Film School dean named top mentor to Hollywood filmmakers

Frank Patterson

"The Hollywood Reporter" is calling Frank Patterson one of the nation’s top mentors to a generation of Hollywood filmmakers. A special, Aug. 28 edition of the major trade publication lists Patterson, dean of Florida State University’s renowned Film School, among the 12 most influential film school professors in the United States.

The distinguished dozen hail from the prestigious film programs at New York University, Columbia University, the University of California-Los Angeles and Northwestern University as well as FSU and four other prominent institutions. Patterson joins a cadre of luminaries such as Columbia’s Milos Forman, who directed major motion pictures such as Hair and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and John Canemaker, an Academy Award-winning independent animator who teaches at NYU.

"I am thrilled just to be in the same room with the likes of Milos Forman and other such highly accomplished filmmaker-teachers," said Patterson, who in addition to his numerous feature film credits has directed more than 100 television commercials and music videos. "These are people I look up to. Needless to say, it is a great, great honor to be included with them on a list of distinguished professors in our field."

Under Patterson’s watch, the Directors Guild of America has recognized FSU’s College of Motion Picture, Television and Recording Arts — best known as The Film School — for its distinguished contributions to American culture; FSU film students won more Student Academy Awards and Student Emmys combined in a single year (2004) than any other film program in the industry’s history; and to date, the students have garnered a total of 24 Emmys in 17 years and five Academy Awards in the past four years alone, not to mention a host of other national honors. In 2007, Florida Governor Charlie Christ honored Patterson for "inspiring a generation of Florida filmmakers."

"Frank Patterson has brought incredible energy, vision, technical expertise and aesthetic sense to our Film School," said Lawrence G. Abele, FSU Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. "He and his dedicated professional faculty work to ensure that every student gets an unparalleled experience and graduates able to perform at the very highest level in an exceptionally competitive industry. No one has done more to elevate the place of film in the university and among the arts than Frank."

Film School alumni Jonathan King (MFA, 1992) and Melissa Carter (MFA, 1996) are two of Patterson’s biggest fans and most successful protégés. Both say he prepared them to hit the ground running and do well in the real world of television and film — and they have.

Formerly at Sony Pictures, where he co-produced the Academy Award-winning 2006 motion picture "Dreamgirls," King now serves as executive vice president for production of narrative fiction films at Participant Media, a leading provider of socially conscious documentaries (including another Academy Award winner, Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth").

"Frank emphasized reality," King said. "He definitely encouraged individual artistic expression, but he also made sure we were aware of the somewhat harsh environment of the movie business that awaited us after graduation. It was his dual focus on artistic encouragement and business reality that stuck with me. You can have the most high-minded, noble intentions, but if you can’t get audiences to pay attention to your movies as entertaining experiences, they won’t hear your message."

King called Patterson’s approach to filmmaking and teaching entrepreneurial. "He was the first person who showed me how to get things done without waiting for people to give me permission. Frank’s attitude was always ‘pick something to believe in, then go make it happen.’"

Carter earned both story and original screenplay credits on the 2004 major motion picture "Little Black Book," which co-starred Brittany Murphy, Kathy Bates and Holly Hunter. Now, she is the creator and executive producer of a television pilot, her first, for a new series called "Mistresses" (based on a BBC drama of the same name) that is set to premiere soon on Lifetime.

"Frank has this amazing holistic approach to filmmaking, for which I thank him every time I start a new assignment as a working screenwriter," Carter said. "His philosophy is simple:  To truly know their chosen craft, every student should learn every crew position there is on a film set. When I shot my first television pilot for Fox/Lifetime, the first day I stepped on set I had a crew of around 100, but I understood all their jobs because at The Film School, I’d done them all, and fortunately, it made me look like an experienced executive producer."

She did her research before coming to FSU. "Believe me, many film schools keep following the same curriculum, without looking at how their alumni are doing in the ‘real world,’" Carter said. "But Frank is always reaching out to FSU Film School alumni to see if what was taught to them last year as students is helping them right now, as graduates. He constantly makes adjustments, because filmmaking isn’t stagnant, it advances, and therefore, so does the FSU film program."

Carter calls Patterson an inspired and inspiring communicator and amazing teacher. "Frank still loves films and storytelling as much as any bright-eyed freshman," she said.

Between becoming dean of the FSU Film School in 2003, and his nine years on its faculty as head of production, Patterson was the associate dean and director of the Film School at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. He also has taught film at The University of Texas-Austin and at his alma mater, Baylor University, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications, and has served as president of the Los Angeles Film School in Hollywood.

To learn more about undergraduate and graduate programs in the FSU Film School, one of the largest and best-equipped facilities devoted wholly to film education, visit