Cinematic celebration sets future in motion

By BenitaZepeda

The red carpet lined the path while a 3-D fight scene was performed at the side. Students posed as paparazzi, and enthusiastic fans begged for autographs as 400 guests filed into the Media Production Center, 1600 S. State St., for the Media Production Center Gala on Oct. 2.

As the first campus event of such magnitude, the gala was held to celebrate the MPC and the extension of President Warrick L. Carter’s contract until 2014. In addition, it informed people about Columbia, its mission and the announcement of a $100 million campaign: “This is Columbia’s Moment.”

“This event symbolizes the excitement that is at Columbia because we have never had an event like this,” said Allen Turner, chairman of the board of trustees. “We will raise substantial funds as a consequence of this, and we introduced ourselves to people in the city who ought to know about us.”

During the event, Columbia faculty, staff, affiliates and supporters of the college mingled while they explored the MPC. In the screen testing room, guests were provided with scripts of various popular movies, such as “Casablanca,” “When Harry Met Sally” and “The Graduate.” The takes were put onto DVDs and given to the participants at the end of the evening.

The dinner program, which was held on two sound stages, was emceed by Bill Kurtis. Mini vignettes made by Carter and Turner were played throughout the program.

Afterward, they addressed the guests with information about what MPC has done for Columbia and the film program, in addition to the new campaign initiative, which has already raised $50 million in gifts and pledges.

After dinner, the celebration moved into an area cordoned off for dancing and music by the Columbia College Jazz Ensemble.

Administrators hope the money raised from the new campaign will allow the college to continue the growth of endowment and various programs.

“This is truly Columbia’s moment,” said Diane Doyne, associate vice president of Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising. “It was a wonderful evening to not only honor Dr. Carter’s tenure and contributions, but for Allen Turner to announce this campaign that will take us into the future and will allow us to continue helping students and people who want creative careers.”

The ticket price of each plate was $500, according to Eric Winston, vice president of Institutional Advancement.

Winston said there is a face value for the event and a portion of the ticket that is tax-deductible, which is the cost of the actual food. In the instance of the gala, there was also an option to donate in direct support of the MPC.

Winston said the entire event was paid for by ticket sales, sponsorships and underwriting, without using any funds from the college.

“When you have these kinds of events, it is important to remember total revenue minus expenses equals the donations,” Winston said. “We are moving very quickly and steadfastly to having fundraising events that clearly are making money before they even take place.”

As of press time, the gala brought in more than $100,000 in ticket sales, sponsorships and underwriting which is a preliminary number, according to Winston.

He said the funds will go toward the $100 million campaign initiative.

Several supporters of the event expressed they were excited about how the college is managed under Carter’s direction.

“Warrick has reorganized this college,” Turner said during the dinner program. “He has created a modern, efficient and, forgive the expression, business-like approach to managing the college. We have been able to attract the best administrators, the best faculty, and what follows is the best students.”

In addition, the MPC is a building people hope will push Columbia’s already impressive film program further ahead of the competition.

“I think this is a sensational facility and if this is the first building we have built, it’s great we built this one,” said Columbia trustee Barry Sabloff. “We are already the largest film school in the country, and probably in the world, and to have this state-of-the-art facility here is going to help us attract more and more students—which I think is fantastic.”

Parents of students also attended the gala to show support for Columbia and the MPC building, such as Shelly Savioca and her family from Connecticut.

“Having a facility that is state-of-the-art, we were very excited, and that’s why we flew in to enjoy the gala and celebrate,” Savioca said.

Carter said he was thrilled by the turnout and looks forward to working on the new campaign and furthering Columbia’s quest to help students with scholarships and providing them with the best facilities possible.

“It was all for scholarships, but the most important thing is that we had some people at our event who didn’t know us as well as we needed them to,” Carter said. “So they are leaving here with an extremely positive impression of who we are and what we do.”