Lionell Hilliard

Digital Filmmaking & Video Production

The Art Institute of Houston


I take classes and attend annual seminars which continually feed my existence within the industry, and I bring back what I learn into the classroom. Lionell Hilliard , Instructor , The Art Institute of Houston

Academic Credentials

M.F.A., Film Producing, The American Film Institute
B.F.A., Radio, Television and Film, Sam Houston State University

Professional experience includes more than two decades of filmmaking and film production. His films have been selected by 55 film festivals and his television production includes work on "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "Sister, Sister," "The Bernie Mac Show," and "Girlfriends." Mr. Hilliard's own film and television projects include "The Sunday Morning Stripper," "As for Me and My House," and "I Pledge Allegiance...".

What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

There’s not a house around where a 3rd grader lives that doesn’t have homework posted up on its refrigerator. But, in my house, we often seemed to run out of space for my masterpieces from art class. My parents were extremely proud (or at least tolerant) of my bringing home another drawing to go up on the fridge and they made a point to share my creativity with anyone who visited our home. This not only taught me the value of praise for one’s work, but also the way to affect your audience.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

I recognize the value of storytelling and, thereby, always manage to have a war story or two (or five) at the ready to offer an anecdotal illustration for whatever competency is up for class discussion.

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

Several. We often visit online sites, like, imdb and others, which serve as trend thermometers, offering a direct tap into the pulse of the industry they aspire to enter upon graduation. I share the proper way of navigating said sites, then pose a question which can only be answered from thorough research of the information from them. Then, while serving only as a moderator, what results is an open class discussion that I find both enlightening and entertaining.

What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

The tendency for this generation is to remain solo during work efforts. Unfortunately, the social media climate provides greater reason and ease for becoming and remaining introverted. But our offered programs have several moving parts, and our classroom environments are designed to work best when each facet is respectfully handled collaboratively. This is especially true in filmmaking. Teaching everyone to work as a member of a larger effort increases pride in the process and reduces the need for egoist mannerisms.

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

I live before my students as one still working in the industry. Though this limits my days in the classroom, it exemplifies to them the practical application of what our course competencies are. As a perpetual student, I take classes and attend annual seminars which continually feed my existence within the industry, and I bring back what I learn into the classroom. 

Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?

I have been with Ai Houston since September of 2008 and nothing delights me more than when I look out over a sea of student faces in my classroom and see their “lightbulb” moment over something we are discussing in class. It is then that I think to myself, “Ahh, they got it!”