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UTSA Film and Media program begins new year with Directors Workshop

UTSA Film and Media program begins new year with Directors Workshop

JANUARY 8, 2024 — Inspired by the success of its spring screenwriting event, the UTSA Film and Media Studies program is hosting its first Directors Workshop this week for budding young filmmakers. The free workshop, scheduled January 9 to 11 at the UTSA Main Campus and on location, will give participants hands-on experience in film production and directing, resulting in a short film based on scripts developed by UTSA student screenwriters.

Paul Ardoin, UTSA associate professor of humanities in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts and director of the program, said that the faculty decided to create a new event for inspiring directors and other students interested in learning filmmaking because last year’s Screenwriter’s Spring Break was such a huge success.

Ardoin and his team listened to feedback from students who wanted to experience the next step in the filmmaking process. Following their screenwriting experience, they sought to understand what it would be like to direct a film. This month’s workshop will include 50 students from UTSA, University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio College, Northwest Vista College and SAY Sí. The latter is a local youth arts program. 

“Ten years from now people are going to look back and see that UTSA was instrumental in nurturing and developing San Antonio filmmakers.”

“Not all students participating in the workshop or in the Film and Media Studies Program are film students,” he said. “We have students from political science and geography, psychology, art and English taking these courses.”

In a jam-packed three days, the workshop will give the students, who will be divided into groups of 10, a chance to direct a portion of a film called The Compass. The five-part short film is about a mysterious compass that leads people to unexpected places.

The movie will be filmed on sites around the UTSA Main Campus and around town, including at City Cemetery #1.Student screenwriters created five short scripts or five scenes of the film in the fall that each workshop group will be responsible for shooting.

The film will feature actor and San Antonio native Jesse Borrego, who is well known for his roles in the movie “Blood In Blood Out” and televised musical drama “Fame.”

“By participating in stuff like this, students will gain perspective on what it takes to tell their stories,” Borrego said. “There is fun and joy in telling a story – your story. How to find your unique story and learn to be collaborative with that because production is a collaborative process; it takes all of us to tell the story.”

Borrego will be one of several experienced professionals who will mentor the students as they film and who will also lead masterclasses about directing for style, editing and directing actors.

Featured mentors include UTSA professors Guillermina Zabala Suárez and Ernest Hernandez, who both teach production courses for the UTSA Film and Media Program, and Anna Stypko, an incoming visiting assistant professor. Rounding out the list are filmmakers Jim Mendiola and Tiana Marenah.

“It’s easy to participate in the student film as an actor,” Borrego said, “but my value is more in having been 40 years on movie and television sets since the 80s learning from the best.”

“And that’s the wonderful thing about Paul and Guillermina, and the rest of us participating producers and filmmakers – we’ve all done it from the bottom up,” he said. “Not only have we worked on the million-dollar productions, but the Indies, the Barrio indies – the local scene between here and Austin.” 

Borrego added, “What we really want to teach these students is how to be successful no matter what, to be artists, to be creative filmmakers and leaders. To me that’s going to be the fun part of this workshop.” 

The UTSA Film and Media Studies program, now in its second year, has grown to nearly 200 students. The program offers courses in screenwriting, digital media production, film history, the role of race and gender in film, music and film and politics in film.

Learn more about the Screenwriters Workshop that inspired this week’s Directors Workshop.

Ardoin and Borrego both see the impact this will have on San Antonio’s film industry and local aspiring filmmakers.

“Supporting a growing film culture benefits everyone,” Ardoin said. “Ten years from now people are going to look back and see that UTSA was instrumental in nurturing and developing San Antonio filmmakers.”

Michelle Gaitan

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