Film graduate salutes military discipline

By

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Cameron Filas had aspirations toward valor. Enlisting in the U.S. Army just out of high school, the Mesa, Arizona, resident intended to be a career infantryman. But an incident early in his service led to a medical retirement, and that was that.

However, Filas believes his time spent in the military was not in any way in vain. Upon his discharge, he decided to go back to school. After transferring from Mesa Community College, Filas set is his sights on the humanities at ASU. He used GI Bill benefits to finance the rest of his bachelor’s degree in history, as well as his graduate degree.

“Though my Army career was cut short,” he said, “it is not an understatement to say that I likely would not have gone to college at all if it hadn't been for my military service.”

Filas made a U-turn from a life of physical discipline to one of intellectual rigor, but again: the army had prepared him for that.

“The discipline I gained helped me maintain a 4.0 GPA throughout my undergraduate and graduate programs,” he said. “My worldview has changed considerably since my time in the Army, but that experience will forever be a part of me.”

Filas is graduating this spring with a Master of Advanced Study in film and media studies, an online degree. He credits his success to a wide group of supporters. 

“I frequently leaned on my professors, academic adviser and ASU success coach —shout out to Michelle Ponce de Leon — for support," he said.

Here he talks a little more about why he chose ASU and his passion for film studies.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field?

Answer: Although I earned my bachelor’s in history, I always found myself exploring film whenever possible. My favorite undergraduate course was an introduction to cinema section offered at my local community college.

I learned about the development of the industry and got a taste of works across the spectrum, such as the historically significant “Birth of a Nation” (1915), wartime propaganda films from the Soviet Union, Hitchcock, Blaxploitation and a dabbling of foreign flicks — I quite enjoyed Javier Bardem’s performance in “The Sea Inside” (2004). I gladly jumped on every opportunity to study film since that pivotal course, which eventually led me to the film and media studies program at ASU.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I’m fascinated by how films shape public attitude and are, in turn, reflective of a culture at any given point. Any movie you look at says something about society at that point in time, like a historical time capsule. You can take, say, Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” (1963) and ask: 'What does this film say about Cold War anxiety, the notion of “female hysteria,” and post-WWII capitalism?' It gets really interesting when you start to think about what film scholars might say about today’s films 50 years from now.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Once I had decided I wanted to study film and media, the only question left was which school I wanted to attend. After doing my research and weighing the options, I picked ASU because it was one of the few colleges with a modern, respectable film and media studies program and it was conveniently all online.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Every single professor in the film and media studies program was dedicated to the students and ensuring we got the most out of each class. They really cared and made themselves available for questions or concerns. Additionally, I always received helpful feedback on assignments and felt the professors — and graders — actively contributed to and helped guide discussions.

I would like to give a special thanks to professors Aaron Baker, Katie Brown and Kevin Sandler for their passionate and tireless devotion to teaching film and media, and for their encouraging feedback on my essays and assignments. I would not have made it this far without their support.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Study what interests you and allow yourself to change your mind.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: Getting in the right headspace is crucial for studying or writing an essay and I personally love to listen to a little music in a quiet room while I work. I particularly like listening to instrumental movie scores — go figure — that are inspiring and uplifting to stay energized throughout the writing process.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I would be ecstatic to have the chance to work in the film or video game industry, but I’ll also be keeping an eye out for opportunities to teach about film and media.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I think education is essential to overcoming many of the world’s challenges, so I would invest that money into building schools that are accessible and tuition-free in underserved communities.

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