Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Brief History of the Academy of Entertainment & Technology

Have you ever wondered who was involved in the creation of Santa Monica College's Academy of Entertainment and Technology? Here's some of the people I found who have laid claim to its creation and establishment: Piedad Robertson, Darroch "Rocky" Young, Winniphred Stone, Linda Sinclair, Dale Franzen, Hope Judith Boonshaft and Jim Keeshen. Let's examine each of their roles a bit further.

On or about January 14 1997, Darroch "Rocky" Young was named Vice President of Planning and Development at SMC, an administrative position now held by Robert Sammis. According to
SMC's press release, Young "will manage the strategic planning activities of the college, organizing technology, coordinating fundraising and overseeing public affairs." He succeeded William L. Shade, who now works with former SMC president Piedad Robertson at the Education Commission of the States as Chief of Staff. According to Robertson, "Rocky Young will be invaluable as we draft and implement our facilities and technology master plans and launch our Academy of Entertainment and Technology this fall." Young is now Chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District. According to the website, here's what he did for SMC:

Prior to coming to Pierce College, Rocky Young served as Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs and Vice President of Planning and Development at Santa Monica College where he created the concept for the Santa Monica College Academy of Entertainment and Technology, formed partnerships with fifty entertainment firms, and led the effort to receive the Board of Governors approval of the Academy as an educational center. In addition, he developed a high school dual enrollment program with local unified school districts, created the college’s first Master Plan for Education, Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan, and the Master Plan for Technology.

The website also states that Young was given "the 1997 CCLC Award for the Creation of the Academy of Entertainment and Technology" and "a 1998 CCLC Award for the Creation of the High School Concurrent Enrollment Program."

Both Dale Franzen and Joan Abrahamson were both placed in the role of "Program Director" for AET. Both women current sit on
AET's Advisory Board, Abrahamson with her Jefferson Institute and Franzen as head of SMC's Madison Theatre Project. Dale Frazen received a consultant contract in the amount of "$5,200 per month, plus expenses to provide consultant services for the Academy of Entertainment and Technology, Madison Theatre, the Capital Campaign, and other projects in the planning the development area." This information was taken from SMC's Board of Trustees Minutes for August 10, 1998. Franzen was paid by District Funds.

Joan Abrahamson also received a similar consultant contract for "$5,200 per month, plus expenses to provide consultant services for the Academy of Entertainment and Technology, the Institute for International Trade, and other projects in the planning and development area." This was taken from SMC's Board of Trustees Minutes for June 7, 1999. Abrahamson was paid by "District Funds to be partially compensated by donations and in-kind services."

Prior to working with Santa Monica College, Abrahamson was former Assistant Chief of Staff to Vice President George Bush. Abrahamson also served as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. During the Carter Administration, Hope Judith Boonshaft served as White House communications director. In a press release dated February 24, 1998, Hope Judith Boonshaft was appointed to the Los Angeles County Citizens Economy and Efficiency Commission. Here's an excerpt from the press release:

Boonshaft is currently Senior Vice President of External Affairs for Sony Pictures Entertainment, responsible for national and international government relations activities, community affairs and corporate philanthropy. In that capacity, she helped win adoption of federal standards for High-Definition Television, and secure state grants to build a trained digital workforce and to establish an Academy of Entertainment and Technology at Santa Monica College.

Formerly a Senior Vice President and Acting General Manager for Edelman Public Relations Worldwide, a global corporate and public relations firm, she earlier founded and managed an LA-based public relations firm, Boonshaft-Lewis & Savitch. During the Carter Administration, she served as White House communications director, and subsequently as communications director for the World Jewish Congress and the National Easter Seal Society.

Duties of the 21-member Commission include analyzing County government operations to help improve their economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

So, what was Hope Boonshaft's role in establishing AET? Which state grants did she secure for the alleged purpose of building a "trained digital workforce?" I think it is time for another public record request, which I'm sure SMC will quickly assert its inability to locate any information. Did Boonshaft help to secure the $1.25 million infusion of state funds to AET through Governor Pete Wilson? Why did an animation vocational school hire two former presidential advisors as key consultants to AET? Was it their ability to lobby in Washington, D.C. that made them seem appealing?

Note that Boonshaft was Senior Vice President of External Affairs for Sony Pictures Entertainment, a company that not only was listed on the AET Advisory Board and Industry Partner list, but which was also listed as a donor to the Academy under benefactors. According to Sony Corporation of America's Corporate Philanthropy webpage under Arts Education:

Since 1999, Sony Pictures Entertainment has donated Sony electronics equipment and in-kind services to the Academy of Entertainment and Technology at Santa Monica Community College, in Santa Monica, California, to help "launch" students into the entertainment industry workforce.

So, was Boonshaft, like Winniphred Stone, focused on the exclusive Launchpad high school dual enrollment program instead of serving the overall AET student body? Of course Piedad Robertson also boasts of creating the Academy. Here's an excerpt from her biography on the ECS website:

Piedad F. Robertson, ECS president, comes from Santa Monica College, where she was president for 10 years and instrumental in establishing the Academy of Entertainment and Technology, a multi-media center that prepares students for jobs in the entertainment industry. She also served on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Transition Team and was appointed special assistant to Secretary for Education Richard Riordan. Robertson previously served as Massachusetts secretary of education, president of Bunker Hill Community College, and vice president for public affairs and vice president for education at Miami-Dade Community College.

Winniphred Stone's role in the creation of AET is illustrated in this
SMC press release, dated June 27, 1997:

Santa Monica College has selected 44 students from Westside and Los Angeles high schools for a unique summer program designed to give them a firsthand look at the entertainment industry and to begin to develop skills for technical careers in Hollywood.

The students, selected from 10 high schools, will begin their custom-designed, six-week program on July 7, immersing themselves in design, computer animation, art, photography, and entertainment industry opportunities.

Dubbed the "SMC Launchpad Middle College," the program is funded with a $158,891 grant from the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. The grant will pay all expenses for the students, including tuition, books, art and photographic supplies, and field trips to movie studios.

"This is a golden opportunity for the students to get a firsthand look at the entertainment industry and to develop and demonstrate talents in art, graphics and computer wizardry," said Winniphred Stone, associate dean of business and industry and coordinator of the "Launchpad" program. Julie Yarrish is the program coordinator.

The students -- selected from Crenshaw, Crossroads, Culver, Franklin, Hollywood, Malibu, Palisades, Santa Monica, University and Venice high schools -- will be seniors in the fall. They were recommended by their high schools and selected based on academic standing and interest in the program.

The program is expected not only to encourage students to go to college by enabling them to earn four college credits while still in high school, but could also lay the groundwork for their eventual acceptance into SMC's much awaited Academy of Entertainment and Technology, slated to open this fall. The academy is a unique program designed to prepare students for jobs in the entertainment industry, particularly new technologies.

Students will take two specially designed courses -- art, which includes training in a wide variety of media, and entertainment industry opportunities.

The art class will cover such material as design ("from toothbrushes to Porsches"), drawing, photography, and computer graphics and illustration. Writing skills will also be developed because student projects will include text.

The entertainment class will cover such topics as entertainment technology employment opportunities, post production houses, storyboarding, music production, sound effects and entertainment law. Field trips will be taken to Sony Imageworks and Rhythm & Hues, a special effects production company whose credits include the film "Babe."

The grant is also allowing SMC to train teachers from each of the 10 Los Angeles area high school partners in computer software applications as they relate to entertainment technology. The instructors will attend all-day classes for eight Saturdays.

Stone said she is hopeful that the college will continue to get funding for the "Launchpad" program so that it can be offered year-round, possibly on weekends or other convenient times to accommodate the students' schedules.

Now this is interesting. Note that the two field trips for AET's Launchpad students "will be taken at Sony Imageworks and Rhythm & Hues. Didn't Stone's friend, Jim Keeshen claim to teach character animation at Sony Image Works? According to Keeshen's
biography and resume, didn't he also brag about developing "3D characters in Colgate's Toothpaste TV commercials for Rhythm and Hughes?" Yes, he did. And at the time that all these individuals claimed to create the Academy of Entertainment and Technology, Keeshen was appointed the first chair of AET. Here's the excerpt from 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. * Professor Keeshen is currently teaching Storytelling and the online History of Animation at AET. He is also developing other online classes for Dean Winniphred Stone of the Distance Education Department. This online History of Animation class is the first of its kind and will soon feature a multimedia component in DVD which is now in production.

As we all know, Keeshen is no longer teaching History of Animation at SMC. As far as I am aware, there is no DVD in production. And where is Stone now? She resigned from her position at SMC's Distance Education to work as
Vice-President of Planning and Development at the ECS alongside her old friend, Piedad Robertson. And based on information from my confidential sources inside SMC, Julie Yarrish is also seeking employment outside SMC. Why work so hard on creating the Academy only to ultimately abandon it?

On or about November 13, 1998, Winniphred Stone along with Linda Sinclair gave a tour of the Academy of Entertainment & Technology to the South Coast Regional Multimedia Education Implementation Team. Here's the information taken from a Google cache of the

Location: Santa Monica College
Date: November 13, 1998
Time: 12 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Attendees: Jan Archibald, Victoria Bortolussi, Wendy Brill, Margie Fineman, John Grzywacz-Gray, Leroy Robinson, Guy Smith, Doug Southerland

Multimedia Academy

Winniphred Stone and Linda Sinclair gave the Implementation Team a tour of the Academy, showed a promotional videotape of the Academy, discussed the activities of the Academy, and answered team member questions.

Discussion topics included:

Advantages of Being a Separate Entity: The Academy is separate from the college. The advantages of having an Academy separate from the college include the ability to do a separate marketing initiative and the ability to control the quality of the students entering the Academy.

Student Admissions Process: In order to be enrolled in the Academy, students must first be admitted. The admissions process consists of an interview and portfolio review. The college and the academy bypass the mandate of the community college to accept all students by allowing all students to be accepted to Santa Monica College and by providing multimedia classes outside the Academy. A portfolio review class is available to students who where turned down by the Academy.

Curriculum Review: Academy curriculum is updated at a rate that keeps pace with the changing industry needs. Curriculum first goes by the Academy's Advisory Committee and is then submitted to the college curriculum review board. According to the Academy, "the industry creates the curriculum".

Advisory Board: The Academy hired consultants to help them build their Advisory Board. The Academy's Advisory Board is broken down into specialized subcommittees based on industry segment (i.e. animation, audio, web, etc.). The Academy also has a clear distinction between partners and advisory board members.

Internships: Student internships are mandatory. The Academy currently employees a full time Internship Coordinator. The functions of the Coordinator include internship development, placement, and oversight. 30 to 40 students work as interns at any one time.

Facilities: The Academy's facilities include two NT labs with 21 workstations, a Mac lab with 22 workstations, a screening room, a video conferencing room, a satellite dish, 4 editing suites that will house Avid machines, etc.

Technical Support: The Academy's technical support consists of three consultants. The lead consultant is paid approximately $75,000 with no benefits. The issue of consultants verses staff positions is currently being addressed by the Academy. The SCMEC was asked by the team to help compose a justification for hiring consultants to work on projects at the individual colleges.

Distance/On-Line Learning: Santa Monica works with a company called Real Education. Real Education works with the colleges to develop the courses and marketing and handles the technical components such as the servers and routers. Real Education's fee is a percentage of the student enrollment fee.

Promotional Videotape: The Implementation Team watched a promotional videotape of the Academy. Videotape topics included the school's emphasis on storytelling, the number of students enrolled in the program (200), faculties' work in industry, etc.. Wendy will be copying and distributing the videotape to team members.

Industry Demonstration Site: The Academy offers its facilities as a demonstration and meeting site for industry donors.

Open House: The Academy held an open house event. This event served to attract competing hardware and software companies that then made donations to the college in order to have a presence and to make sure that their applications are being taught to the people who will eventually work in the industry.

I find several points worth mentioning from the above. Regarding controlling the quality of students at AET, the Academy has opened its doors and lifted many of its prerequisites, so now anyone can jump right in and take classes. When AET first started, it was a program for full-time students admitted through a portfolio review. Why has AET lowered its admission requirements and hence its standards? Is it that AET cannot fill its enrollment quotas? Is the Academy not as prestigious as it once contended?

The presentation by Stone and Sinclair alleges that the "industry creates the curriculum," yet the
Themed Entertainment Major which was to provide tens of thousands of jobs disappeared within a relatively short period of time. What happened here? Steve Brown, a current professor at AET had "worked in the theme entertainment industry doing environmental design for graphic image systems used in theme parks, casinos, and museum exhibitions." Could he not help save this occupational program from extinction? What happened to the Entertainment Business occupational certificate? Surely entertainment business is crucial to the entertainment industry.

Also, student internships at AET were "mandatory?" Gloria Mottler was the AET internship coordinator who was supposed to provide these 30 to 40 internships at a time. But according to the SMC AET Internship and Hire spreadsheet provided to us under the California Public Records Act, AET didn't come near this amount of internships. Internships are no longer mandatory. Why does the industry not wish to hire and intern AET students? Why have all the AET industry partners and advisory board members vanished since 2001?

Who are the three AET technical consultants mentioned in this presentation? What did the lead consultant do to warrant $75,000 a year? Why didn't Santa Monica College hire full-time staff in lieu of expensive consultants? According to this document, they needed help in justifying their hiring practices of consultants. If these consultants were so invaluable, why would any justification be required after the fact? Were our taxpayer dollars properly utilized?

Part of the presentation for AET included the distance education and online learning components. Since Winniphred Stone became Assistant Dean of Distance Education, it makes sense to include this aspect. Notice that the company mentioned was Real Education. On or about May 24, 1999, Real Education, Inc., a Colorado Corporation, merged with
eCollege, Inc., a Delaware Corporation. The name of the surviving corporation became ", Inc." governed by the laws of the State of Delaware and having its principal office in Colorado. The outstanding shares of the corporation at the time of merger was 1,995,123 (on an as-converted basis). Real Education was the sole stockholder of (ECLG).

Despite numerous requests for public records, SMC has failed to provide us with any of the
contracts by and between eCollege and Santa Monica Community College District. Perhaps the following information taken from the Securities and Exchange Commission sheds some light on SMC's hesitation to release eCollege records:

The Company has deficiencies in certain controls related to fraud prevention: (a) inadequate segregation of duties in the eLearning division and corporate accounting groups; and (b) lack of monitoring of the whistleblower hotline. As a result, there is more than a remote likelihood that misappropriation of assets could occur or adjustments could be made to the annual or interim consolidated financial statements and not be prevented or detected on a timely basis by employees in the normal course of performing their assigned functions.

The Company lacks sufficient personnel resources with adequate expertise to provide for: (a) the timely preparation of comprehensive documentation supporting management's analysis of the appropriate accounting treatment for non-routine and complex transactions; and (b) the review of such documentation by internal staff or outside advisors to determine its completeness and the propriety of the conclusions. This deficiency resulted in material errors in the accounting for income taxes and other errors in the financial statements.

This information was taken from "Form 8-K for ECOLLEGE COM, 6-Jul-2005, Change in Accountant, Financial Statements and Exhibits." Deficiencies in fraud prevention? Misappropriation of assets? Material errors in the accounting for income taxes? This doesn't sound good at all. eCollege deserves its own blog story or two, so I will save that for another day.

Shifting gears, there was an open house to attract competing hardware and software companies for the purpose of securing donations. Were GTE, Intergraph Computer Systems, TODD-AO Studios West, and 3Com Corporation present? After all, they all made expensive donations to the
Santa Monica College Foundation and secured a coveted spot on the AET plaque as donors.

Ah, and the highlight of the event, the promotional videotape made for AET. Emphasis was placed on storytelling, the ET 2 course taught by none other than Jim Keeshen. The number of students enrolled in the AET program is cited as 200. Wait a minute here, pursuant to the findings by the
California Postsecondary Education Commission, AET was supposed to maintain enrollment of 500 students. According to page 1 of the CPEC report, "In order to be officially recognized as an educational center, the proposed operation must maintain a minimum enrollment of 500 full-time-equivalent students (FTES)."

The 200 students initially accepted into AET is less than half the minimum number promised in order for AET to maintain its status as an educational center. Is it any wonder Robert Sammis is denying that AET maintains separate enrollment data? To date, despite the fact that we have requested the
enrollment data for AET under the CPRA, none has been forthcoming.

Here's some data found from an
Entertainment Careers website:


SMC Academy of Entertainment and Technology

1660 Stewart St. Santa Monica, CA 90405

SMC main campus
1900 Pico Blvd.Santa Monica, CA 90405
phone: 310-434-4000
phone: 310- 434-3700
fax: 310-434-3709

General Description
AET is a two-year certificate program with internships available. The Academy opened in 1997 and operates out of a specially designed facility. Its Advisory Board consists of 18 working professionals who help design curriculum, provide internships and equipment.

350 students.

Degrees Offered
Certificate Program, students may concurrently obtain an AA through an SMC regular program.

Semester system: Fall and Spring courses. Winter and Summer inter-sessions. Internships throughout the year.

Major Programs
The Academy will offer course work and internships in four areas: computer animation; theme park design; new interactive media (including visual effects, CD-ROM computer graphics, storytelling); entertainment business (production management, marketing, and human resources).

Current Faculty
Full-time faculty and adjuncts from industry.

Permanent: 12
Visiting/adjunct: 25

Curriculum Emphasis
Computer animation major: new media, character & computer animation, storyboards, modeling, camera lighting technology, digital imagery, figure in motion, and storytelling.
New media major: communication, animation, storyboard, color theory, digital imaging, web design and implementation, CD-ROM design.

Facilities & Equipment
Workstations include: SGI machines, NT workstations, digital lighting studio, editing, and Mac laboratory. There is also state-of-the-art video conferencing equipment and distance learning infrastructure.

Tuition & Fees
$12 per unit. Nonresidents: $125-140 +$12/unit.
There is also a scholarship endowment established by the Mary Pickford Foundation.

Life drawing or graphic design studio and eligibility for Math 20 and English 1. Must complete application and provide a portfolio. If accepted to program, must complete the SMC regular admission process.

AET Student Services 310-434-3713

There is no date to this document, yet the Theme Park Design and Entertainment Business vocational programs are listed, so this would roughly place this information within the first year of AET's existence. Notice that the enrollment is listed at 350, still 150 students short of the mandated 500 promised to the
CPEC. In 2002, the enrollment is listed at 239 students, according to a document provided by SMC's Academic Senate. I've been enrolled as a student at AET since January 2003 and I've never seen 500 full-time students at the Academy. Where are all the students? Is it the failure of the AET program to provide jobs which has turned them away?

Lastly, this Entertainment Careers webpage boasts that there is a "scholarship endowment established by the Mary Pickford Foundation." This is confirmed by a September 1-21, 1999 article in the Santa Monica Mirror that states: "The Mary Pickford Foundation has endowed an Academy scholarship fund. The Academy, which trains students in computer animation and visual effects, interactive media and entertainment production management, operates in partnership with Sony, Warner Brothers and Disney."

So, what happened to this $200,000 Mary Pickford Foundation scholarship endowment? To date, SMC has failed to provide us any information under the CPRA. Of course the Mary Pickford Speaker Series was held through Jim Keeshen's ET 2 Storytelling course with Barbara Jacobs securing $10,000 a year from SMC to bring in alleged speakers. If speakers included such companies as Digital Domain which sat on the AET Advisory Board, why did SMC need to spend money on a consultant such as Jacobs when Keeshen could have simply asked Digital Domain to speak at no extra cost? Wasn't it the advisory board and industry partners' duty to help the AET students?

And what happened to Linda Sinclair? In 1998, she's listed under the Stewart Street Administration for AET as Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs. Now, she has dropped down a few notches to
Veteran's Counseling and Physical Science. Here's a screenshot I made taken from a cached version of AET's website for December 1998 which lists the Academy Administration:

AET Administration for December 1998

Notice that Judith Penchansky is listed as one of the AET Administrators. She's now transitioned into her role as Dean of Judicial Affairs at SMC. Greg Woodhouse as AET System Administrator received approximately $78,000 a year in a consultant contract with Santa Monica Community College District. Was he the lead technical consultant that was discussed in the presentation with the South Coast Regional Multimedia Education Implementation Team? Here's the information from the SMC Board of Trustees Minutes for January 11, 1999:


It is recommended that the Board of Trustees renew the following consultant contracts for the period February 16, 1999 through August 15, 1999:

1) Greg Woodhouse, in the amount not to exceed $6,500 per month, to administer Academy of Entertainment and Technology computer systems, including classrooms, open labs and server systems and to provide support for faculty on 3D computer graphic programs;

2) Brant Looney, in the amount not to exceed $4,000 per month, to assist in the administration of Adademy of Entertaiment and Technology computer systems.

Funding Source: District Funds

Comment: The consultants will be required to cover all of the hours in which the Academy of Entertainment and Technology is open, including evenings and weekends.

Notice that Brant Looney also received a consultant contract. Yet, according to Robert Sammis, Looney never received such a contract and thus none have been provided under the CPRA. SMC claims that Brant Looney has always been paid as a district employee. I guess it's time to for a Court order to compel Looney's contract as well as another public records request for Woodhouse's contract.

The Academy Faculty shows James Keeshen (a.k.a., Jim Keeshen) as professor of Computer Animation and Philip Van Allen as associate professor of Interactive Design. Here's an excerpt from his resume regarding his role at AET:

SANTA MONICA COLLEGE – Santa Monica, CA – 1998 to 2002

Assistant Chair, Design Technology Department Program Coordinator, Academy of Entertainment & Technology Professor, Interactive Media

The Academy is a new format for community colleges, where students participate in portfolio entry, professional certificate programs in the media arts. An industry board advises the program, and faculty are drawn from the profession.

Completely revised Interactive and Computer Animation curriculums.

Teach a range of courses including interactive design, scripting/ programming, and digital imaging with high student ratings. Member of college-wide committees: curriculum, academic master plan, and teaching load.

Hire faculty and schedule over 80 courses each semester.

As we discussed previously in our article "AET's Degrees of Deception," Van Allen was Program Coordinator of the Academy of Entertainment & Technology. Van Allen was also the Assistant Chair under Jim Keeshen. Prior to his position at AET, Van Allen worked for Santa Monica College from 1981 to 1983 as a Programmer Analyst II" in which he performed the following duties: "Administrative computing software, created large computer RFPs, set up and managed student computer lab." In 2002, Van Allen left AET, like everyone else. He now teaches at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA.

According to Van Allen's resume, he is the founder and principal of Commotion New Media, Inc. which was started in 1993. His selected clients include Acacia Research/ Notice that Acacia Research Corporation is also listed as a donor to the Academy of Entertainment and Technology. Sounds all nice and dandy, eh? But let's keep in mind the following facts:

01.) Jim Keeshen is chair of Santa Monica College's AET.
02.) Philip Van Allen is Keeshen's assistant chair at AET.
03.) Philip Van Allen owns Commotion Media whose client is Acacia Research.
04.) Acacia Research Corporation is an AET donor.
05.) Jim Keeshen Productions is listed as a "friend" under AET's donor plaque.
06.) Winniphred Stone is assistant dean of SMC's Distance Education.
07.) Jim Keeshen is an online professor teaching eCollege courses.
08.) Winniphred Stone is working with Real Education which becomes eCollege.
09.) eCollege is having a few problems with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
10.) eCollege's independent accountants claim eCollege has problems with fraud prevention.
11.) Santa Monica College has failed to provide any of the eCollege contracts with the District.
12.) Philip Van Allen worked for Santa Monica College as a Programmer Analyst II.

Okay, so here's how all this ties into a neat little package: Acacia files some very lucrative lawsuits against educational and corporate clients of eCollege! You can read the full details HERE. Here's some highlights from the background of Acacia's litigation and eCollege's role:

The terms of the modified "E-Learning" license agreement are derived from an Acacia agreement with eCollege, a third-party vendor of distance learning technology and support services. In addition, eCollege negotiated a 20% discount for eCollege customers who wish to enter a royalty agreement with Acacia (this discount is not included in the agreements sent by Acacia directly to institutions). It should be noted that some of those who had requested that eCollege take a role in resolving the issues with Acacia and protecting its customers are dissatisfied with the agreement eCollege negotiated with Acacia. They view the cost as prohibitive, and the requirement of tracking and counting files transmitted to be unworkable, and in fact impossible for most institutions, particularly those with multiple campuses.

Earlier this year a number of institutions signed a letter to eCollege demanding indemnification for any damages they might incur as a result of alleged infringement of Acacia's patents due to use of eCollege services. (At least one of the Acacia university letters referred specifically to an eCollege site for that university). It was in response to these demands that eCollege negotiated the discount E-Learning agreement for its customers referenced earlier. Services similar to those provided by eCollege are also offered by other organizations, and the group intends to explore similar protection and/or contribution from these other entities of interest as well.

Whether its pure coincidence or not, Philip Van Allen leaves the Academy in 2002, right around the time that Acacia begins to enforce its patent infringement through litigation. Was Santa Monica College involved in the Acacia lawsuits for streaming audio and video used in eCollege courses? If so, did eCollege increase its seat fees to SMC? In a press release on eCollege's website, dated May 21, 2004, eCollege states the following:

The education industry is one of several industries allegedly infringing Acacia's DMT patents, which cover the transmission and receipt of streaming media files over the Internet and other delivery means such as cable and satellite. The license agreements are not limited to an institution's eLearning operation, and cover streaming audio and video files used in any aspect of an institution's online environment, including distance courses, on-campus use, marketing programs, or sports activities. Many colleges and universities across the country have been contacted by Acacia, some of which are eCollege clients.

"Based on client feedback, and given the complexities in dealing with patent infringement, we are serving as an advocate on behalf of our clients to provide options for them to resolve this matter on favorable financial terms and in a way that best meets their individual needs," said Oakleigh Thorne, chairman and CEO of eCollege. "We do not endorse Acacia's claims, and are not recommending our clients take any particular approach, but rather are providing our clients with the appropriate information so they can make their own informed decision."

eCollege is not benefiting financially from the license agreements, and is not playing an intermediary role in the signing of such agreements. Rather, the decision to enter into the agreement is left completely to the discretion of eCollege's clients and their legal counsel, and will be worked directly between eCollege clients and Acacia.

Given eCollege's shaky financial accounting practices and lack of fraud prevention, I would take anything they say in a press release with a grain of salt. According to CEO Oakleigh Thorne regarding college's cries to help them in their legal defense of Acacia, he pointedly stated, ""We do not believe we have that obligation at all." The burning question in my mind is who precisely programmed eCollege's software which delivered streaming video clips of Jim Keeshen lecturing in his online ET 61 History of Animation course taught at AET? And how did Acacia Research Corporation earn its place in the Academy of Entertainment and Technology donor hall of fame?

It is Philip Van Allen who, in 1996, gives a nice summary of the Corporate Interactive Media Cycle:

01. Foolish Corporate Ambition and Hubris
02. Massive Hiring
03. Unattainable Schedule and Sales Expectations
04. Failed Schedule and Sales Results
05. Reorganization
06. Repeat 3 & 4
07. Denial of Reality
08. Repeat 5 & 6
09. Major Defections
10. Repeat 4
11. Blame the Defectors
12. Massive layoffs
13. If You are Unlucky, Repeat 1-12

I think there is a lesson here to be learned for everyone. Unfortunately, like all our previous tales of woes at AET, it is the taxpayers and students at SMC who pay dearly for the lessons learned. Regardless of eCollege's role in AET, the Acacia scandal, and its lack of fraud prevention, its stock continues to rise and it continues to rake in the money from SMC. Meanwhile, the rats have once again fled the sinking ship known as the Academy of Entertainment and Technology.

Wishing You All a Happy New Year,

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Jim Keeshen's Biography and Resume

Here is Jim Keeshen's two-page biography and resume which he gave me last year and which was contained in his "Day of the Dead" promotional packet.

----------------------------- BEGIN JIM KEESHEN BIOGRAPHY --------------------


Jim Keeshen decided that animation was his chosen file by the age of 5. This epiphany occurred when his father took him to see his first movie in California shortly after moving from his native country of South America. That movie was "Fantasia." Keeshen has now completed over 25 years in the animation industry.

Jim Keeshen is the president and founder of Studio Animatics, and Jim Keeshen Productions. Studio Animatics specialized in designing and producing test commercials for clients such as Disney, Proctor & Gamble, Levi's, Lexus, Toyota, Mazda, Mattel and others. Jim Keeshen Productions specializes in TV and feature stories.

As a conceptual designer and visual storyteller, Jim Keeshen has worked on animated and live action productions incorporating traditional cel animation, animatics, multimedia, 2D and 3D computer animation, rotoscoping and motion-control camera work.

Keeshen started his animation career during his studies at UCLA by animating a few scenes for "Sesame Street." Eventually he went on to produce more than 30 animated vignettes for "Sesame Street."

His first studio job in the 1970's was as production assistant and cameraman on the Oscar-winning short, "Is It Right to be Right," and the Oscar nominated short "John Henry" at Bosustow Films under the legendary UPA animator, Steven Bosustow.

Before founding Jim Keeshen Productions in 1982, Keeshen worked as a freelance animator and art director on such TV series as "Captain Caveman," "Superman," "Batman," "Yogi & Friends," "Superwoman" and "Pink Panther."

Jim Keeshen's most recent independent film, a five-minute, 2-D animated short called "Monkey Love" (1997) has aired repeatedly on Cartoon Network (U.S.) and Locomotion (Latin America). The film also won 9 awards including Worldfest Charleston, the Chicago International Film Festival, the Annecy International Animation Festival in Annecy, France, and shortlisted in that year's Academy Award nominations.

Other notable productions include the development of 3D characters in Colgate's Toothpaste TV commercials for Rhythm and Hughes, and the "Dancing Skeleton", an animated ID for Nickelodeon, which won a Creative Associate Award.

Keeshen also produced more than 15 Spanish-language public service announcements (PSAs) for the Century Council featuring actors Rita Moreno, Ricardo Montalban and Vicki Carr.

In 1998, Jim Keeshen Productions completed an original 14-minute pilot for "Family Guy," which sold the show as a new prime-time animated comedy to the Fox Network.

On the internet, Jim Keeshen Productions designed and produced the first animated character, The Peppered Leopard, for America On Line. Keeshen also designed and animated the first avatars for Microsoft's MSN 3D chat rooms.

Keeshen has just recently finished the production of a interactive language CD-ROM program for Santa Monica College's new International Business School Studies. Using current computer programs, including Flash animation, the CD teaches students 7 different foreign languages.

In addition to his production work, Keeshen has never lost sight of the importance of education. He has taught animation and design at Santa Monica College, as well as character animation at Sony Image Works. He currently teaches at the Academy of Entertainment and Technology in Santa Monica, an industry-supported and California state-funded program established in 1997. At the Academy Keeshen developed the curriculum and advised on the buying of the software and hardware for the computer animation and interactive departments.

In 1999 Keeshen was awarded the Outstanding Teacher Certificate by the Mary Pickford Foundation for his classes in storytelling, animation and storyboards.

Keeshen holds degrees from UCLA in Animation, Art and Psychology and is fluent in both Spanish and English.

----------------------------- END JIM KEESHEN BIOGRAPHY ---------------------

Notice that Jim Keeshen claims to be the "president and founder of Studio Animatics," the company which does not appear in the Norwalk registry of businesses nor on the California Secretary of State's Business Portal for corporations and limited partnerships despite his use of a California tax identification number. Why has Santa Monica College failed to produce the 2000 consultant contract for $10,000 that Keeshen obtained through Studio Animatics?

Keeshen also credits himself with the Colgate Toothpaste TV commercials for Rhythm and Hughes, which we discussed in our blog article "Jim Keeshen's 'Great Big Show'." He also takes credit, through Jim Keeshen Productions, for the Family Guy pilot. Wasn't the "Family Guy" pilot based on Seth MacFarlane's animated student film, "The Life of Larry"? I've watched Seth's student film and it has some of the scenes used in the pilot. So, why didn't Keeshen give credit where credit is due and mention that he produced this pilot with Seth MacFarlane? Ultimately, Keeshen ended up in a legal battle with Fox and Seth MacFarlane when they decided not to use his services once the show aired. As we mentioned previously, the clip of the pilot on the "Family Guy" DVD doesn't even bother to list any credits for anyone who worked with Jim Keeshen Productions.

Keeshen mentions that he produced the "interactive language CD-ROM program" for Santa Monica College, for which he received approximately $33,000 in federal funds through the Title VI-A grant. This was the project in which he signed a consultant contract under the name Animatics, later amended to read "Studio Animatics." Why didn't Keeshen use his own name and social security number for this project? Why did he place his copyrights for Studio Animatics (2001) on this CD-ROM and not Santa Monica College's copyrights? Didn't the federal government and SMC pay for this project? And why is Keeshen taking claim for the Flash animation when his name doesn't even appear in the animation, design, or programming of this CD-ROM? Keeshen only takes credit as "Animation Director" and in part for the "screen play."

Despite the above, Keeshen claims that he "has never lost sight of the importance of education." He claims to have taught at Santa Monica College as well as Sony Image Works. Wasn't Sony an AET industry partner, along with Rhythm & Hughes, and Klasky Csupo? At the Academy of Entertainment and Technology, Keeshen claims to have developed the curriculum and "advised on the buying of the software and hardware for the computer animation and interactive departments." So, if that is true, then why does Santa Monica College repeatedly fail to provide us with public records for their curriculum as well their hardware and software purchases?

The next interesting piece of information is that "Keeshen was awarded the Outstanding Teacher Certificate by the Mary Pickford Foundation for his classes in storytelling, animation and storyboards" in 1999. Not to harp on the same issues, but where is that $200,000 scholarship endowment by the Mary Pickford Foundation? Santa Monica College still fails to produce it.

Also, although "Dancing Skeleton", the animated ID for Nickelodeon, won a Creative Associate Award, Keeshen takes all the credit despite the fact that it was animated by Dave Fontana. And wasn't it Fontana who secured the job with Klasky Csupo while Keeshen only managed to obtain a rather questionable sabbatical with them? And why does Keeshen fail to credit Joddy Nicola and all the other talented animators who created "Monkey Love"? In fact, Keeshen isn't even listed in the animation credits for this film.

Jim Keeshen Productions Peppered Leopard Jim Keeshen Productions Peppered Leopard Jim Keeshen Productions Peppered Leopard
Peppered Leopard (c) 1995-1999 Jim Keeshen Productions, Inc.

Lastly, Keeshen claims to hold "degrees from UCLA in Animation, Art and Psychology." Yet, Keeshen only received one degree from UCLA, a Bachelor of Arts. This is the only college degree that he allegedly has obtained. Is Keeshen's biography and resume nothing more than a Potemkin village that sounds elaborate and impressive, but in actuality lacks factual substance? Again, I will leave that to you, dear readers, to decide. But as Jim Keeshen states, through his avatar, the Peppered Leopard, "For what is a Leopard without his spots?"

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Dave Fontana and Jim Keeshen Productions

As we discussed in the previous blog articles, "Love Me Tender" and "Jim Keeshen Productions," Academy of Entertainment and Technology professor Jim Keeshen used a number of AET professors and students to work on various projects for him, including his animated film, "The Day of the Dead." Let's examine Dave Fontana's role a bit further.

From 1991 to 1995,
Dave Fontana worked for Jim Keeshen Productions in West Los Angeles as a Story Development Artist and Animator. Here's some screenshots of his work as an artist:

Dave Fontana's Cows for Jim Keeshen Productions

As an animator for Jim Keeshen Productions, Dave Fontana worked on the following projects: Nickelodeon Halloween ID, A Brush with Rubens, and Snowboy. You can view his reel
HERE. Here's some screenshots I made of these projects taken from his animation reel:

Dave Fontana's Snowboy for Jim Keeshen Productions

Dave Fontana's Animation Reel Surfer Boy

Dave Fontana's Animation Reel A Brush with Rubens

Dave Fontana's Nickelodeon Halloween ID for Jim Keeshen Productions

Thanks to the Nickelodeon Halloween ID Fontana did in conjunction with Keeshen, he landed a job with Klasky Csupo in 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Fontana was the Storyboard Artist for a number of projects including The Wild Thornberrys. From 1998 to 2001, Fontana was the Director of two Nickelodeon series for Klasky Csupo, Rugrats and Rocket Power. Not missing a beat, Fontana eased into a teaching position at Santa Monica College in graphic design and storyboards in 2003. Since Keeshen also taught storyboards at SMC's Academy of Entertainment and Technology, it is safe to assume Keeshen used his position at AET to influence Fontana's hiring as he did with other professors who had worked for him previously.

What's very interesting is that Fontana begins his teaching position at SMC in 2003, the same year that Keeshen allegedly goes on
sabbatical with Klasky Csupo! Again, here's the summary of Jim Keeshen's Fall 2003 sabbatical taken from SMC's Sabbatical Applications webpage:

Jim Keeshen – Academy of Entertainment &Technology (Fall 2003):
This sabbatical will enable Prof. Keeshen to enter into a unique internship with the animation studio of Klasky Csupo. As part of this internship, Prof. Keeshen will work closely with CEO Terry Thorne and will be able to see first hand how a large animation studio works on the business as well as creative level. Prof. Keeshen expects that the outcome will create greater opportunities for students in SMC’s AET program to network and develop professional relationships with animation artists, directors and human resource personnel.

Notice that Keeshen was to work closely with CEO Terry Thorne. Thorne is listed on the
AET Advisory Board and Entertainment Industry Partners for the years 2002 to 2005, inclusive. So, if Thorne was already working in conjunction with SMC's Academy of Entertainment & Technology and Dave Fontana was a faculty member who had worked for Klasky Csupo for many years, then why did they not work together to provide "greater opportunities for students in SMC's AET program"? Was it that Keeshen's intent was to "network and develop professional relationships with animation artists, directors and human resource personnel" for his own purposes and benefit and not for the AET students? Was Fontana hired by Keeshen so that he could continue to use him to work on his "Day of the Dead" animated film which he would then try to sell to Klasky Csupo? Was Terry Thorne placed on the AET Advisory Board to help the students obtain jobs or to work with Dave Fontana and Jim Keeshen? Again, a picture speaks a thousand words, so here's a screenshot of Dave Fontana's work on Jim Keeshen's "Day of the Dead" (a.k.a., "Dia de Los Muertos").

Dave Fontana's Day of the Dead for Jim Keeshen Productions

If this is not the case, then why did Keeshen not file the mandated sabbatical report? Why is Santa Monica College denying us his sabbatical application, claiming it is confidential, when it was to conform to the missions and goals of SMC?
It's been two long years since SMC Professor Jim Keeshen returned from his alleged sabbatical with Klasky Csupo, yet the mandatory sabbatical report was never filed. How many "opportunities" did Keeshen produce for AET students with Klasky Csupo despite his sabbatical and Terry Thorne's seat on the AET advisory board as well as Dave Fontana's employment at SMC? Absolutely none!

According to the October 2005 Santa Monica College Academy of Entertainment & Technology Internships and Job Placements sheet, Klasky Csupo isn't even listed as providing any internships or hires. Nickelodeon lists one internship and Nickelodeon's "Hey Arnold" lists two internships with one internship which led to a hire. Yet, Jim Keeshen advanced his salary from $89,590 a year to $93,874 a year. As we stated before, it appears that AET was used as Jim Keeshen's digital playground and that his sabbatical was merely a semester long vacation paid by the taxpayer for him to continue using the school for his own projects.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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

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AET Donors and Santa Monica College Foundation

In Santa Monica College Foundation's Form 990 "Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax" for the year 1998, it states that its primary purpose from which it is exempt from income tax is to "raise funds to provide scholarships to SMC students." In its grants and allocations section, it states the following:

Santa Monica College Foundation funds over 280 student scholarships and specified educational and administrative programs at Santa Monica College. During 1998, the Foundation launched a $25 million capital campaign to provide funding for twelve separate capital projects, including the Madison Center Theater, the Academy of Entertainment & Technology, the Liberal Arts Building Replacement, Library Expansion, and additions to the Foundation's Endowment Funds for scholarships and other services provided by the College.

The Program Service Expenses total $4,039,075. The 990 form was signed by none other than Thomas J. Donner, acting as treasurer for the Santa Monica College Foundation. His signature appears next to the date May 15, 2000.

What's really interesting is a section of the 990 form that states that it is "not open to public inspection." Here's a screenshot I made:

SMC Foundation AET Donors 1998

What precisely is meant by "Computation of Excess Contribution Amounts"? Notice that four of the five donors listed are GTE Foundation, Intergraph Computer Systems, TODD-AO Studios West, and 3Com Corporation. In our
Academy of Entertainment and Technology Donors list, Verizon, Intergraph Computer Systems, and 3Com Corporation are listed as benefactors to AET while TODD-AO Studios West is listed under patrons.

In our Index of AET Advisory Board & Entertainment Industry Partners, GTE, Intergraph Computer Systems, 3Com Corporation, and TODD-AO Studios West are all shown between the periods of December 1998 to June 2001, inclusive. Furthermore, in our article, "Rats Always Flee a Sinking Ship," we showed that Winniphred Stone, former SMC Dean of Distance Education, secured a $125,000 donation from GTE for videoconferencing for the Academy. So, all that said, is this how these companies secured their respective seats on AET's advisory board as well as their engraved names on the AET plaque? What was this money used for, who did it benefit, and what happened to excess contribution amounts? And once again, why is this information not open to public inspection?

SMC has failed to provide us with the tax returns for the Santa Monica College Foundation, alleging that it is an entity separate from Santa Monica Community College District. However, the primary purpose of the Foundation is to provide scholarships to SMC students. Additionally, current interim SMC president Thomas J. Donner acted in his dual capacity as treasurer of the foundation and chief business officer of Santa Monica College. Did these companies, by and through their donations to SMC, really benefit the students at AET? Did they provide any worthwhile services to the AET students in helping to secure jobs or scholarships? Only further probing into the financial statements of SMC as well as other crucial public records will help to unlock these mysteries.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mary Pickford Foundation AET Scholarship Endowment

Pursuant to our Third Request for Inspection and Copies of public records belonging to Santa Monica College, we requested the following (request no. 28): "Any and all documents pertaining to scholarships given to students under the Mary Pickford Foundation from its inception to the current semester 2005." To date, we have received no documents. Under the California Public Records Act, these documents should be produced.

As we revealed in our blog story, Academy of Entertainment and Technology Donors, the Mary Pickford Foundation is listed as a benefactor to AET. What precisely did the Mary Pickford Foundation contribute to warrant such a prestigious title? Well, according to a SMC press release, dated June 24, 1998, the Santa Monica College Foundation allegedly received a $200,000 gift from the Mary Pickford Foundation "to establish an endowment fund for scholarships for students at the college’s acclaimed Academy of Entertainment and Technology."

The press release adds in relevant part:

"We are happy to have established a fund for scholarships at SMC and are excited about the Academy," said Thomas M. Andersen, President of the Mary Pickford Foundation Board of Directors. "We expect much from the graduates."

The Academy of Entertainment and Technology is a unique program, started in the fall of 1997, that trains students in computer animation and visual effects, new media, themed entertainment, and entertainment industry business. Its advisory board is made up of representatives from major studios and related entertainment companies.

"We are profoundly grateful to the Mary Pickford Foundation for its generosity," said SMC President Dr. Piedad F. Robertson. "The scholarships will enable many of our students to make their dreams come true and contribute to the economic vitality of Southern California."

So, if this scholarship endowment was supposed to make our dreams come true and to contribute to the economic vitality of Southern California, why can't SMC find any documents supporting these contentions? Why have the themed entertainment and entertainment industry business occupational certificates vanished from the AET program? Why has Piedad Robertson left SMC's presidency to work for the ECS after her second vote of no confidence? More importantly, why have none of us over at AET heard of this massive scholarship endowment?

Here's a current snapshot from SMC's General Scholarships for 2004-2005 pertaining to AET:

AET Scholarships 2004-2005

So, according to this SMC webpage, the Mary Pickford Foundation scholarships exist for AET students, yet SMC has not provided the public records to prove than any of us at AET have actually received these scholarships. Furthermore, what precisely does SMC mean when they state: "demonstrated commitment to the program"? Yet, Barbara Jacobs continues to receive $10,000 a year in consulting contract payments for her involvement in the Mary Speaker Series through AET Professor Jim Keeshen's ET2 Storytelling course. It appears that the SMC administration have not shown commitment to our program over at AET nor to our students.

Another interesting point is that the only two scholarships listed for 2004-2005 are for the Mary Pickford Foundation and The Steifel/Dockweiler Fund. I'm a bit curious what happened to the Esper A. Petersen grant money for AET students in 2004. They, too, are listed as AET Donors, having provided allegedly scholarships to students in the "technologically advanced entertainment industry" yet they are not listed in the screenshot above. Here's a snapshot I made of the Esper A. Petersen's non-profit 990 tax filing for 2004:

Esper A. Petersen AET Scholarship 2004

According to the Mary Pickford Foundation tax returns, here's the breakdown of money given to Santa Monica College and the Santa Monica College Foundation:

1997: Santa Monica College $30,000
1998: Santa Monica College $25,000
1998: Santa Monica College Foundation $10,000
1999 Santa Monica College $25,000 General Support
1999: Santa Monica College $ 50,000 General Support

2000: Santa Monica College $25,000 General Support
2000: Santa Monica City College Stage $ 50,000 General Support

2001 Santa Monica College $25,000 General Support
2001: Santa Monica City College Stage $ 50,000 General Support
2002: Santa Monica College $25,000
2003: Santa Monica College $25,000

So, the allocation of these funds remains a mystery that hopefully we can solve.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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