Recently retired SF State film professor recalls era when student filmmaking was controversial

Courtesy of San Francisco StateProfessor Jameson Goldner kneels down as he holds a light meter during rehearsals for the play "Mr. Dandyweather's Birthday" at San Francisco State University in 1963. Acclaimed actor Jeffrey Tambor

Courtesy of San Francisco StateProfessor Jameson Goldner kneels down as he holds a light meter during rehearsals for the play "Mr. Dandyweather's Birthday" at San Francisco State University in 1963. Acclaimed actor Jeffrey Tambor

When professor Jameson Goldner began teaching cinema at San Francisco State University in 1963, allowing students to personally express themselves in films was not only frowned upon, it was downright dicey.

In fact, Goldner recalled a particularly controversial film created by students that nearly led to future works being sanctioned by the head of the Radio and Television Department. The movie in question depicted Jesus Christ coming off the cross and having an affair with Santa Claus.

Today, Goldner is known as the “heart and soul” of the cinema department at SFSU, from which Goldner retired last fall after more than five decades of teaching. But back in the 1960s, Goldner pushed the limits of film.

“Our emphasis was really on personal expression, and some of our films were pretty risky,” said Goldner, 77.

When Goldner was hired to teach film, the class was a subset of the more “conservative” Radio and Television Department, he explained. Studying film was accepted within the academic realm, but making films was not highly regarded and the areas of study regularly clashed with each other.

“Tensions were very high between various parts of the department, particularly film against broadcasting,” Goldner said.

Goldner ultimately helped the cinema department gain independence at SFSU in the late 1960s, encouraging students to create films that previously had not been celebrated on the campus. One showed people using drugs, and another depicted a man shooting himself in the foot to avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War.

“Some of the films pushed some of the conventions a little bit further than some people would have liked,” Goldner recalled with a fond chuckle. But students flocked to his classes, which Goldner continued teaching for the past five decades until last fall, when he wrapped up his career as a professor with a final course that Goldner called Film and the Director.

The class explored Goldner’s favorite films, including his personal connections to them, such as Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation.” Goldner studied at UCLA with Coppola in the early 1960s, back when Goldner called him Frank. “From Day 1 to the day he retired, he was one of the most popular professors because he was thoughtful and caring,” said Daniel Bernardi, interim dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts.

Goldner is credited with helping SFSU become one of the top film schools in the U.S., graduating numerous Academy Award winners and nominees. A filmmaker himself, Goldner’s 100-plus films include the Holocaust memoir “When I Was 14: A Survivor Remembers,” which won best documentary at the 2001 California Independent Film Festival.

Goldner will be honored Tuesday at the Cinema Department’s annual Film Finals event — which was created during Goldner’s first year at SFSU, in 1963 — at the Sundance Kabuki Theater in Japantown.

Bay Area NewseducationfilmmakingJameson GoldnerSan Francisco State University

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

A view of Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
CCSF begins search for next chancellor amid new challenges

‘It’s arguably the biggest single responsibility the board has,’ trustee says

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

(Robert Greene/Tribune News Service)
As tensions grow over vaccinations and politics, California lawmakers face threats from public

Anti-vaccine speakers hint at gun violence during routine budget hearing at state Capitol

Dr. Martin Luther King in Sam Pollard’s ‘MLK/FBI’. (Courtesy of IFC Films/TNS)
The superb documentary ‘MLK/FBI’ clearly connects the past to our troubling present

Justin Chang Los Angeles Times Among the many archival materials excerpted in… Continue reading

Toni Isabella, a counselor at Ohlhoff Recovery Programs, finds helpful assistance from service dog Barker Posey.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Toni Isabella: Helping people indoors and out recover from addiction’s dark side

Counselor supports holistic, progressive approach to healing

Most Read