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Hail, Columbia!

College's move to Tarzana brings the Valley its first show-biz school.

September 11, 1997|IRENE GARCIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Valley has for years been a home to the entertainment industry, with some of the largest studios located in places like Universal City, Burbank and Studio City.

Many actually consider the area the entertainment capital of the world because so many sitcoms and movies are filmed there daily.

But, ironically, the show-business hotbed didn't have a film school until Columbia College-Hollywood moved to Tarzana in April.

The school's name will remain the same--with the "Hollywood" at the end--and in the Valley, it will sit among show business giants, like Warner Bros. and Universal Studios, that to many are more "Hollywood" than Hollywood itself.

Just what the Valley needs. Cal State Northridge offers a low-profile major in TV, radio and film and UCLA offers a variety of extension courses at Universal CityWalk, but before Columbia made the move from Hollywood there wasn't a school in the Valley with a full-time show-biz curriculum.

"We moved because it's cheaper here and it's safer, yet we're very close to every major studio," said Columbia College interim President Harry Flynn. "We're in the middle of the action here."

Columbia College moved from Chicago to downtown L.A. in 1952 and moved to Hollywood in 1970.

The school, which is accredited by the National Assn. of Trade and Technical Schools, offers two- and four-year media arts degrees and a bachelor of arts in cinema and television.

Its 45,000-square-foot Tarzana building is more than double the size of its old location on North LaBrea Avenue. Panavision used to own the Tarzana facility, which is currently being remodeled to fit the needs of its new tenant.

By the time fall classes begin on Sept. 29, the building will have a library with about 5,000 volumes, a computer room, a dubbing stage, a screening room and a large area with production equipment including cameras, lights and cable.

The facility is modest compared with that of high-profile film schools such as USC and UCLA, but it's a huge improvement over Columbia's former location.

"We've had a great reaction from our students," Flynn said. "They really love it here. Who wouldn't? It's so much better and it will allow us to expand in many areas."

In an effort to boost its enrollment of 200 and reach out to the community, the school offers the public free weekly seminars featuring many well-known directors, writers and special effects experts.

The three-hour sessions are part of a class called "Industry Seminar," which was offered at 7 p.m. on Fridays during the summer but is moving to Thursdays for the fall.

The summer session finale this Friday will feature Ed Solomon, screenwriter of the hit movie "Men in Black." Solomon was also the original writer for television's "Gary Shandling Show."

"For years we were one of the best-kept secrets in town, and now we want to get the word out that we're here," Flynn said. "We've had a very good response to the public seminars."

Of course, big, well-known film schools don't need to conduct such promotional events. In fact, most end up turning applicants down, but Columbia College doesn't have the reputation or prestige of those institutions.

Most of Columbia's students are from out of the country, and classes are smaller than at most schools--with an average of 10 students each.

So that students can work during the day, Columbia's classes are held at night. Also, tuition is a lot cheaper than at most private colleges. Annual tuition at a school like USC is $18,246, compared with $9,600 at Columbia.

"We're more hands on than most schools, we get down and dirty and it's a much more intimate setting," Flynn said. "We don't just turn out students who can produce films. When they leave here, they can do everything from roll cable to write a script."

And now they can learn to do it in the Valley.

*

BE THERE

Columbia College-Hollywood, 18618 Oxnard St. in Tarzana. Free industry seminar featuring "Men in Black" screenwriter Ed Solomon begins at 7 p.m. Friday. Information: 345-8414.

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