Movie Maker Finds True Calling in Teaching Next Generation of Film Students

Associate Professor Robert Jones has more than 50 productions to his name as a filmmaker —and he’s not content to keep all that experience to himself.

Jones moved to Los Angeles in 1991 like so many before him with big dreams to become a famous director. And, like so many others, Jones found himself looking for a side gig to pay the bills until the red carpet came calling. Where his story departs from the usual is the side job he found: teaching.

“I was meant to move to Orlando and teach and do my own films on the side and it’s the best thing in the world for me” Jones said. “I learned a lot about myself, about filmmaking and teaching.”

Jones first joined the film industry as an independent filmmaker and has been teaching for over 50 years. He taught in almost every film school in LA after living there for six years, and was awarded the UCF TIP Award for outstanding teaching in 1996 when he began teaching in Florida.

The emphasis in his class is film analysis. By teaching students the methods and techniques Hollywood uses for narrative films, they can pick up those tools and implement them in their own film productions. Or, when the time is right, break the rules in creative ways.

“To teach film well you need to know all the narrative skills as well as the production techniques of filmmaking and then be able to convey them to your students,” Jones said. “To be a good teacher you must know your material inside and out, then be able to communicate it to your students.”

Still making award-winning films, Jones knows his material “inside and out,” with his work acknowledged by film awards such as the Christopher Columbus Screenplay Discovery Award in 1998.

With no luck making film gigs in LA, Jones moved to Orlando to teach film at UCF. He then passed down the knowledge and experiences he gained while in LA to his students in the Film program.  While he comfortably sits in an expert chair, Jones is quick to point out that learning is a two-way street.

He recalls a conversation he had with a student and how she pointed out something in a film that he never thought about before.

“Both the experience of teaching and filmmaking are something you can learn from. They lead you to experiences that you are not expecting and often work out for the best,” Jones said. “I have learned that teaching is a calling and once called you are a teacher for life. It’s great if you embrace it, hell if you don’t.”

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