ASU, NGA to address national security risks of climate change

June 18, 2014

Arizona State University was selected for a competitive, five-year award of $20 million by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to launch a research partnership, effective June 1, to explore approaches for anticipating and mitigating national security risks associated with climate change.

Known as the Foresight Initiative, the cooperative agreement venture will explore how the effects of climate change on resources, such as water, food and energy, could contribute to political unrest and instability, and gain insights to sustainability and resilience strategies for mitigating the effects. ASU Decision Theater Download Full Image

This initiative will play a key role in collaborative research efforts to accelerate the evolution of Activity-Based Intelligence addressing system level activities, dynamics and interdependent network effects in the context of global climate risks to water security. This multi-year research partnership leverages ASU expertise and thought leadership in visual analytics, complex modeling and transdisciplinary decision-making evolving from years of internal and external investments at ASU.

“NGA’s investment and partnership with ASU is a game-changing relationship,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “This innovative research initiative will develop solutions and be a catalyst for the critical and creative thinking needed to address the complex challenges that come with climate change.”

Leveraging computing and system modeling initiatives at ASU and partner organizations, the Foresight Initiative will apply ubiquitous cloud computing and storage technologies, advances in natural user interfaces and machine learning to address unique geospatial data handling and visual analytic challenges driven by the volume and character of future persistent data flows. The resulting capabilities will allow analysts and decision-makers to dynamically interact with diverse data sets in a real-time modeling and simulation environment. This will help them assess the effectiveness of plans, policies and decisions; discover second- and third-order causal relationships; and understand spatial and temporal patterns that reveal non-obvious underlying interconnections and dependencies.

“I am very proud to announce our partnership with ASU, a world-class research university,” said Letitia Long, NGA director. “Our partnership is a prime example of the intelligence community working smartly with academia to address strategic global issues and to create capabilities that benefit everyone.”

Key areas at ASU that will be integral to this work include the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Public Programs, Decision Theater Network and Decision Center for a Desert City.

For example, ASU’s Decision Theater provides advanced modeling and simulation that allows diverse groups of stakeholders to visualize large amounts of data, policy parameters and environmental uncertainties on panoramic HD displays. Scientists, analysts and decision-makers can easily interact in real-time to tweak the rules and data sets to account for new insights and deeper understanding of relationships, providing a range of outcomes based on the changes. This allows for more effective decision-making among people from different backgrounds.

“This is a tremendous partnership and opportunity for a real, tangible impact in addressing strategic security and humanitarian needs,” said Nadya Bliss, principal investigator of the Foresight Initiative and assistant vice president, research strategy with ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “It is also pioneering how the academic and government research communities can leverage each other’s strengths to seek solutions to these global-scale issues while advancing fundamental transdisciplinary research. ASU is the perfect place for this initiative because of the culture of use-inspired research and exceptional quality faculty working across traditional disciplinary boundaries.”

One-of-a-kind ASU summer film internship program is a “win-win-win”

June 18, 2014

Conventional wisdom holds that if you want to break into the film industry, you need to go to Los Angeles. But a unique new program in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University is turning that wisdom on its head -- and bringing Hollywood to the students.

"There is no film school in the world that is doing what we’re doing," says Janaki Cedanna, clinical assistant professor in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. "We took a lot of years as the film faculty to figure out how to do this." Actor Lochlyn Munro, left, and ASU film production instructor Chris LaMont conduct a lunchtime Q & A for the benefit of the ASU students interning on the feature film "Justice Served." Photo by Tim Trumble Download Full Image

This, also known as "the template," or more officially the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre Summer Feature Film Internship Program, is an ambitious plan to make one feature-length movie a summer with a predominantly student crew, supervised directly by department heads who are working film pros, and mentored by faculty from the School of Film, Dance and Theatre.

The goal is to create a professional film set where students can gain experience and earn academic credit in a safe learning environment.

Eligible students must be at a minimum GPA and be majors in the school. Cedanna and Chris LaMont, a film production instructor, serve as faculty internship supervisors and as producers on the film. Professor Ellery Connell, also in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, is the visual effects supervisor and lead artist on the film and will manage a team of student interns to complete the visual effects by the end of the summer. Jake Pinholster, director of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, is executive producer.

Lamont notes that the summer schedule allows students to focus exclusively on the project without having to juggle schoolwork too, and allows the School of Film, Dance and Theatre to offer deep discounts on unused resources, because there are no production classes in session.

“Car Dogs,” the first film created by the internship program, wrapped in 2013 and has just been submitted to the Toronto Film Festival, Cedanna says.

This summer, the movie that the students have the opportunity to intern on is “Justice Served,” a psychological thriller that is the directorial debut of Marvin Young, better known to most of the world as Young MC. This summer also happens to be the 25th anniversary of Young’s monster hit, “Bust a Move.” (You probably know the song, even if you think you don’t. It was that big.)

Young wrote and stars in the movie, alongside such familiar faces as Lance Henriksen (“Aliens,” “Terminator”), Lochlyn Munro (“Scary Movie,” “White Chicks”) and Gail O’Grady (“Revenge,” “NYPD Blue”). His production company is also financing the film.

“Even though students are involved, it’s not a student film,” Young points out. “It’s my film.”

“This is not just some big student film,” Cedanna confirms. “We’re using the camera that was used on almost every Oscar-nominated picture this year. It’s a multi-million dollar camera. The post workflow is high, high level. It’s amazing."

Cedanna says that rental companies cut their rates for the production, “because everybody I tell about the template loves it. Because we all went to film school, and we all say, ‘I wish we had that when I was in film school!’”

“This project is a win-win-win,” says Jake Pinholster, director of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre. “Marvin and the team behind the film win because they get to leverage their resources and finances in a way that wouldn't be possible elsewhere. The School of Film, Dance and Theatre generates national visibility, and, most importantly, the students win because they get to participate in a true rarity in the entertainment industry: an internship that has been structured from the ground up to give them a substantial leadership role in an educational environment."

“We are offering students something very special here,” LaMont adds. “This is not your average internship where they run and get coffee and donuts for the principals; these students are working and learning right alongside professional filmmakers.”

For “Justice Served,” Cedanna and LaMont brought back at least six ASU alumni in paid positions, including four who got their degrees in May 2014.

One of those recent grads is Haley Peterson, who just earned her BA from the School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and is headed to Norway in the fall as a Fulbright Scholar, to study costume design. Peterson earned academic credit as a costume intern on “Car Dogs,” and she’s getting paid to be the costume designer on “Justice Served.”

“It's a big leap” from costume intern to designer, Peterson acknowledges. “It's a huge opportunity, which is one of the big reasons I'm doing it. I love the creative collaboration of film and dance and theatre and what costumes can do within that.”

Young says that he decided to make “Justice Served” in Tempe after discussions with LaMont, whom he met though the Phoenix Film Festival, which LaMont co-founded.

Young didn’t really have any reservations about working with students, he says, even though people told him they’d be “unreliable.” But instead, he say, “it’s been brilliant. Everybody’s so polite and so well-mannered, but also enthusiastic.”

Johnny Kubelka, an L.A.-based professional who is running the sound department for the film, says that he particularly likes the teaching aspect of his position. “It's great,” he says. “I forget that they're students. They're on it."

Almost all of the actors did lunchtime Q and A’s with LaMont, so that the students got a chance to hear professionals talk about their trajectory in the industry.

Lochlyn Munro gave this advice: “Do your job, do it to the best of your ability, and be someone people want to work with.” Chase Coleman, a young actor who appeared in “Boardwalk Empire” and is on hiatus from the CW show “The Originals,” talked about the days in New York when the only thing in his cupboard was a can of beans, and he'd eat half for dinner and save the other half for breakfast.

Coleman told the students that he loved working with them because “you don’t have anybody that’s jaded. Everybody is excited to be here. I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else. You can feel the energy.”
For the 60-some students interning on “Justice Served,” including about 15 who worked on “Car Dogs” and are back with promotions on “Justice Served,” the film is a chance not only to earn academic credit but to gain a foothold in the world of professional film.

"Actual real world experience is paramount (for students)," Cedanna explains. “And walking away with a credit on a full feature film -- not just a student film but a professional set experience -- is unheard of among any college programs.”

"We have a lot of students graduating and worried about getting jobs, and I say 'You’ve literally started your career. You’ve started it at school.'"

Media Contact:
Deborah Sussman Susser 

Public Contact: 
Deborah Sussman Susser
Communications and Media