Famous Alumni & Teachers


Our alumni include the creators of 6 movie and TV franchises that have each generated over $1 billion from theatrical and ancillary markets – Sylvester Stallone, James Cameron, Matt Groening, Todd Durham


… and the talents responsible for many blockbusters and award-winning movies – Jerry Zucker, Nancy Meyers, Paul Haggis


Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky while attending courses at Sherwood Oaks. We were fortunate enough for him to come back and speak at Sherwood Oaks and to be among our famous alumni. Although best known as an actor, he is an avid writer and taught a writing class for Sherwood Oaks. He does his best to write everyday even if it is two words – FADE IN. After struggling in bit parts for years, Stallone was eager to create a vehicle for himself to attain greater roles as well as become recognized for his writing abilities. Sherwood Oaks helped him do just that! “Sly” is now one of the biggest box-office draws in history, with audiences still flocking to his films after more than 40 years in the business.

James Cameron, now a world-renowned director with extensive film accolades, started as a writer and before being famous, he attended a Sherwood Oaks seminar focusing on directing that would assist in jump-starting his impressive career as the most successful commercial director ever. Avatar grossed $2.8 billion worldwide. Sherwood Oaks has been honored to have Mr. Cameron come back as an instructor.


With years of hard-work and unparalleled insider-info gleaned from his courses at Sherwood Oaks, Jerry Zucker has made a name for himself in Hollywood as a brilliant comedic director-turned-producer. Sherwood Oaks is proud to have helped nurture his enduring success. Zucker is a producer, director, and writer known for his role in creating comedy spoof films such as Airplane! and Top Secret!, and directing the Best Picture-nominated supernatural drama film Ghost.


Portland native Matt Groening was born with a natural distaste for school, yet a profound talent for drawing. So, when he moved to L.A. to make his artistic talents pay off in a career, Sherwood Oaks’ practical approach to breaking into Hollywood was a perfect fit. He is the creator of the comic strip Life in Hell, and the television series The Simpsons and Futurama. The Simpsons has gone on to become the longest-running U.S. primetime-television series in history, as well as the longest-running animated series and sitcom.


Paul Haggis‘ meteoric rise to become the first screenwriter to win 2 back-to-back Academy Awards (Million Dollar Baby and Crash) began at none other than Sherwood Oaks, when he was a struggling writer from Canada just looking for a break. Sherwood Oaks is delighted to have helped him make the connections that made his career as a much sought-after writer-director! When asked what started his screenwriting career, Paul Haggis responded “Sherwood Oaks.”


Nancy Meyers began her career by making connections at Sherwood Oaks, leading to her first position as a development executive. From there, she began writing and today is best known as the writer, producer and director of several big-screen successes, including The Parent Trap (1998), Something’s Gotta Give (2003), The Holiday (2006), It’s Complicated (2009), and The Intern (2015). Her second film as director, What Women Want (2000), was at that time the most successful film ever directed by a woman.


Todd Durham credits Sherwood Oaks and founder Gary Shusett among the most pivotal influences of his career. Mr. Durham, a filmmaker, comedy writer, and novelist, is best known as the creator of the Hotel Transylvania movie franchise for Columbia Pictures which he based on his book of the same name. He is the 6th sole creator of an animated movie franchise which went on to generate over $1 billion from theatrical and ancillary markets after only one sequel. His works, including 40+ screenplays and books, frequently combine fantasy storylines with character comedy.




Note:  the bios above may be shared freely.


For years, Lucille Ball was a perennial favorite among Sherwood Oaks’ distinguished guests. An entertainment powerhouse with a contagious humor and wit, she will always be remembered in the hearts of those whose lives she touched, including many former Sherwood Oaks students, fellow guests, and our founder himself, Gary Shusett. She mentioned teaching at “Sherwood Oaks” was one of her most rewarding experiences on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The best way to find out about Lucille Ball is to hear our own Taylor Negron describe her unique and intense teaching methods at Sherwood Oaks in this video. We are honored to have her as one of our many celebrity instructors. If you are interested in film, we encourage you to join our mailing list and make your dream come true. Exclusive video of Lucille Ball teaching acting at Sherwood Oaks.

“In 1977, every Tuesday at 7 pm for eight weeks, Lucille Ball was my comedy teacher…[at Sherwood Oaks College.]” wrote Taylor Negron in Fresh Yarn. “In 1977, every Tuesday at 7 pm for eight weeks, Lucille Ball was my comedy teacher. To this day I still remember things she said, or how she reacted to things, but more importantly I remember what she ‘felt’ about things. She was a woman who wore her heart on her sleeve. Lucy taught us how to play drunk: ‘Say every word slowly and clearly. Drunks don’t want people to think they are slurring.’ She told us, ‘Everything you see me do on I Love Lucy was practiced and rehearsed for days! Know you props!’ Her tone was serious. Lucille Ball taught me how to be happy, because she was so damned sad.

The first time I saw her she was crying. But let me digress back to 1977 when I was 19 years old, and a slimmer, more bell-bottomed me. I was lean, I was mean, and I had a shag. The year that Saturday Night Fever came out, before AIDS and cell phones, when there were only 13 channels on TV and afternoons were meant for love making and hitchhiking. Hollywood Boulevard was still an old fashioned street then. Japanese gift shops were tucked in between musty bookshops, and old ladies in ancient silk dresses walked down the street with Andrews Sisters’ hairdos. Male hustlers clogged the front of the ice cream store on the corner of Las Palmas Avenue that sold peppermint candy ice cream in those sweet waffle cones.

I worked at the Sherwood Oaks Experimental Film School on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Ivar Street, upstairs from a Tom McCann shoe store that sold only platform shoes that summer. I would bike there from the apartment on Van Ness Street that I shared with a dwarf actor named Corky, who I had met in my improv group. He traveled around with a rough crowd that included Herve Villechaize. I recall people mentioning that, “Herve carries a pistol.”

I needed help paying the rent so I asked Corky to be my roommate. When he moved in he had nothing more than a box of porn magazines and a large bottle of Vicks Vapor Rub. My only complaint about my new roommate was that he left footprints on the toaster. When you live with a little person, everything becomes a step.

Working at the film school was a big step for me. It was my second job (my first was being a cartoon model at Hanna-Barbera, which required no thinking, just arduous posing). I was paid to run errands for the director of the school, a man named Gary. I helped him track down celebrities to come and lecture for a nominal fee.

The outrageously hilarious and ever-blunt wit of George Carlin was a rare and most welcome honor in Sherwood Oaks’ courses. Famous for his stand-up comedy, most notably his “7 Words You Can’t Say on Television,” Mr. Carlin blessed many Sherwood Oaks’ alumni with his infamous ability to “cut through the BS” and tell it like it is – exceedingly rare in Hollywood, to say the least! He is sorely missed, but his brilliant humor and intellect live on in his stand-up specials, his unforgettable voiceover work, and film and TV cameos. George Carlin as received two Grammys: for his albums “FM & AM” (1972) and “Jammin’ in New York” (1993). George Carlin met and married a student that he taught at Sherwood Oaks, Sally Wade. Check out our other famous guests and check out our classes.

Rod Serling blessed Sherwood Oaks with his presence on a number of occasions throughout the years, and especially inspired sci-fi writers with his anecdotal stories and advice. Any sci-fi writer will tell you it is especially difficult to break into this genre of Hollywood, but Mr. Serling broke down the mystery of success for many, and Sherwood Oaks is eternally grateful.


With a rare and enduring career that has spanned more than 4 decades, from American Graffiti to Weeds, to Paranoia, Richard Dreyfuss is a treasured Sherwood Oaks guest who enjoys interacting with our students in the casual atmosphere we provide.


From his proper English upbringing to the annals of film and television history, Malcolm McDowell has a singular story to share, and Sherwood Oaks students throughout the years have not only benefited from his rare insights, but delighted in his rare personality as well.


Tom McLoughlin
comes back often as a moderator (latest class was July 2012) and with the contacts that he met at Sherwood Oaks seminars that his Hollywood career began in 3 years. Tom is now a working writer-producer-director. His first assignment was being the writer of Dick Van Dyke’s TV show and then Friday the 13th TV series. See more of Tom’s credits.

Often rated amongst film colleagues such as Spielberg, Scorsese, and Coppola, Paul Schrader’s wild success as a screenwriter could never have been predicted, given that he was barred from watching movies as a child! Yet, his first screenplay, Taxi Driver, is a veritable classic directed by film heavyweight, Martin Scorsese. Since then, he has graced Sherwood Oaks as an honored guest and mesmerizes students every time with his incredible Hollywood story.