James Villar, writer-director of “Livin’ Modest,” (third from right), with his collaborators on the TV pilot. Television Production Professor Quinn Saunders is second from right. (Photo: Emilia Rivers)

Lital Mizrahi, writer-director of the short film “Nerot Shel Shabbat,” (front, center), with crew and cast members. (Photo: Emilia Rivers)

An entertainment industry initiative to support the voices of CSUN film and TV students was celebrated with a recent screening of stories they created. 

As part of its “Changing Lenses” initiative, Radford Studio Center and the studio’s owners, Hackman Capital Partners, have funded scholarships for several CSUN cinema and television arts (CTVA) students. In 2022, the firm made a gift to the university that covered a portion of production costs for student thesis projects. Along with a match from the CSUN Foundation, that gift helped bring two student films and two TV pilots to life. 

Changing Lenses aims to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in the entertainment industry by providing historically underrepresented communities with mentorship opportunities, job training programs and pathways to employment. The initiative has greatly benefited students in CSUN’s Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, whose diverse students and alumni bring new perspectives that benefit all levels of the film and TV industries. 

On March 26, two of the first projects supported by the Changing Lenses gift to CSUN were screened at Radford Studio Center in Studio City. 

“Nerot Shel Shabbat,” written and directed by Lital Mizrahi ’23 (CTVA – Film), is the story of a young Jewish couple expecting their first child, who flee the Soviet Union to escape persecution and ongoing antisemitism as the Iron Curtain begins to rise.

“Livin’ Modest,” written and directed by James Villar ’23 (CTVA – TV Production — Scripted Narrative), is a TV pilot about a Latino high school student and his mother who, after losing a fortune due to his father’s crimes, must move in with his estranged aunt and cousin in L.A.

Zach Sokoloff, senior vice president at Hackman Capital Partners, speaks at a screening of CSUN products on March 26.
Zach Sokoloff, senior vice president at Hackman Capital Partners, speaks at a screening of CSUN production on March 26. Photo: Emilia Rivers.

“The Changing Lenses program offers aspiring filmmakers the opportunity to build a body of work and launch a career in the entertainment industry,” said Zach Sokoloff, senior vice president at Hackman Capital Partners. “We were thrilled to support the teams behind ‘Nerot Shel Shabbat’ and ‘Livin’ Modest’ and know that Lital and James are only just beginning their journey in storytelling and the creative arts.”

Thanks to its relationship with Radford Studio Center President Michael Klausman ’74 (Biology), who received CSUN’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007, the university’s CTVA department has a long history with the studio center. The center has hosted classes on the lot, supported scholarship and awards celebrations, and even provided filming locations for student thesis projects. “Nerot Shel Shabbat” turned the studio’s New York Street into the Soviet Union. 

The support from Radford Studio Center’s Changing Lenses program did more than help Mizrahi finish a costly period piece that featured intricate costumes and scenes on a train. 

“It gave me more confidence knowing that people in the professional world believe in this concept,” Mizrahi said.

To support CSUN’s Department of Cinema and Television Arts or to create a fund of your own, please contact the CSUN Office of Development at (818) 677-7586 or development@csun.edu.


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