Lesser-known alumni influence film, entertainment industries

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Photo Credit: Geo Casillas | Daily Texan Staff

Ask any UT student to name the filmmakers who came out of UT, and you’ll get a pretty dependable list of answers. Wes Anderson, Robert Rodriguez and — of course — Matthew McConaughey are well-known around campus for their movies, but they’re not the only Longhorns who’ve done interesting or important work in the film industry. Here’s The Daily Texan’s list of alumni filmmakers who
deserve more attention.

Noël Wells

A native of San Antonio, Wells is a 2010 Plan II and radio-television-film graduate.  After college, she worked on and starred in a variety of projects, including videos for Funny or Die and CollegeHumor, as well as a feature called “Forev,” which a group of her friends and peers from UT created.

In 2013, Wells made the jump to prime time television as a cast member during the 39th season of “Saturday Night Live.” A year later, she joined the cast of Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None,” where she received critical praise for her turn as Rachel, the primary love interest in the show’s first season.

Last year at SXSW, Wells made her directorial debut with “Mr. Roosevelt,” a film she also wrote and starred in. Shot on 16mm film and set primarily in Austin, “Mr. Roosevelt” was warmly received by critics as a showcase for Wells’ unique sense of humor.

Tsui Hark

Hark’s been called the Steven Spielberg of Asia for his work in the last few decades and is responsible for boosting the careers of talented stars and filmmakers, like Jet Li and John Woo, through his work on and off-camera. His films “Once Upon a Time in China,” “The Butterfly Murders” and “Peking Opera Blues,” to name a few, are considered classics among many fans of Hong Kong cinema.

Having directed and produced more than fifty movies since graduating from UT in 1975, Hark may be the most prolific of UT’s filmmaking alumni. Working predominantly out of Hong Kong, Hark has worked on everything from blockbuster special effects bonanzas to low-budget social and political commentaries. He pioneered New-Wave Hong Kong Cinema in the early 1990s.

Robert Schenkkan

Writer Robert Schenkkan graduated from UT in 1975 and has since gone on to win a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award and recognition from the Writers’ Guild of America, as well as a slew of other awards for his work.

Schenkkan’s career consists mostly of on and off-Broadway theater productions, but his departures from the stage to the screen are just as notable. He co-produced and wrote episodes of HBO’s “The Pacific” and penned the script for “The Quiet American,” and worked on a number of other television shows and films throughout the last two decades. Most notably, though, Schenkkan was one of two writers behind Mel Gibson’s Oscar-nominated film, “Hacksaw Ridge.”

Following the film’s release, Amazon Studios billed Schenkkan to write “K Troop,” a film about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the 19th century.

Tobe Hooper

An important figure in American horror cinema, Hooper was an radio-television-film student at UT during the early 1960s while the program was still in its infancy. For a few years after college, he worked as a documentary filmmaker, before cobbling together $40,000 to make his first feature, “Eggshells.” The film went relatively unnoticed, but Hooper’s second picture, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” took audiences by surprise with its grittiness.

Texas Chainsaw redefined horror movies, and sent Hooper’s career into motion. He went on to direct a number of well-loved horror flicks, including “Salem’s Lot,” “Poltergeist” and “Lifeforce.” The likes of John Carpenter, James Gunn and Eli Roth all claim Hooper as a major influence on their work.