VMA's Lake wins $3k ProArts grant

Bridgit Brown
April 18, 2011

assistant professor diane lake

Assistant Professor of Visual and Media Arts Diane Lake

The Professional Arts Consortium (ProArts) recently launched Classroom Connect, a program that offers a $3,000 award to a faculty member for developing the most innovative course. Diane Lake, assistant professor in Emerson’s Department of Visual and Media Arts (VMA), was the inaugural recipient of this award for a proposed course called Writing the Film Musical. The course will be offered in the Fall 2011 semester.

“This whole thing came to my attention through John Anderson,” said Lake. “He knew that I wanted to teach a class on the film musical, and he said there was a ProArts Consortium award that I should think about applying for.”

What Lake did not know was that even though music was not her specialty, through the ProArts Consortium she could get the necessary support to teach a course on writing and composing for a film musical.

“At first, I didn’t know anyone from the music school, and John said he knew the perfect person,” Lake continued. “He was very instrumental in connecting me with Michael [Wartofsky], who teaches composition for film.”

Lake and Berklee College of Music Associate Professor Michael Wartofsky will co-teach Writing the Film Musical. Wartofsky’s students will write the music while Lake’s students will write the scripts. The professors will teach some classes together and others individually.

In Writing the Film Musical, students will study the screenplays of a number of film musicals from the beginning of the genre to the present. Then they will focus on writing their own film musicals. Emerson students with an interest in theater, writing, and film, and Berklee students with an interest in composing for film are welcome to take the class.

“Students will work in pairs to come up with an outline for an entire film musical and the written first act of that musical. These students will then pitch their concepts to the Berklee students, who will have to audition to be the composer for the selected film,” Lake explained. “The writing students will listen to the songs and then choose their composer, which mimics what happens in the real world.”

The course will culminate in a staged reading of the first acts accompanied by the music produced by the Berklee students. The best one or two productions will then be presented at a subsequent event with the entire ProArts Consortium. Lake said that her goal for the course is to bring together students from Performing Arts; Writing, Literature and Publishing; and VMA to work together on a project—something difficult to do given the prerequisites that each individual department requires.

The ProArts Consortium consists of six neighboring institutions of higher education that are dedicated to the visual and performing arts: Berklee College of Music, Boston Architectural College, The Boston Conservatory, Emerson College, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Emerson students can register for courses offered through the consortium through the Registrar’s Office.

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