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Villa Maria College Ends Year Leading Area in Film Industry Training, Actor Bill Fichtner Set to Deliver 58th Commencement Address to Recognize Villa’s Role

Villa Maria College is a center of excellence at the intersection of the blossoming Buffalo film industry and the local workforce needed to support its success. Villa has expanded considerably its programs producing high-quality, high-value practitioners and technicians to support to burgeoning Buffalo film movement.

In a fitting way of acknowledging Villa’s work to support, advance and engage the film industry, actor Bill Fichtner will honor the school’s progress and deliver the commencement address to the Class of 2023 on Saturday, May 20, 2023.

Villa Maris is empowering students with the practical skills needed to excel in the film industry.

  • The academic program centered in the film industry is the College’s Digital Filmmaking program. The only practical, hands-on filmmaking program in WNY.
  • Villa boasts the area’s only two professional certificate programs in filmmaking: On-set Grip & Electric and On-Set Production Assistant. These are taught on sight at Buffalo Film Works, certificate program students get to learn from industry experts in a professional film studio. Upon completion of the workshops, students will be prepared to work on the sets of films bring shot in Buffalo.
  • Villa Maria has partnered with Buffalo FilmWorks on our certificate programs, the largest major motion picture film studio in Upstate New York. BFW offers 120,000+ square feet of stage space and 60,000 square feet of flex space for production support. Their stages are geared for blockbuster-scale movies and television series productions. In addition to our certificate programs, our students get special access to their space for teaching and learning purposes.
  • Villa Maria has partnered with Addison Henderson, an actor, director, producer, and writer from Buffalo. The College was a presenting sponsoring of the premier event when his most recent film, G.O.D., premiered in at North Park Theatre last summer. Henderson was a special guest at this year’s VillaCon, the College’s one-day gaming and film convention.

This year’s ceremony will be held in-person in the College’s auditorium, where 86 graduates will receive degrees in business, fine arts, applied science, and more. In addition to recognizing its graduates, Villa Maria will present an honorary degree in fine arts to actor, director, and producer William Fichtner. Following the acceptance of an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, Fichtner will address the Class of 2023, their guests, and the rest of the College community.

“Commencement is an important day at Villa Maria College,” said Dr. Matthew Giordano, Villa’s president. “We gather in celebration of everything our students have worked for and everything that they have achieved as Vikings. This year, we are excited to welcome Mr. Fichtner to campus, underscoring Villa’s role in Buffalo’s film ecosystem.”

On May 19, the evening before Commencement, Fichtner will attend a private event at the College being held to honor Villa Maria ongoing commitment to the Buffalo film Industry. During the event, Fichtner will screen student work, offer his feedback, and meet with guests. “This is an incredible opportunity for our filmmaking students to share their work with someone who knows the business from all angles — acting, directing, producing, writing and more,” said Sarah Mann, assistant professor of digital filmmaking. “Their films will be assessed by a true professional with decades of experience, and the quality of the work is sure to benefit from it.”

Having appeared in a wide range of films along with television and theater roles over the course of his career, William Fichtner continues to carve out a distinctive reputation as one of our most versatile and talented actors, whether in comedy or drama, action or character study. He is one of Hollywood’s most distinct and familiar faces.

Currently, Fichtner plays Leo Nicoletti in ABC’s crime-drama, The Company You Keep. Other recent work includes Hypnotic alongside Ben Affleck, 88 directed by Thomas Ikimi, The Birthday Cake, The Space Between, Jack & Josie, Armed, Finding Steve McQueen, American Wrestler: The Wizard, The Neighbor, and many more. He can be found in a slew of television shows, including Entourage, Mom, Prison Break, and more. Throughout his 30-plus-year career, Fichtner has also amassed a handful of stage credits. Pivoting to the other side of the camera, Fichtner directed, produced, co-wrote, and starred in his feature film Cold Brook, shot mostly in his hometown of Buffalo, New York.

Interviews, either before, during or after commencement, are available with Bill Fichtner, Buffalo Film Commissioner Tim Clark, and Villa’s President Matt Giordano.

For more information on Commencement 2023, visit