Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Jim Keeshen Productions

In our verified complaint and petition under the California Public Records Act, Santa Monica College Animation Professor Jim Keeshen allegedly stated, "Right now I'm just using them so that I can finish my film.... Let me try to finish up what I'm doing here so I can get out of here on my own terms." He additionally claimed in an email to me that he was the "now the scapegoat, the sacrificial lamb awaiting the axe at SMC." He additionally told me that I had "essentially poisoned the water here... for everybody.... It's a really bad climate here now."

Poisoned the water for whom? Who is them? The Santa Monica College administration or the students? As Keeshen explained
to me, he didn't care about Julie Yarrish, Katharine Muller and Judith Penchansky and that he has "to live with them as we're swimming in the same pond." Did he not care about the students as well? He told me, "I'm not in anybody's side." I discussed some of the questionable transactions Keeshen had with SMC: "They're pointing to all the little kickbacks and things you've gotten, $10,000 here, a laptop here, the sabbatical here, the $40,000, the fake tax id number which doesn't match Studio Animatics." He didn't deny any of this to me, but merely stated, "I'll have to face that when the time comes."

How is it a bad climate? Is it because Jim Keeshen can no longer use SMC's Academy of Entertainment and Technology
as his own digital playground? When I did a search for Jim Keeshen Productions, it confirmed that Jim Keeshen Productions was in fact using the school for his own self-serving purposes in that the address he has listed is 1660 Stewart Street, Santa Monica, CA. This is the same address as SMC's Academy of Entertainment and Technology! Here's a screenshot I made from Manta's website:

According to Jim Keeshen's Course Syllabus
, "In 1997 the Academy of Entertainment and Technology was started at SMC and Keeshen was asked to help set up the curriculum and advise on hardware/software purchases. He became the first full time professor and chair of the Academy." The AET People website adds under its faculty description for Jim Keeshen, "Jim eventually started his own animation studio, continuing to produce TV commercials and specializing in animatics for advertising agencies. He came to Santa Monica College in 1987 and, in 1997, helped to establish the original Academy program. He is now associate professor of animation at the Academy."

And who was hired at AET when Keeshen was chairman? Was it the qualified industry professions they promised us or Jim Keeshen's friends and former and current employees of Jim Keeshen Productions? If Jim Keeshen Productions and AET are one-in-the-same, does it really make a difference?

Lea Milic "has more then 20 years of experience in the entertainment and animation industries. She has worked as a producer/production manager on many 2D and 3D projects including: TV serials, commercials, direct to video projects, video games, and web animation" according to AET's faculty website. According to her Animation Producer's Handbook bio, "Lea Milic is a producer at Jim Keeshen Productions in Santa Monica, California."

Joddy Nicola also teaches 2D Animation I
, 2D Animation II, and Special Topics in Animation at the Academy. Joddy Niccola [alternate spelling] is also a senior lecturer in animation at Otis College of Art + Design. According to his faculty bio, "Certificate of Fine Arts (Character Animation). Animator, Director, Writer. Owner of Hijinks Animation. Has worked with Jim Keeshan Studio Animatics. Clients include Disney and Warner Brothers." I assume this is the same Jim Keeshen Studio Animatics we have discussed in previous blog postings. In fact, Joddy Nicola is listed as one of the animators in Jim Keeshen Productions' 1995 animated short entitled, "Monkey Love."


Nicola is also credited for layout while Jim Keeshen is listed as the Director and one of the story developers. You can download the movie here.


And what about AET professor Jan Nagel? She teaches ET 72 Career Explorations, an AET class taught online. She also took over Jim Keeshen's ET 2 Storytelling class when Keeshen was on his alleged sabbatical in Fall 2003. She also filled in with me for the Storytelling class in Fall 2004 when Keeshen left in the middle of the semester to go to Korea to work on his animated short, "The Day of the Dead." And who is the person responsible for marketing "The Day of the Dead" for direct to home video? None other than Jan Nagel according to Keeshen's 2002 "El Dia de Los Muertos" promotional booklet where Jan Nagel is listed as "Entertainment Marketing Diva" on the back contact page.

An online article in Animation World Magazine, dated November 30, 2005, stated:

Jan Nagel is a marketing consultant to the animation industry representing production services and development, and is the president of Women In Animation, Inc., a worldwide professional organization. Jan was also representing the following projects at this year’s NATPE: El Dia de Los Muertos (Jim Keeshen Productions), Captain & The Quill (Glenn Productions) and Goddess Only Knows (MJ Productions) for co-production and/or distribution.


Follow the yellow brick road, but all that glitters is not gold...

PJ Abode and James Reilly were former students of AET who became professors, allegedly hired by Jim Keeshen. Stu Seldon and Tim Ryan were also graduates of the Academy who were then hired as computer staff members. Nepotism seems to go a long way in the Academy's hiring practices. Even Peidad Robertson, the former SMC president, brought in her friends from Florida, Katharine and David Muller, to work at SMC along with her friend Winniphred Stone from Massachusetts who worked with Keeshen on the AET distance education courses. Clearly, the cards were stacked in Keeshen's favor to do with what he pleased of the Academy program.

In addition to faculty, did Jim Keeshen use students to work on his own personal and commercial projects at AET, utilizing publicly funded school facilities at no expense to him? As Keeshen's teaching assistant at AET during the period of 2004 and 2005, I also worked on his "Day of the Dead" project, even creating a website for him. In a memorandum I wrote to him while he was in Korea at the beginning of this year, I outlined several concerns I had on his project and various financing strategies. I wrote in part, "Accordingly, having Jan Nagel’s Marketing Diva information clearly marked on your investment packages for Day of the Dead is not in your best interests, yet you could utilize her contacts to help bring in potential investors, but you must weigh the risks of her marketing strategies and expertise, or lack of, in this risk-filled area of seeking potential investors for your film."
I also later voiced my concerns to him in a later email about using school facilities to work on his own projects. I wrote in relevant part, the following:

As I stated on the phone, I am very busy with press matters at E3 all week and, despite this took the time, to email and phone you back twice today. I also stated on the phone tonight that there are some newly discovered legal issues I wish to discuss with an attorney at this point about the legality, or lack of, which may come back to hurt either of us and with which I seek to protect us both.

One of these legal and ethical issues which concern me deals with the "Santa Monica College Computer and Network Use Policy" which I recently reviewed. It states that your computer in your office should not have been used for "non-District fundraising and commercial purposes."

You additionally had me do work for the last year on your commercial "Day of the Dead" animated film which was not part of the school, at least according to what you told me, and you had me research fundraising for this same film and any pay I did receive from you, was done in relation to your commercial projects such as "Day of the Dead" and "Surfer Joe." You paid me either through personal checks or corporate checks under Jim Keeshen Productions, Inc. Again, I feel the school could use all of this against you so I took all of that off the server.
I will let you know once I find the time to obtain legal counsel and advice in this matter.

I ask you to think about these things so as to protect yourself in this matter. Did you know when we were doing the special lectures, your "Day of the Dead" and "Surfer Joe" film project and financing documents, that this was a violation of school policy? Were you ever given anything in writing stating what you could do or should not have done on your school office computer during school time using school facilities? I never was! Again, I believe in your film projects and only tried to help you. If the school uses anything I own, even in part, and places it on their school server, in light of their recent retaliation against us, I will be forced to defend my rights accordingly.

Did Keeshen, as chairman of AET, also use other students to work for him in his digital playground?

According to one former Academy of Entertainment and Technology student who worked on Keeshen's Family Guy Pilot Pitch:

Just to fill in the questions you have, Jim Keeshen did approach us directly, a group of five of the most "competent" students at the time, to work on the Family Guy pilot. There was never any paperwork given or signed, and we were not trained by anybody, except maybe given some direction on the first day to tell us what needed to be done, and basically just started that same day and continued for at most a couple of weeks. Jim was never present at the studio during this time, except maybe on the first day and the last. The two names I gave you were AET students like me and both worked on the pilot as well. I don't recall any of the other names you mentioned, but all the people who worked on the pilot are credited on that tape.

We were also offered opportunities to apply to work at Film Roman, and were given animation tests from Film Roman by Jim Keeshen to practice on, with a contact name, and we each applied, with no real results.

For the most part we worked on the assumption that we had to pay our dues, work for free as it were, to get in the industry. But we were never paid or told we were hired as interns. We were just asked directly as a group if we were interested, by Jim, and of course we said yes.

You ask if I ever signed any paperwork/agreement/statement when working for Keeshen Studios. I never did. It was all a verbal agreement and understanding that we would work on the Family Guy pilot for credit, no pay, as an internship. We were disappointed not to see our credits when it aired, but most of us moved on.

As you well know, in almost any industry, internships and apprenticeships are part of the deal in the hopes of making it in whatever business, paying your dues as it were, unfortunately this practice is ripe for abuse.

Although many AET students were credited on the Family Guy pilot, none received internship credit at AET. According to the Internship and Job documentation provided by Robert Sammis by and through Santa Monica Community College District, Jim Keeshen Productions is only listed as officially hiring one intern since the Academy's inception in 1997 to the present. Yet, according to one former employee of Jim Keeshen Productions, dozens of alleged "interns" from AET filtered through Keeshen's animation studio on Sawtelle between the period of 1998 to 2001 where they were used for free and then let go. If these AET students did not receive internship credit nor were they paid, was this not then a violation of federal and state law in that these employees should have at least received minimum wage for their hard work?

And did I get paid for work I did for Jim Keeshen Productions and as his teaching assistant at Santa Monica College? In April this year, when I asked to be paid, Jim emailed me the following: "I am trying to get money up to pay my income tax and will see if I can pay it as well as the rent which I now owe for 2 months. Am trying to borrow from the family at this bad time. If I have anything left over I'll slip you some cash, but don't hold your breath." I never did get paid in the end, yet Jim Keeshen earned a salary of $93,874. Considering how much money he pulled in teaching at AET and through Jim Keeshen Productions utilizing cheap labor, one questions how he could not pay his income tax or his rent. Was he lying to me or was something else going on here?

During the approximate period of 1997 to 2002, inclusive, Jim Keeshen Productions maintained a website under the URL This site is no longer online, but I was able to obtain a cached copy. The site states the following:

JIM KEESHEN PRODUCTIONS is a full-service animation company. We produce animated TV commercials, ID spots, test commercials, animation for the internet, CD-ROMs and multimedia. We especially love the traditional form of character animation and are currently working on some animated shorts, 1/2 hour TV specials and a feature length film. The artwork you see in our site comes from the various projects we are working on. Available for you to download are the sample animation reel with our commercial work and a short cartoon that we have just finished called Monkey Love. I hope you enjoy our art.

The about page claims: "In 1982 Keeshen incorporated into Jim Keeshen Productions and specialized in producing animation & animatics / photomatics for the major ad agencies in L.A., S.F., N.Y., St. Louis and Chicago. The company maintains a staff of talented artists and technical personnel." The question is who precisely were these "talented artists" and "technical personnel"? Were they in fact free slave labor from Keeshen's pool of students at the Academy where he was chairman and a professor in animation? No names of his staff were listed or otherwise credited on his website.

Additionally, what CD-ROMs and multimedia did Jim Keeshen produce? The ones paid for by the taxpayers through federal, state, and district funds and allegedly for the benefit of Santa Monica College?

This brings us to a final issue of the intermingling of Keeshen's commercial work with his educational and ethical interests, or conflicts thereof, as a professor at Santa Monica College. According to the SMC Board of Trustee Minutes for April 3, 2000, Animatics received a consultant contract for the Academy of Entertainment and Technology "for an amount not to exceed $10,000." The funding source was under the "Economic Development Virtual Multimedia / Entertainment Center Grant." The following comment was given:

SMC, as one of its objectives in the Virtual Multimedia/Entertainment Center Grant, wil be hosting two days of intensive multimedia computer training on April 10 and 11, 2000 at the Academy of Entertainment and Technology. The training program will follow the same format as last year and will be made available to interested faculty and staff. Animatics will be responsible for hiring qualified trainers, provision materials, design marketing materials, and other expenses that may be incurred in the scheduling and implementation of the training program.

So, who is Animatics? According to another consultant contract with Animatics, dated September 30, 2001, Animatics was corrected to read "Studio Animatics" with James Keeshen's name as President under the consultant signature. Keeshen uses his home address and a very questionable California tax identification number for Studio Animatics given the fact that this company is not registered either through business records in Norwalk, CA or on the State of California's business portal. The only company which does appear to have been owned by Keeshen is the California corporation known as James Keeshen Productions, Inc. Additionally, Animatics, Inc. is not a registered company, yet Jim Keeshen advertises that it is on SIGGRAPH's website. He uses the Sawtelle address where he allegedly ran Jim Keeshen Productions, at least when he worked on the Family Guy pilot pitch. His email is the same one he uses on the AET website under his faculty bio.

So, why didn't Keeshen enter into a consultant contract with Santa Monica Community College District under the name of this company? Perhaps because his name would have readily shown up in a search either through Google or SMC's own internal search engine. Why would Keeshen want to conceal this information from the public? Well, if the original 2000 Animatics contract follows the agreement he signed with the District as the latter 2001 did, he agreed that "he and all his employees are not employees of the DISTRICT." Also, he agreed, as a consultant, to "furnish, at his own expense, all labor, materials, equipment and other items necessary to carry out the terms of this Agreement."

Wait a minute here... wasn't Keeshen an employee of the District by virtue of being an animation professor at the Academy? Didn't he also use students to do his work and school facilities and equipment? We shall never know as to the 2000 Animatics contract as that public record (as well as any supporting documentation including proposals, reports, bills, invoices, and receipts) has been long withheld from us by the District.

Shouldn't the fact that Jim Keeshen was an employee of the District in direct violation of his consultant contract have thrown up a red flag for SMC when payment was due and payable for services allegedly rendered? Well, in a document we received from SMC entitled "Santa Monica College Instructional Consultants" which stated in parentheses "Only for Persons Not Otherwise Employed at Santa Monica College", Animatics was authorized a fee not to exceed $35,000. The amount was crossed out and amended to $40,000. The authorizing signature under Department Chairperson was none other than AET Dean Katharine Muller.

The social security number is conveniently blacked out, making me question whether the Business Service Office paid Jim Keeshen under the tax identification number used in the consultant contract or under his own personal social security number which he would have used for payment as an instructor at Santa Monica College. Dean Muller knew Keeshen was an employee of the District, so why did she blatantly cover this over and authorize public funds to pay him as if he were not?

Did the Board of Trustees know about this? What about Robert Sammis, then Vice-President of Human Resources in charge of personnel files at SMC? Well, according to the October 5, 2004 campaign contributions to Margaret Quinones for her SMC Board of Trustee re-election campaign, Robert Sammis, Katharine Muller, David Muller, then SMC president Piedad Robertson, AET internship coordinator Gloria Mottler, and current president Thomas Donner all donated money to the Friends of Margaret Quinones. Again, Keeshen had the cards stacked in his favor and, as one former AET student so poignantly stated, "this practice is ripe for abuse." The Animatics contracts, much like Keeshen's Fall 2003 sabbatical, were allegedly rub stamped through this system of abuse.

So, is Jim Keeshen the "sacrificial lamb" as he claims or merely the wolf is sheep's clothing? I will leave that for you, the taxpayers and students of SMC, to decide. I'm sure SMC's public records will reveal more of the story behind Jim Keeshen's digital playground at AET.
-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

Feel free to link or print this; just include the SAVE SMC URL:

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sammis Crawls Out of the Woodwork

Finally, after another email to Santa Monica College VP Robert Sammis today, he finally responds. Perhaps it helped that I copied that email to Defendants Julie Yarrish and Pat Green as well as Dean Katharine Muller and that I took the time to drop by at school. In any event, here's our recent correspondence regarding SMC's records under the California Public Records Act.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

---------------MY EMAIL TO ROBERT SAMMIS----------------

NOVEMBER 29, 2005

Dear Mr. Sammis,

This is a confirmation that this email does come from me, Des Manttari. I stopped by AET today to see if you were in and Andrea Hyman confirmed that you have been out all week. I wanted to make sure that my emails were in fact going to you as well. I hope you are recovering from your knee injury and that we can pick up where we left off once you return next week.

As to the spreadsheet, I have not sent one yet. Since there are 5 outstanding written requests for inspection and copies of records and many records which are long overdue, I do not want to overwhelm you at this point with a spreadsheet. Rather, let's start with the itemization as set forth in my last email, which I include here for your reference, and try to resolve these documents first and foremost. Once these matters are resolved, I can bring you up to speed with other outstanding requests. I have been very patient at this point and am doing my best to work with you. So, let's do what we can and work from there as a foundation for future cooperation. As to my enrollment hold, I have resolved this matter to my satisfaction, so you can disregard my previous emails regarding this issue.

Very Truly Yours,
Des Manttari /s/

From: "Robert S"
Subject: Re: My Third Email Request re Public Records
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 2005 22:04:05 +0000 GMT

Ms. Manttari:

I am assuming that this email is coming from you. I do not recognize the name on the email address. Please confirm that the attached message is from you.

I am still not back to work due to my knee injury and will not be returning until sometime next week. I do not recall seeing an email from you regarding the spread sheet you said you would compose listing those documents that you believe you have not received and/or still want to inspect. If you did send me such a document please send it to me again. I will attempt to adress your issues the best tbat I can while I am recovering.

Robert Sammis

>-----Original Message----->
From: "Phoenix Genesis"
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 2005 11:45:48
Subject: My Third Email Request re Public Records

November 29, 2005

Dear Mr. Sammis,

I have not heard back from you regarding my last two emails. It has been over a week and I haven't been able to begin inspection of files. In this email, I again request the following:

1. When we could meet to begin inspection of files under the CPRA. As you know, our original written request for inspection was on or about July 15, 2005. Despite repeated empty promises to avoid going to Court Ex Parte by you and your attorney, Joshua Morrison, we have not been given an opportunity for inspection of any files to date. The eCollege file that we allegedly inspected was not freely turned over to either me or my attorney, Christopher Field. Instead, we stood there while one of your SMC employees rifled through the file. Again, I ask you formally in writing, when we will be allowed inspection? As you are well aware, under the California Public Records Act (CPRA), access to the Santa Monica College's District files should have been immediate and during normal business hours. Somehow, no time sees to be convenient and we have suffered through endless dilatory tactics and excuse and excuse.

2. The Studio Animatics / Animatics contract from 2000 (as referenced in the SMC Board of Trustee minutes) and supporting documentation including bills and receipts is long outstanding. When do we expect to obtain this information? I find that it is a conflict of interest that Jim Keeshen, under the thin veil of a non-existent company (at least according to any searches performed in Norwalk for DBAs and under any Secretary of State's business portal for corporations and limited partnerships) was able to secure consultant contracts for Santa Monica College when he signed on those contracts that he was not a district employee when in fact he was a district employee and Chairman of AET. Isn't this an ethical conflict of interest? Is this a reason that this contract and the supporting document for alleged work rendered is not forthcoming? Was this work not completed in the same fashion that Professor Keeshen's mandatory sabbatical summary report was not filed?

3. Again, we requested the sabbatical application / proposal for Professor Jim Keeshen for the alleged sabbatical he undertook with Klasky/Csupo in Fall Semester 2003. As I previously indicated to you, other professors make their sabbatical applications and reports available online, so I contend that this document is not confidential and, in fact, its disclosure is vital to the public's right to know where our public funds are being spent and by whom. Is it that Jim Keeshen was not required to file a sabbatical application and rather than his sabbatical being something which was to allegedly benefit the school, it was little more than a paid semester-long vacation for him with a nice rise in salary increase? If this is the case, then I contend that this was a misuse of district funds and that any money paid for this sabbatical including salary, should be repaid to the district and used on something which will actually benefit the SMC community.

4. The Master Services and License Agreement with eCollege is also outstanding. Despite my following through and providing you with this information, I still have not obtained this public record. Does SMC have such an inadequate filing system to account for its public expenditures or are we again merely being delayed for no good reason other than your refusal to comply with the law under the CPRA?

5. As to the documents allegedly produced by you and which were submitted to the attention of Dean Katharine Muller pertaining to the Academy of Entertainment and Technology (AET), it was a sad case of allegedly complying with the CPRA. I have yet to receive any documentation regarding the Mary Pickford scholarship endowment to and for the benefits of the Academy students. I have not been given any contact information for the companies which allegedly hired and ultiized AET students as interns.

6. I have received NO documentation pertaining to invoices and bills concerning expenditures at the Academy since its inception in 1997 and to the present. As you are well aware, Professor Jim Keeshen as the original chairman of the Academy, was to have "advise[d] on hardware/software purchases" for AET. Perhaps you can utilize him to locate these documents or at least give you an itemization as to what hardware and software was purchased under his chairmanship. Additionally, I am informed and believe and thereon allege that Joan Abrahamson, as advisory to the Academy, was also in charge of securing the computer purchases by and through Dell Computers. Perhaps you can contact her and see where these invoices were retained. At it stands, we have received no documentation at all.

7. I have not received any documentation regarding the $1.25 million provided from then Governor Pete Wilson as an infusion of limited state funds to the Academy to help launch its success. I am a bit mystified where this large amount of money vaporized to and why there is no accountability to the public. Perhaps again you can ask either Katharine Muller, Jim Keeshen, or Joan Abrahamson, all in their respective positions of guardians of our AET educational center, where this money went and where the documentation is held along with the crucial itemization of expenditures and the bills and receipts to justify the money spent. In 1999, Marilyn Simons is listed as an Administrative Assistant for AET. Perhaps you could ask her. Even Judith Penchansky is listed as one of the "Stewart Street" Administration during this same period. Perhaps you could ask her where some of AET's money went. As you are well aware, she is also a named defendant under our CPRA lawsuit for failure to turn over documents belonging to Jim Keeshen for his work done as a consultant.

8. Curiously enough, Brooks/Flemming Associates Limited Liability Corporation (BFA/LLC) served on the Academy's Advisory Board (as per your SMC website on or about June 19, 1997 and listed again erroneously under Brooks/Fleming Associates on your SMC website on or about January 16, 1999) while also receiving a consultant contract with SMC on or about January 8, 2001 under the guise of providing "intensive multimedia training to staff." We have sought this contract for many months yet have not received any documentation including the supporting bills and receipts.

9. We have received the wrong year for the Middle School Grant for AET which we received. I am also a bit curious, to say the least, why Piedad Robertson authorized this grant for 2005 in March 2005 when she had already resigned in January 2005 and was safely tucked away as head of the Education Commissions (ECS) for the States in Denver, Colorado?

10. As to the Academy employee information, the small printouts we received for AET staff members such as Gloria Mottler, Tim Ryan, Stu Seldon, and Brant Looney are insufficient. When will be receive more substantial documentation? You contend that Brant Looney was an employee for SMC and not a consultant, and due to that reason, you have no consultant contracts to provide us. Yet, Brant Looney did in fact receive district funds as a consultant in July 6, 1998 and again in January 11, 1999 pursuant to documentation from the Board of Trustees. Please indicate when we shall receive these consulting contracts.

11. I have not received sufficient documentation by and between the California Postsecondary Education Commission and SMC, specifically the proposal submitted to the CPEC by SMC regarding its status as an educational institution. I know both Piedad Robertson and Rocky Young were involved in submitting this proposal, so perhaps you can contact them regarding where these files are housed.

12. We have yet to receive the enrollment figures for both full and part time students, broken down per semester, for the Academy of Entertainment & Technology. Again, these are long overdue and I would like to know when we can expect this public information.

13. I have not heard back from you regarding the two outstanding requests, one to Julie Yarrish and one to Pat Green, both dated October 24, 2005. When should I inspect inspection and copies of these files?

To repeat myself, this is not an exhaustive list of public records outstanding to us, yet an overview of highlighted documents which are outstanding. I reserve the right to amend this request in the future with other documents that we still have not yet obtained. Should I not hear back from you, I am to assume that you do not attend to comply, despite many broken promises of compliance and that my attorneys should move Ex Parte in this matter at their earliest convenience.

Thank you for your prompt attention to the foregoing.

Very Truly Yours,
Des Manttari /s/

Feel free to link or print this; just include the SAVE SMC URL:

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, November 28, 2005

Got Game? A Look at Game Design Schools

So, being an animation and game development student at Santa Monica College's Academy of Entertainment and Technology (AET), I was wondering what other students have accomplished in the areas of graphic design, interactive media, web design, game design, and 2D and 3D animation. I went to AET's official website and clicked on the little button to the left called "Showcase."

I was a bit shocked when I received a blank page with the following words:

this area is currently under construction

AET has been around since 1997 and it's almost 2006 and this web page is still "under construction"? Is anyone doing anything over at AET to warrant showcasing it to the online world? Or, students are doing some creative and innovative work, yet no one at AET knows how to create a web page to showcase this work? Or, alternatively, it just doesn't matter to the administrators and professors at AET to show off the students' work in computer animation, traditional art, game design, and storyboarding. In any case, it is sad that the students, who the school should represent as its finest asset and source of continued funding, are not being represented on AET's website.

An art school, even if it clothes itself in technology, is first and foremost a place where students concentrate on their portfolios in order to display their wares to prospective employers. Almost any AET student has taken a course in web design and Photoshop. The students are well versed in creating simple web pages to showcase their talents. Why are the students not given ftp access to upload those pages online? If I were a high school student looking for an art school to attend, wouldn't I want to see what other students are doing artistically? Aren't the students' work a reflection of the programs taught and the professors' skills who are behind these courses?

According to an online article in the Ocean Park Gazette, dated January 31, 2005, AET is allegedly meeting the demands of the video game industry by adding game development to its curriculum. I quote from the following:

The new classes -- added to two game courses introduced in the fall -- will lead to three new certificate programs that will officially be launched in fall 2005. The certificate programs are in game development, special effects and post production.

"The game industry is exploding, and we're jumping on this so that we can get students trained and into exciting careers," said William Lancaster, chair of the design technology department at SMC's widely praised Academy of Entertainment & Technology.

"The growth and impact of the game industry are staggering - the film industry grosses $8 billion, compared to $14 billion-plus by the game industry," Lancaster said. "Another example is Sony, which derives 70 percent of its revenues from Play Station products."

But when I did a Google search for Video Game Design Schools, AET didn't even make the final cut in Animation Arena's Schools for Aspiring Game Designers. Could it be the lack of work showcased by students? Or is it lack of computer access to Jeannie's Novak's ET42 Game Development course that holds aspiring game designers like myself from working on my projects? If this program of study is so important, then why is her course not considering a valid one for computer access according to Dean Katharine Muller? As mentioned in previous blog entries, no documentation has been provided to us to justify the lack of computer access or why this new course was downsized.

Or is Bill Lancaster like the two-faced mayor in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, voicing a rosy picture in his press release version of AET's video game industry related future while stating something completely different in SMC's committee meetings. Here's a summary of Lancaster's statements on September 18, 2001 found in the Occupational Committee Meeting:

There is a great need for technology in AET (Academy of Entertainment and Technology). This need is projected to continue if the Academy is to offer state-of-the art equipment to train students. There is also a need to expand the programs offered at AET.

We need to become more active with industry partners. Currently, industry partners do not do more than serve on advisory boards. AET needs a job internship coordinator. AET currently has one, but there is more demand than she can handle. AET through the job internship coordinator needs to work more closely with the Job Center.

Industry partners which do little more than serve on advisory boards? When asked for information about lead game developer Electronic Arts visits to AET under the guise of providing jobs and internships, we also received no documents from Dean Muller or Santa Monica College. Yet, according to Muller, in a press statement made to the Santa Monica Daily Press on or about March 26, 2004, she claims the following:

"We're excited to showcase the incredible work of our students in computer animation, motion graphics and interactive design," said Katharine Muller, dean of the academy. "Because we work so closely with the entertainment industry, we are able train our students in the latest techniques using state-of-the-art technology. Our students go on to high-paying careers in such companies as DreamWorks, Digital Domain, Rhythm & Hues, Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment and Warner Bros."

Showcase the students' work where? Definitely not on their official AET website. And if she's working so closely in the entertainment industry, why are there no documents from AET to substantiate this allegation? What about all those glowing claims of high-paying careers? According to my handy document entitled, "Santa Monica College Academy of Entertainment & Technology Internships and Job Placements," dated October 2005, here's the breakdown:

Activision = 1 hire
Electronic Arts = 1 hire
DreamWorks = 6 hires
Digital Domain = 4 hires
Rhythm & Hues = 2 hires
Sony Computer Entertainment of America = 2 hires
Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment = 2 hires
Warner Bros. = 1 hire

That's less than 20 students since 1997 and it's unclear what jobs they obtained, much less whether these were in high-paying careers as promised. I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but the Game Development Certificate at AET is still "pending approval." According to Bill Lancaster, this program was officially launched this semester. Then, why I ask again, was Jeannie Novak's Game Development course cut down to only 1 unit for 8 weeks from 3 units for 16 weeks? Professor Novak herself doesn't have the answer to this important question. So, if AET is not meeting the needs of its students, where else should one turn for an education in the game industry and where one's work gets the respect it deserves? Let's look at some other schools.

In contrast to AET, DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Washington (considered the Rolls Royce of animation and video game design schools) offers a nice selection of students' work in its Gallery page. You can view 6 years of animation movie clips and production stills of student work. You can also view and download game projects and even play online games. There is also the much-needed link to student web pages. They even have an archive and Hall of Honor. Okay, the Hall of Honor is coming soon... but there's enough here to make any would-be animator or game designer rush to sign up for this school. It's a bit pricey compared to AET's program, but well worth the cost of admission. I guess you get what you pay for.

Let's see what our AET neighbor, the Art Institute of California - Los Angeles has to offer in terms of a digital gallery of its students' work. The page for Student Portfolios states: "Here's a glimpse at some favorite artwork from students and faculty at The Art Institute of California — Los Angeles. From the digital arts to the commercial and fine arts, our community has a wide range of artistic styles." As promised, you can view samples of students' animation, graphic design, or video production. They are lacking in any student work for their Game Art & Design major, but since this is pretty new, I'm sure they will soon have something online for us.

Let's take a peek at Full Sail, another leading school for computer animation, digital media, as well as game design and development. Full Sail is located in Central Florida and is a very intensive program of study, condensing the traditional college education into less semesters. This equals less time in school with an earlier entry into the entertainment industry workforce. And they offer Red Bull, plain old coffee, and Mountain Dew in their vending machines to help you make it through those long nights of "real world education." Their site requires Flash and some pop up authorization, but otherwise has galleries of student work to view.

The Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California also showcases students' work. You can select galleries from Animation & Visual Effects, Computer Arts: New Media, Motion Pictures & Television, Photography, Illustration, and other areas of interest. Not as much as DigiPen, but at least the students are being represented online. There is currently no work displayed in the video game field, but in all fairness, I don't think they have expanded into this educational arena as of yet.

Let's examine another AET neighbor of ours, the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Art Center also has an online gallery which displays students' work, although a little warning button pops up informing us that some of this work is not appropriate for all age levels. This puts a smile on my face as I know they must support freedom of expression in their work. They represent the work in a slideshow format with topics including art, media design, illustration, and digital media to name a few. Their Entertainment Design program offers courses in 3D modeling for games, game concept development, and game worlds & modding. Unfortunately, their Entertainment Design gallery is currently empty. Given the newness of this program and the prestige of Art Center and its talented students, I'm confident that we shall see some nice work in the coming year.

So, you may want to think twice before shelling out your hard-earned tuition money to any school promising high-paying careers in the game industry and state-of-the-art technology. Review the curriculum, the credentials of the professors, the industry connections, and especially the digital galleries of student work. In the end, the work we achieve, either through our schools or through our own efforts, speaks for itself.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

Feel free to link or print this; just include the SAVE SMC URL:

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, November 26, 2005

SMC Enrollment Hold Removed!

The "disciplinary" hold on my Winter and Spring 2006 semesters at Santa Monica College has been mysteriously removed. So, I went ahead and enrolled for Spring in a web design class over at the Academy of Entertainment and Technology. Hopefully, I will be able to use my recently acquired knowledge in blogging and xml to create a nice site for my portfolio. Since I hand code, it will be good to brush up on Dreamweaver. You can view some of my past web design in the photoblox at the bottom of this blog.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis MBS/LP

Feel free to link or print this; just include the SAVE SMC URL:

Technorati Tags:
, , , , ,

Friday, November 25, 2005

Pruning the Tree of Knowledge

Oh where oh where have all our classes gone? I've gotten my hands on a document entitled "Fall 2005 Class Changes" for Santa Monica College (dated August 26, 2005). Let's see how the damage control breaks down in this handy little chart I made.

Fall Semester begins: Monday, August 29, 2005
Fall Semester ends: Tuesday, December 20, 2005


38 for English (ENGL)
15 for Entertainment Technology (ET) (Academy of Entertainment & Technology)
13 for Math (MATH)
11 for History (HIST)

9 for English as a Second Language (ESL)
9 for Business (BUS)
9 for Art (ART)

8 for Accounting (ACCTG)
6 for Psychology (PSYCH)

4 for Early Childhood Education (ECE)
4 for Music (MUSIC)

3 for Computer Information Systems (CIS)
3 for Computer Science (CS)
3 for Graphic Design (GR DES)
3 for Sociology (SOCIOL)

2 for Astronomy (ASTRON)
2 for Biology (BIOL)
2 for Counseling (COUNS)
2 for Economics (ECON)
2 for Physical Education (KIN PE)
2 for Nursing (NURSING)

1 for Broadcast (BRDCST)
1 for Communications (COMM)
1 for Education (EDUC)
1 for Photography (PHOTO)
1 for Physics (PHYSICS)
1 for Political Science (POL SCI)
1 for Respiratory Therapy (RES TH)
1 for Speech (SPEECH)

38 SMC English classes cancelled???!!! Ah, who needs English anyway? It's only perhaps the most important educational skill a person can learn in college next to Math... oh, but those math classes felt the administrative guillotine as well.

And which classes were cancelled at the
Academy of Entertainment and Technology (AET)??? Here's the gut-wrenching breakdown:

ET 4: Interactive Design for eBusiness (that's how I learned about blogging!)
ET 15: Game Authoring II
ET 16: Web Design II
ET 20: Visual Development (another new course cut down in its infancy)
ET 23: 2D Character Animation
ET 24: 3-D Animation
ET 25: 3-D Animation II
ET 39: Digital Audio for Games
ET 61: History of Animation (ground course, not the online one)
ET 62: History of Visual Effects (another newly created course bites the dust)
ET 64: Digital Effects I
ET 92: Figure in Motion
ET 95: Costumed Figure and Animal Drawing (used to be 2 separate classes)
ET 97: Advanced Figure in Motion

Heads up, the online
ET 61 History of Animation course by Professor Jim Keeshen in which I was a teaching assistant at SMC has also been cancelled for Spring Semester 2006 after only running for two entire semesters. Guess they couldn't run the course without me. All kidding aside, Prof. Keeshen and I worked hard to get that course offered at SMC as it was sooooo much better in the classroom than online as we could show all those classic animated films on the big screen for the students. Additionally, students could participate with each other and get first hand interaction with us. Now, it appears it is gone forever.

Katharine Muller and VP of Planning and Development Robert Sammis really don't have an explanation for the cancelled classes at AET nor have they provided any documentation or enrollment figures of students as required under the California Public Records Act despite my request for inspection and copies of files belonging to SMC's Academy. Where's the information about the AET curriculum I requested in writing? I've received nothing, yet according to the Report to the Trustees for April 2003 From Academic Senate President Gordon Dossett regarding the "Review of Programs Proposed for Discontinuance," SMC alleges the following:

Dean Katharine Muller has worked tirelessly to collect institutional data, and that information has been sent to the faculty in the programs. I am encouraging faculty members in each program to present whatever information that they believe is crucial to a fair evaluation of their individual program. And I am making every effort to disclose all the information at each step of the way, so the faculty involved as well as those reviewing the programs are operating from the same base of information. The ad hoc review committee will present its findings at the April 30th meeting of the Coordinating Council.

So, where is this data? Why can't SMC now find it? Well, it appears Katharine Muller was also working tirelessly to do her part to eliminate the Architecture Program at SMC. The L.A. Weekly did an online article on or about December 24, 1999 entitled "
Textbook Dump" in which Christine Pelisek wrote:

First, Los Angeles city schools stop buying textbooks for their students. Now, Santa Monica City College is throwing books away. Architecture instructors at the college-by-the-sea are up in arms over the decision to dismantle the Richard Creadick library, 600 architecture books and publications named after the late SMCC teacher whose wife donated the bulk of the collection.

"Those books were precious. A lot of those books you can’t get any longer," part-time instructor Eugene Flores said. "The students were very much in an uproar at the time."

Katharine Muller, dean of external programs, said many of the books were outdated and had to go; others are in storage pending possible addition to the main college library next year. Underlying the book controversy is a battle over the future of the college’s architecture program. Authorities plan to shift the curriculum from a two-year vocational emphasis to a university-transfer mode, stressing preparation for Cal Poly and Berkeley. "The enrollment in the architecture program has been dropping for years," Muller said. "I expect the curriculum shift to strengthen the ability of students who are transferring to perform well in university."

Part-time instructors, many of whom have battled administration for years over cutbacks, will be ousted in the process. Next semester, the instructors are being required to reapply for positions they have held for more than 20 years.

"They will lose a lot of teachers who are qualified practitioners in the field," said instructor Debbie Tataranowicz. Tataranowicz said the curriculum shift is not for the students but for the egos of the empire builders who are increasingly taking over the city college.

"It is becoming Santa Monica Corporation. Everything is about money and numbers, and education is not what they are about anymore," she fumed. "Santa Monica College has become a slave ship for some administrators and faculty, particularly the part-timers, to the detriment of the students."

This is quite interesting for two reasons. First, on April 25, 2003, Gordon Dossett acting in his capacity as Chair of the Coordinating Council Sub-Committee for Review of Programs Proposed for Discontinuance wrote a letter to Randy Lawson, Chair of the Coordinating Council, with the committee's
recommendations as follows:

1. We strongly recommend that none of these programs be eliminated. All are academically valuable and viable. Elimination of these programs obviously would harm students—especially historically underrepresented and international students--and faculty. Less apparently, taking such drastic action would project to the community a sense that we cannot weather the storm, that we are no longer the flagship community college we pride ourselves on being. Further, the mission of the college could be seen as changing, moving away from vocational programs at a time when those programs serve a vital need in the community.

2. We recommend that the college aggressively pursue other cost-cutting methods. We believe that strategies other than program discontinuance will yield greater savings and result in less harm to the college’s mission. For these programs, the committee believes some savings may occur through internal restructuring and consolidation.

Was Architecture one of those valuable and viable programs the committee wished to keep? You bet! Secondly, this is interesting because
Joan Abrahamson was an advisor to AET under a consultant contract with SMC (where she received approximately $5200 a month). Pursuant to Abrahamson's mission statement of her non-profit public policy foundation, The Jefferson Institute, she claims the following under "Nurturing of Creativity":

We have recently nurtured the practice of creativity in establishing a seminal model of art education in the Santa Monica College of Design, Art and Architecture, a bold experiment whose goal is to create a school of the highest quality which is able to generate a great deal of excitement about art and design in America. Based on the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College principles, we brought together a critical mass of talented individuals in an atmosphere of intense collaboration. The purpose is to inspire great design and to help the surrounding community to better understand the importance of art and design in improving the quality of life.

While there are other schools of art, design and architecture in the Los Angeles area, each of them has tuition costs of $10,000 to $15,000 a year. Many would-be-students of design cannot afford these programs and are shut out from careers in these fields. By working with the Santa Monica Community College District and can offer a first-rate program to students for $100 a year. We have assembled a first-rate Board of Advisors and an outstanding faculty. The college has been enthusiastically welcomed by the Southern California design and arts communities of the area and praised in the media. The College offers students an innovative and exciting program of the highest quality.

We plan to document this as a model of art education in a community context.

Well, this statement was incorporated into The Jefferson's Institute's 2003 Form 990 (Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax). Joan Abrahamson signed the form on May 25, 2004 as President. In sharp contrast to Joan Abrahamson's self-aggrandized visionary statements for SMC, the Classified Senate issued an online document entitled, "Thoughts on Pruning" (dated March 7, 2003). Architecture met the educational executioner's axe by 51 percent, interior design and fashion both by 47 percent, and transportation by 99 percent while several other programs suffered in similar fashion. It was stated that "pruning these programs as suggested above would generate approximately $312,000 per semester in saving for Fall 03 and Spring 04."

You can download this document online by clicking below:

If this tree of knowledge was bearing such educational fruit to the students at SMC, why did the administration feel the need to "prune" it? Are we now merely in the Garden of Original Sin and, like Adam and Eve, about to be thrust out of academic paradise by the mismanagement of the Santa Monica College administrators and their overpriced pet consultants? Although in one SMC tax document Joan Abrahamson signed that she was working as a consultant for SMC as an individual and not as a company or other business entity, she nevertheless submitted invoices for her consultant work and expenses to SMC as being due and payable to The Jefferson Institute. It appears we, as students and taxpayers, were allegedly fleeced to pay for Abrahamson's "bold experiment."

In the September 24, 2002 Minutes of the Occupational Education Committee of the Academic Senate, Chair Bob Ware "reminded the committee members that the mission of the committee is to act as liaison between occupational programs and to promote them. He added that one of the purposes of the committee is to find a project to work on."

Marvin Martinez "pointed out that low enrollment is a complex issue. Low enrollments aren’t necessarily a lack of support from Counseling. He added that the modification of the curriculum was motivated by low enrollments. As a result of the upgrading and reforming of the curriculum, the program is in higher demand. He encouraged program leaders to look at the labor market data to find out what’s in demand."

The OEC further wrote:

Judy Penchansky pointed out that the community college system is rather slow at reacting to the demands in industry. For example, it took Cosmetology two years to reform its curriculum. The program grew by word of mouth. Flyers, which were distributed at new student orientation, were used for publicity purposes, but no other advertisement was done. In the program students learn the basics to earn their license.

Wasn't Judith Penchansky on the advisory committee of the Academy of Entertainment and Technology at one point with Joan Abrahamson while Katharine Muller was acting as Dean? Penchansky sure was, as I discussed in my previous blog posting. Additionally, she is a named defendant in our lawsuit for allegedly failing to provide documents under the California Public Records Act. She's also Dean of Judicial Affairs, the department which mysteriously placed a "disciplinary" hold on my SMC enrollment based on my oral and written inquiries for public information pertaining to our low enrollment figures, course cancellations, and consultant contracts with Joan Abrahamson and Jim Keeshen's Studio Animatics, among other key documents which would provide some clue of our current state of financial insolvency and academic instability.

SMC uses the transfer model to counsel vocational occupational students. The following questions were posed: What does liaison mean? What makes vocational programs at other colleges strong? The counselor at the academy has extensive knowledge about the AET programs because she was immersed in the program. But, we are not using this model throughout SMC. The AET model is the exception.

To question is: The exception to what? With all these cancelled classes this semester, especially at the Academy of Entertainment and Technology (AET) where I am a student, you can understand why I am a little nervous to get that pesky evil enrollment hold removed by SMC's administration before I can't get into one of the coveted AET courses or any SMC course for that matter. Or, alarmingly, before the Academy falls apart completely given the alleged lack of management and accountability.

In the September 2002 OEC minutes, Marvin Martinez "re-emphasized that the programs need to review labor market statistics and to view the programs as career ladders" while on the "question of funding, John Gonzalez clarified that one of the factors used in determining VTEA funding is completion rates, which include transfer, AA degrees AND occupational certificates."

Again, where are the enrollment figures for each semester since the Academy's inception in 1997? And where's the bills and receipts for equipment bought allegedly with the help of then AET Chairman Jim Keeshen, Dean Katharine Muller, and Joan Abrahamson under VTEA funding? Robert Sammis can't find or either doesn't want to provide this information to the SMC students. And what about all those broken promises that SMC made to the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) that the "Academy's enrollment projection, which is based entirely on labor market demand, is sufficient to justify the center's existence"? AET was to maintain a minimum enrollment of 500 full-time-equivalent students (FTES). Did it meet those demands? Did anyone even bother to keep track? Or, was it in the best interests of Katharine Muller and those in charge of AET such as Jim Keeshen to either conceal low enrollment numbers or find ways in which to pad them to meet these minimum requirements?

The CPEC report stated in its report:

Beyond the training itself, the district has presented convincing evidence that every graduate from the Academy will have ample opportunity to obtain a well-paying career in a vibrant and growing industry. The number of available jobs can probably be measured in the tens of thousands, which suggests that the Academy of Entertainment and Technology may well be expanded in future years if sufficient resources can be secured to do so.

Secured by whom? To whom? From whom?

The Accreditation 2004 Self-Study under Standard II: Student Learning Programs and Services states at page 20:

Anecdotal reports from vocational and occupational program graduates indicate successful job placement. Several occupational programs, including photography, communication, and those housed at the Academy of Entertainment Technology, maintain their own anecdotal data on program graduates because of the recent shift in the economy to free-lancing. This hiring practice precludes occupational programs from accurately tracking job placement and retention of their graduates through the Core Indicators of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. (This procedure, more often than not, fails to identify those individuals who perform jobs on a freelance basis.) Consequently, several occupational programs incorrectly reflect poor performance in the job placement and retention categories of the Core Indicators for vocational/occupational programs.

The SMC Accreditation Report further adds on page 27:

The tracking of students after they leave the College is generally very inconsistent. The College receives yearly reports on the academic performance of its students from the California State University and University of California systems; however, private colleges and universities do not provide the College with any tracking data. This lack of data from private institutions presents a major challenge to community colleges in terms of determining student success after graduation. The tracking of vocational students in job placement and retention is just as challenging. Even though the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office matches the social security numbers of alumni with unemployment insurance files for job placement and retention tracking, this practice provides only partial data since a growing number of jobs are available only on a freelance basis and thus are exempt from these types of data collection mechanisms.

Well, I guess Katharine Muller won't have to waste her time collecting any more data. However, I have some data from AET that suggests that few, if any jobs, were secured for our students by AET Internship Coordinator Gloria Mottler, let alone the "tens of thousands" of jobs promised to the CPEC. According to a spreadsheet entitled "Santa Monica College Academy of Entertainment & Technology Internships and Job Placements" (dated October 2005), here's the scorecard:

Total number of internship only: 270
Total number of hires: 217
Total number of students placed in an internship and or job: 487
Total number of companies: 249

The meager total of 487 students since the CPEC 1997 report was less than the promised minimum enrollment of 500 full-time-equivalent students (FTES) per semester! Where were all those students who were supposed to break down the doors to get into the Academy and where were all those industry partners lining up to provide us with lucrative jobs in "the burgeoning digital media industry"? Well, at least the Academy hired back some of its first time graduates such as Stu Seldon and Tim Ryan to work in the AET computer lab.

It appears that the only lucrative salaries received are from the AET administration. Here's the current yearly salary breakdown as follows:

Dean of External Programs, Katharine Muller, $110,443
AET Chairman, William Lancaster, $103,631
AET Professor, Jim Keeshen, $93,874

At least you now know where your tuition money goes... that is, if you're able to enroll into a class before it's cancelled. Remember, AET's Entertainment Technology courses for Fall 2005 ranked number two for damage control losses in my chart. No wonder SMC wants to keep me away from the public records belonging to our ailing Academy. Maybe SMC should consider adding a course in basic accounting for our administrators. Perhaps I should be the one to teach it.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

Feel free to link or print this; just include the SAVE SMC URL:

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , ,