CSUN Hosts First UNAM Film Workshop

As a child growing up in Mexico City, Tamara Romo dreamed about Hollywood. She went to the movies three times a week to see American-made movies with Spanish subtitles.

Romo’s dream came true this summer as one of 24 students from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), enrolled in California State University, Northridge’s first UNAM Film Producers Workshop. The 21-year-old business management major said she jumped at the opportunity to participate in CSUN’s three-week course on business management for motion picture production.

“This was a dream come true,” said Romo, who had never been to the United States prior to the program. “We got an inside view at how U.S. cinema operates that was really unique and exciting.”


Professor Nate Thomas lectures. Photo by Lee Choo.

Led by CSUN Department of Cinema and Television Arts professor Nate Thomas, an award-winning producer and director, UNAM students were introduced to basic business procedures of the American motion picture industry. The class included film screenings, studio tours and lectures by film experts, including CSUN alumnus Donald Petrie, director of Hollywood feature films like Grumpy Old Men and Miss Congeniality; and Robert Mitas, producer and executive vice president of Academy Award-winning actor Michael Douglas’ Further Films.

The course included discussions on the management of both independent and major studio projects; financing for film projects; budgeting, distribution and legal matters as they relate to film production.

“Everybody is interested in how films are produced in the United States,” Thomas said. “It was great working with this group of students, hungry to learn all they could about the U.S. film industry.”

Jon Stahl, professor and chair of the cinema and television arts department, said the UNAM students received a “full immersion in American approaches to filmmaking.”

He said it was a “cross-cultural” exchange that benefitted both the UNAM students and the American faculty and students who had an opportunity to meet the visiting students.

The film producers workshop is the latest student exchange with UNAM, one of the oldest and highest-ranked academic institutions in Latin America, since signing a partnership agreement last year. The agreement created a Los Angeles-based center that is housed in CSUN’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and open to faculty and students in all disciplines across the campus interested in the study of Mexico and Latin America.

“This agreement benefits both universities because of the education, cultural exchange and international internships,” said Paula de Gortari, director of UNAM’s Los Angeles office. “Both UNAM and CSUN have a great cinema school.”

Gortari said with the film workshop and similar programs reaffirm UNAM Los Angeles and CSUN’s “ongoing and clear commitment to the educational development of bright young minds, expecting in return an equal commitment to making the best of these opportunities.”

CSUN is considered one of the top film schools in the world. UNAM has an outstanding reputation as well — Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón and multi-Oscar-nominated cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki are both alumni of the Mexico-based film school.

“I learned a lot about the business side of filmmaking,” said Itzel Dekovic Bravo, a law/intellectual property major. “I’m going back to Mexico with new ideas.”

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