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O’Connor leaves gift for SFCC

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In college, getting real world experience is vital. Thanks to a donation, Santa Fe Community College students will be getting an up-close and personal look into how film comes together.

The community college recently accepted a donation from the estate of producer Robert O’Connor.

O’Connor, who worked on films and TV productions “Jack the Ripper” and “Dracula” with Francis Ford Coppola, died in August in Santa Fe.

His estate gifted SFCC about 150 film books and shooting scripts from films such as “Snow Falling on Cedars,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Erin Brokovich” and “Fargo.”

“Shooting scripts are rarely available to students at the community college level since writing is considered part of a bachelor’s level film degree,” says Monique Anair, SFCC Media Arts and Film co-chair. “These scripts give students professional examples of how a script is broken down into individual scenes. A student reading these scripts is holding the written work of what the director, actors and technicians put onto the screen. It proves the value of the written word in a visual medium such as film. It is storytelling, something each of us as filmmakers hope to perfect.”

Anair says SFCC offers Film 256 with Peter Kershaw and that’s where the shooting scripts will be used.

“What we’re going to do is let the students re-imagine and shoot a scene from one of the particular movies,” Anair says. “Then we’ll get out the shooting scripts to show them how the professionals did it. It’s a nice way to get that experience and see from a different point of view.”

Photographer and filmmaker Susan Slotter, a graduate of the SFCC film program, made the donation from O’Connor’s collection.

Slotter says she met O’Connor two years ago and was her mentor while a student.

“He gave so much of his time to people interested in film,” Slotter says. “I’ve met many people who recall him as a producer who read every script. Not many producers do that or have the time to do it. He was always willing to sit down and discuss with the screenwriter what can be done better.”

O’Connor was a long-time TV and movie producer who developed comedy series for Paramount, produced films for Guber-Peters Entertainment and oversaw production for RKO Pictures, where he was president. He retired to Santa Fe in 2003, where he worked for French & French Fine Properties, at Coming Home Connections and served as president of the Truchas Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Slotter says at the time she met O’Connor, he had retired and moved to Santa Fe and was operating a nonprofit in the office next to her photography studio in the Design Center near downtown Santa Fe.

He shared her interest in film and began offering advice on her ideas.

“He loved being a mentor,” Slotter says. “He was just an incredibly generous mentor to me as I was working through the film program at SFCC.”

Slotter says she chose SFCC not only because she is an alumna, but because the film program is growing.

“SFCC is a real treasure in this community and a lot of people don’t realize it,” Slotter explains. “There are a lot of people who retire in Santa Fe and want to teach their craft and that is really true in the film department. These people have stepped out of Hollywood and they want to contribute their time and effort to the community. That’s why I wanted to contribute this rich collection of books to the program.”

Slotter carefully distributed the remainder of O’Connor’s nearly 800-plus item library to people she thought would care for them.

“I wanted to honor him and his blessings in my life,” she explained. “He meant a lot to so many people. I found him a treasure and I wanted people to keep getting help from his collection.”

Anair says that the film program at SFCC has 200 students majoring in film, with 300 in the program. The program has been around since 2008.

“It’s just grown into something great,” she says. “We’ve always looked for a way to get involved and get our students that real world experience before heading out on their own.”

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email film@ABQjournal.com. Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.

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