In 2010, Santa Monica College launched a nationwide search for a full-time faculty member to form a film department — a program that was a long time coming for a school that tops the state in transfer rates, and which offered critical studies courses that included film, but lacked an official production course of study.
The school didn’t have to look far for the best candidate: Salvador Carrasco, a Mexico-born filmmaker (“The Other Conquest”) and former head of the Advanced Directing Program at the Los Angeles Film School, who’d been an adjunct professor at the college since 2002.
Carrasco didn’t blink at the degree of difficulty required to successfully oversee the new program, which would require a massive amount of footwork to obtain regional and state-level approval (the latter is still pending), design a curriculum and secure funding for filmmaking equipment. Carrasco says school president Chui L. Tsang told him to “ ‘Think outside the box, and do whatever you dreamt of doing elsewhere.’ ”
Carrasco has established a low-cost associate’s degree and certificate program (in-state tuition is $46 per unit) that aim to rival those of film-school giants USC and UCLA. “I believe very strongly (that) when it comes to filmmaking, you teach the craft first. Filmmaking is a language, and it should be taught as a language.”
SMC’s nascent film department offers a three-course sequence spread out over four semesters: Film Studies 31 (beginning), Film Studies 32 (intermediate) and Film 33, in which students raise funds and produce one short film. A fourth semester is dedicated to post-production. Thus far, the school has churned out some 100 short films, all shot in a Santa Monica Airport hangar (a $65 million dollar arts complex is in the works.)
“The work ethic is spectacular,” notes Carrasco of his students. “There is zero sense of entitlement. The more you raise the bar and the more you challenge, the more they just go for it.”
Watch this video to see Carrasco and his students’ work.