Film and Digital Media Careers: Not Just for the Lucky Few

Grant Richards, PJIFF Jury Chair

Grant Richards, PJIFF Jury Chair

South Santa Clara County is blessed with its own regional celebration of film and digital media arts. The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival (PJIFF) is still young in terms of its growth and evolution, but timing is everything. In our region there is more interest, talent, and opportunity to be involved in film and digital media arts than ever before.

As PJIFF Film Chair and a film teacher at Gavilan College, I get to work with emerging filmmakers at the undergrad, graduate and professional levels.

There’s a need for new ideas and fresh talent in screenwriting, film editing, music composition, cinematography, special effects and production. Fortunately, schools are responding with new or expanded film and digital media degree programs.

Many students here start at community colleges and then transfer into the UC or CSU systems or the state’s private universities that offer extensive film programs. Others move directly into professional life doing everything from corporate videos to pro sports programming.

Gavilan grads are “making it” in the film industry. One alum went to UC Santa Cruz and now has his own company doing cinematography. Andrew Junker produces national commercials at his Oakland-based operations. Tim Ahlin has worked as a TV producer at KSBW-Salinas and now teaches at Gavilan. Several former students are working on movie sets in LA, including Will Chavez at Paramount.

Digital technology has made filmmaking more accessible and affordable for independent artists, but representation and distribution are still a challenge. Film festivals like PJIFF are the bridge that connects filmmakers with their peers, industry pros, and their audience. This year we received films from a dozen countries, competing for recognition in 11 film categories. We were thrilled to receive so many worthwhile submissions and look forward to screening them at our festival.

On April 5th through the 8th, Morgan Hill and Gilroy CA will come alive with film screenings, panels and mixers. For four days our downtowns will bring together independent filmmakers, educators, students, and members of the community—all for the love of great films. To get your tickets, go to