How the CSULB film department encourages student creativity

Story by Emily Ayers Staff Writer, Photos by Jordan Daniels Contributor

Two weeks ago, the “Union Weekly” showcased the talent of California State University, Long Beach student Andrew McGivern and his short film Love Lessons, chosen by the late legendary director Wes Craven to participate in the September Catalina Film Festival. 

This sparked further interest in exploring how the Department of Film and Electronic Arts at CSULB fosters student success. The faculty and staff are a group of passionate professionals who support students on their journey into the film world. 

Over the course of a week, we got a chance to sit down with students who helped make Love Lessons and FEA faculty to learn more about what values guide the film department in the educating of its students.

UW: As film students, what are your goals and aspirations? 

JASMINE SORENSEN: My personal goal is to be actively working in Hollywood, as well as on my own independent projects. 

CHRISTIAN O’KEEFE: I hope to go on and just continue making movies in any capacity possible. I’d love to work as a cinematographer, editor, director, or even music composer. 

UW : What role did you play in Love Lessons and how was it working on the film?

MIKE PRIESTLEY: I was the first assistant camera on the film and the most challenging process, I think, was probably casting and finding a location. We ended up having great actors and a tremendous location. 

SORENSEN: On the film, I was a production assistant. I also assisted the actress and helped her feel comfortable, considering the controversial content. I was the only other female on set. 

There were difficulties with Love Lessons because of some of the offensive nature of the material and the use of prop weapons, but Andrew’s perseverance made the film possible. 

BRANDON HOJO: In Love Lessons, I served on set as the boom operator. I was in control of the microphone while recording. It’s harder than it sounds, and we were in a very tight space.

UW: As the Film Department Chair, what role did you play in helping Andrew McGivern and the other students with the film, Love Lessons?

DR. JERRY MOSHER, FEA Department Chair: The department provides equipment, constructive criticism, and a supportive environment.  Andrew’s film pushed the envelope in terms of violating good taste and objectifying women. The script raised some concerns among faculty and students, but we support the artistic freedom of our filmmakers.  

UW: What was some of the advice that you gave to McGivern on creating his film Love Lessons?

PHILIP SCHWARTZ, Cinematography Instructor: We knew that this was a film with a dramatic room in a great setting. A large part of the room is in shadows. Sometimes you would only see a silhouette of a person, yet you would hear them. We introduced a harsh overhead light that you didn’t necessarily see but was implied.

The film had the classic crime film aspect about it. I can see why Wes Craven chose it. 

UW: McGivern’s film Love Lessons was born out of the FEA 336 course. What are some of the things you aim to teach students in the class? 

KENT HAYWARD, Narrative Production Instructor: The FEA 336 course is built to be a boot camp for filmmaking. Students collaborate with one another to write, direct, and produce films during the semester. 

It is designed so that students have to do everything as they would for a professional shoot. They have to obtain permits from the Long Beach permit office, show proof of insurance, and get CSULB approval. 

For all of my students I want to help them get the film conceptualized, but I never want to take over the creative aspect. I like to give them the tools and then let them make something great out of it.

UW: How was your experience with FEA 336 and other classes in the department?

ANDREW MCGIVERN, Creator of Love Lessons: FEA 336 was an exercise in endurance and mental acuity and has been hailed as the most challenging of the FEA courses. 

I think we all felt lucky to have had Professor Hayward as our instructor and mentor in that class. He worked tirelessly in and out of the classroom to ensure we had everything we needed to succeed in our productions. 

HOJO:   FEA 336 gets you working with people and collaborating on great ideas. It makes you talk to others to get the best possible solution.

PRIESTLEY: FEA 336 is certainly the first step towards legitimacy for a lot of the students here, I think. The following class FEA 340 takes it up another notch, but FEA 336 paves the way for what every filmmaker needs to be doing all the time, and that is working.

UW: What is it like working with other classmates on films throughout the semester?

SORENSEN: You learn how to deal with different personalities in different situations. 

For Love Lessons, I was not in the same class with the director and crew. I was in a different section, and my professor asked for a female volunteer to be on set. 

There were some creative differences at times, but we pulled through and the end product looks great.

HOJO:  We’re required to take all of the same classes together and so we see each other very often. During student productions, we are always the crew for everyone else’s shoot, so getting along is close to inevitable.  

UW : How do you manage having so many films to work on each semester? 

HOJO:   Time management. Knowing my limits and trying not to overcommit. Last semester I worked on five sets, and this semester I’m working on three or four. I still want to have a social life. I think it’s exciting to work on film sets. You’re always doing something.

SORENSEN: Generally, I work on two to three films a semester, but it depends. I try to assist as much as I can, as well as work on my own projects. It's good to get experience in a lot of different capacities. Plus, I enjoy it. It's stimulating and creative. 

O’KEEFE: I love being able to work on so many films each semester. It's one thing to sit in a classroom and learn about how to make movies, but it's another thing entirely to actually go out and make them. That's how you really learn. I almost feel incomplete when I'm not working on a project. 

PRIESTLEY: Each semester changes. Last semester I think I worked on nine; writing and directing one, producing another, and being the director of photography on two. This semester I'm working on four, including writing and directing one, but on a greater scale in terms of production and length.

Managing the work can be difficult at times. 

UW: What are some goals that the Film Department has for its students and their overall development as they transition from education to the actual industry?

MOSHER: Because technology is constantly changing, we try to teach foundational skills that enable our students to adapt to changing production environments.  Most of our instructors have worked in the film and television industry, so we teach professional practices, conduct, and teamwork—our students’ professionalism and work ethic distinguish them from amateurs making movies with their phones.  

UW :Why is social media such a critical tool for filmmakers?

HAYWARD: The way our world communicates now is through social media. If you want your film to get recognition, it needs to have a webpage and a Facebook page. You want a place where people can go to find more about it. 

This is why I also make sure that social media is part of the curriculum. Students are great about bringing up stuff that I don’t even know about. 

UW: As film students, what is your take on social media’s role for aspiring filmmakers?

SORENSEN: Social media is very helpful in terms of promotion.We have used Facebook and other mediums to assist in crowdfunding by linking directly to sites such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter. 

Also, social media is great for networking. FamBam is a group on Facebook that allows CSULB alumni to help each other out with job opportunities. It’s a great tool.

HOJO: Social media is a great way to get people to see your work. Looking for jobs online is also becoming an actual way to get hired. It’s all about the connections that you make with people, and sometimes it’s through Facebook or Twitter. 

UW: How have the faculty and staff of the CSULB Film Department helped you as a student filmmaker? 

HOJO: The faculty is very open to answering questions and they won’t turn you down. They have helped me as a student to develop my skills with the camera, and definitely working with other people. They all know what they’re doing and the film department here has so much knowledge. 

SORENSEN: Throughout my experience at CSULB the faculty has been a major help. They have been involved, supportive, and given me a lot of opportunities. 

We learn to work with limited resources, and under high pressure circumstances. Also, all of the students are kind and supportive, and won’t hesitate to help with each other’s projects. It’s really like a family. I’m proud to be part of it.

PRIESTLEY: I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now mentally or from a productive stand point and I’ll always be thankful for that. 

We don’t have as much as some of the private schools but it makes us work harder for everything that we do and in the end I think that’s what filmmaking is all about. 

UW: What makes the film department at CSULB stand out?

HAYWARD: I think that our greatest asset is our students. We have a lot of creative students. In comparison to the more expensive and prestigious film schools that have way more resources and equipment, we make better films with fewer resources. 

We have fewer cameras and less money, but our students are good at being scrappy and finding clever ways to get things done using their minds. 

SCHWARTZ: The film department still teaches on analog film, which means they are still teaching how to look at lighting on film. This forces students to concentrate on what they are learning and having to trust their ability to understand cinematography.

For a while, there was this mystique about cinematographers, because no one knew what the finished product would look like. 

But now that everything has gone digital, some of that skill set is gone. 

So the fact that CSULB still teaches using analog film is a very valuable experience for students. 

UW: Why is cinematography so invaluable to the success of films? 

SCHWARTZ: Cinematography serves as the visual subtext of the entire film, and there is very little emotional connection for the audience if all of the different variables in cinematography aren’t working together. 

You should be able to turn the sound off during a film and still understand emotionally what is going on.

UW: What are a few of the other values and core beliefs that the film department uses as a guide when teaching students?

MOSHER: For us, it all comes down to storytelling. Production design, acting, directing, cinematography, sound, and editing should not be avenues to show off; they are not ends in themselves.  All aspects of a production should be in service of the story.

When everything is finally wrapped up, the many successes from the CSULB film department sprout from classrooms, tucked away and often unseen, behind the Liberal Arts buildings. 

At the root of the entire program is an intimate web of faculty and staff who work together to stimulate a creative zeal within students to produce award-winning works, proving that making great film is simple when you pair passionate students with an eagerness to learn.



Story by Rebecca Komathy Contributor

As I walk into the University Student Union on a Thursday, the smell of fast food reminds me of when I open the fridge after a big night of left overs. 

The big TV is playing Friends re-runs and ping pong balls hit the nets that barely cover the frame. But as I pass by the Lounge, I notice the usual pack of card players and studiers are no longer there. Instead there are lights, cameras, and people scurrying around in some sort of organized chaos. 

I peek my head in some more, and I am greeted by a super friendly Armando Rodriguez, a third year student studying film, who asks me if I like late night shows with Jimmy Fallon, Conan, or Stephen Colbert. When I say yes, Rodriguez tells me about College Beat Television’s own late night show, Late Night Long Beach.  

Apparently the whole experience and taping is live, and all I have to do is applaud and laugh, which I already do at my job in customer service anyway. What’s even cooler is that the show actually gets aired on cable networks Charter 32 and Verizon 41 the following Saturday at noon. 

I take a seat, and then the big surprise is revealed: There are prizes. Oh yes, exclusive audience prizes. Rodriguez hands me my little red raffle ticket, and I wait patiently as I keep an eye on the Crimson Peak poster in the corner by the Lounge concession stand. 

There are other students in here as well, all excited to be a part of a television show.  All of a sudden, the set gets quiet, and Rodriguez holds up an “applause” sign as the executive produce, Jason Lauckner, calls, “Action!” 

The host, Eric Glover, walks in with the happiest persona, and I swear his smile is brighter than all the lights in the room. He greets us along with the show’s hilarious announcer, Alexx Maurer. 

They banter jokes back and forth faster than a freshmen hitting the enroll button to get classes.  The whole setup is pretty seamless and—even for it all being run by students—I’m sure Jimmy Fallon would not be saying “Ew” at all. 

In the end, I laughed at their jokes. I was intrigued by an interview of special guest CSULB Martial Arts Tricking Club president Eurico Senna, and I fell in love with the musical guest Bootleg Orchestra’s new song “Feels Like Whoa.” I also got my Crimson Peak poster. 

California State University, Long Beach is so big that we miss out on things like this that make the whole college experience special. I can’t wait to see what Late Night Long Beach comes up with next. 

Be sure to check the next TV taping out on Oct. 29 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in Lounge 103—you won’t want to miss it!



Convert-A-Can turns garbage cans into colorful statements about littering

Story and photos by Emily Ayers Staff Writer

National parks are where people can escape city life to enjoy the quiet of nature and support the preservation of natural lands. 

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management, the President and Congress have designated over one hundred national monuments. 

On Oct. 10 of last year, President Obama added the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County to that list. 

Since then, California State University,  Long Beach students have created project Convert-A-Can, a program that serves as an artistic way to deter graffiti and reduce littering in the San Gabriel Mountains by painting murals on the trash bins. 

Convert-A-Can creator Kevin Lynch, a senior environmental science major at CSULB, wanted to find inventive solutions to prevent the defacing of trash bins by making the lids more attractive. 

Further developing the idea and taking over as project director was senior environmental science major Megan Devine. 

As a solution to Lynch’s problem, she proposed covering the entire trash bin  with a mural as part of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy project. 

“I didn’t think a year ago I would be involved with something like this,” Devine said. “This has been such a learning experience for me.” 

Since the project has launched, the park has seen a decrease in the amount of littering and graffiti that takes place. 

“Once the cans were improved and made beautiful, only one out of 15 converted cans was tagged,” said Lynch. “Normally, each can would have been tagged three to four times throughout the year.”

Due to its impact, the Forest Service has asked the Convert-A-Can project to present at an event on October 16. 

The group will have brochures to inform people on the project’s purpose and will be painting two trash cans that day as well. The Forest Service has even ordered new trash cans to be painted and placed around the park. 

“During our first installment, we had a lady come up to us with a pile of trash that she had picked up out of the riverbed of the San Gabriel River,” Lynch said. “It made me proud to know that I had made a difference.”

The neutral colors originally chosen for the bins were meant to blend in with nature, but adding vibrant colors really drew attention to the overall cause, said Devine. 

Volunteers and artists are encouraged to draw inspiration from nature while creating the artwork. Inspirational quotes are used to reinforce messages to keep the environment clean.  

The bins also serve as platforms for artists to showcase their work. 

Convert-A-Can has also become a creative tool for students to utilize in sparking awareness by transforming dull trash cans into fine works of art. 

The project has since received both local and national attention. 

Active in seeking public policy, the project wants to implement environmentally   friendly legislature. Lynch traveled to Washington D.C. to present the idea of expanding beyond the San Gabriel Mountains to senators.

Devine discussed potentially expanding the project to CSULB. 

On Oct. 26, there will be another Convert-A-Can event to celebrate President Obama’s recognition of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national park. 

Convert-A-Can is looking for volunteers for their next big project. Email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">.


Impossible n’est pas français

The French Club proves that nothing is impossible

Story by Ricardo Alejandro PulidoContributor

The French Club at CSULB is a club that wants to promote and share the French language and culture with students and those who find the language intriguing and fun. 

We want to inspire students to learn and master the French language through fun and interesting ways. Each semester brings new events that allow us to do this as well as connect with our members.

Every semester, we have movie nights focusing on a theme or genre in French film, and invite students to join us for pizza and a fun movie for the evening. 

We also have “Le Café Français,” an event based on a real restaurant in France. For this event, we meet on campus in front of the Coffee Bean in the University Student Union and talk in French to simulate what the French actually do in France. 

During meetings, we have presentations on entertaining topics such as  “How to flirt in French” or “Famous French musicians, artists and writers.” 

Once a year in March we have our biggest event,“La Journée de la Francophonie.” It is a grand celebration in the French Department where we enjoy all aspects of French life. 

We show films, play music, hold raffles and games, enjoy French cuisine and celebrate the language and culture. 

We also feature club alumni and their experiences after graduating.

Our club wants to give students a fun experience on campus where friends can be made and interests can blossom. 

Meetings are held every other Tuesday in front of the University Coffee Bean from 1 pm to 2:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.

If you are interested in joining the French Club, please contact Cedric Oliva (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or current French Club President Marguerite Deon (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).



How a student script became famous

Story by Emily Ayers Staff Writer

The California State University, Long Beach Film Department took the spotlight when late horror legend Wes Craven chose student Andrew McGivern’s short film Love Lessons for the annual Catalina Film Festival in late September. The Union Weekly recently interviewed  McGivern about his accomplishment. 

UW: First off, I just wanted to say congratulations on your screening at the Catalina Film Festival. That is awesome! 

McGivern: Thank you, Emily. I feel very fortunate to have been recognized and to have had such an incredible time while attending. We were all treated like rock stars. 

UW: So, I watched the trailer, and I want to know more. How would you define the film and its different dynamics?

McGivern: I was actually a little surprised when the festival requested it for the “horror” category. As the writer and director, I had always billed my film as a suspense/thriller. 

While I knew the boiler room location it was set in would help increase the threat of violence to the characters, I didn’t realize just how much horror the look of it might then inspire, despite the fact that the violence that occurs is much more psychological than physical. 

However, Wes Craven was known as a very progressive filmmaker, always expanding the horror genre and clearly he saw something in it.

Love Lessons is the story of a murderous thug who receives a lesson in love after asking his friend to help kill his cheating girlfriend. Despite the obvious implied violence, the movie is actually about love—pure love and loyalty that most would do anything to achieve and maintain. 

Through tension and suspense, the story explores the powerful effects of love on various walks of life—the moral, immoral, and amoral.

UW: What was the inspiration behind this film? Was it something you had thought of creating for a while?

McGivern: Years ago, I read a true story about an elderly couple who, after 70 years of marriage, died at the same time in the hospital—their beds pushed together, holding hands, and surrounded by family and friends. There was so much beauty in  the details of their passing, I knew it was something I’d like to see on screen. 

So, when the time came to write the script for my Film and Electronics Art 336 class, I chose their unbreakable love as its core theme. I wanted to bring the essence of it to life, avoid familiarity and cliché, and throw the audience off by increasing the stakes. 

UW: Who are some of the directors that you looked to for creative inspiration? 

McGivern: Mr. Craven was someone that so many looked up to. He defined the horror genre with A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. It’s such an honor to know that he watched and chose my film for his horror awards.

UW: The boiler room in the film is in the historic Lafayette Hotel in downtown Long Beach. What was the process in securing that location? 

McGivern: I had to produce an environment of suspense. After countless hours on the Internet—and more telephone rejections than I can recall—I happened upon a cached page of a Long Beach boiler room. But most of these locations rent for thousands of dollars per day and in FEA 336,  we receive no budget.

After a 15-minute pitch to the hotel, I was told to put my plea, bios of myself and my cast/crew, and the maximum monetary compensation I could offer in an email. Five members of their board would vote on it in a week. I would need a vote of three to gain film authorization.

After many days of stress, my two-page pitch, bios and the offer of a paltry $250 was accepted by the board. We had our location, and it was glorious. 

UW: You also talked about the role social media played in your film’s exposure. How did you do it?

McGivern: The festival staff scouted the trailer after viewing the film’s Facebook page and soon they requested the movie, even waiving the entrance fee. I’d like to note that I did use the Facebook “boost” option after posting my trailer and spent about $50 on sponsored promotion. That helped, and the trailer held their attention long enough for them to request the movie. 

UW: And what does being chosen for the Catalina Film Festival mean for your career? 

McGivern: To be chosen and included was a tremendous honor. Additionally, I’ve met many new contacts. But as far as the effect it will have on my career goes, it’s one step in a long road. It’s a wonderful step, and it moves things forward—but so much more will be required to find success. 

Thank you for the opportunity to share our story. I’d also like to thank my talented CSULB film crew who were invaluable in bringing Love Lessons to life: Zach Zombek, Michael Priestley, Ian Matthews, Brandon Hojo, Christian O’Keefe, Jasmine Sorensen, and Byoung Chan Lee.

The nomination for McGivern sets a strong foundation for not only him, but for the entire film department at CSULB. 

For this reason, UW will be doing a second installment about the department’s support and fostering of talented writers and directors in two-weeks’ time. 



Student Joe Eurell provides the laughs

Story by Katie Cortez Editor in Chief, Photos by Sam Orihuela Art Director

Hidden away in the corner of a Costa Mesa strip mall is a small bar filled with laughter on Monday nights. 

At least 15 amateur stand-up comics stand in small clusters outside Anchor Bar’s doors, some smoking cigarettes and chatting with their friends. 

Others stand alone, nervously trying to remember the punchlines to their jokes. 

Some comics are regulars to Monday night stand-up, others are just trying it for the first time. 

Among one of the clusters is 28-year-old comedian Joe Eurell, a disabled young man with cerebral palsy. 

Unable to walk since birth, Eurell still manages to attend classes at CSULB as well as perform stand-up comedy at Anchor Bar and several other venues multiple nights a week. 

Originally from South Carolina, Eurell was adopted by a family in Orange County, California at age 12 and as he got older, was able to see use his disability in a different way. 

“[Comedy] kind of plays into my disability,” Eurell said. “It started when I was a kid because I couldn’t do a lot of physical stuff, but I could be stationary.” 

He channels his disability into a career path rather than dwelling on it as a horrible thing. 

Eurell began his stand-up comedy career in 2007, but took a nine-month hiatus soon after because his teeth had fallen out due to his CP, and his speech was heavily affected. Once he got prosthetics, he was able to get behind the mic again. 

“People still comment on my speech, but if they woke up with cerebral palsy, they’d fucking crack,” he said. 

“In school I got made fun of and I liked that I could get back at them in a funny way. When people would joke about my disability, I would judge them based on the quality of their joke.”

Indeed, it is clear that Eurell has taken his disability and turned it into something that enhances his comedy. 

Not only does he make jokes about himself and his friends, but he uses his comedy to talk about his views on politics, parallels between living in South Carolina and Southern California, and other issues in society. 

One of his favorite jokes is about recent GOP drop-out, Scott Walker. 

“His hair looks perfect when the camera points at just his face, but when you angle it up a little, you can see how little hair is up there,” Eurell said. 

“Without sounding too cliché, it’s humbling and inspiring to see Joe come out here every week,” said Evan Cassidy, Anchor Bar comedy show host. 

Eurell sent Cassidy a message over Facebook a few years before about participating in open-mic night at La Cave, a steakhouse in Costa Mesa and has been dedicated to stand-up comedy ever since. 

Since starting his career, Eurell has participated in and won three Comedy Roast Battles at the world-famous Comedy Store in Los Angeles.

The only thing Eurell won’t joke about is his adopted mother, “Because she saved my life,” he said. 

Whether talking about his biological family or his adopted family, Eurell does his best to respect both. 

“I wound up keeping my own name because I wanted to do something in my own name,” Eurell said. 

Even though his adopted parents had given him the name Hunter, a name that even his closest friends call him, he wanted to do something in his birth name. 

Although stand-up is his primary method of delivery, Eurell also writes and stars in his own YouTube sketches. His most recent was filmed on Sept. 27 and is expected to be uploaded in a few weeks. 

His sketch comedy toes the line between being blatantly offensive and funnily offensive, but like he says at the end of his Life Alert video, “Remember, I wrote this.”

“I’ve known him for about one-and-a- half years and it took me a while to approach him because he was so much better than me,” said Doon, a close friend and fellow stand-up comedian. 

“We mostly just bullshit a lot about politics and pro wrestling, but he is just such a funny guy.” 

Overcoming the obstacles of his CP and his chair, Eurell is still positive about his future in comedy. 

“I used to be bummed out because I’ve never had a girlfriend or anything like that,” Eurell said, “but when I pursued comedy, I was able to pursue something that I wanted.”


Photos taken from Joe Eurell’s Facebook page


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