Better Together: APU’s College of the Arts Hosts Industry Showcase at Warner Bros.

Azusa Pacific University’s College of the Arts (COTA) culminated their academic year by hosting a landmark event at the legendary Warner Bros. Studios in Hollywood. APU’s Industry Showcase featured the exceptional talent of students from five areas––cinematic arts, animation, theater arts, studio orchestra, and graphic design. This unforgettable evening drew more than 1,200 attendees, including agents and industry professionals.

“It all came together beautifully. I’ve been to these types of events at universities with prestigious film schools and APU’s showcase was on that level, if not better,” said Jesse Negron, MFA, interim associate production chair of the Department of Cinematic Arts.

Capitalizing on APU’s close proximity to Los Angeles, Warner Bros. proved the ideal venue. “It was an amazing opportunity for our students to showcase their work at the same place where Charlie Chaplin made movies, Friends was filmed, and a Clint Eastwood film recently premiered,” Negron said. Sarah Maria Wilson, ‘22, who double majored in screenwriting and acting, performed a live monologue entitled, “The Godfather: Part IV.” Wilson also shared a scene from the webseries, “Wait For It,” which was composed entirely of APU theater students. “If someone would have told me that my final college performance would be at Warner Bros. when I had first auditioned for APU’s program, I would not have believed them,” she said.

For APU’s animation program, the event presented an opportunity for the first class of animation students to introduce their artistic creations. Tony Bancroft, director of the Bachelor of Arts in Animation and Visual Effects program, proudly looked on as nine seniors he had instructed for the last four years debuted their work on the big screen. “To share their work at Warner Bros. studios, with its great tradition and history, in front of talent recruiters from all the major studios in one night—you can’t dream of that kind of opportunity. And yet it happened,” Bancroft said. The event was attended by representatives from DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Netflix, Pixar, Warner Bros., Bento Box, and even Disney legend Floyd Norman.

Quamdyn Hale, ‘22, a member of APU’s inaugural class of animation graduates, screened his film “The Kajis,” which was awarded Best of Show by APU faculty at the “Animation-Yeah!” part of the evening. “The Industry Showcase meant the world to me,” Hale said. “Making this film was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life so far. It was as if I spent a year baking a single special dish, and I was finally able to serve it to everyone.” Cayla Jones, ‘22, echoed Hale’s sentiments about sharing her animation film. “ I remember movie nights with my family where my mom would tell me how my name would be on the screen one day,” Jones said. “Seeing my name flash across the screen felt like a dream come true. I felt like all my hard work paid off.”

In a different theater on the Warner Bros. lot, APU theater students performed monologues in front of casting directors and agents. “We had 28 agents come, which is unheard of. It was a very successful night and more than 15 students have already been signed,” said Jill Lincoln, chair of the Department of Theater Arts. “We want our students to experience real world, industry centric moments like this. ” One of these students, Catherine Winner, ‘22, performed a monologue about rejecting a number of engagement proposals and is currently meeting with several agencies for representation. “Last year was so difficult. We were very limited in what we could learn and do over Zoom, so this was a really lovely culmination of our training wrapped up into one special night,” Winner said.

To enhance the Industry Showcase further, APU’s studio orchestra, composed of 70 students, performed live music to accompany some of the films. “The studio orchestra and choir performed with an inspiring level of fire, energy and technique,” said School of Music faculty member Mark Gasbarro. “Many of these students will find their careers performing cinematic music. I don’t even know how many times I performed at the Eastwood stage, right next to where they played. APU is turning out real performers who are going to be the next generation of people playing there.” Gabriel Teixeira, ‘23, a music composition graduate student who composed three scores for student animation films shown during the event, reveled in the opportunity. “This event showed me that I’m on the right path,” Teixeira said. “I’m excited for the future and the things I’ll be able to do in this industry.”

The evening also included students in Design Studies who created a mini portfolio of their projects, displaying them on banner boards in the halls leading up to the film screenings. “This was the first time design students were included in a premier event like this. I loved being able to show my work that I’ve put so much time and effort into and having hundreds of people see it,” said Bethany Lizarraga, ‘22, communications coordinator in the Office of Alumni Engagement.

This wildly successful inaugural event that celebrated the best student work from so many areas, will no doubt open the door to future COTA partnerships .“We now see what we can achieve when we all collaborate together,” Negron said.