Dan Futterman, CC '89

Dan Futterman, CC ’89

In keeping with the unofficial tradition of bring back alumni for Class Day, Columbia College has secured Dan Futterman, CC ’89, for the keynote address of Columbia College Class Day 2014, as announced in an email by senior class president Conan Cassidy (full email down below).

Futterman is an award-winning actor and screenwriter, most well known for his screenplay of Oscar-nominated Capote, which he wrote in Butler and, in fact, had its premiere right here in Lerner Cinema. In celebration of this, CCSC’14 will be screening the film in Lerner Cinema this Friday at 7 pm. In the past, Futterman has acted off and on Broadway (Angels in America), as well as on both television shows and the silver screen (A Mighty HeartUrbania).  More recently, he wrote Miller’s Foxcatcher, starring Channing Tatum and Steve Carrell.

In a press release given to campus media, Deantini emphasized Futterman’s special connection to Columbia.

“We are honored that Dan Futterman has accepted our invitation to return to campus to speak to the graduating class of 2014. While at the College, Dan nurtured his love of theater, devoured Ted Tayler’s famous Shakespeare class, and so thoroughly enjoyed David Helfand’s ‘Physics Without Mathematics’ course that he would have taken additional physical classes, had he not been a senior and had the courses not required so much math.”

More traditional “excitement” followed.

“But he competed his degree in English and Comparative Literature, and the world of film beckoned without many math prerequisites. We are very proud of Dan’s accomplishments as an actor and a screenwriter, and all our graduates are, I am sure, looking forward to hearing words of wisdom from such a talented and creative alumnus.”

Futterman was chosen through a long process involving the responses of seniors, a group of 20 seniors (including the five members of the class council), and a Class Day Speaker Committee. From the initial candidates pooled from the 160 responses from seniors, the eventually list dwindled down to a ranked six, five of which were alumni (seniors apparently do prefer those who can “speak to their experiences”). The top three picks were given to Deantini for him to reach out to, and the rest is history. Says Sydney Gross, Director of Communications for Columbia College, on Futterman’s return: “He’s really excited to come back.”

Class Day will take place on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 9:30 am on the South Lawns. For the uninformed: Class Day and the university-wide Commencement are not the same thing. Commencement is on Wednesday, May 21, at 10:15 am.

Recent Columbia College class day speakers:

Student Affairs’ bio of Futterman:

Futterman grew up just north of New York City, in Westchester County. At Columbia College, he majored in English literature and performed in experimental theater groups on campus, including productions of Tina Howe’s Museum and Peter Shaffer’s Equus with the Columbia Players, as well as in numerous original student-written plays. He has remained involved with Columbia since graduation, most recently participating in a dinner and discussion event with students jointly hosted by the Center for Career Education in the Columbia College Alumni Association’s Career Education Committee. He and Epstein live in Brooklyn with their two daughters.

Conan says (emphasis ours):

Columbia College is pleased to announce that acclaimed actor and screenwriter Dan Futterman CC’89 will deliver the keynote address at our Class Day ceremony. Futterman is best known for his screenplay of the award-winning film Capote, starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

While writing the screenplay, he returned to campus, noting that “as anyone knows, normal people in NYC can’t afford apartments with office space. …If I wanted solitude, I’d go hide at a desk in the Butler stacks. If I wanted to people-watch while I wrote (which I often do), I’d go to Avery or the East Asian Library—each attracts a different crowd. Or, if I wanted caffeine and the background noise of caffeinated conversations, I’d go to the Hungarian Pastry Shop on Amsterdam.”

When it came time to premiere the film, Futterman saw no other choice but Lerner’s Roone Arledge Cinema. It seems only fitting that, to celebrate our keynote speaker, CCSC’14 will be screening Capote in the Cinema this Friday 28th March at 7pm in the exact location Futterman and the cast watched it years before.

For his screenplay, Futterman was recognized with an Independent Spirit Award, a Boston Society of Film Critics Award, a University of Southern California Scripter Award, and a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award. He was also nominated for an Academy Award, a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award, a Writers Guild of America Award, and a London Film Critics Association ‘Screenwriter of the Year’ Award.

During his time at Columbia, Futterman majored in English and Comparative Literature and performed in experimental theatre groups on campus, as well as in numerous original student-written plays. Following graduation, he appeared in various theatre productions on and off-Broadway, as well as television shows, such as Judging Amy and Political Animals, and films, including A Mighty Heart, alongside Angelina Jolie, Urbania, and The Birdcage. Futterman has most recently co-written the script for the upcoming film Foxcatcher, which has received much Oscar-buzz and stars Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo.

We’re excited Mr. Futterman will deliver the keynote address to the CC’14 graduating class as he is not only an accomplished screenwriter and actor, but also someone who can speak to and connect with our experiences over the past four years at Columbia. He notes that “it took me a while to find my way [at Columbia]. You start with the Core Curriculum, so you’re not only finding your way socially, but academically, too, because you’re not directing yourself all that much.”

As we prepare to head out from Columbia with all the excitement, nerves, tears, what-am-I-doing-with-my-life, and uncertainty that graduation brings, we know that the words of advice from someone who sat in the exact same spot on Columbia’s campus 25 years ago will stay with us as we move on to exciting new experiences.