‘We’re working on all fronts’: UTSA’s film and media program begins partnership with A24

SAN ANTONIO – In the film world, the name A24 is often lauded. Now, it is synonymous with UTSA.

The university’s film and media program hosted a screening of “Sing Sing,” one of A24′s upcoming projects, last Wednesday — months before the film’s limited release.

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The production company’s portfolio includes projects such as “Hereditary,” “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” and its newest movie, Alex Garland’s “Civil War,” which is the studio’s most expensive production to date.

“Sing Sing” follows a theater group that creates a play to escape the reality of their incarceration.

The screening was twofold: it showcased the new partnership and provided an educational opportunity for one of the participating co-sponsors.

“‘Sing Sing’ was a natural fit for a first screening, because UTSA has an existing prison education initiative called the PHILLIT Circle that goes into jails and prisons to conduct courses with incarcerated scholars,” Paul Ardoin, UTSA professor and program director, said in an email to KSAT.

Mel Webb, a lecturer in the UTSA Department of Philosophy and Classics and Honors College, launched the PHILLIT Circle in the spring of 2019.

The Philosophy and Literature (PHILLIT) Circle is a lifelong learning program through which university faculty and students travel to the Fabian Dale Dominguez State Jail for academic engagement with incarcerated participants. The Circle is a joint effort of the Honors College, the Department of Philosophy and Classics, and UTSA Professional and Continuing Education. It is made possible, in part, by the generous support of Humanities Texas.

A24′s marketing team reportedly contacted the program in December to begin discussing campus screenings.

“Assuming we can turn out good crowds for these opportunities, I anticipate more of them, with a range of speakers, and then other kinds of opportunities growing with A24,” Ardoin said in an email to KSAT.

UTSA’s film and media program has worked to increase student access to the many aspects of filmmaking; in January, the program hosted a three-day director’s workshop for 50 students from colleges across the city.

“We really make an outsized effort to help students make contacts in all parts of the Film and Media worlds but especially those centers of production from which we are geographically remote, like NYC or LA,” Ardoin said.

Equal to that is hiring faculty who call those worlds home, including screenwriter John Herrera, who has written for “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Vampire Diaries,” and Brenda Dominguez, a post-production producer on shows like “New Girl.”

Anna Stypko, a Brooklyn-based cinematographer and visiting assistant professor for the spring semester, was one of several mentors to students during the workshop.

Ardoin said UTSA faculty sometimes attend meetings with officials from Netflix or Riot Games to market future partnership opportunities; the program recently brought recruiters from Warner Brothers to meet with students.

“We’re working on all fronts,” he said. “A24 is a particular favorite of many of our students, though, so we’re excited about building with them.

The film and media program is hosting its student film showcase at 6 p.m. on May 1 at Santikos’ Palladium.

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