Hollywood meets Baylor via new professor

Assistant film professor Sandra Lee has worked on major-feature films including “P.S. I Love You,” “Chicago” and “Big Fish.” Lee joined the Baylor film and digital media department this semester.Courtesy Photo
Assistant film professor Sandra Lee has worked on major-feature films including “P.S. I Love You,” “Chicago” and “Big Fish.” Lee joined the Baylor film and digital media department this semester.
Courtesy Photo
By Elly Spencer

From the Oscars to the classroom, associate film professor Sandra Lee’s influence spans large arenas.

While this may be Lee’s first semester at Baylor, she is not a rookie.

Lee has worked with production, screenwriting and directing for major film companies ICM and Miramax. She has been part of the major motion pictures “P.S. I Love You,” “Chicago” and “Big Fish,” to name a few.

Lee’s teaching career came after her career with the big screen. She started at Colorado Film School, worked her way to department chair and oversaw 1,000 film productions every year.

“I was touched to be awarded Faculty of the Year over the entire institution in 2010,” Lee said.

Lee said her journey through the film industry began in the ’80s, when she was a child.

“I’ve been making films since the early ’80s on my dad’s camcorder, tripod and VHS recorder,” Lee said. “The film that made me want to become a filmmaker was ‘Star Wars,’ the first film I saw in a movie theater.”

Her passion for film continued through high school when she got her first job.

“On my 16th birthday I landed my dream job, walking directly into a movie theater and telling the manager I have waited 16 years to walk in these doors and apply,” Lee said. “He hired me on the spot, and that has been my strategy in the business ever since.”

Lee’s personal business strategy catapulted her into the film industry, landing her a job with Miramax Films in graduate school. There, she worked on the award-winning movie “Chicago,” giving her the opportunity to attend the Academy Awards.

Lee said after Miramax she grabbed her dream job in the story department for Columbia Pictures, where she worked on “Big Fish.”

“I have a deep passion for screenplay development,” Lee said.

Lee had the chance to realize a passion for teaching and mentoring individuals of the future film industry when she started working for the Colorado Film School.

“I have an equal passion for teaching and filmmaking, and I love my students,” Lee said. “I truly love them and appreciate their hard work and passion for study and film.”

Lee’s path to Baylor began this year, when Baylor’s film department took an interest in her and offered her a spot.

“The reason we brought her in was largely because of her industry experience working with major production companies in Hollywood,” said Chris Hansen, Baylor’s director of film and digital media. “Very few of us have worked for major production companies in Hollywood, so we felt bringing someone in that has would be really beneficial to our students.”

Hansen said she is a huge asset to Baylor’s film department because of her experience in the field. He said a professor’s experience in Hollywood translates to students and molds them into future screenwriters, producers or directors.

Students have also expressed their admiration for Lee and gratitude for her previous work in the film industry.

“Professor Lee’s previous experience and teaching has influenced me a lot this year,” said Plano sophomore Darien Wulf. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot about filmmaking in general and how the industry works as she’s taken us through the process.”

Lee approaches teaching with a hands-on style, assigning students production projects they have to work on all semester from start to finish.

“I feel like this has been most beneficial because at the end, I’ll have spent a lot of time working on a short film that I’m proud of,” Wulf said. “Because we went through all the steps, I have a big-picture understanding as well as an understanding of how the details work.”

Lee said she hopes to combine the Baylor mission in her teaching, as well as implementing real-world experience.

“The Baylor mission is my mission, and I teach every class with love as the theme,” Lee said “My goal is leadership, to lead strong leaders in Christ.”