IMS Remembers John G. Avildsen '51
The world-class film director and IMS alumnus had life-long ties to our community and is credited with helping to start our film program when he and his classmate and fellow filmmaker Jim Becket ’50 came to campus to supervise the filming of a student-written film. John had come up with the idea of holding a script-writing contest and giving the winning student writer the role of director on the film’s production team. The two venerable film experts picked a scene written by Carla Frankenbach ’08 and mentored her and the rest of the IMS student cast and crew through the filmmaking process in October 2006.
At the premiere showing of the finished student film, John let Carla hold the Oscar that he won for best director of Rocky in 1977. At that event, Carla stated, “Everything changed for me when I discovered film at IMS. I didn’t know anything about making films and now it’s something that I think I will pursue as a career.” The whole experience had such an impact on Carla that she went on to produce films in high school, received a full scholarship to attend the USC School of Cinematic Arts, graduating magna cum laude in 2016, and is, indeed, pursuing a career in the television and film business. John was always there on the sidelines cheering her on.
In addition to being a highly engaged mentor to our students, John also held the relationships that he had with his fellow IMS alumni near and dear to his heart. He was one of the organizers of his 55th reunion in 2006 when he was able to reconnect on campus with some of his former classmates. John shared memories of his IMS days with our students during a panel discussion and spoke of one particular moment on top of Indian Mountain. He recalled, “One of my most cherished memories is of being up on Indian Mountain one winter afternoon in 1951. I was the last person in my group to head down the ski trail and found myself mesmerized and enchanted by the quiet that filled the air. I’d never heard such blissful quiet.” We later captured John sharing that memory on camera.