Art Institutes

Film & Production

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Pick your medium. Maximize your impact.

Put your ideas, your passion, even yourself out there to entertain, inform, or compel audiences. Whatever your form of expression, we’ll help you create a future.

Program Areas

Digital Filmmaking and Video Production Image

Digital Filmmaking & Video Production

You’ll have the opportunity to learn hands-on with digital video cameras, editing, and graphics software as you tell stories in media ranging from broadcast news to motion pictures.

Digital Photography Program

Digital Photography

Harlen Capen

Digital Photography , 2015

The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta

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Harness the power of images as you tell stories one frame at a time, filling the world with your ideas, and insights. And making your passion your career.

Meet our Faculty

  • San Antonio Digital Film & Video Production Instructor Toby Lawrence

    Toby Lawrence

    Digital Filmmaking & Video Production

    "Let your passion be your guide."

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    Toby Lawrence

    Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    When I was six, my family went to the opening night of Star Wars. I was completely drawn into the story and, as far as I was concerned, I was Luke Skywalker. I mean, what six-year-old doesn't dream of saving the universe? I got involved with music and drama in school, and began to realize that my way of using "The Force" would be to make movies of my own.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

    I believe educators should be transparent about their own processes and work. I bring the real-world, rubber-to-the-road context of my own experience to the curriculum, and I find that students are more engaged for doing so. It helps me develop each student's vision and potential in a way that translates out in the competitive world of filmmaking.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

    The best example is the short media project. Students produce their first fully-informed project from script-to-screen as a director/writer/producer. They secure the talent, crew, and location releases, and edit and present their finished projects for the screen. I serve as the "guide on the side,” mentoring them through the process.

    How do you inspire students to push themselves beyond their perceived limits?

    I often recount past professional experiences to assure students that I’m not asking them to do anything I haven’t already done myself. We work together to find solutions to their creative challenges and realize their vision "on time and under budget."

    How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?


    One of the first—and most crucial—things to understand about filmmaking is that it’s a collaborative art. The hard work and talent of many are behind any great film. I always encourage my students to reach out to peers from other disciplines to enlist their expertise.

    What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?


    Film is a passion art. Filmmaking requires grit and determination to actualize that passion. It also relies on its creator to use ever-changing technologies, software, and work-flows not available in the past. This evolution means greater accessibility and ease of use for student filmmakers seeking to fulfill their dreams. But it’s our responsibility as educators to help them balance all that technological freedom with the core principles of filmmaking: screenwriting, producing, directing, editing, cinematography and lighting.

    What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

    Let your passion be your guide, but always remember to balance it with common sense.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    Teaching is not just the transmission of knowledge. The standard should be to create an environment that stimulates intellectual and creative growth, encouraging students to develop through their own initiative.

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  • H. Homayoun Nouramadi

    H. Homayoun Nouramadi

    Digital Filmmaking & Video Production

    "Follow your passion for the art of filmmaking."

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    H. Homayoun Nouramadi

    Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    It all started when I was watching my oldest brother perform on stage when I was nine years old. Although theatre is only one aspect of my professional life, it’s definitely what ignited my creative passion at an early age.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

    Teaching creativity is mostly about exploring the work of creative professionals of the past. I use my experience as a bridge to connect students—and the future creative professionals in them—to the past.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

    Students are different in many ways, so I constantly modify my approach to teaching and mentoring to better accommodate their needs.

    How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

    Technology has changed the way art is made. For example, a video editor can now create graphics or visual effects, whereas before you’d need professional graphic and visual artists. But you can’t replace the quality of the work of that graphic or visual artist. Students who collaborate with peers in other programs are setting themselves up for future success in the industry.

    What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

    Follow your passion for the art of filmmaking.

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  • Gary Miller

    Gary Miller

    Digital Photography

    "You are your work. Constantly strive to improve your craft and your portfolio."

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    Gary Miller

    Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    I’ve always been a creative person. I was working in biotechnology sales, thinking that I could tone down my creative side, but it just took over. I decided to leave my sales job, move across the country to attend graduate school in photography, and then become a fine artist and teacher. It was a dramatic move, but one that’s been very satisfying.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

    As a professional photographer, I can relay real-world experiences to students. I think it carries a lot of weight when you can tell someone that you’ve been where they are and then gone on to accomplish the same creative goals they have. Working in the industry gives you a real sense of the day-to-day challenges students will face. Academic knowledge is one thing, but for creative people, industry knowledge is vital.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

    I think too much hand-holding is a bad thing for creative people. They need to develop good problem-solving skills. I like to push students to be more independent-minded and to develop their own style. Many of my assignments don’t provide all the answers—they require students to problem-solve and to see things their own way. I like to tell them, “I’ll give you the tools and a blueprint, you build your own house.”

    How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

    All of our creative students will need to work with other professionals out in the real world. Photographers are notorious for being lone wolves, so I always encourage my students to work with peers from other disciplines.

    What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

    The most important thing I can impart in students is passion. Being a creative person is always challenging, and it can be demanding. True passion will drive them on and help them produce their best work.

    What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

    Be a problem solver, not a problem maker. Clients love it when you make their lives better by coming up with great creative solutions. Those are the people who’ll be hired over and over. You are your work. Constantly strive to improve your craft and your portfolio.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    Even though I‘ve been a photographer for many years, I’m constantly pushing myself to be better. You should never stop learning, and never be totally satisfied. Always push yourself to create new and better work.

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  • Bella HS

    Noël Bella Merriam

    Digital Photography

    "By creating a classroom environment of supportive, shared learning each student feels more comfortable talking through their concerns, disappointments and successes."

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

    I’ve always known I wanted to be an artist, and at sixteen I began working as an artist and photographer. There was never any doubt that I would work in a creative field. I completed my first paid commission at age 18 and have worked in a variety of creative capacities ever since. I believe that I didn’t choose to be creative, creativity chose me. That’s a really nice way to have your life unfold, and infinitely rewarding.

    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?

    The extensive professional experience I’ve had encompasses a wide variety of niches a photographer could pursue—I’ve had my photography exhibited in museums and galleries, managed a photography portrait studio, worked as a freelancer for a wide variety of clients, and even perched in the bucket of heavy equipment to get the perfect aerial photo for a client. At 18, I researched how to protect myself with contracts after my first freelance job, so one of my priorities is to give my students a tool-kit of basic business skills to assist them in the early stages of their career. I’ve seen several of my former students out in the local community several years after they graduate who tell me they still use the contracts and business forms they developed in my classes, which is wonderful to hear. I feel that as creative professionals, we all benefit from sharing our knowledge and experience with each other. The focus on real-life experience is shared with students through dialogue—often a comment one of them will make about a class assignment sparks shared stories about challenges we’ve all faced as working photographers. By creating a classroom environment of supportive, shared learning each student feels more comfortable talking through their concerns, disappointments and successes.

    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? 

    Art does not exist in a vacuum, so one of my favorite assignments is the market research analysis project. By exploring what other professionals are doing in the same photography niche first-hand, and learning to develop a critical eye when viewing how professional photographers present themselves on their websites and through social media, my students are empowered to expand their own professional voices in a manner that is authentic, professional, and current with the industry.

    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?

    The most important thing I would impart to my students is to believe in themselves and their own creativity. They are here at The Art Institute of San Antonio for a reason, and we are invested in giving them the foundation they need to build a successful career. The most critical advice I would offer a student would be directly related—to value themselves and not undersell themselves as they establish their professional resume.


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  • Brett Mauser

    Brett Mauser

    Digital Filmmaking & Video Production

    "You have to know the rules before you can break them."

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

    I had always enjoyed entertaining friends and family with coin
    /card slight-of-hand magic. But one weekend, a family friend left their old VHS Camcorder at our house. I picked it up and for the next week made silly spoofs and satires with my friends. Using my knowledge of illusion and magic, I created entertaining short films for fun and even some for high school classes. If it weren’t for video, I’d never have passed my English class! From then on, I was hooked!

    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 use real-world experiences and tricks I have learned and relate those assets to the current lesson or student questions. Providing real stories and real experience in the classroom personalizes the lessons and provides the students a confidence and a trust, knowing that my knowledge comes from experience, not just a book. I am able to answer difficult questions when students press for deeper answers as I’ve been on sets and had to solve those issues and problems.

    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?

    The midterm and final projects I assign most exemplify my teaching approach. Through lessons and lectures, I provide them with fundamentals and basics in video and film production. Over the course of their assignments, they learn hands-on how to complete a project and can come to me with questions when they have concerns or hit a roadblock. They are often excited to present their projects and see what their fellow students have to say about the film. I allow them to critique their classmate’s films, which instills confidence and the ability to take criticism.

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

    It’s important for students to learn to collaborate and work with one another to achieve a higher goal. They learn communication and community skills. When students form other programs collaborate, they are able to see another side of their industry. Much like a director must learn acting, a Digital Filmmaking & Video Production student should learn a bit of photography and computer animation, among other talents. The more a student is armed with, the more employable they are in the real world.

    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? 

    You have to know the rules before you can break them. Artists are very free spirited and independent. They want to try something new and break the mold. Oftentimes, students will want to immediately break the rules of writing, filmmaking, or the like. I express how important it is to learn what the right way to do things is, before delving into unknown territory. Allowing them to figure out the traditional way gives motivation to their ideas and concepts later down the road when they try to be different and unique.


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  • Hilda Velasquez

    Hilda Velasquez

    General Education

    "My advice is to travel and see the world because we grow as human beings and as professionals."

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

    Since I was 8 or 10 years old I wanted to be journalist and communicator to be in TV.  Later, I studied a bachelor degree in Communication but I went into the advertising and marketing field, and I love it.

    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?

    Here at the The Art Institute of San Antonio I feel like a fish in the water, because even when I am teaching Spanish, I feel identified with the degree we teach. Therefore I bring my cultural and communication background into my classroom to give students the opportunity to know the Hispanic world through media, ads, movies, etc.


    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?

    Every student has to do a cultural presentation about an Hispanic country and a specific topic related with their degree, so they have done great presentations about fashion, food, photography and the movie industry in Hispanic countries, which has opened their eyes to learn more and see beyond the American borders.


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

    My students learn from each other when they do their cultural presentations.

    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?

    My advice is to travel and see the world, because we grow as human beings and as professionals.
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