UTSA student finds a balance between education and experience

Angel Diaz has volunteered with two local film festivals

Mason Hickok, Editor-in-Chief

As a second-semester freshman in the Film and Media Program at UTSA, Angel Diaz is balancing their education with valuable experience in the film industry. A native of the Westside, Diaz is committed to the opportunities presented to them by the film program’s reach into San Antonio’s film scene.

Currently, Diaz is volunteering under the leadership of Ada Babino, the founder and director of the San Antonio Black International Film Festival (SABIFF). In addition, Diaz spends their time as a sponsorship coordinator. 

“I go over the list with Ada, my director, of local and international businesses that might be interested in either sponsorship, donations or sponsoring Black film students to come to San Antonio from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs),” Diaz said. 

Diaz’s journey to working with SABIFF came by way of an email from Paul Ardoin, the film and media program director. Typically, Ardoin will email crew calls, internship and volunteer opportunities, and news relating to the program. Diaz contacted Babino, interviewed and quickly got to work.  

“It’s kind of like building a lego box,” Diaz said. “Every week, we add something new [that] we want to bring into the festival. [Then] as we get more sponsorships, we have a budget to work with and then we decide what we want to do with that budget.”

Another intern from the University of Houston works with Diaz, and both students work remotely.

In speaking to the importance of balancing their education with experience, Diaz expressed that the two are closely linked.  

“I feel like education and experience is meaningless without each other, I suppose,” Diaz said.

Before their work with SABIFF, Diaz previously worked at the San Antonio Film Festival.

“Even before I started at UTSA, I was already working at SA Film Fest because of UTSA,” Diaz said. “Before I even started my classes, my college career, I was already doing stuff in the industry; that was really helpful. [I’m] very thankful for that.”

Andrew Christianson

In speaking about the future of UTSA’s film program, Diaz hopes to see more opportunities for film students come from UTSA.

“I would hope to see a little more support from UTSA,” Diaz said. “So, maybe have our department make some things for their advertisement. I think right now we are doing a good job at hosting film events [that] everyone can go to; I think that’s cool.” 

Diaz expressed their interest in documentary work and the new Film and Medicine course taught by Guillermina Zabala Suarez. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, SABIFF has utilized a hybrid format for its festival. This year’s festival will take place from Oct. 5 to Oct. 8, 2023, with opening ceremonies occurring at the Carver Community Cultural Center. Babino described that after returning to San Antonio, there was a real need to uplift Black filmmaking.

“We started as a need,” Babino said. “As a desire to elevate, promote, uplift and support Black independent filmmaking. That’s why we started.” 

This year’s theme is based on films from HBCUs. Babino hopes that more people can participate in festival preparations in the coming months. 

Additional screenings are to occur at St. Philip’s College and online. More information and internship opportunities can be found on SABIFF’s website. In addition, information on the festival’s open call for projects can be found here.