Newswise — WINSTON-SALEM – Hollywood film producer Jordan Kerner will be the speaker for college commencement exercises at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), Interim Chancellor James Moeser announced. Kerner, who produced THE SMURFS movies, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES and CHARLOTTE’S WEB, will address an estimated 210 students earning undergraduate and graduate degrees at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 10, at the Stevens Center, 405 W. Fourth St., downtown Winston-Salem.
Kerner served as dean of UNCSA’s School of Filmmaking for five years, leaving in 2012 to return to filmmaking full-time.
“With his knowledge of the school and his vast professional experience in the film industry, Jordan Kerner is an excellent choice to inspire our graduates,” Moeser said. “He knows what it takes for students to succeed at the School of the Arts, and he understands what it means to be a successful professional artist.”
As dean at UNCSA, Kerner is credited with developing his novel approach to the enrichment of storytelling, entitled “American Immersion,” in which students gain a deeper understanding of character and story by spending several weeks at places like a Veterans Affairs Hospital in Philadelphia and Habitat for Humanity in post-Katrina New Orleans; creating and hosting a program for qualified students to “shadow” professional filmmakers in California, New York, Montreal and Paris; hiring film legends Peter Bogdanovich and Michael Chapman and noted filmmakers Thomas Ackerman, Susan Ruskin (now UNCSA Film Dean), Ron Roose and Wade Wilson to serve on the faculty; putting forward the concept of making the School of Filmmaking a “center of excellence” in the UNC system and envisioning, as a step in the process, a new film production facility for animation, gaming and digital design, which is currently under construction; and reaching out to numerous UNCSA film alumni, bringing them to campus to work with current students and to screen their films.
“We are grateful for Jordan's many contributions to the Film School and to the UNCSA campus,” said Ruskin, who succeeded Kerner as Dean of Filmmaking. “It is an honor to follow in his footsteps.”
During his tenure as dean, Kerner also oversaw the rise of the School of Filmmaking from a strong regional program to the No. 2 public film school in the nation, No. 8 overall in the United States, and No. 12 in the world on The Hollywood Reporter’s inaugural list of the 25 best film schools in the world. The Business Journal named him to its list of 50 most influential individuals in the Triad for three years in a row.
“We are pleased to welcome Jordan back to UNCSA for this important event,” Moeser said. “As we celebrate our students’ achievements, so will we celebrate his accomplishments, both here and in Hollywood.”
About Jordan Kerner
Jordan Kerner is president and founder of The Kerner Entertainment Company, which is committed to high quality, value-oriented, provocative entertainment.
He most recently produced the live action/computer-generated animation hybrid THE SMURFS 2 for Columbia Pictures. Released in the summer of 2013, it has earned nearly $350 million, bringing the total for SMURFS 1&2 to nearly $1billion worldwide. It retained the same cast members as its predecessor, and added Brendan Gleeson, Christina Ricci, JB Smooth, Jimmy Kimmel, Shaquille O’Neal, Sean White, Mario Lopez, and Kevin Lee for this grand adventure in Paris. THE SMURFS, released in 2011, grossed more than $560 million worldwide. Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays, and Sofia Vergara took live action roles in this adaptation of the classic books by Peyo. Voice talent included Jonathan Winters, Katy Perry, George Lopez, Fred Armisen, Alan Cumming, Anton Yelchin, Jeff Foxworthy, Keenan Thompson, Paul Reubens, Wolfgang Puck, and Jon Oliver. It was directed by Raja Gosnell. Kerner will produce a third Smurfs movie, which is in early storyboard production.
Kerner previously produced a faithful live action adaptation of the revered E.B. White book Charlotte’s Web for a holiday 2006 release. It was written by Susannah Grant (Academy Award winner for ERIN BROCKOVICH) and Karey Kirkpatrick (CHICKEN RUN). The late Gary Winick (LETTERS TO JULIETTE, 13 GOING ON 30) directed the film. It starred Dakota Fanning as Fern. The animated voice cast included Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Robert Redford, Kathy Bates, John Cleese, Steve Buscemi, and Thomas Hayden Church.
Kerner’s previous films include such titles as SNOW DOGS, GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE 1 and 2, INSPECTOR GADGET 1 and 2, RED CORNER, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL, THE MIGHTY DUCKS trilogy, THE WAR, WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, and LESS THAN ZERO, as well as the television movies A WRINKLE IN TIME, HEATWAVE, FOR THEIR OWN GOOD and THE SWITCH, and miniseries including Mama Flora’s Family and The Judds.
Kerner was named a Billion Dollar Producer by Variety Magazine in July 2013, with articles centering on his work in feature film, his previous and future work in television, his work as dean of UNCSA School of Filmmaking, and his political work in California, North Carolina and nationally. He was named Producer of the Year by the Hollywood Entertainment Museum at its 2006 Legacy Award Event. His films have received nominations for or won Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, BAFTA Awards, The People’s Choice Award, The Critics Choice Award, The Nick Kids Choice Award, DGA Awards, WGA Awards, The Humanitas Award, The Christopher Award, NAACP Award, The Diversity Award, The Golden Satellite Award, The Golden Reel Award, The Art Directors Guild Award and Visual Effects Society Awards.
Currently, Kerner Entertainment has more than 20 projects in development for theatrical and television release. These include prominent franchises such as THE SMURFS 3, ALF, and CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL.
Desiring a renewed and substantial involvement in the Los Angeles community, Kerner is currently an active member of the board of directors for the Los Angeles River Revitalization Board. He is a founding donor and is spearheading its marketing vision with director/writer Gary Ross to realize the L.A. River as the largest public park in the world, spanning 51 miles.
Kerner was a trustee of the Starbright Foundation and an executive producer of its Diabetes and Asthma CD-Rom games; a member of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s California Cabinet; and has served on the board of directors for the Media Office, established by California Governor Jerry Brown’s Committee for Employment of Disabled Persons; the President’s Advisory Council for the City of Hope; the Chrysalis Foundation; a former director of the Show Coalition; a director of the RiverRun International Film Festival; as well as a former governor of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Beverly Hills Bar Association Barristers. He was the founder and former co-chairman of the Committee for the Arts of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, an organization providing legal aid to indigent performing artists, with educational programs and speakers for disabled and arts/entertainment groups. Kerner is a member of Planned Parenthood’s political action arm, the Sierra Club, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Producers Guild of America and The American Film Institute.
In 2007, Kerner became dean of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts School of Filmmaking. He began to re-imagine the manner in which film, television, animation, gaming, and other new media are taught in the 21st Century. Kerner has initiated many novel educational systems, as well as led an effort to create a new public/private means for studio construction across North Carolina. He made the tenets of value and worth the guiding principles of the storytelling at UNCSA’s School of Filmmaking, and initiated a number of visionary cross-university and interdisciplinary programs.
Kerner is a graduate of Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts degree with Distinction in Political Science and Communications. He also received a joint graduate degree from both the University of California at Berkeley with an MBA from the Haas School of Business (including an emphasis in Public Policy from the Goldman School of Public Policy) and University of California at San Francisco, Hastings College of the Law where he was a member of the UC Hastings Law Review and founder and Chief Editor of COMM/ENT The Journal of Communications and Entertainment Law.
He currently resides in Brentwood, Calif., with his wife Nicola O’Shea, their daughters Haley, Grace and Lily; a white Labrador retriever Ollie (AKA Laurence Olivier); two cats Lucy and Zoë. The family’s gecko remained in North Carolina on permanent loan to friends.
As America’s first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.
MEDIA: The UNCSA commencement ceremonies are not open to the general public. Family and friends of graduating students must have tickets to enter the Stevens Center. However, tickets are available for media representatives. Please call 336-734-2891 or email firstname.lastname@example.org by April 30 if you are interested in covering this event.