In Memoriam: Jameson Goldner, Professor Emeritus of Cinema

Wednesday, October 09, 2019
Photo of a student and Jameson Goldner looking at an analog motion-picture camera
Photo by Gino de Grandis

Professor Emeritus Jameson “Jim” Goldner, a founder of the School of Cinema, died September 30. He was 81.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Goldner studied film at UCLA alongside Francis Ford Coppola. He worked on low-budget films and major studio productions before accepting a tenure-track position at SF State in 1963. At the time, film was a nascent subject in higher education and still a relatively young medium.

Originally based in the Television, Film and Radio Department, Goldner joined other faculty to establish the Department of Film, now known as the School of Cinema, in 1967. Cinema is now one of SF State’s most prestigious programs, listed by The Hollywood Reporter as one of the best film schools in the U.S. in each of the last five years. Earlier this year, Variety listed SF State as one of the best film schools in the world.

Goldner retired in 2014 after 52 years of teaching. His 100-plus films include the Holocaust memoir “When I Was 14: A Survivor Remembers,” which won Best Documentary at the 2001 California Independent Film Festival, aired on the Sundance Channel and screened annually in his Film and the Holocaust class. At one time, Goldner was hired by Lawrence Radiation Lab to set up a filmmaking program and produced movies for Atoms for Peace. He remained a stickler for analog film, requiring beginning students to draw on blank celluloid.

Colleagues said Goldner was a beloved faculty member, known for his affection for students.

“He was gentle but possessed a rigorous teaching method and a sense of humor that infused his very being,” Cinema Professor Steven Kovacs said. “He had a penchant for puns that he delivered with mischievous glee. No faculty meeting concluded without a comment from Jim that broke the tension, made his colleagues laugh and put the issue in proper perspective. Generations of students sang his praises.”

Sarah K. Hellström (B.A., Cinema, ’04) kept in touch with Goldner long after graduating.

“As a young Cinema student focusing on writing and directing back in the early 2000s, Jim made me feel like he really believed in me,” Hellström said. “This was his magic — making students feel special and truly seen.”

Goldner is survived by his wife Geri Rossen, daughter Naomi and grandchildren Leon, Marcel and Aliza May.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to SF State’s Jim Goldner Filmmaking Scholarship. If a total of $25,000 is raised for the fund, the University will permanently endow the scholarship for future generations. Send donations by check noting the Goldner scholarship to University Development, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132, or online at

The School of Cinema will host a memorial in Goldner’s honor Friday, December 6, at 7 p.m. in Coppola Theatre (Fine Arts 101). Reception: 6 p.m.


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