‘From Big Red to Red Carpet’: Alumni filmmakers share stories

Cornell alums Scott Ferguson ’82 and Michael Kantor ’83 – Emmy-winning producers of HBO’s “Succession” and the PBS “American Masters” series, respectively – will reflect on their careers in film and television production during a two-day visit to campus March 28-29 as part of the College of Arts and Sciences “Arts Unplugged” series.

Film screenings on March 29 will also include a special Zoom visit from Dr. Anthony Fauci, M.D. ’66.

During their first public event, “From the Big Red to the Red Carpet,” Cantor and Ferguson will share clips and stories from nearly four decades of work, offering an inside look at the dynamic role of a producer. They’ll also offer tips and tricks for making it in the entertainment industry. That talk is slated to begin March 28 at 6 p.m. at Cornell Cinema.

Scott Ferguson

Following the event, participants are invited to a “red carpet reception” in the Memorial Room of Willard Straight Hall, featuring food, selfie stations with Emmys, a chance to meet the producers and other activities.

Michael Kantor

The talk will also be livestreamed as a keynote at eCornell. The link is available on the eCornell site.

On March 29, Cornell Cinema will feature two of Kantor and Ferguson’s films:

  • The start of Season 4 of “Succession,” followed by Q&A with Ferguson, 5:30 p.m.
  •  “Dr. Tony Fauci,” Kantor’s newest documentary about the star of the COVID pandemic response, followed by Q&A with Kantor and Fauci, 7:30 p.m.

All of the events are free and open to the public.

Ferguson said his Cornell education – including a course he took on Roman history course – has proven invaluable in his career. “When I sat down to meet Jesse Armstrong to talk about joining “Succession” as a producer, we talked a little bit about the show and a lot about the epic of Gilgamesh and the Julio Claudians and their complex succession challenges,” Ferguson said. “This was before I had any idea of how big or successful “Succession” was going to be.”

Kantor said his Cornell experience also taught him to “dream big.” He’s hoping to encounter a new generation of big ideas and imaginative visions during this visit.

“This amazing place has been home to Nobel Prize-winning scientists, famous artists and thinkers, even Vladimir Nabokov chasing down butterflies around town,” said Kantor, adding that he plans to visit a bench overlooking Libe Slope that his friend Jim Vlock ’47 donated to honor his late wife Laurel.

Kantor joined American Masters as the PBS series’ executive producer in 2014. A two-time Emmy and three-time Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, Kantor's own films include “Cornerstone” (HBO), which he co-directed with Stephen Ives; “American Masters Quincy Jones: In the Pocket;” and “Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy.”

Ferguson has worked as a producer with filmmakers including Jim Jarmusch, Stephen Frears and Lisa Cholodenko, as well as Academy Award-winners Barry Levinson, Sydney Pollack and Ang Lee. Scott has received the Emmy, Golden Globe, Critics Choice and Producers Guild awards for each of his two seasons of “Succession,” as well as a Peabody Award for Season Three.

“It’s amazing for our students to be able to meet such accomplished alums, to hear more about how producing film and television works, and to see connections between their Cornell educations and future professional lives,” said Sabine Haenni, associate professor of performing and media arts and chair of the department (A&S).

This is the next event in the A&S Arts Unplugged series, which brings research and creative works into the public sphere for discussion and inspiration. These outreach events invite a broad audience to explore the work of scholars and faculty from all disciplines, all backgrounds and all time periods and to celebrate the impact that work continues to have on our daily lives.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Rebecca Valli