Faculty Focus: Jose Cardenas


BGSU lecturer helps direct 2017 horror film ‘Asylum of Darkness’

By Tessa Phillips

BGSU Senior Lecturer Jose Cardenas has been interested in TV and films for as long as he can remember. “When I’d watch TV, I can recall wondering how the images and audio came through this box,’’ Cardenas said. ‘‘I was curious how it actually worked.”

It’s only fitting, then, that Cardenas has centered his lengthy career around various elements of film production. While he’s been with the University’s Department of Media Production and Studies for 16 years, he’s worked as a camera operator and director of photography on movie sets for nearly double that amount of time.


One of Cardenas’ most recent film projects was serving as a second unit director on the 2017 horror film “Asylum of Darkness.”

The movie, shot in Columbus, Ohio, follows a patient who wakes up in a mental institution and manages to escape; only to encounter an equally disturbing, supernatural outside world.

According to Cardenas, the opportunity to work on the movie was all but thrust upon him.

“I’ve known the director of the film, Jay Woelfel, since college, and he asked me if I was free to film the second unit scenes from ‘Asylum,’” Cardenas said.

He accepted the offer.

His responsibilities while working on the film mainly involved shooting action sequences, such as pick-ups and stunts, and shooting effect shots.

Cardenas recalled the lasting impression he made on the effects crew during his first day working on set.

“I was working with the talent, stunt crew and a former student of mine, Allie Toman,” Cardenas said. “Later, Allie commented to me that the effects crew loved me because prior to the beginning of the day it was unclear how this particular scene was going to be staged. Apparently, although I do not actually recall this, I came in and said ‘I want this, this and this—it will look awesome, trust me—everybody get ready to make a picture!’”

Overall, the movie’s production lasted roughly a year, which included finalizing the script, casting talent and finding locations to film certain scenes. Post production, which involved editing and searching for potential outlets, lasted over year.

Although helping to direct ‘‘Asylum of Darkness’’ is one of Cardenas’ most recent film accomplishments, he said his favorite on-set experience was when he worked as director of photography on the 2010 horror film “Closed for the Season,” which was also directed by Jay Woelfel.

“My favorite aspect of working as director of photography was collaborating with the director to find the best manner of illustrating the subtext of the scenes,” Cardenas said. “This is accomplished through choice of camera angles, choice of lens, decision of camera movement—or no movement—along with the manner of movement and, of course, lighting.”

Cardenas admitted that he’s always taken a special interest in horror films, and as a kid would often stay up late on Sunday nights to watch “Chiller Theatre,” a now-cancelled show that aired classic horror movies.

Given his obvious love for film, no one was surprised when Cardenas graduated from high school in Portsmouth, Ohio, immediately enrolled in the Ohio State University’s film productions program.

Cardenas, who received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from OSU, “loved every minute of his college experience.”

However, when asked if he’d always intended to work on a college campus one day, Cardenas said it was never part of the plan.

“I started out teaching a class in what was then the Department of Telecommunications at BGSU, and then I was asked to teach a class in the Department of Theatre and Film,” Cardenas said. “Ultimately I was asked to teach full-time in the School of Media and Communications.”

According to Cardenas, he loves being able to share his knowledge with his students, both in the classroom as well as through BG Reel Productions, a student media organization for which he is the faculty advisor.

“They are the most amazing, hard-working and fun group of students—it is a privilege to be their advisor,” Cardenas said.

In a way, his students are privileged, too—to be able work with an advisor who has such a wealth of knowledge regarding the film industry.