Tag Archives: college film program

PUC Alum Sierra Lewis Wins the Jury Award at Sonscreen Film Festival 

Sonscreen is an Adventist film festival hosted by the NAD that takes place every year during the spring in Southern California. This year, Sonscreen was in Loma Linda, CA, where more than 20 PUC film students and alums attended, along with professors Rajeev Sigamoney and Tim de la Torre. At the festival, they attended film screenings, professional showcases, participated in a pitch competition, and attended the awards banquet.

PUC film and television honors alum Sierra Lewis ‘22 has attended the festival three times and sadly couldn’t make it out to this year’s festival like she hoped. Sierra has always enjoyed going since it’s a great time to bond with the department and connect with other filmmakers and creatives from other schools. During this year’s festival, she won the Jury Award and was runner-up for Best Documentary. 

What does winning the Jury Award mean to you? 

Since graduating from PUC, it hasn’t been as easy to find/make time for my art, and I’m not working in a “creative field” at the moment. But winning the Jury Award means a lot because it gave me that validation that reminded me that I’m on the right track, despite what it looks like- and that I shouldn’t give up because there’s a place for my work and for these stories to be told in the world.

Share with us about the project you submitted for this category.

The project I submitted to the festival was my senior thesis documentary titled, Echoes. My intention was to explore the idea of what “do it yourself” (DIY) looks like within the Black community and its intersectionality between arts and politics.

I was lucky enough to get to know some amazing artists from a collective called Nure (based in Oakland, CA), and I juxtaposed their stories alongside found/archival footage that I felt “echoed” what was being said. At least for me, the idea of Black DIY is something that feels like a cultural heritage, and I hope that the film was able to showcase that tradition.

You were also Best Documentary Runner-Up at the festival. Talk to us about your documentary.

As far as inspiration for the film, I’m inspired by creative and introspective people. People who think and philosophize about life, and can’t help but synthesize their thoughts and feelings with a creative outlet.

In any case, for most (if not all) of my films, I tend to be led by music. I always make a playlist that helps me enter the right headspace for the project that I’m working on. For Echoes, there were a lot of Moses Sumney, Solange, and moody jazz instrumentals.

How did you develop an interest in filmmaking? Did you know you always wanted to do this?

Oh boy. My interest in filmmaking actually developed from Youtube. When I was a high school freshman, I had a YouTube channel with a close friend, which lasted for a few years. As time went on, I wanted to keep pushing myself further to make videos of quality, vs just silly challenges or whatever. Eventually, I made my first little short film and started doing character profiles on my friends. My mom thought I should study film in college, so you can say the rest is history haha. 

How has being a student at PUC helped you grow as a filmmaker? 

Oh my goodness, being a student at PUC has expedited so much of my growth as a filmmaker and artist. There’s such great energy in the Visual Arts Department at Fisher Hall. Our professors give so much to provide us with great experiences both inside and outside of the classroom, from the various film projects to the different excursions like trekking down to Sonscreen Film Festival. It’s a beautiful, safe space, and I’ve always felt supported by my teachers and peers. Fisher feels like home. 

Is there someone at PUC that has made an impact on you?

Gosh so many. If I had to give names, I’d say Michael Jefferson, Dean Philpott, and every teacher in the Visual Arts Department- no explanation needed. 

Can you share any future projects with us?

At the moment, I’m trying to work on an accompanying zine for my thesis film. Sort of like supplementary material, and other than that, I’m working on putting out movie reviews/film critiques and experimenting with different formats for that kind of content too. Anything else, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see. 😉 

#FacultyFriday: Meet Rajeev Sigamoney

For this week’s #FacultyFriday feature, meet Rajeev Sigamoney, an associate professor of film and television production in the department of visual arts. He has over 14 years of film experience as a writer, director, and producer for a variety of film projects, including feature-length films, TV series, and web series. He has also participated in and presented at many film conferences, seminars, and festivals, including the Napa Valley Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival.

Though he has only been at PUC since 2012, Sigamoney has already made a huge impact on our campus. He has been the faculty advisor for the Film Club and for the Student Association video yearbook editor for several years, and also served as the executive director for the annual Diogenes Film Festival, which showcases student projects at the nearby Cameo Cinema in St. Helena.

Name: Rajeev Sigamoney
Title: Associate professor of film and television production and film program coordinator
Email: rsigamoney@puc.edu
Faculty since: 2012

Classes taught: Short Scriptwriting I & II, Screenwriting I & II, Group Production, Cinematic Storytelling, Marketing & Distribution, Senior Thesis

Education: Bachelor’s in electrical/computer engineering from Johns Hopkins University, 1997; masters in technical management from Johns Hopkins University, 2002; masters of fine art in screenwriting from Academy of Art, 2016

Professional activitiesVisit Rajeev’s IMDB page to see his professional work.

What made you decide to be a teacher?
I enjoy being around young people and the ability to support the next generation of artists was something that excited me. Being able to do this in an Adventist school gives me the opportunity to develop the entire individual—making sure my students are valued and loved, apart from their work, something many artists seem to lose along the way.

What are some of your hobbies?
My favorite thing is to learn about different cultures and religions. Where we come from and what beliefs we hold most dear tell us the most about someone. So I constantly seek out to experience new places, events or people who will open up my world to something new.

What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
I spent 10 years working in Hollywood and while there, got to work with Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer, and Emmy Award winners Tony Hale and Melissa McCarthy. I consider these years of experiences (good & bad) in the film industry to be the greatest asset I have to give my students.

What’s your favorite thing about PUC?
Diversity. Not just in the ethnicity of our students but in variety of thought. I love when I teach a screenwriting course, one student might be writing a romantic comedy, another an international drama, and another an epic sci-fi action film. Putting these students with diverse ideas into the same room together creates an experience I believe makes PUC one of a kind.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?
Fisher Hall. This building I spend the majority of my days in ends up being home to many of my film students. I get no greater joy than watching them hanging out with one another, spending late nights in the lab, and watching television in the lounge. I hope the experience of acceptance and creativity they get during their four years will be a model of a healthy community they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

What’s your favorite movie?
My favorite film is “Monsoon Wedding” by Mira Nair. It is a film that captures the intricacies of Indian life, balancing the good and bad of heritage and Western ideals. Every time I watch it, it makes me think, cry and laugh. It’s perfect from beginning to end.

What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?
Consider your education part of your career. What you do during your years of college, especially within film and television, aren’t just in preparation to become a filmmaker—they are what makes you a filmmaker. We just had a student develop a web series in a Group Production course that just paid her $10,000 more to develop a full season. Time and time again, I have seen student projects move them forward in their career, but only if they initially took the assignments seriously as part of their career in the first place.

Interested in learning more about PUC’s film & television program? Visit puc.edu/admissions!