22
February
2017

Emmy-Award Winning Screenwriter Adam Mazer

Emmy-Award Winning Screenwriter Adam Mazer

Emmy-Award winning screenwriter Adam Mazer will speak at Friday Forum on Feb. 24, at 11 a.m. in the Stoddard Center as part of Southern Virginia University’s Institute for Writing and Mass Media lecture series.


“It’s a rare opportunity to have an Emmy-Award winning filmmaker come to our campus,” said New York Times Best-Selling Author Jeff Benedict, who directs the Institute for Writing and Mass Media. “Adam has worked with actors like Al Pacino and Susan Sarandon and John Goodman. He has brought important stories — from a Russian spy case to physician assisted suicide — from the page to the screen. He’ll take students inside the filmmaking and storytelling process.”

A graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communication, Mazer moved to Hollywood shortly after college and entered the movie industry as a screenwriter with a specialty in film adaptations. Mazer is known for devoting years of research to a historical figure or notable person in order to fully capture that character’s essence in his screenplays.

For one of his most notable screenplays, Mazer researched the life of Dr. Jack Kevorkian whom he depicted in, “You Don’t Know Jack,” an HBO Films production featuring an all-star cast. Research also played an important role in Mazer’s screenplay for “Breach,” a motion picture based on the true story of Robert Hanssen (played by Chris Cooper), an FBI agent convicted of spying for the Soviet Union for two decades.

Mazer is currently working on the television adaptation of Jeff Benedict’s book, “The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football.” During his time at Southern Virginia, Mazer will lead a workshop on writing and storytelling and speak at an Institute of Writing and Mass Media dinner, in addition to delivering Friday’s forum.

“The Institute for Writing and Mass Media is a smart idea,” Mazer stated. “I’m grateful to be included among the great list of artists who are involved. I am a screenwriter and a filmmaker, and the chance to share my experiences with students is something I’m really looking forward to.”

Southern Virginia faculty, staff, and students, as well as community members are invited to attend campus forums and devotionals each Friday morning at 11 a.m. in the Stoddard Center. Recordings of past forum and devotional speeches may be accessed on svu.edu.

Written by: Amanda Fly

26
January
2017

Pulitzer-Prize Winning Photojournalist Deanne Fitzmaurice

Pulitzer-Prize Winning Photojournalist Deanne Fitzmaurice

Pulitzer-Prize winning photojournalist, Deanne Fitzmaurice, delivered a forum address to gathered students, faculty, and staff at Southern Virginia University on Friday, Jan. 20. Fitzmaurice’s forum was part of the series of events put on by the newly founded Institute for Writing and Mass Media directed by New York Times best-selling author Jeff Benedict.


Fitzmaurice’s address focused on the platform photography has provided her to connect with people from all walks of live throughout her career. Specifically, Fitzmaurice detailed an assignment to photograph a young Iraqi boy, Selah, who had been severely injured after an unmarked IED exploded in his hands and killed his older brother. The assignment has since evolved into a 13-year project in which Fitzmaurice has documented Selah’s struggle for survival and his family’s eventual immigration to the United States.

While sharing a series of brilliant and impactful photos, Fitzmaurice expounded on the sincere and significant moments she has experienced over the past 13 years with Selah and his family. She spoke about the trials facing Selah and his family as Iraqi refugees and her ability to connect with them despite cultural and communication barriers.

“So much about my work is building trust, building relationships, and connecting with people through my photographs” Fitzmaurice said.

While maintaining the highest ethical and professional standards, Fitzmaurice told an emotionally moving story of triumph over trial through her powerful photography.

Following Fitzmaurice’s presentation, Benedict offered a few closing remarks on his unexpected career, as well as some of the blessings and challenges he has faced along the way. Through obstacles and trials, Benedict told the audience, he found success through perseverance.

“It is easy to forget how lucky we are to live where we live and do what we do” Benedict concluded.

You can watch the entire forum below.

 

Written by: Amanda Fly

20
January
2017

Pulitzer-Prize Winning Photojournalist to Give Forum Interview

Pulitzer-Prize Winning Photojournalist to Give Forum Interview

Jeff Benedict, New York Times best-selling author and director of Southern Virginia University’s newly founded Institute for Writing and Mass Media, will conduct an interview-style forum with Pulitzer-Prize winning photojournalist, Deanne Fitzmaurice, on Friday January 20, at 11 a.m. in the Stoddard Center.


“I have collaborated with Deanne on multiple Sports Illustrated cover stories, books, and other projects.” Benedict said, “She’s one of the finest journalists I’ve ever worked with. There isn’t anything she can’t do with a camera.

“She has been all over the world, from the ghettos of Nairobi to Hollywood to the suites of the rich and famous,” Benedict continued. “Our students and the greater Southern Virginia University campus are about to see what she sees when she looks through a lens and aims her camera at a person’s soul.”

Fitzmaurice is best known for her unique ability to go behind the scenes and convey intimate, emotional, and thought provoking stories through her photojournalism. The forum will be the third in a series of interviews conducted by Benedict featuring influential leaders in writing and media.

“I have used my camera to tell stories about people, rich and poor, black and white, famous and downtrodden.” Fitzmaurice said, “There is so much to learn from observing human beings. I am eager to visit the Institute for Writing and Mass Media and share some of my experiences and life lessons as a photojournalist.”

Fitzmaurice is a Nikon Ambassador and an assignment photographer with publications including Sports Illustrated, ESPN, National Geographic and many other respected outlets. Her commercial clients include Apple, Nike, Google, and Facebook.

Fitzmaurice’s documentary work received recognition as a finalist for the Alexia Foundation Grant for World Peace in 2011 and 2012. She was also presented with the Juror’s Selection for the American Photography Awards. In 2013, her work was selected for Communications Arts Photography Annual. Fitzmaurice’s photography is part of the permanent collection at the Newseum, as well as the museum’s traveling exhibition of Pulitzer winning photographs. She has spent time as a contract photographer for the best-selling ‘Day in the Life’ series.

Fitzmaurice began her career as a photojournalist for the San Francisco Chronicle after earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Academy of Art University. When not on assignment, Fitzmaurice often teaches and lectures workshops. She is the co-founder of Think Tank Photo with her husband, photographer Kurt Rogers.

Written by: Amanda Fly

28
November
2016

An Interview with the Hartford Courant Opinion Editor

An Interview with the Hartford Courant Opinion Editor

Jeff Benedict, Director of the Institute for Writing and Mass Media at Southern Virginia University, conducted an interview-style forum with special guest Carolyn Lumsden, opinion editor of The Hartford Courant, in front of an audience of students, faculty and staff gathered in the Stoddard Center.


Lumsden addressed her role as the first female opinion editor of the Hartford Courant and recounted the trials and blessings of being a woman in journalism. Both Lumsden and Benedict provided insight on their professional progression in the media industry and offered advice on how to achieve success as a writer.

“You don’t need raw talent to be successful.” Lumsden said, “if you want to achieve something you have to work for it, and skill can be learned whether it comes naturally to you or not.”

You can watch the entire forum below.

Written by: Amanda Fly

17
November
2016

Editorial Page Editor of the Hartford Courant to Give Forum Interview

Editorial Page Editor of the Hartford Courant to Give Forum Interview

Jeff Benedict, New York Times best-selling author and director of Southern Virginia University’s newly founded Institute for Writing and Mass Media, will conduct an interview-style forum with special guest Carolyn Lumsden, opinion editor of The Hartford Courant, on Friday, November 18, at 11 a.m. in the Stoddard Center.


The forum will be the second in a series of interviews conducted by Benedict with influential leaders in writing and media. During first installment on Oct. 28, Benedict interviewed special guests B.J. Schecter, executive editor at Sports Illustrated, and Rick Wolff, Senior Executive Editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, in front of the campus community.

“Part of a rich college experience is hearing different viewpoints that broaden our peripheral vision and deepen our understanding of the issues of the day.” Benedict said, “The chance for our students to listen in on what was essentially a conversation with two members of the national media talking about topical subjects — a candidate for president, concussions in football, and violence against women on college campuses — was a rich experience.”

Lumsden has worked with The Hartford Courant since 1992, where she began as the first female editorial page editor of the newspaper, using its Fourth Estate power to advance open government, fight public corruption and advocate for the marginalized. Her editorials on juvenile court secrecy led to the relaxation of state confidentiality laws that allowed journalists, victims, social workers and police more information on cases. For her work on confidentiality law, she was honored with a national Sigma Delta Chi award and named Times Mirror Journalist of the Year.

Lumsden took a small reprieve from editorial writing to receive a Knight Fellowship at Yale Law and pioneer ‘Fresh Talk,’ a program for young journalism writers.

Lumsden returned to editorial writing in 2005 and her editorials helped initiate historic reforms to Connecticut’s courts, including the opening of judge’s meetings to the public and allowing camera’s into the courtrooms. Lumsden was honored in 2015 with the Yankee Quill Award – the highest individual honor bestowed on journalists by the Academy of New England Journalists.

Lumsden earned a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and masters’ degrees from Stanford University and Yale Law School. She is married to Francesco Martini, a native Italian, and has visited Italy with her husband every year for 30 years. They currently live in Suffield, Connecticut

Community members and Southern Virginia faculty, staff and students are invited to attend campus forums and devotionals each Friday morning at 11 a.m. in the Stoddard Center. Recordings of past forum and devotional speeches may be accessed on svu.edu.

Written by: Amanda Fly

01
November
2016

An Interview with Executive Editors at Sports Illustrated, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

An Interview with Executive Editors at Sports Illustrated, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

BUENA VISTA, Va. — Jeff Benedict, Director of the Institute for Writing and Mass Media at Southern Virginia University, conducted an interview-style forum with special guests B.J. Schecter, Executive Editor at Sports Illustrated, and Rick Wolff, Senior Executive Editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, in front of an audience of students, faculty and staff gathered in the Stoddard Center.

The interview, which consisted mostly of student-submitted questions, touched on a wide range of current issues including the media ethics, politics, sports and women’s equality.

“Part of a rich college experience is hearing different viewpoints that broaden our peripheral vision and deepen our understanding of the issues of the day,” Benedict said. “The chance for our students to listen in on what was essentially a conversation with two members of the national media talking about topical subjects — a candidate for president, concussions in football, and violence against women on college campuses — was a rich experience.”

Schecter, who has been with Sports Illustrated for over twenty years, echoed these sentiments and encouraged students to use their time at school to ask difficult questions.

“Never be scared to ask a question,” he said before answering a student-submitted question about the portrayal of women in the media and the possible link to violent crime against women. “You’ll never know the answers to the questions you don’t ask. … You are all in a wonderful academic learning environment — ask questions of everybody.”

Responding to a question about his impression of Mormonism, Wolff, who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but has published multiple books profiling prominent Latter-day Saints, said, “It’s an extraordinary religion. … It’s hard to find any downside to [Mormonism]. It’s pretty impressive.”

In addition to their forum interview on Southern Virginia’s campus, Schecter and Wolff, along with university alumnus J.J. Feinauer, also led a workshop with a group of students interested in journalism and media the previous evening.

The Institute for Writing and Mass Media will hold its next workshop on Nov. 17 and 18 featuring guests John Kramer, vice president of communications at the Institute for Justice, and Carolyn Lumsden, editor of the Hartford Courant editorial page.

You can watch all of last Friday’s forum interview below.

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Written by: Braxton Boyer

26
October
2016

Executive Editors at Sports Illustrated, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Executive Editors at Sports Illustrated, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

BUENA VISTA, Va. — Jeff Benedict, New York Times best-selling author and director of Southern Virginia University’s newly founded Institute for Writing and Mass Media, will conduct an interview-style forum with special guests B.J. Schecter, Executive Editor at Sports Illustrated, and Rick Wolff, Senior Executive Editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, on Friday, Oct. 28, at 11 a.m. in the Stoddard Center.


The interview is the first in a series of interview-style forums conducted by Benedict and will feature student-submitted questions on topics including sports, politics, business and the media.

“B.J. Schecter and Rick Wolff are two of the most accomplished editors in journalism and publishing today,” Benedict said. “I thought it would be fascinating to interview them in front of the student body and faculty … as they react and respond to provocative questions.”

B.J. Schecter — Executive Editor at Sports Illustrated

B.J. Schecter, who has worked at Sports Illustrated since 1996, is responsible for running the magazine’s investigative and enterprise unit, cross-platform projects, and managing SI’s internship program. Schecter, who manages content and columnists for SI.com, also serves as the editor of the recently launched college football website Campus Rush.

Schecter began his journalism career covering college football and college basketball. He has edited coverage of college football, college basketball, baseball, and several special projects, including Crime in College Football, the 50 Most Influential Minorities in Sports, the Great American Sports Atlas, and the nation’s top high school programs.

Rick Wolff — Senior Executive Editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing

Rick Wolff has acquired, edited and published almost 50 New York Times best-sellers in a variety of genres during his career. He came to Houghton in 2014, after twenty years at Hachette/Time Warner and eight years at Macmillan/Collier before that.

In 2001, Wolff launched the Warner Business Book imprint — later known as Business Plus — which posted nearly four dozen best-selling titles on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, and Business Week best-seller lists.

Wolff has worked with dozens of best-selling authors including former General Electric CEO Jack Welch (“JACK: Straight from the Gut,” which was on the New York Times Nonfiction best-seller list for six months); personal finance guru Robert Kiyosaki (“Rich Dad Poor Dad,” which was on the New York Times best-seller list for close to seven years); famed golfer Tiger Woods (“How I Play Golf”); Chris Anderson’s first person account of how to give a TED Talk, former Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson’s candid account of the 2008 financial crisis (“On the Brink”), and famed CBS journalist Dan Rather (“Rather Outspoken”).

Community members and Southern Virginia faculty, staff and students are invited to hear forums and devotional speakers each Friday morning at 11 a.m. in the Stoddard Center. Recordings of past forum and devotional speeches may be accessed online.

Written by: Braxton Boyer

29
September
2016

NFL Films Producer Premieres “Steve Young:

A Football Life” as Part of Inaugural Writing and Mass Media Workshop

NFL Films Producer Premieres “Steve Young:

BUENA VISTA, Va. — Chris Barlow, Supervising Director at NFL Films, premiered his newest documentary “Steve Young: A Football Life” to a crowd of more than 800 students, faculty and staff gathered in the Stoddard Center at Southern Virginia University on Friday, Sept. 23 as part of the two-day inaugural workshop of the school’s Institute for Writing and Mass Media, directed by New York Times best-selling author Jeff Benedict.

Barlow’s 45-minute film follows Steve Young’s life and career from his time at Brigham Young University through his retirement from the San Francisco 49ers. The documentary is based on Young’s forthcoming autobiography, co-authored by Benedict, “QB: My Life Behind the Spiral,” and will debut on the NFL Network on Oct. 7.

Steve Young’s parents, LeGrande “Grit” and Sherry, also attended the premiere, as well as members of the Forever Young Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Steve Young that provides children facing significant physical, emotional and financial challenges with academic, athletic and therapeutic opportunities otherwise unavailable to them.


After the premiere, Benedict and Barlow held a question and answer session with members of the Southern Virginia campus community and spoke on a range of topics from advice on filmmaking to dealing with production setbacks and what it was like working with Steve Young.

“I loved hearing from Chris Barlow,” Southern Virginia student Olivia Ekberg said. “I’m interested in bringing creative ideas to life, and that is exactly what Chris Barlow does on a regular basis. It was so amazing to see and learn how ideas can be turned into reality, and how to morph those ideas into an art that can touch people in a meaningful way.”

16-9-23-nfl-films-steve-young-premiere-1

The workshop also included an evening discussion led by Barlow on Thursday, Sept. 22 where students interested in journalism and media listened as Barlow, who has been with NFL Films for over 20 years, shared his experiences making “Steve Young: A Football Life.” Students also heard from Jeff Gasser, a Southern Virginia alumnus now working as Communications Producer for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm that represents religious freedom cases all over the world. After the discussion students socialized with Barlow, Gasser and Steve Young’s parents.

“It was a great site to see twenty-plus Southern Virginia students seated in a family room setting at the Institute, watching filmmaker Chris Barlow from NFL Films break down his documentary on Steve Young while Steve’s parents sat amidst the students,” Benedict said. “It was equally fulfilling to see Barlow working one-on-one with two of our student-videographers, showing them how to frame a shot and offering them compliments and encouragement as they prepared to interview him about his work.

“The Institute is all about forming meaningful relationships and connections between students and highly accomplished professionals, and that happened in a big way in our inaugural workshop.”

The Institute for Writing and Mass Media will hold its next workshop on Oct. 27 and 28, and will feature guests B.J. Shechter, Executive Editor at Sports Illustrated, and Rick Wolff, Senior Executive Editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing.

21
September
2016

NFL Films Director Chris Barlow to Premiere Docudrama on Steve Young

NFL Films Director Chris Barlow to Premiere Docudrama on Steve Young

BUENA VISTA, Va. — Chris Barlow, Supervising Director at NFL Films, and Jeff Benedict, New York Times best-selling author, will premiere Barlow’s latest docudrama “Steve Young: A Football Life” on Friday, Sept. 23, at 11 a.m. in the Stoddard Center at Southern Virginia University.


Barlow has worked for NFL Films since 1989 and has received more than 20 Emmy nominations and awards for his documentaries. For the past two years he has worked with Benedict, who directs the Institute for Writing and Mass Media at Southern Virginia, to create “Steve Young: A Football Life.”

“I’m looking forward to sharing the experiences Jeff and I had making the film,” Barlow said.

The documentary, which debuts on NFL Films Oct. 7, 2016, follows the life and career of Hall of Fame Quarterback Steve Young and is based off Steve Young’s recent autobiography co-authored by Benedict, “QB: My Life Behind the Spiral.”

A short question and answer session will follow the film.

Community members and Southern Virginia faculty, staff and students are invited to hear forums and devotional speakers each Friday morning at 11 a.m. in the Stoddard Center. Recordings of past forum and devotional speeches may be accessed online.

Written by: Braxton Boyer