Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015

University of New Orleans Graduate Student Receives Jeri Nims Graduate Thesis Film Production Award

Winner Jade Hewitt receives $10,000, tours Nim Center Studios and meets stars and producers of NCIS: New Orleans

Jade Hewitt receives the University of New Orleans Jeri Nims Graduate Thesis Film Production AwardGraduate student Jade Hewitt receives the University of New Orleans Jeri Nims Graduate Thesis Film Production Award, a $10,000 award that she will use to produce her graduate thesis film and enter it into competitions and festivals.

A University of New Orleans graduate student received $10,000 and a star-studded personal tour of the University of New Orleans Nims Center Studios this month as a prize for creating the best thesis film in the UNO Film Department. On location during her visit to the studios were star actors from NCIS: New Orleans, currently the top television series in the nation.

Jade Hewitt, who is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in Film Production at UNO, is the winner of the Jeri Nims Graduate Thesis Scholarship, an annual award that brings a $10,000 scholarship to help pay for film production and entrance to competitions and film festivals. The scholarship was established by Jeri Nims, one of the city’s leading philanthropists and one of the University’s largest benefactors.

“Jade Hewitt is not only an excellent young filmmaker but admired by her peers,” said David Hoover, chair of the UNO Film and Theater Department. “Her tireless effort on behalf of her fellow students makes her one of the most sought-after colleagues.  She is also an adept teacher in our Intro to Film courses. We are lucky to have her representing the department and university."

Hewitt, who is now working on her thesis film, joined Jeri Nims; UNO Film and Theatre Department Chair David W. Hoover; UNO Vice President of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing Kevin McLin and several other University administrators in early January for a luncheon and personal tour of the Nims Center Studios. Known formally as the University of Orleans Robert E. Nims Center for Entertainment Arts and Multimedia Technology, the Nims Center Studios helped to launch the local film industry more than a dozen years ago, drawing major motion picture productions to Louisiana with the emergence of state tax credits for the film industry, which is now estimated to bring the state more than $1 billion in annual revenues.

Operated under the direction of Roger Benischek, the nearly 100,000-square foot Nims Center Studios boast five stages totaling more than 50,000 square feet, four green screens, 45 production offices, editing suites, a mixing room, state-of-the-art sound and film equipment. The studios have been home to filming and production for a variety of television series, as well as award-winning blockbuster films from 12 Years A Slave to Runaway Jury.

Hewitt, who hopes to make a career in film, toured production offices, editing suites and a brand-new state-of-the-art sound stage built last year to help accommodate filming of blockbuster movies. She spent time behind the scenes on the set of NCIS: New Orleans, where she had the opportunity to meet leading film stars Scott Bakula, Lucas Black, and Zoe McLellan.

Jeri Nims has provided numerous film and music scholarships to UNO students and paid to enter their work in competitions and film festivals. Every December, recipients of the Jeri Nims Graduate Thesis Scholarships gather with her for an annual luncheon, where she gets to know students and view their graduate thesis films.

"The Jeri Nims Graduate Thesis Film Production Award is a  wonderful honor and tremendous assist in the production of exemplary thesis films coming from the UNO graduate film program," Benischek said. "I know Mrs. Nims is very proud of the students and the high level of work they continue to accomplish."

Getting a thesis film completed is no small task, Benischek said, and without the Nims scholarships, some students would have difficulty or go deeply into debt doing so.

Past scholarship recipients include Kd Amond, who is now winning awards with her thesis film, The Woodshed; Ji Choi, whose thesis film, Madchen, recently screened at the New Orleans Film Festival; Paul Catalanotto, who owns his own production company; James Roe and Kevin Hughes, both now working professionally in the Louisiana film industry.

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