The first recipient of the Dimitri Tiomkin Award is Merawi Gerima, a graduate student at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts (SCA). Gerima is a filmmaker from Washington D.C. He is currently completing his Master’s degree at USC, with an emphasis on sound and cinematography.
The Tiomkin scholarship granted to Gerima was made possible by an endowment from Volta Music Corp. and will be given annually to a qualified SCA student. Tiomkin incorporated Volta in 1957 to control his music publishing rights and to receive income, including royalties, from his film (and later, television) music. The corporation is a publisher member of ASCAP.
Much like today, the music for major studio-produced films in the past was often created under work-for-hire agreements that granted the publishing rights to the studio, while composers and lyricists shared only the performing rights. Due to both his stature as a composer and to the large number of independently produced films he scored, Tiomkin secured the publishing rights to many of his film compositions. Included in the Volta catalog is music from The Alamo, D.O.A., High Noon, The Men, and Rawhide. Volta has been active for many years in commissioning orchestral suits to be made of Dimitri’s music for concert performances.
The USC School of Cinematic Arts, formerly known as the USC School of Cinema-Television, is a private media school within the University of Southern California located near downtown Los Angeles.
“The School of Cinematic Arts is divided into seven divisions that work together to train the leaders, scholars and media makers of tomorrow,” according to the school’s website. This interdisciplinary approach enables students, regardless of their chosen area of specialization, to take courses across the seven disciplines, encompassing film and television production (writing, directing, producing) as well as Cinema and Media Studies and Interactive Media & Games.
At the heart of the program developed and overseen by Dean Elizabeth M. Daley is an emphasis on knowledge and experience gained from the school’s unique and time-tested philosophy of melding cinematic theory and practice.
The program ranks number one this year in American film schools according to The Hollywood Reporter, a trade publication serving the film industry.
In his third semester at USC, Gerima enrolled in instructor Richard Burton’s class on sound. Burton, a sound and sound effects editor, has enjoyed a lengthy career and is credited on films ranging from Bull Durham to X-Men.
Burton’s class expanded Gerima’s view on sound recording and sound design, resulting in his decision to focus his studies on both sound and cinematography.
Gerima’s route to film was a circuitous one. He studied graphic design as an undergraduate at Howard University after changing his major four times. Upon graduating he decided to pursue film. Working for two years as a network engineer at a hospital allowed him to save money to further his education. Eventually he moved to Los Angeles to attend USC’s graduate film production program.
The School of Cinematic Arts offers numerous scholarships to students who are currently enrolled in a degree-granting program within the School of Cinematic Arts. The Manager of Student Services coordinates scholarships offered by SCA, which includes general scholarships open to all students, scholarships limited to specific student populations such as production finishing funds, and merit scholarships awarded for writing, cinematography, directing, documentary, editing, interactive media, games, cinema & media studies, and other categories.
Dimitri Tiomkin now joins a long list of familiar names of those who have worked in the film industry and have given back by supporting USC and its students. Among the school’s endowed scholarships are names such as Gene Autry, James Bridges, Johnny Carson, Gary Cooper, George Cukor, John Huston, Harold Lloyd, Jack Nicholson, Mary Pickford, Frank Sinatra, and Ray Stark.
Tiomkin and USC have a long shared history. Since the 1960s, the Cinematic Arts Library in the Doheny Memorial Library on the University Park campus has housed the Dimitri Tiomkin Collection. This past summer, Olivia Tiomkin donated to USC her unparalleled collection of poster art for films scored by her husband to be added to the Dimitri Tiomkin collection.
The collection comprises the most complete collection of Tiomkin’s music manuscripts and sound recordings in the world. Tiomkin’s composing career is represented through full scores, conductor scores, music sketches, and sound recordings. The material spans five decades, from the 1920s through 1960s, and therefore includes Tiomkin’s music for stage and ballet productions, as well as his prolific film oeuvre.
“I’m sure that Dimitri would be pleased that the proceeds from his film music royalties are now helping students at USC and will allow them to not only continue their studies but to thrive as filmmakers and creators,” said Olivia Tiomkin after the first Dimitri Tiomkin Award was granted to Gerima.
Outside of school Gerima writes and directs his own projects and shoots and edits for his friends. A firm believer in communal artistry, he volunteers his time to his community, hosting film workshops and mentoring youth in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and abroad. After graduating he hopes to bring his own stories to life while assisting friends to do the same.
“The Top 25 American Film Schools 2017,” by THR Staff, The Hollywood Reporter, August 16, 2017