SMC film program growing

Supplemental to the existing film studies program, Santa Monica College is planning to give students the opportunity to earn a certificate and an associate degree in film production, in addition to learning the craft of screenwriting and filmmaking.

Although practical film classes have been provided before at the college, the faculty is working on a new program, according to SMC film studies professor Salvador Carrasco.

The vision for the new program involves working like a real production company, collaborating with different campus departments and creating a comprehensive study of film in critical analysis and the development of practical skills, Carrasco said.

According to professor Josh Kanin, who has been teaching film studies classes at SMC for 16 years, students are trained to critically analyze movies in a historical and aesthetic context and are taught the craft of filmmaking. The classes prepare students to transfer to four-year universities or film schools, and to pursue careers in the film industry.

"We are very strong in critical studies and production film writing studies, which gives us the edge over other community colleges," Kanin says.
"And we have really great instructors who have experience in working in the film industry. They bring their experience into their teaching."

Carrasco believes it is the students that make the college's film program stand out from the rest.

"There is a fierce competition, especially in LA," Carrasco says. "But our students can distinguish themselves in terms of their strong work ethic, level of craft, impeccable attitude on set, and their diversity."

SMC students do not only learn from their instructors, but also from guest speakers who have made a name for themselves in the film industry.

Those include producer, director and perennial Academy Award winner Oliver Stone, director and writer of "The Naked Gun" series David Zucker and Jim Abrahams, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Christine Choy, and actress Hilary Swank, who took one of Kanin's film studies classes before her breakthrough in the film, "Boys Don't Cry," according to Kanin.

One of the recent course offerings is a class on directing short films, which builds on the previous two courses on beginning and advanced digital filmmaking. For the new program, this class sequence was reinvented and developed so that students have the opportunity to learn and acquire hands-on experiences in filmmaking on set.

"I want my students to have a seamless transition when they leave SMC for their first professional job," Carrasco said. "Of course, that means that we have to be rigorous and demand a lot from them. This is as real as it gets."

The short film directing class of spring 2012 recently produced their first original movie called "Solidarity," written and directed by SMC student Dustin Brown. It was submitted to several festivals, and will be shown at the Vilnius International Film Festival, the largest cinematic event in Lithuania.

According to Carrasco, the movies from the two digital filmmaking classes, which are showcased at the end of the semester, reflect the quality of SMC's film education.

"We teach the students at a very high standard, but at a fraction of the cost of what private institutions and other film schools charge," said Carrasco. "We are working on being one of the best film schools in the country. We have the human potential, which is the most valuable source."

SMC's film studies program is part of the media studies and communications department. It offers students film classes in critical analysis, screenwriting and film production.