By Grace Levy
Marin School of the Arts is notorious for its insightful professors, abundant resources, and successful graduates. Peter Ornstein, MSA director and film instructor, is one of the many reasons to celebrate this exciting program.
You may pass him in the hallways, see him in the MSA office, or even have him as a teacher without knowing his unique and interesting story. Ornstein, prior to his job with MSA, worked with the well-known and honorable news channel CNN, building his way up from a videotape editor to the news director and just about everything in between in the span of a year.
“In those days CNN paid nothing. All you had to do was be able to walk and breathe at the same time,” recalled Ornstein, who joined CNN six months after they went on air.
He has worked with Larry King, the show Crossfire, and many other world renowned people and publications.
“I made my own adventure,” Ornstein said as he shared memories of reporting the O.J. Simpson trial, Hurricane Katrina, and traveling overseas to cover news in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine.
“In life, Mr. O is very humbling,” said Bryson Silvestri, Novato High senior and MSA film and video student. “He’s a gentleman.”
That much is true, as he will casually tell exhilarating stories in the calmest, composed state.
“I was shot at three times in Palestine. Now granted one time we ran a road block so we kind of deserved it, I guess,” said an unperturbed Ornstein.
Ornstein is fond of his memories building up CNN from its birth to its popular present state.
“It made my life really interesting. I wouldn't change it for the world because it was a grand adventure,” said Ornstein.
After his days directing news, Ornstein decided he wanted to become a teacher and in 2009, MSA was lucky enough to snag him.
“As a teacher, he knows a lot more than you would think about film and just media in general and as a person he also knows a lot more than you would think and has some of the funniest jokes and witty little puns,” remarked Silvestri. “You’ve got to get to know him and he’ll open up. One of my favorite teachers at Novato High.”
Praise for Ornstein is not a hard thing to find around campus, a respect and appreciation for the cinematic arts teacher is evident.
“I think Mr.Ornstein is a mentor who can help us through any of our struggles,” remarked junior Chadd Alciati. “He cares about us and wants us to succeed. He’s very knowledgable and creative.”
His class prepares students for a career in film, whatever the job may be.
“Four years ago when I first came into this class I knew nothing about filmmaking and now I’ve applied to colleges where they're going to let me study that and potentially make a career out of that and in four years I feel confident that Mr. Ornstein has prepared me to do so,” exclaimed Silvestri.
When asked about how he managed to have such a successful, exciting life Ornstein stated, “I guess I just never wanted to be dying and think ‘man I wish I had done (fill in the blank)’ and so I went out and did as many things as I could and I continue to just fill in the blank.”