Film students sharpen much needed fundraising skills

Hilda Yeghishian

Finding Bigfoot,” a film about one man’s struggle with the question of whether to live a routine life or to follow his own ambitions, is one of the 10 senior film projects selected this year by CSUN’s Department of Cinema and Television Arts.

The student films range from 10 to 15 minutes but even short student films like these can run up to $40,000, according to Professor Nate Thomas, head of the film production option in the cinema and television arts department.

“After returning home from graduation, Ben embarks on a journey of self-discovery with his grandfather to find the legendary Bigfoot,” said Robert Larson, writer and director of “Finding Bigfoot.”

Larson’s film crew has been fundraising in the last few weeks by holding bake sales on campus, attending TV show tapings, and hosting a show at The Verity Room in Canoga Park.

“Moviemaking is expensive, even for a student short (film),” Larson said. “But we have been very fortunate with various companies donating film, equipment and their time to our project.”

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and CSUN’s Instructionally Related Activities fund have contributed funds to all the senior film projects.

“They need to learn how to make money. A studio is not going to give them $40,000 and say, ‘Here, go make a movie.’ They have to raise funds,” Thomas said.

“It’s nerveraking but fun,” said Rachel Blavin, a senior film student and producer of two senior films, “Family Pieces” and “Braceros.”

Blavin’s previous fundraising efforts were silent auctions put together with the help of community members who donated gift certificates and products that were put up for auction.

“Fundraising for a senior film doesn’t only sit with the producer, but it is a group effort and definitely a group experience,” Blavin said.

In the next couple of weeks, Blavin and her peers will begin a new fundraiser. They will be selling CTVA sweatshirts and T-shirts.

“We will be selling both a professional CSUN sweatshirt with the CTVA logo and a fun casual sweatshirt that reads ‘CTVA Mafia,’ and ‘Reel Mafia,’ a saying that has become popular among the students and will go nicely with our unique logo,” Blavin said.

The sweatshirts will be $30 each or two for $50.

“Braceros,” directed by Belinda Carreno, is a film based on the events that took place in America in the 1940s. The film was awarded with the Arri 35mm Package, which is an award presented by Arri, Inc., an internationally known manufacturer of motion picture cameras.

“This package includes an Arri 35mm camera fresh off the factory line, 35mm film stock, grip equipment such as a J.L. Fisher Dolly, electric equipment from Mole Richardson, developing and processing from Fotokem, full support from the wonderful staff at Arri, and even a professional cinematographer to mentor the students on set,” Blavin said.

“Receiving this package has made my life as a producer a dream in terms of fundraising, as the majority of our film was given to us by Arri,” Blavin said.

“Family Pieces,” directed by Ryan Close, is a period piece set in the Depression era. The film will be shot on location in Bozeman, Montana. The story is about a boy who is abandoned by his mother in an orphanage, who then goes to find a better life in California. When he befriends a janitor, he comes to find that family can come in many forms.

“I believe this film will be one of the most ambitious senior film projects to come out of CSUN,” Blavin said.

The other films that have been chosen by the department are “August 5th,” directed by Tony Mohareb, and “Beats Per Minute,” directed by Andrea Ball.

All the student films will begin filming in late March and early April.

Other fundraising events for “Family Pieces” include a prize-drawing event on March 10. This event will have a live band, and food and drinks at the bar. Ticket prices are $10 in advance, or $15 at the door.

On March 11, they will host an evening of live jazz performances by various artists, and drinks and sandwiches will be on the house. Tickets are $15 in advance, or $20 at the door.

On March 18 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., they will host a dinner of fresh Alaskan King crab, Salmon Bake and a halibut dinner at Alfred Hitchcock’s old residence on 901 N. Whittier Drive. in Beverly Hills. The price of the meal will be $100. To R.S.V.P. or for more information, contact Blavin at

“Partial proceeds from all of our fundraising efforts will be given to ‘A Child’s Desire,’ a national adoption agency that finds hard-to-place orphans a loving home. We involved ourselves with this charity because while it is important to entertain, it is always great to be able to use a film to raise awareness on something important such as adoption,” Blavin said.