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Faculty and Staff

The faculty at Biola’s School of Cinema and Media Arts are experienced professionals with award-winning work and degrees from some of the best film schools in the world. They bring academic rigor, cinematic prowess and spiritual insight to every classroom.


Tom Halleen

  • Dean, School of Cinema and Media Arts

Tom Halleen, former executive vice president of programming strategy, acquisitions and scheduling at AMC Networks, is the founding dean of Biola’s School of Cinema and Media Arts. Through his nearly 30 years as an entertainment industry executive, Halleen has experience in all divisions of programming national television networks including acquisitions, scheduling, development, production, operations, viewer services, research, legal, standards and practices, and promo/media planning. With...

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Dean Yamada

  • Professor, Cinema and Media Arts

“As an educator it is my job to challenge students to find their voices and then empower them to tell their stories.” Dean is an accomplished independent filmmaker, having directed two features and several short films in Tokyo, Berlin and Jakarta. His films have screened around the world at festivals such as the Venice Film Festival and Clermont-Ferrand and have won awards at the Rhode Island Int’l Film Festival, Heartland Film Festival and Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. 

An...

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James Hope

  • Assistant Professor, Cinema and Media Arts

James (Jim) Hope is a three-time Emmy nominated writer/producer who has worked on everything from feature films and network sitcoms to talk shows, game shows and animated web series. His credits include NBC’s Later, FOX’s Titus, ABC’s George Lopez, Nickelodeon’s Planet Sheen, and Disney’s Dog with a Blog. He is currently developing animated and live-action projects with various studios and networks. Jim is also a stand-up comedian who has made over fifty TV appearances. Member: TV Academy,...

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Michael Steffen

  • Associate Professor of Game Design & Interactive Media

“Game design is a powerful storytelling medium because players become part of a story and explore consequences of choices.” Michael is a narrative game designer prototyping his independent game, Telmahre, which explores using virtual space as a metaphor for a character’s mental state. In his first year at Biola, he has developed the new Game Design program for CMA. Michael has also taught game design, digital technology, digital art or computer science at several colleges.

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Abel Vang

  • Assistant Professor of Entertainment Producing

“Producers make movies happen!” Abel is an independent film producer, director, and writer. He won the Academy's 2011 Nicholl Fellowship award with his screenplay The Tiger’s Child, and has produced and sold several features. Abel worked on Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino as an assistant to casting, and as a 2nd unit on its documentary. He is passionate about mentoring students in faith and in filmmaking, and cultivating them into accomplished storytellers who know how to market to an...

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John Schmidt

  • Associate Professor, Cinema and Media Arts

"I love my students! My greatest desire is to see them excel not only in their chosen field, but in life." John has worked on over 40 films as director, writer, producer or editor. His feature credits include The Climb, Trade of Innocents, and Bobby Jones. In television: A Vow to Cherish, Road to Redemption and Something to Sing About. His feature screenplay, Mountain of Fire, is in pre-production. John teaches cinematography, editing, sound design and documentary. 

John Schmidt has...

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Angela Ang

  • Adjunct, Cinema and Media Arts

“Those hungry film students…always eager to know how to ‘kill it’ with sound.” Angela is an established sound editor whose work can be heard in films such as Tenet (2020), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) and Bill and Ted Face the Music (2020). Her unforeseen career in sound began when she was admitted into a tight crew of twelve film students who traveled with Professor-Director Dean Yamada to shoot his film in Japan. And the rest, as they say, is history. 

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William Hellmuth

  • Adjunct, Cinema and Media Arts

William is a director of photography who strives to create meaningful images that visually reinforce the story or themes of whatever he is shooting whether drama or docs. He has shot for brands like NERF, Blizzard, Sony, Honda, Listerine, and many more. He has a keen eye for detail and the work he delivers is always outstanding. Besides filmmaking, William enjoys spending time with his wife and kids and playing nerdy tabletop games. He teaches a course in Advanced Cinematography.

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Jonathan Hensley

  • Adjunct, Cinema and Media Arts

Jonathan Hensley is an award-winning trailer editor. Since graduating Biola in 2012, Jonathan has worked for some of the top entertainment marketing firms in Hollywood, editing trailers and TV spots for clients including Netflix, HBO, Sony, Universal, and Amazon Prime Video; as well as montages that aired during the 90th and 91st Academy Awards.

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Davy McCall

  • Adjunct, Cinema and Media Arts

Originally from wine country in Northern California, Davy has been writing, directing, and producing award winning films for over 10 years, and also happens to be a Biola CMA alumnus. Having recently graduated USC grad school for film and television production, Davy has had the opportunity to craft an original graduate level course at USC; and one of his first feature scripts will be going into production in fall 2021, filming in LA. Teaching is one of Davy’s greatest passions, and as a...

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Sydney Patapoff

  • Adjunct, Cinema & Media Arts

As a Director’s Guild of America member, Sydney manages the daily operations of network television shows such as How to Get Away with Murder, The Mindy Project and Life in Pieces. Within the AD department, she focuses on managing time, people and resources to complete productions according to budget and schedule and is responsible for the safety of the set, cast, and crew. Sydney teaches Production Coordination.  

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Brett McCracken

  • Adjunct, Cinema & Media Arts

Brett McCracken is a writer and journalist based in Southern California. He is the senior editor for The Gospel Coalition, and author of Hipster Christianity: When Church & Cool Collide (Baker, 2010), Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism & Liberty (Baker, 2013) and his most recent book Uncomfortable (Crossway, 2017). He has written for Huffington Post, CNN.com, The Princeton Theological Review, Mediascape, Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Relevant, IMAGE...

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Nancy Yuen

  • Associate Professor of Sociology

Nancy is a scholar of race and ethnicity in film, television and new media. Her book, Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism, examines the barriers actors of color face in Hollywood and how they creatively challenge stereotypes. She is a sought-after expert by news outlets such as the AP and New Republic and appears on numerous newscasts. She enjoys helping her students view media through a critical lens in her popular culture and visual sociology courses. 

She earned her bachelor’...

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Elmar Hashimov

  • Associate Professor of English

Elmar Hashimov researches and teaches writing, philology, rhetoric, digital literacy and film. Elmar’s work seeks to bridge the classical liberal arts tradition and current empirical research. His focus areas include genre studies, epistemic and ontological rhetoric, activity and network theories, qualitative research methods, European and (post-)Soviet literature and cinema, and artificial intelligence. He also directs the Rhetoric & Writing Center and coordinates Writing in the Disciplines...

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Justin Wells

  • Adjunct, Cinema and Media Arts

Justin Wells has an eclectic educational background, having studied Communications at Vanguard University of Southern California (B.A.), Philosophy at California State University Long Beach (M.A.), Theology and Art at Fuller Theological Seminary, and finally Art and Documentary Film at Art Center College of Design (M.F.A). He is a member of the International Cinematographer’s Guild and actively works in the business as a camera technician and documentarian. His recent book, How To Film Truth...

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Brian Alvarez

  • Strategic Initiatives Manager

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." Brian Alvarez ('13) is a creative artist who enjoys bringing ideas to life. At CMA, you can find him coordinating events, developing new marketing and recruitment strategies, and assisting the University with establishing a solid CMA online presence. He spends his downtime working on his film production company Stage1films, focusing on short-form video projects like weddings, commercials, and music videos. He is also...

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Sena Shin

  • Academic Coordinator

"My favorite part of the job is working with students so please stop by the office to say hello!" Sena brings administrative and organizational excellence to CMA as the program’s Academic Coordinator. Her coordination of CMA courses and curriculum support students during their time at school. Sena processes applications and assists students in enrolling into their first semester of courses. She also monitors student scholarships, answers questions about what courses are being offered and...

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Rachel Valente

  • Administrative Coordinator

“The School of Cinema and Media Arts is a place I want to give back to, because it gave so much to me”. Rachel is a recent alumna of Biola and graduated from CMA with a concentration in Production. Her passion and love for students, collaboration and involvement in the program led her to accept the position of Administrative Coordinator, in which she manages the program’s logistics, scheduling, events and engagement with both current and prospective students.

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Nate Bell

  • Internship Manager, School of Cinema and Media Arts

“I experience joy when a student discovers their God-given calling.” Nate is passionate about helping CMA students use their knowledge and creativity to find their vocation within the entertainment and media industry through internships, mentorships, and job placement. He assists students with film festivals and tracks and supports alumni as they progress in their careers. Nate is a practicing film critic for LA Weekly and loves chatting about all things cinematic. 

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Mark Spicer

  • Production Center Manager

“There is beauty in design and value in the process.” Mark grew up playing with audio adapters, home electronics, games, and electric guitars, disassembling and reassembling them to suit. Mark’s love for every level of gear fuels his role as Production Center Manager. He oversees studio facilities, system design, installation, and $3 million in media production equipment with a passion for making it all work for students. He loves talking shop about the latest equipment with anyone. 

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Isaac Stoops

  • Supervisor of Technical Operations

“Technology is the catalyst that spurs on creativity. It is never meant to replace it.” Isaac is no stranger to Biola as an alumnus of Computer Science, staff A/V Lighting technician and IT Helpdesk representative. Isaac’s background includes working at Disneyland, primarily programming resort-wide audio systems. Projects include Club 33, Galaxy's Edge, and Avengers Campus. At CMA, Isaac ensures students, faculty and staff have the technical resources needed to thrive in their calling.

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Josh Kozycz Curiel

  • Media Equipment Technician

“There are stories inside that only we can, and sometimes need to release”. Josh maintains the production equipment. If it breaks, he will find a way to fix it and keep equipment in the hands of the students. His passion for creating was birthed in the local scene, working on projects and shooting videos with artists all over LA County. Josh looks forward to working with students as they tell their stories through the visual medium of film, television, or game design.

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