Adam Collis

Adam Collis poses for a portrait.  Photo courtesy of Adam Collis.

On March 4, Spike Lee spoke at Arizona State University offering students and the public an opportunity to hear from this giant of the film industry.

ASU film professor Adam Collis said he attended a similar event as an undergrad at Duke University where Spike Lee spoke to the students there. It changed his entire career goal from pre-med to film. It also set him on the path which eventually led to the creation of Film Spark, a program that connects film students with professionals in Hollywood.

Collis said that the development of his interest in film began when he saw Do The Right Thing (a Spike Lee film), but seeing Spike Lee speak at Duke University solidified his interest in film.

“My life was forever changed … I heard him speak and decided then and there that I’d be a filmmaker,” Collis said.

From that life-changing moment, Collis said that he went on to University of Southern California’s film school where he created films, the most iconic being Sunset Strip, which featured Jared Leto. Today he lives in California and teaches at ASU, where he’s been for five years. He teaches the first Film Spark class, directing and cinematography.

He accredited his start at ASU to Miguel Valenti, the one who established ASU’s film program and said that his start began with the typical application process, but that a few years prior to taking that position is when he began teaching and discovered that he enjoyed it.

Film Spark is the means of connecting ASU students with professionals in Hollywood, but that prior to ASU President Michael Crow having discovered what Collis was doing and making it an official program at ASU, Collis had already been doing it for about five years, he said.

Based on what was said by Collis, Film Spark has done more than just provide students at ASU an opportunity to connect with Hollywood figures of the film industry, but that it has facilitated hands-on instruction and immersion within the industry.

Collis said the most recent project Car Dogs was one of the experiences that was provided to ASU film students.

Car Dogs gave the students the opportunity to partake in the filmmaking process and gain working experience among award winning cast and crew of the industry, Collis said.

One former ASU student who worked on Car Dogs said it was a beneficial experience.

Katherine Foust — who has since become the executive assistant to the vice president of physical production at Agency for Performing Arts — said in an email that she was Collis’ assistant throughout all levels of production.

“This was enormously beneficial because I got a very detailed inside look of how the film industry works at every level of production … It really hit home that there are things that you can’t learn in school, that only come from job experience itself,” Foust said.

Collis said about the inspiration behind Car Dogs that “I think the biggest inspiration was thinking that I could give 85 students and 15 recent alumni a chance to learn filmmaking on an actual film set … The opportunity to give that to my students was deeply inspiring and motivating.”

“I think it’s critical to note that we are just getting started as an organization, and we’ve jumped right into a big event at ASU Gammage, which holds 3000 people, but we do have ambitions planned for this year,” Collis said.

He added that Film Spark is in the process of planning its summer film internship project, which is a documentary about the attainment of higher education.

“I’m very inspired by President Crow and by what ASU has done to try to improve the number of students who are able to get a college degree, and we have a three-time Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker who’s going to executive produce this project for us, and we feel like we have an incredible opportunity for our students to learn an enormous amount,” Collis said.

• Coleton Berry, a senior at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for GetOut. Contact his editor at 480-898-5629 or

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