Get Thee to The Movies!

  by mtvU.

By Nancy De Los Santos

Cal State Professor Nancy De Los Santos has some advice for mtvU’s College Filmmakers.


On my very first ‘producer gig,’ I had the privilege of working with two of the most respected film critics in the world, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. Among the pearls of wisdom I gained from being in their presence is one of the simple reasons that makes a movie great. It was Gene, the tall one, who said when a movie did this it would be granted a “big thumbs up!” And that simple effort was, “To take us to a place we’ve never been or will never be able to go.” That could be to live in the favelas of Brazil, cross the Mexican border through a tunnel filled with rats, or along for a ride with a bunch of Brooklyn disco dancers.

General movie-goers tend to see the same movie, or the same type of movie, over and over again. “I like romantic comedies.” “I only go for the car chase movies.” “You’ll never catch me at an animated film!” General movie-goers might not want to gamble their ten bucks on a film experience that they think they won’t enjoy, but filmmakers, we who have made the commitment to expressing art and reflecting society through film, must regard films as a buffet of heavenly delights – each to be enjoyed, experienced, and embraced.

I guarantee that the more films you experience, the better a filmmaker you will be.

Since 1878, when Eadweard Muybridge photographed a horse running and made it into a movie, films have captured our imagination. No need to view every film ever made, but there are certainly some classics that filmmakers should have in their hearts and minds. A few that come to mind: Frances Ford Coppola’s “One From the Heart,” “Fanny and Alexander” by Ingmar Bergnam, John Ford’s “The Searchers,” Gregory Nava’s “El Norte,” or even his film starring Jennifer Lopez, “Selena.” “Casablanca.” “Dr. Strangelove.”

Or take a look at any of the “White Telephone Comedies of the 1930s,” including the “Mexican Spitfire” films starring Latina comedian Lupe Velez. The list is endless, but so is your opportunity to become a filmmaker of great depth and knowledge that will translate into your ability to tell a story on the big screen.

Start developing your movie muscles this week. Go see a terrific new film by African American filmmaker Carl Franklin. He’s known for action adventure such as “Devil in a Blue Dress” and “One False Move,” but has helmed a film definitely out of his comfort zone, “Bless Me, Ultima.” It’s a coming-of-age tale of a young Mexican American boy and his friendship with a mysterious curandera, a natural healer. Set in 1940’s New Mexico, it definitely takes you to a place you’ve never been, nor will ever be able to go… except at the movies!

Professor Nancy De Los Santos has taught film students at California State University – Fullerton, and she travels around the state giving talks to college filmmakers. Check out her professional work.