he hit the books in high school, John Dilley (B.A., '02)
admits he only skimmed the paperwork when he applied to the Presidential
Scholars program. He was more focused on becoming a filmmaker, and SFSU's
cinema department, he knew, had an outstanding reputation.
After he was accepted, Dilley learned at an orientation about the extra
help he'd receive with scheduling classes, the cultural outings
and the chance to get to know his fellow scholars, many of whom would
be living on the same floor in his dorm.
"I remember looking at my mom and mouthing 'Oh, my God,'" Dilley
The program helped him in a lot of ways, but his friendship with fellow
Presidential Scholar Kit Fox (B.A., '03) was the biggest
benefit, he says.
Fox agrees. "We really enjoyed each other's sense of humor,"
he says. The two spent a lot of time talking about movies and eventually,
Fox says, Dilley inspired him to pursue a second major in cinema in addition
to his coursework in Japanese.
Fox worked as the producer of Dilley's thesis project, a short film
titled "Little Failures," which appropriately enough is about
Fox handled the behind-the-scenes details, from ordering actors'
lunches to making sure the camera batteries were charged. "I couldn't
have made the film without Kit," Dilley says. "He became one
of my closest friends and my producer—you can't get any better
With Fox's help, Dilley achieved his dream of making a film that
would reach a wider audience than his friends in the dorm.
Dilley still remembers the call from Sundance during his senior year.
"Little Failures" would screen at the prestigious film festival
in two months, the caller told him.
"The whole time I was wondering, whose voice is this?" he
says. "I was racking my brain, going through all my friends and
wondering, who could be cruel enough to do this to me?"
Dilley was certain it was a hoax, telling no one about the call until
a week later when he received an official notice from Sundance in his
For Fox, the festival invite was icing on the cake. "I was incredibly
proud of John's film before we got the news," he says.
Now Dilley can say he feels proud of Fox's work. Recently he produced
a short Fox wrote and directed as part of independent study during his
final semester at State. The two just wrapped up final editing on the
film, which explores issues of racism. Fox hopes it will receive some
local festival play this year.
Right now they have no plans of quitting the day jobs which support their
creative endeavors. Dilley is a house manager at San Francisco's
Film Arts Foundation, which offers classes and seminars for filmmakers.
He supervises teachers, gives talks and helps filmmakers obtain funding.
Fox edits Japanese comic books at Viz, LLC, a San Francisco-based publisher
of Japanese animation and comics for English-speaking audiences.
Are more film collaborations in the works?
"Definitely," Fox says. "We want to keep the momentum
going. The question is always what to do next."
If Fox's new film meets with success, the former scholars will only
have each other to blame. The title of Fox's film is "Culpability."