UTSA Professor and Students Talk Upcoming Film and Media Studies Program

UTSA – for now, under the umbrella of University College – will offer students the option of majoring or majoring in Film and Media Studies. The program will be offered at the start of the Fall 2022 semester in August.

The path leading to an upcoming degree is a welcome opportunity for students interested in majoring in filmmaking, a degree that has not yet been seen at UTSA. This is the perfect time for UTSA, given that San Antonio prides itself on a culturally rich and diverse population. Dr. Paul Ardoin, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Humanities and Director of the Film Studies Program at UTSA.

Ardoin called the degree “cafeteria-style” in that students will have the opportunity to select courses from three different program categories.

“It is divided into three boxes. A history box, a theory and culture box and a production box, and major students will choose four to five courses, minimum, from each box. It will also be based on the particular interests of those students…but it will not conclusively give a single student a complete education in all film and all media,” Ardoin said.

During the upcoming fall semester, the major will exist as a sort of “incubating major,” where students will have the opportunity to choose their own direction. At the end of this period – Ardoin specifies two years – the program will migrate to the College of Liberal Arts and Fine Arts (COLFA), where students can expect to focus on specific tracks such as writing screenplays and production.

Emily Flores, a junior majoring in digital communications, spoke about the UTSA film program schedule.

“I think it was kind of like fate because…I was getting really frustrated, I felt like none of the digital communication classes were going to help me at all, or get me a foothold. [film] industry. So I would start calling other schools, thinking about transferring and going to another school that would possibly offer a film major…they [UTSA] announced that they were offering a new film major,” said Flores.

Brendan Martinez, a young art student who will also be majoring in film, spoke about the arrival of the film major and the upcoming student film exhibition on Wednesday April 27.

“Certainly, I think it’s great that they are [UTSA] do this kind of film festival and invite all the students and give film students a chance to show what they’re doing,” Martinez said.

Prior to the fall semester, UTSA offered students the opportunity to minor in film studies. Aside from a student organization, options for future student filmmakers are few and far between. Flores expressed hope that more student engagement will come from the new major.

“I know there is a great club here at school, the UTSA Film Club [Rowdy Film Association]. I hope…what I think would be really cool, now that there’s a film major is there just isn’t a film club,” Flores said.

Ardoin spoke about the process of the different stages encountered in setting up the program.

“Part of that was assembling a kind of advisory board of current professors who have those interests and that expertise. [and] get together and talk about what we want it to look like. Part of what that will look like depends, of course, on who signs up in the fall. There has been a lot of talk about needs… What new courses do we want to add so that students have a lot of choices, which is our main focus for the fall,” Ardoin said.

Ardoin further referred to the presence of the UTSA program among graduate film schools at NYU, USC, and the University of Texas at Austin, to name a few.

“Given where we are, we’re set up to have a totally different kind of identity. None of the institutions we’ve talked about are predominantly Hispanic [institutions]none of them serve the number of first-generation students we serve, none of them are in a community like ours…like our city, which is in some ways simultaneously recognized as [a] a city that is profoundly perfect for filmmaking and has a history, but is also significantly underutilized,” Ardoin said.

As mentioned earlier, this is the first time a degree like this has been offered at UTSA. Film production courses are offered at the San Antonio community college level, specifically at Northwest Vista College. However, Ardoin was adamant about wanting it to happen at the college level and about San Antonio’s place as a movie-friendly city.

“So there’s production going on there [Northwest Vista College], but people want it to happen at the college level. This will be the first time this has been done in an established and committed way. So the [are] huge opportunities here. San Antonio is working hard to bring more productions to town, but we should also be creating more productions ourselves and we should be creating filmmakers, we certainly have the talent base for that,” Ardoin said.

Many students who will soon be majoring in film have likely found themselves in something “more practical” or adjacent to film. Ardoin spoke about the importance of making this course available to students now.

“Part of it is having the device for students who could do this work [film], to do this work. And part of that is creating a legitimate career path out of that for them. Many of our students who made good films felt like they were majoring in something “hands-on” while doing film work. But now that we have a formal program, it allows us to set up community and industry partnerships to place people on internships. To ensure this is both a practical and creative, growing major,” Ardoin said.

Martinez hopes to see more support from UTSA when it comes to supporting student filmmakers.

“I think it would be a great idea for UTSA to reach out or partner with a theater-like Santikos [that’s also local] and maybe we can do screenings there. Out in a park on a spotlight…it [would] feel a lot more real to the filmmakers too… seeing it on the big screen,” Martinez said.

Ardoin talked about a space currently under construction in the McKinney Humanities building. When completed at the start of the fall semester, the hall will house state-of-the-art production spaces and a screening room for filmmakers.

“…this space is called the Film Production Hub, has nine rooms and opens this fall. The space is approved. Funding is half guaranteed, with the other half fully expected – nearly half a million dollars in total, north of 400,000 (I forget the exact figure). 90% of our equipment will be new for the fall…” said Ardoin.

More information about the Film and Media Studies program, courses and contact details can be found on their website. Also, more information and news about the program can be found on the UTSA Film Studies Instagram @utsafilmstudies. The student film exhibition will take place on April 27, from 6 to 9 p.m. Participants can confirm their presence at the event on RowdyLink.