It’s hard to overstate Dr. George Larkin’s vast and varied experiences in the entertainment industry but easy to see how they have enriched Woodbury’s Filmmaking program.
From his role in the heyday of independent film with artists who later went on to great acclaim (such as David O. Russell, Ben Stiller, Josh Brolin, and Scarlett Johansson), Dr. Larkin has been present during defining moments in filmmaking culture. While that makes for a number of bold-faced names on his CV, Dr. Larkin doesn’t consider his pre-academic life the glory days.
“The hallmark of my career is what I am doing now,” he says.
What he’s doing now is using what he’s learned in his years in the industry to ground and guide Woodbury students, and then launch them into their careers. Student after student attests to Dr. Larkin’s leadership in strengthening the film department while providing the nuts and bolts skills required to get started in the business (the consensus: “a great teacher and a great mentor”). One powerful vehicle: the Facebook page he created, known as the Woodbury Entertainment Network, aimed at helping film students find internships, part-time gigs and full-time jobs.
As alumnus Nix Santos says, “George Larkin isn’t just like any other professor –– he is a true inspiration to his students, and personally, he has proved absolutely essential to my education and growth. Not only does he possess the knowledge and professionalism that aspiring filmmakers need in a mentor, but on top of all of that, he genuinely cares about his students, their direction in life and in their careers.” Nix now works at J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot, and she thanks him for all his help getting her there. Echoes alum Justin Feinman, “Dr. Larkin has taught me a great deal about how to take advantage of opportunities. His connections with industry colleagues led me to three internships, an assistant editing job at the Golden Globes, and a fulltime job at Open Road Entertainment.”
“So much of your success in the industry depends on your ability to understand it, and that’s how we educate our students,” Dr. Larkin says. In addition to his work in film and television development, he has produced and toured the festival circuit with short films from Iraqi screenwriters. He’s also active in the Los Angeles area theater community, both as a playwright and a board member for such inventive companies as the Met Theatre and Sacred Fools.
Dr. Larkin’s idea of a film department curriculum befits a program that, like Disney and Warner Bros., calls Burbank home. His doctorate in film and media studies from Berkeley informs his teaching and department chairmanship, every bit as much as his work with director Russell and studios like New Line, Samuel Goldwyn, and Sony Classics.
“I combine film history and practice in my teaching and professional work,” he says. “Each pursuit informs the other. The best practitioners I know are keen students of history. Studying artists of the past helps us become better ones today. Students here study practice, history and business, and for today’s entertainment industry, they need all three.”
Just as he advocates a blend of the practical and the academic in the film curriculum, his research reflects those dual forces. He recently completed a book on Hollywood’s ‘20s-era transition from silent film to sound for Routledge. With his focus now on enabling his students to transition successfully from the Filmmaking program to the film industry, Dr. Larkin, as alum Alec Benson puts it, “has always believed it is in his charter to help students beyond the classroom.”