What if there were a way to attend the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for free, with something like a VIP treatment — and get college credit? Turns out there is, thanks to a S.B. City College film studies class headed by Nico Maestu. “I’ve been doing this for eight years now, ever since I started teaching at City College,” said Maestu, who is half of the tenured film studies faculty at Santa Barbara City College. “Usually the students get a lot of tickets for nothing, and some of the tributes are free or with a reduced price, but this year Lynda Weinman and her husband, Bruce Heavin, of Lynda.com donated money; they are picking up the tab.”
In other words, all you would have to do is enroll at City College and then apply to be in the Film Festival Studies FS108A course, said Maestu, and the rest of the experience is free. Maestu proposed the class eight years ago, and SBIFF honcho Roger Durling, who is an adjunct prof in the CC film department, immediately bought in, too.
“The students get three units for taking the class,” explained Maestu, who points out that even if the class only lasts a few more than the 10 days of the fest, students are attending hours of films, panels, and seminars that Maestu and the fest put on. Each student has to write three reviews, as well, which go on a website the school keeps called sbccfilmreviews.org. “Some of these movies can be fairly obscure,” said Maestu, “so a student’s review might be the only one the film ever gets.”
SBIFF itself offers a three-day symposium called the Film Studies Program that is open to college undergraduates from all over the country — they’ve had participants from USC to Barnard College in N.Y.C. The program is melded in with the City College class.
Of course, no one knows if Weinman and Heavin will pick up the bill in perpetuity, so future deals may not be quite as sweet as this year. But Maestu is excited about the class he teaches, the immersion in film, and the chance to meet young filmmakers. “I tell the students that moviemakers are just like them, human beings, human beings who make movies, and they learn it’s true. This class is such a natural,” he said pointing out the window of his office. “I mean, the fest is just down the street from us.”
For more information on the course, see film.sbcc.edu/film_festival_course.html.