For a communications student set on a career in cinema and television arts, navigating an unknown industry could seem as difficult as getting beyond the guard at the gates of a Burbank lot. But Cal State Fullerton faculty members working simultaneously in film or television can put it all in focus for their students.
“For me, being a professor at Cal State Fullerton is all about bringing everything I do and learn back to my present and future classrooms,” said Anthony Sparks, assistant professor of cinema and television arts. Sparks writes and produces for “Queen Sugar,” a series by creators Oprah Winfrey and “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, which premieres Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 6-7 on OWN.
“My industry experiences mean that as I work more as a producer and hopefully progress into the selling and creating of my own television shows, my teaching expertise deepens in screenwriting — and also in the related but separate skills of producing, pitching and directing,” Sparks said. “My continued presence in the industry also means that my recommendations to industry workers, fellowships and entry-level positions for our students will potentially carry weight.
“In the year since I’ve joined CSUF, I’ve learned that our students juggle a lot on their plate and work very hard in all aspects of their lives. My goal has always been and continues to be to live the example of what is possible in the long run — especially if a student lacks the inherent life privileges that often make a career or even an education in the filmic arts easier to attain.”
CSUF’s future filmmakers and screenwriters also learn from other faculty members who offer current insight on industry trends.
Associate professor Ari Posner produced “Hart of Dixie” and wrote on shows including “Reba,” “Mental,” “Call Me Fitz” and “Popular.” He’s also written and developed pilots for companies including Sony Pictures Television, Happy Madison Productions, Gary Sanchez Productions, CBS and Disney Channel.
Associate professor Robert Engels is a writer, producer and director. He wrote and produced several episodes of “Twin Peaks” and co-wrote the film “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.” He also wrote and produced several episodes of “Andromeda.”
Information available to students about what it’s like to work in television and film is “encyclopedic,” said Garrett Hart, chair and professor of the Department of Cinema and Television Arts. Faculty members who recently worked or currently work in the industry prepare CSUF students with lessons that reach outside the classroom, he said.
“Very few industries change as fast as cinema and television,” Hart said. “By staying professionally involved in the business, faculty remain current with the latest equipment, business strategies and marketplace conditions to name but a few areas. When our students start their job search, the fact they are armed with the latest information makes them more valuable and thus more attractive to employers.”