My teaching philosophy is based on two fundamental principles that have proven highly successful in the classroom: a) to be genuinely in service of my students in the ways detailed below, and b) to build trust and rapport with them by being a relatable communicator. For example, the first course I taught at The Los Angeles Film School (“LAFS”) was LIFE AS A FILMMAKER—an 8-week session meant to help graduating students transition from film school into the entertainment industry. On the first day of class, I encountered a group of solemn students who were terrified while facing the prospect of entering “Hollywood.” Furthermore, many students had trepidation about handling “loaded” questions challenging the worthiness of their LAFS education. They had a reason for this concern because earlier in the school year, during interviews for internships, a few had confronted rude remarks from industry professionals, who were unaware of the school’s existence or who were quick to openly deride the validity of their education, dismissively comparing it to more prestigious university film programs. As part of the course outcomes, I incorporated a shift in paradigm and mastery of communication skills, including listening and self-expression techniques. Assessing students' circumstances by keenly listening to them is fundamental to my teaching approach. In this instance, I added class exercises that trained them to address their fears and develop self-efficacy and grit. (It is worth noting that since then, Full Sail University acquired The Los Angeles Film School, which now counts several high-profile industry professionals among its alums.)
Multifaceted approaches to interacting with students and normalizing inclusion, retaining their attention, engaging them in focused discussions, measuring class pacing, and ensuring that they are processing information in a way that makes sense to them are all key to achieving high student learning outcomes. Hence, my teaching philosophy includes flexibility and adaptability to enhance active student learning. Also, as a passionate researcher in the fields of mastery of communication skills, as well as psychology and human behavior, I apply materials culled from these resources into class management, and I use them to gauge the dynamics of the room continually. When observing that students have collective low energy (particularly during afternoon and evening classes), I purposely become more physically active in the room, quicken my speech pattern infusing it with vitality, and re-direct discussions to include more significant and dynamic interactions among the students. Plus, I remain highly attentive to the students’ responses while often intentionally repeating what they say, validating that they have been heard and inviting others to build on their classmates’ remarks.
My teaching philosophy will be a lifelong work-in-progress not only in terms of tools and techniques for managing the classroom, as detailed above, but because of the very nature of the entertainment industry, which is continuously in flux. Production and business trends shift quickly and require that coursework and materials in all subjects related to media content creation for film, television, and digital/social media evolve and expand accordingly. Curriculums must be revised continuously to incorporate variables in development, screenwriting, financial and technical resources, business practices, distribution platforms, marketing opportunities, and exhibition strategies. As an instructor, I remain a) on the cutting edge of the industry’s constant fluctuations and b) immersed in the trajectory of media content creation and exploitation to provide an essential context to class discussions about the art, business, and practicalities of filmmaking. Today more than ever, with the democratization of technology and media platforms and globalization of markets, film school students have broader diverse opportunities for launching successful careers, even as the industry continues evolving. I aim to guide these fledgling visual artists toward meaningfully bringing their filmmaking dreams to fruition by providing them with a well-rounded and interlaced historical, creative, practical, technical, and business education about Hollywood.