A Penn professor has recently received an award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It is not, however, an Oscar.
English and Cinema Studies professor Peter Decherney, together with Northeastern University professor Harlow Robinson, have been selected as the 10th pair of Academy Film Scholars.
Each professor will receive $25,000 from the Academy to finance the research and writing of their respective projects for the Academy Foundation, which grants more than $1 million to film scholars, cultural organizations and film festivals each year.
Decherney and Robinson will receive the first half of their grants in April and the remaining half upon completion of their manuscripts.
The academy grant will support Decherney’s research on the history of Hollywood and copyright issues.
He is currently working on a book-length study that addresses issues including home video’s impact on fair use of copyright.
“Copyright is central to the development of new technologies, to definitions of creativity, and to global trade and cultural exchange,” Decherney wrote in an e-mail. “I think Hollywood’s history can tell us a lot about our current moment.”
Robinson’s work focuses on the career of Oscar-winner Lewis Milestone, who directed such classics as Of Mice and Men and All Quiet on the Western Front.
His research on Milestone, who hailed from Russia, fits in with his own background in Russian studies, which he teaches at Northeastern University.
“This is a classic example of how a young Russian immigrant broke into American culture and turned into a great figure,” Robinson said.
Decherney’s students were pleased to hear of his appointment.
“Professor Decherney is a great professor because he mixes his knowledge on historical subjects — like the history of film — with contemporary issues and current technologies,” College senior Kyle Johnson said. “With his understanding of film and media’s past, he is really uniquely suited to teach us other topics — like contemporary media law, copyright and culture.”
Cinema Studies Director Karen Beckman said her department is proud of Decherney for his achievement.
“This is one of the most prestigious appointments in our field, one usually reserved for scholars far more advanced in age than the sprightly Decherney,” Beckman wrote in an e-mail. “His appointment recognizes both his very high standing in the field and his exceptional promise for the future.”
According to Grants Coordinator at the Academy Shawn Guthrie, Decherney and Robinson were selected because they have established themselves academically, and because their projects won over the selection committee.
“Mr. Decherney’s book would shed light on the history of copyright issues and illuminate the paths to take in the future,” Guthrie said. “Mr. Robinson’s book will fill a gap in the history of Hollywood with his history of a director who won many awards, but about whom there are virtually no books out there.”
Decherney was really surprised to hear that he was receiving one of the grants.
“Of course, I’m looking forward to getting to use the phrase, ‘I would like to thank the Academy,’” he wrote.
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