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by Mark Hinson, Tallahassee Democrat

Suddenly, the sound was off.

Academy Award-winner and retired Florida State film school professor Richard Portman, who mixed the sound for such famed movies as “Star Wars” (1977) and “Harold and Maude” (1971), died Saturday night at his home in Betton Hills. He was 82. Portman’s death followed after a fall, a broken hip and other medical complications.

Moonlight, nominated for eight Academy Awards, is the result of close collaboration by six film school alums, most of whom have been working together since they were students at the College of Motion Picture Arts.

Of the six, five were nominated for Oscars in their categories.

Best Picture – Adele Romanski (’04), Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner

Best Director – Barry Jenkins (‘03)

Best Cinematographer – James Laxton (’03)

Best Film Editing – Nat Sanders, Joi McMillon (‘03)

Best Adapted Screenplay – Barry Jenkins (’03), Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney


This story first appeared in the Dec. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 

The contenders — also including Oliver Stone, Barry Jenkins, Damien Chazelle and Mira Nair — discuss first gigs, the backlash over 'The Birth of a Nation' director Nate Parker's rape trial, and their "painful" directing process: "It's like trying to cram 10  pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag." 

A massive storm front, with clouds ominously gray, was moving in. Producer Adele Romanski eyed the horizon anxiously. It was near the end of the first week of filming on Moonlight, and with only 25 shooting days and a budget of less than $5 million, she didn't have the luxury of arranging for a cover set should the weather turn bad.

An FSU team of film grads is making big waves with their most recent feature film, Moonlight, which premiered at the Telluride Film Festival to teary-eyed standing ovations and rave reviews. Led by director Barry Jenkins (‘03), the FSU filmmaking team includes producer Adele Romanski (‘04), cinematographer James Laxton (‘03), co-producer Andrew Hevia (‘06), editor Nat Sanders (‘02), and co-editor Joi McMillon (‘03).

Virtual reality is headed for its tipping point, and an industry that seemed to belong to the future is suddenly on the front burners of Hollywood’s content creators. As the world readies for immersive storytelling, the College of Motion Picture Arts is training the next generation of immersive storytellers.

This May, the College won its 40th Student Emmy when “Isa and the Frog Prince,” an MFA thesis film, won First Place in the Children’s Program. The film, about a young girl who believes her best friend, a frog, can change into an enchanted prince, was produced by Erica Chan directed and co-written by Yingxiang Huang, and co-written by Nic Sridej, all graduates of the 2015 MFA class.

This year, the winner of the Drama Fellowship was Adrienne Rush (MFA 2015), who won for her pilot “Homecoming,” a psychological thriller about a woman’s return to the cult she escaped when she was eighteen. The award includes a $10,000 prize and the opportunity for a freelance script assignment on a Fox TV show. Rush is an ideal recipient of this award, because her goal in film school was to write for television.

Wes Ball, director of Fox’s YA franchise The Maze Runner, will now call the studio his home.
The filmmaker has signed a three-year first-look deal with Fox and will set up his newly launched company OddBall Entertainment at the studio’s Century City headquarters. Ball will run the shingle with partner Joe Hartwick, Jr.