding director of the Herberger Institute BA in film production programs. “We think this model of established filmmakers helping train the next generation of artists is a win-win for everyone.” Valenti ("Lost Skeleton of Cadavra," "The Money Kings") is also a producer on "Car Dogs."

The Feature Film Internship Program is the brainchild of Adam Collis ("Balance," "Sunset Strip"), the ASU professor of practice in film directing, who is producing and directing the film. Additional faculty, such as Jason Scott, visiting professor in film and a seasoned film publicist, and Janaki Cedanna, faculty associate and film studio manager, are on the film as well.

Work began in summer 2012, when Valenti and Collis each taught a three-credit pre-production course. Here, students were first introduced to the "Car Dogs" script, breaking it down into its budgeting and production elements. Collis worked for the past year to secure independent funding, and the film was “greenlit” for production this fall. Students were invited to apply for internships according to their chosen crafts early in the Fall 2013 academic semester. Filming began Nov. 8. A website was created ( outlining the program and departments in which students could intern. Approximately 270 students responded, of whom 95 have been given an internship opportunity. Co-producer and recent ASU film alumnus David Breschel is managing the student interns.

The film itself is not a project of the university, but is an independent endeavor undertaken by Collis and Valenti as part of their research and creative activity for the university, and staffed by many ASU film friends and alumni. Notable among those interested are television producer Howard Burkons, a 1976 theatre alumnus, and John Jackson ("The Descendants," "Sideways"), who is serving as casting director. "Car Dogs" is written by former ASU student and Phoenix native Mark Edward King.

“When Mark’s script came across my desk, I knew it was the right one for the Internship Program,” said Collis this week from the set of "Car Dogs."

“The fact that he had been a student at ASU and the film is set in Phoenix made it even better.” Noted Hollywood film professionals signed on to "Car Dogs" and who will work with ASU students are:

• Craig “Cowboy” Aines ("Dr. Dolittle 2," "Happy Gilmore"), head grip

• Edward Bonutto ("The Haunting in Connecticut"), art director

• Scott Cobb ("It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," "Lost"), production designer

• Sean Hobin ("The Matrix Reloaded," "The Matrix Revolutions," "Breaking Bad"), first assistant director

• Maggie Morgan ("Men in Black"), costume designer

• David Stump ("X-Men," "Contact"), Oscar-winning cinematographer, who is also co-teaching a cinematography class with Adam Collis.

Laurie A. Trotta Valenti,
ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts