Archive for Film School


Prescott Festival Executive Director is College Media Director Helen Stephenson

Yavapai Community College is the Center of the Prescott Film Festival that runs from June 9-17 on the Prescott Campus. This is the 8th year of the Festival.

The Executive Director of the independent nonprofit Festival is Professor Helen Stephenson,  who is also the Yavapai College Film and Media Arts Director.

All of the Festival programs, films, and events are scheduled for the Prescott Campus at the Performing Arts Center.

Among the formal sponsors for the program are Yavapai Community College and the Yavapai Community College Film and Media Arts Department.  (See     Is it usual for a Department to sponsor an event?    

 The full Festival schedule and tickets on-line can be obtained at

You might recall that the Sedona Film School, which was the successor to the internationally acclaimed Zaki Gordon Film School located at Yavapai College’s Sedona Center, was closed down by Dr. Penelope Wills in 2013. Prior to its closing, the Sedona Film school was heavily involved in the Sedona International Film Festival. 

Yavapai College Film & Media Arts Program May 14

Exhibition is Saturday, May 14 at 1:30 p.m. at the Mary D. Fisher Theater; must sign up in advance

The Yavapai College Film & Media Arts Program will be held this coming Saturday, May 14 at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre in Sedona. It is located at  2030 Highway 89A, Sedona, Arizaona. Admission is free but you must reserve a seat in advance. Please contact Helen Stephenson, at, for tickets.  Registration is now open at:

The following is the announcement put out by the College about the program.

The ingredients of good filmmaking, a sneak peek at scripts-in-the-making and a demonstration of the medium’s enormous historical and informative power will all be on display when the Yavapai College Film & Media Arts Program presents its FMA Student Film and Screenplay Exhibition, Saturday, May 14 at 1:30 p.m. at the Mary D. Fisher Theater, 2030 Highway 89A, Sedona, AZ. Admission is free.
The FMA Student Exhibition will begin by offering film buffs a chance to watch the script development process. Student screenwriters bring their recent pages out for an open “table read.” The event, which features actors performing selected student scenes aloud, lets instructor Jeff Wood’s FMA screenwriters hear and evaluate dialogue and storytelling as they hone their scripts for the camera.
The exhibition then moves to the other side of the camera, as Film & Media Arts Production students showcase their films from the previous year. FMA instructor Dave Lehleitner supervised production on a broad slate of styles, including comedies, dramas and films about personal discoveries and growth.
No filmmaking exhibition would be complete without a demonstration of the medium’s capacity to educate and inspire. That’s why YC’s FMA program will unveil two of its Service Learning documentary film projects:
·         A client-based video, for the Friends of the Verde River Greenway, takes a Native American perspective on the history and habitats of the Verde River, including the local nonprofit’s efforts to protect it.
·         Clips from a short historical documentary on Miss Lassie Lou Ahern, one of only 12 silent films stars living today.
The programs demonstrate the variety of training available through YC’s Film and Media Arts Program. Based at the College’s Verde Valley Campus ­ with classes taught in-person and on-line ­ the FMA program will offer certificate training in Film Production, Screenwriting and their newest program, Animation, this fall. 
The exhibition is free, but only a limited number of seats are available.  


Blog responds to misleading Verde Independent editorial

Claim that College “saved” the Sedona Film School fails to comport with reality

The Blog has responded to a recent editorial in the Verde Independent in which the editor claimed the Community College “saved” the Sedona Film school with the handful of media courses it offered this fall on the Verde Valley Campus.    By clicking here, you can read the newspaper editorial.  The following is the Blog’s editor’s letter in response to the Verde Independent editor.


Commentary by Bob Oliphant

Your November 19 editorial, “College decision actually saved film school program,” is long on rhetoric, short on facts, and misleading. It is an understatement to say that it is “embarrassingly wide of the mark.”

First, you ignore the fact that the College made no actual effort to “save“ the 69 credit nine-month nationally recognized Film School program located at the Sedona Campus.  Rather, the closing of the Film School, formally announced October, 2013, was the last step in the calculated decision by Community College President Penelope Wills to remove all courses from the Sedona Campus  so it could be sold  and the money banked to finance construction of a third large campus on the West side of the County.  That campus is an integral part of the College’s published ten-year plan and it needs at least $45 million to get off the ground.  

Second, you ignore the fact that in January, 2014 the Sedona campus had been appraised to establish its market value by an expert in anticipation of a sale. By then, the College was in the process of stripping it of all credit courses. Only because of an avalanche of protest from Verde Valley citizens and Sedona officials in March, 2014 did the District Governing Board retreat from supporting the Wills’ decision to close and sell the Campus.

Third, you misled readers by implying that the current 12 credits of face-to-face media course offerings are comparable to the 69 credits required of the Sedona Film School graduates. They aren’t! For example, using your figures, in 2009 there were 69 students enrolled in the Film School in Sedona. They were required to take a minimum of 66 credits in a nine month intense training program—a total of 4,761 credit hours.

The current media program on the Verde Campus has 51 students with some of them taking all of the 12 credits offered face-to-face and some of them taking the one on-line 3 credit course.  At best, they experience a total of 612 face-to-face credit hours per semester, assuming all 51 students enrolled in all the face-to-face courses.  There is no comparison to a film school curriculum and what is now being offered!

Fourth, you failed to explain to your readers that the low enrollment of 13 by the fall of 2013 was a result of the College’s own internal decisions. Because it was shutting down the Campus in anticipation of selling it, there was no marketing for the Film School. Therefore, 13 students were left to complete their training.  Even so, 13 students accounted for 858 credit hours of training, which is far more than offered today.

Fifth, you ignore the disingenuous statements made by the College in 2012 and 2013 in which it lauded the Film School and its increasing enrollment. For example, in August, 2012, the College stated that “The Yavapai College film program (on the Sedona Campus) is continuing and is being enhanced. It is not being dissolved.” As late as December, 2012  one finds statements in College press releases such as  the College “launched a significant recruiting campaign and doubled its enrollment this year! In these tough economic times, that is a significant achievement.”  Are you oblivious to what the College said about the Film School and what it actually did?

Finally, your claim that Sedona residents are “sore” about moving the program is without substance.  First, a legitimate nationally recognized film school was not moved.  It was closed. Second, the current media course offerings do not make up a film school; there is nothing to be “sore” about.  Third, not a single resident who spoke at the recent Sedona Town Hall meeting indicated any resentment about the media program on the Verde campus.  I speculate that you were attempting to create a false jingoistic divide between Sedona and the remainder of the Verde Valley?  If so, that is shameful.

Bob Oliphant


College Executive Dean tries to bluff Sedona City Council saying “film school has returned”

Wills blames block scheduling, full-time students, and absence of dual enrollment for closing Film School; absolves herself of any blame as though Film School was under control of an alien power rather than her administration

Sometimes listening to Dr. Penelope Wills and her associates explanations about their decisions causes one to wonder if someone is not in Alice in Wonderland.  That was surely the case when Wills appeared before the Sedona City Council October 27 and the issue of closing the Sedona Film School came up.  

For example, Wills’teamed with Executive Dean James Perey to explain the closing of the nationally recognized Sedona Film School and its claimed resurrection on the Verde Campus.  Perey claimed that  “the film school is back, it’s on the Verde Valley Campus.”  Perey was apparently hoping that no one listening knew how a real film school curriculum looked when compared to the Fall offerings on the Verde Campus.

For those folks from Missouri who say “show me,” the Blog has set out below the fall Scottsdale Film School curriculum, which can be compared with the fall “Film School” curriculum on the Verde Campus.  The difference is so stark that Dean Perey’s remarks fall into the category of administrative prattle.  

Scottsdale Film School Fall 2015


Only 12 credits of face-to-face training are offered on the Verde Campus while about 80 credits are offered at the Scottsdale Community College. 

Dean Perey also said that one “of the real issues with the Film School program was that it was full-time.  “Unless you were a full-time student you could not enroll in that program,” he said.  He was joined by Wills’ who criticized the Film School program she was running at the time as a failure because of block scheduling, having full-time students, and not allowing dual enrollment. It’s a though Wills’ saw the Sedona Film School as in the control of some alien power rather than in control of her administration.  Odd, very odd, to say the least. You may view the video of Dean Perey’s remarks on this issue by clicking here.

Both Wills’ and Perey ignore the College rosy press releases issued just 9 months before the announced closing of the Film School—hoping, no doubt, that memories in Sedona are extremely short. 

For example,  Yavapai College Director of Marketing and Communications Mike Lange, was quoted on August 9, 2012  in the Sedona RedRock News as  stating:  

“The Yavapai College film program is continuing and is being enhanced. It is not being dissolved.”  

On December 11, 2012 the College issued a press release praising the Sedona Film School. This was just nine months before announcing it was being closed.  In that College press release one source was quoted as saying

“The Sedona Film School . . . contributes so much to this community and to Yavapai College. Sedona can be proud to have a world-class film school with personalized one-on-one attention to its students by a staff that is dedicated to giving the next generation of filmmakers’ unparalleled education and training.”

In the December, 2012 College press release the College stated that the Film School was

“expanding [its] relationship with the renowned Sedona International Film Festival (SIFF) and .planning for a special series of technical workshops during the 2013 Festival.”  It also stated that it had “launched a significant recruiting campaign and doubled its enrollment this year! In these tough economic times, that is a significant achievement. . . . The community truly banded together this past year to show support for the Film School and make a unanimous statement that ‘We love our film school’ and want to keep it in Sedona.’”

It turns out that all those press releases were Community College twaddle, if not outright deceptive.

Sedona residents list unmet post secondary educational needs at Sedona Center

Culinary arts, Film Institute, and hospitality at top of educational needs expressed by 35 citizens at town hall meeting

The Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee (VVBAC) to the Yavapai Community College Governing Board held a town hall meeting at the Yavapai College Sedona Center October 21.  The purpose of the town hall meeting was to provide input to the VVBAC on the unmet post-secondary educational needs of the community.  At least 35 residents took the opportunity to express their views of the community needs to the Committee.

town hall meetingThere were a total of 97 persons who attended the event. Included in the audience were members of the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee, two members of the Yavapai College District Governing Board, and the Mayor and six of the seven Sedona City Councilors.

Representing the College were Vice President Clint Ewell and Dean Dennis Garvey, both from Prescott.  It should have come as no surprise to Ewell that the residents listed Culinary, return of the Film Institute, and hospitality as the top three unmet post secondary educational needs in the community.  He and President Penelope Wills have heard those requests repeatedly from Sedona and Verde Valley residents at numerous meetings over the past two years. Despite the many requests, President Wills and Vice President Ewell have consistently shown an arrogant propensity to ignore them. 

In an effort to placate the Verde Valley and Sedona folks, a small culinary effort was launched at Camp Verde High School this fall and twelve credits in digital photography were made available in Prescott and on the Verde Campus.  Neither of these offerings can be compared in any way to launching a serious culinary program, such as that operated at the Scottsdale Community College Campus, or take the place of the Sedona Film school, which offered almost 70 credits in film training.

Graduates of the Film School who spoke at the Town Hall meeting leveled biting criticism at the College for its 2014 closing.  One Film School graduate reflected the views of several others saying that “what we did at Zaki Gorden was unique in the country.  Fifteen years ago almost no one had a program like we had at Yavapai College.  In the last five years [of the Film School’s existence], while Yavapai College was cutting salaries, cutting staff, cutting the marketing budget, community colleges around the country were taking our idea and they were running with it.” Another Film School graduate focused on a lack of College management saying  that “it was a constant struggle to educate the College on what we [were] about. And how to properly run and market a Film School.”

Leaders in the restaurant, culinary, and hospitality industry in Sedona lamented the absence of a significant culinary and hospitality training program at the Sedona facility.  Kevin Maguire of the Enchantment Group said: “We can’t fill the positions we have at our properties.”  Sedona Rouge Executive Chef Ron Moley  expressed exasperation with the “small pool of [trained] chefs” in Sedona to service the 4 million or more annual visitors.  

Ms. Ruth Wicks suggested that the situation with Yavapai College had reached a point where the only option left for residents was to create a separate taxing district for the East side of the County. Only in this way, Wicks said, would the East side of the County be permanently removed from control of West County College administrators.

The videotapes of the citizen presentations will be available on YouTube in about a week.  The Blog will let you know when they are posted. A story about the Town Hall Meeting in the online edition of the  Redrock News can be found by clicking here.

An online poll is  being conducted by the Redrock News and asks: “What should Yavapai College provide to Sedona?”   You may take that poll by clicking here.