The faculty at the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking is comprised of accomplished directors, producers, writers, musicians, editors, actors, art directors and sound designers. Our staff is here to help students develop their craft every step of the way and to nurture their passion for making films. Small class sizes assure individual attention and grant greater access to the digital filmmaking equipment. Our project-based film classes gives our students the real-working experience necessary to succeed in the competitive entertainment industry.

Jeremiah Birnbaum

Founder & President
Director, Producer, Writer, Editor

Jeremiah Birnbaum is President and Founder of FilmsSchoolSF and has worked as a director, producer, screenwriter, editor and educator in filmmaking for over twenty-six years. He is also president of Fog City Pictures, one of the most prolific feature film production companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the last ten years, Fog City Pictures has developed and produce a variety of feature films and documentaries which have screened at dozens of festivals around the world and gone on to be released in theaters, on DVD, VOD, and iTunes. Fog City Pictures has a reputation for working with San Francisco’s most talented filmmakers, cast and crew, as well as for bringing in talent from Los Angeles and New York City.

Programs Taught

Digital Filmmaking Program
Documentary Filmmaking Program
1-Day Intro Workshop

 

Jeremiah Birnbaum

Benjamin Watkins

Filmmaker

Ben Watkins filmmaking workshopsBen is a filmmaker and motion graphics artist in San Francisco. He owns a small production company called Big Wonderful Inc where he helps clients tell their stories through live action video, visual effects, design, motion graphics, music, and spoken word. During his 15+ years working for marketing and ad agencies, he’s worked with brands like Adobe, LinkedIn, Southwest Airlines, Amtrak, Bayer, and Agilent Technologies.

His work in commercial media finances projects more meaningful to him like his wife Eliciana Nascimento’s recently-released film The Summer of Gods where he made Yoruba gods and goddesses come to life through visual effects.

Programs Taught

Digital Filmmaking Program

Frederick Ritzenberg

Filmmaker

Frederick Ritzenberg filmmaking workshopsFrederick Ritzenberg has been in the film business for over twenty-five years, writing and producing motion pictures. He produced and directed GOSPEL.

Ritzenberg was on the faculty at the Berkeley Digital Film Institute, before joining FilmSchoolSF.

He holds a BA and MFA in filmmaking at the S.F. Art Institute and is a member of the Writers Guild of America.

Programs Taught

Digital Filmmaking Program

Dianne Griffin

Writer / Director / Producer / Editor

Dianne Griffin filmmaking workshopsDianne has worked producing and directing for twenty years in a rich range of productions both in San Francisco and Internationally.

Her documentary White Hotel shot entirely in Eritrea, Africa was selected to open in the New Directors Series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was picked up for distribution by Jane Balfour Films Ltd. out of London, England. White Hotel went on to play in numerous international festivals and museums, including Harvard Film Archive, The Long Beach Museum of Art, Women Make Waves, Taiwan, Black Maria Film Festival, The Zanzibar International Film Festival, and the United Nations Association Film Festival at Stanford University.

Programs Taught

Digital Filmmaking Program
Documentary Filmmaking Program


Brandon Hamilton

Director / Writer / Producer / Cinematographer / Editor / Actor

Brandon Hamilton filmmaking workshopsBrandon Hamilton is a multiple award winning director, writer, producer, cinematographer, editor, and actor. In addition to instructing he runs 2 production companies. The first, Dark Wolf Films, has produced 5 feature length films as well as multiple shorts and music videos all made with micro budgets in addition to utilizing both former and current alumni. The second, Pro Video Productions, specializes in high-end corporate videos, televised interviews, and documentaries which garnered him the prestigious Emmy Award in 2010.

Programs Taught

Short Film Workshop
Visual Storytelling Workshop
1-day Intro Workshop

Stephen Kopels

Founder & Director/Cinematographer

Stephen Kopels filmmaking workshopsStephen has been a working filmmaker and television director for the past forty-four years. His career started in 1968 as a combat photographer in Vietnam, shooting pictures for The United States Army Journal, Stars and Stripes, The New York Times, Newsweek, and other major publications. Upon completing his tour of duty, Stephen returned to college and attended Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Filmmaking.

For the next twelve years, Stephen worked for PBS as a senior producer/director. During his time with PBS, Stephen created hundreds of documentaries and live television shows that won him numerous national and international awards (the New York International Film Festival, the Gabriel Awards, and the San Francisco International Film Festival to name a few) and such honors as being named American representative at the Rockefeller International Independent Film Symposium in Venice, Italy and receiving two Peabody nominations.

In 1995, Stephen moved to San Francisco, where he worked as an independent producer/
director for high-profile corporations, including Levi’s, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Federal Express, Bank of America, Dupont, Texas Instruments, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Recently, Stephen produced and directed three one-hour segments for a thirteen-part series titled “Religions of the World” hosted by Academy Award winner, Ben Kingsley. As a way of sharing his experience with up-and-coming filmmakers, Stephen has been an adjunct teacher and administrator in film and video for twelve years, beginning at Tennessee State University and Middle Tennessee State University and most recently Associate Course Director at Ex´Pression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville.

Matt Szymanowski

Writer/Director/Editor

Matt is an award winning filmmaker, Berlinale Talent Campus 2012 participant and MacDowell Colony Fellow. He’s worked in various capacities of film, TV and video production in Los Angeles, San
Francisco Bay Area and in Poland. He studied film and theater directing at The National Polish Film School.

Before that he graduated with Bachelor’s degree in Humanities, with an emphasis in history at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. At that time he also interned on the TV shows Boston Public and The Practice at David E Kelly Productions.

Matt’s short film, History of Solitude, has played international festivals in Poland, France, Albania and North America, winning the Jury Award in Paris (ECU) and screening locally in competition at the International San Francisco Film Festival in 2009.

He’s worked as a producer on short-form European co-productions, including German and French films. He was field director for the feature documentary Nine Days That Changed the World about the Pope John Paul II. Since 2009, in SF Matt’s produced award winning online video content for the CBS Interactive company CHOW.com.

He’s directed music videos for local musicians Jhameel and The Holdup, which have been featured on notable music blogs, including The Pier and Live105.radio.com. Matt’s music video Summertime Baby has been aired on cable’s Fuse TV.

And since May 2011, Matt’s a creative director and producer for the San Jose based media collective MKSHFT, for which he’s worked with the likes of SF Egoist, Toyota, Noise Pop and HTC. Matt is currently developing his debut feature film, The Purple Onion.

Programs Taught

Digital Filmmaking Program
Short Film Workshop
1-day Intro Workshop

 

Tom Donald

Director/Writer

Tom Donald filmmaking workshopsTom’s background in advertising started at an early age, growing up in a household where his father spent many years in New York at one of the world’s largest ad agencies, Young & Rubicam. Upon reaching adulthood, Tom decided to follow his star in the music business and began writing and producing jingles and background music for radio and TV commercials. After a couple of years, he found himself looking for a larger role in the creative process, and that led to a new career as writer and creative director at several San Francisco-based ad agencies.

After a stint as creative director at Anderson Rothstein, a small San Francisco agency that specialized in food, beverage and California based agricultural accounts, Tom joined Foote Cone & Belding as vp/ group creative director. He then took a position as creative director at Sun Microsystems for two years. A final agency stop was at Saatchi & Saatchi, where he was a writer and an associate creative director.

After years of writing commercials and corporate films, he decided to become a film director. Since that time in 1995, he has directed (and in many cases, written) projects for diverse clients such as Apple, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Adelphia Cable, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Blue Shield, the San Francisco Giants, Wal-Mart, Pacific Bell, Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Plantronics, 1-800-Dentist, Avaya, Crystal Geyser, Alzheimer’s Association, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the City of San Francisco, PaperPak Industries and BART. His work has won many industry awards, including a number of ADDYs, Cindys and several mentions in CA Magazine.

Programs Taught

Digital Filmmaking Program

Darcel Walker

Sound Recordist

Darcel Walker filmmaking workshopsAs the audio guru for his company, Funky Tiki, Darcel ensures top quality audio on all film, video and television projects. He studied at the prestigious California Recording Institute, where he specialized in Location Sound/audio engineering. He has over eight hundred hours of Field Sound Mixing and is one of the most sought after Bay Area Field Audio Techs.

Darcel has over 20 feature film credits as well as numerous broadcast & cable industry assignments that include the History Channel, Discovery Channel, CBS, ABC and the BBC. He is also the founder of the proposed Art & Music News Network (AMN-Your Source for Art and Music News-The CNN of the Arts World) and the proposed IndieLove.tv film festival (a Global Cineplex).

Programs Taught

Digital Filmmaking Program
Documentary Filmmaking Program

Natalie Zimmerman

Documentary Filmmaker

Natalie Zimmerman’s film and media work has screened internationally in a variety of contexts including: SF Camerawork, de Young Museum (SF), Sigmund Freud Museum (Vienna), Independent Feature Project (Angelika Theater, NYC), Anthology Film Archive (NYC), Chicago Underground Film Festival, Moscow International Film Festival, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, CBC and Russia Today (broadcast).

Her projects have been made possible with numerous grants from supporting institutions including; Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media, LEF Foundation, Center for Cultural Innovation, Fleishhaker Foundation, Headlands Center for the Arts, Museumsquartier/Quarter21 and UC Berkeley Professional Development Award.

Zimmerman is a former Fulbright Scholar and holds a Film Certificate from New York University and a Master of Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts. In 2008, she co-founded Social Satisfaction Studio with her longtime collaborator, Michael Wilson, to release their first feature documentary, Silhouette City. (www.socialsatisfaction.org)

She lives along the edge of an old-growth forest, 20 miles north of San Francisco.

Programs Taught
Digital Filmmaking Program
Documentary Filmmaking Program

 

Natalie Zimmerman

Frederick Marx

Frederick Marx is an internationally acclaimed, Oscar and Emmy nominated director/writer with 40 years in the film business. He was named a Chicago Tribune Artist of the Year for 1994, a 1995 Guggenheim Fellow, and a recipient of a Robert F. Kennedy Special Achievement Award. His film HOOP DREAMS played in hundreds of theatres nationwide after winning the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and was the first documentary ever chosen to close the New York Film Festival. It was on over 100 “Ten Best” lists nationwide and was named Best Film of the Year by critics Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel, Gene Shalit, and Ken Turran and by the Chicago Film Critics Association. Ebert also named it Best Film of the Decade. It is one of the highest grossing non-musical documentaries in United States history.

Programs Taught
Digital Filmmaking Program