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Diane Baker Talks “Best-Kept Secret”: San Francisco’s Expanding Academy of Art

Diane Baker Talks "Best-Kept Secret": San Francisco's Expanding Academy of Art

Thompson on Hollywood

The 5th annual Epidemic Film Festival (named after the idea that there is a creative epidemic going on) will open on Friday, May 6 at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco at 4 pm, reports Cari Beauchamp.

A showcase for the finest films made this year by the Motion Pictures, Film and Television students at the Academy of Art University, the ceremony will begin with the awarding of honorary degrees to actress Eva Marie Saint and director Roger Corman with awards announced after the three hours plus of screenings.

The Academy has 16 different schools, everything from fine art, architecture and fashion to animation and game design. But the power behind the Motion Picture, Film and Television school might come as a surprise: actress Diane Baker has served as executive director of the school for the past seven years.

Baker, whose made her screen debut in George Stevens’ Diary of Anne Frank in 1959, has since carved out a career in both films and television, working consistently, mostly in featured roles that always seem to make you look twice (Silence of Lambs, Marnie, Murder at 1600).

While she has had to turn down roles since taking on this almost full-time and year-round gig, she says it allows her to “keep my hands in all aspects of filmmaking and I see more of my friends here than I ever did in LA.” Part of the reason for that is that Diane uses the rolodex she has been enlarging for 50 years to bring friends such as the director Randal Kleiser and actors Marsha Mason and Frank Langela to the school to teach and help in ways large and small. Baker isn’t shy about calling casting agents or directors to promote students she thinks are particularly talented. “I just saw Tom Luddy of Telluride at lunch today and I told him he would be seeing several of this year’s films as entries for his film festival. He said ‘Great. Send them to me.'”

That willingness to pick up the phone personifies Baker’s no-nonsense approach to her school — she has had two soundstages built during her tenure and she is justifiably proud of what they have created in San Francisco. There are a total of 1700 undergraduate and graduate students (almost 20,000 altogether in the university) with tuitions that rival UC’s and while she calls the university “the best kept secret” she knows, if she continues to have her way, that will not be true for much longer.

The Epidemic Film Festival is open to the public and continues on Saturday with industry panels at the Morgan Auditorium. More information at Academy of Art Events.

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