24 Frames A Second: Alexander Payne – A Life in Pictures

In contemporary American cinema, I would argue that there are few filmmakers as little known as Alexander Payne given the impact he’s had and the accolades he’s acquired over his 20+ year career.

Films I consider to be classics or modern masterpieces, such as About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants, and Nebraska—which have for the most part been box offices and critical successes—are bizarrely still well-kept secrets or little talked about, and for reasons I’m not all too sure of. One possible explanation is that unlike the wide majority of filmmakers, he depicts characters as vividly realized humans with good and also bad qualities. Alexander Payne is what I call “the master of the comedy/drama” as no other director can meld the two genres in a way that’s cohesive and as poignant as when he does it. If you were to look for directors with similar sensibilities, you would have to go back to the 70’s with the likes of Hal Ashby, Bob Rafelson, and Peter Bogdanovich.

Since that time, much has changed, made obvious by studios leaning towards tentpole films and the mad rush on the part of filmmakers to television, but it fascinates me that the stories that Alexander Payne tells are so successful, at least enough to get the next one made. Most people look towards films as a form of escapism, however, the reason I love Payne’s films so much is because of his uncanny ability to put a mirror towards reality while at the same time making it laugh out loud hilarious and painfully sad. Other than the fact that his films turn a profit, he has been able to continue making what his sensibilities lead him to because he consistently evokes career best performances from his cast and crew, leading to wide critical acclaim. For anyone unfamiliar with his work, I highly recommend that you explore his filmography for a truly unique experience.

Written by: Qasim Hussaini

Behind The Mic: Kyle Saunders

Unafraid to break the status quo, Kyle Saunders has made a name for himself as a family man, with his brothers, and as KCR’s Sports Director.

At first glance, a stranger may see KCR Sports Director Kyle Saunders’ flip flops and Pike fraternity polo and write him off to be like every other stereotypical white frat boy we’ve seen in movies like Animal House and Neighbors, but that could not be farther from the truth. 

Born and raised in Sacramento, California along with his young sister, Kyle spent a majority of his youth with his mother’s huge immediate family. Family values are the basis of the loving, caring, radiating aura that Saunders gives off wherever he roams. If you happen to see Saunders at any time on campus, you can feel the positive energy emitting from his being. 

With his father in and out of the picture, Saunders has always been grateful for the bonds he shares with his family.

He even goes so far as to say that he does not have friends, only family. This sentiment is something many people think they believe in, but it is the only truth Saunders knows. 

Growing up without much of a father figure, Saunders chose to fill that role himself and be that for his younger sister. Being overprotective at times, it caused some tension in their relationship during their teens. However, it paid off well as they now have a solid relationship that is as budding as ever. 

So, why would someone whose family means so much to them decide to leave their hometown and go to a school on the opposite end of the state? Simply for a fresh start and to add more people into his family. 

Saunders was on a recruiting trip to play basketball at UCSD and had some free time during his trip, so he decided to check out SDSU’s campus. Now, he was unsure if his academics were good enough to get him into the school, but after receiving an acceptance letter that doubt was gone forever. He found a new home and was excited to start a new family. 

Saunders played football, basketball, and golf throughout his high school career. Those teams gave him many of the friends he still has to this day, while also fostering a sense of community for him. You could say sports are a passion for Saunders, but a better assessment would be that the familial aspect of sports was something he always admired. 

Sports tend to instill a work ethic into athletes that often translates into other aspects of life. One thing very evident about Saunders is that he is not afraid to try new things and he will persist until he is successful. He even picked up surfing last May to start off his first summer in San Diego. With nothing but a goal and a foam board, Saunders kept trying and can now say, “I’m pretty nice.”

Now, even with the best work ethic, doubts still arise. Living hours away from your friends and family can be difficult when you’re a freshman that’s used to knowing everybody, that now does not really know anybody. On top of that, one of his closest high school instructors passed away from a surprising heart attack only a couple of weeks into the school year. However, that frustration and those doubts all went away one afternoon, in Chipotle. 

Sitting by himself, weeks out from KCR’s first meeting, Saunders was approached by two young men who were also rushing at the time and wanting to befriend Saunders. Austin Lemak was one of the two young men that approached him and they ended up becoming pledge brothers for SDSU’s Pike fraternity. Unfortunately, Lemak passed away this past February from Oral Cancer. Though their relationship was short-lived they felt like lifelong brothers. Lemak’s impact on Saunders is a testament to how meaningful any relationship can be no matter how long it lasts. It also helped him gain a whole new family through his fraternity brothers.

We all know the stigma behind fraternities, but Saunders proves that there’s more than what you see in the media.

Choosing to prioritize his individuality and not compromise his pride, Pike was the place for him. Working around his schedule played a big part, but the Miracle League of San Diego that the frat volunteers for made the final sale. Saturdays during the semester, members of Pike go out and assist children who are disabled in their own baseball league. They help the players hit and field the ball and hold their hands while running around the bases. Growing up with a cousin with autism, this meant a lot to Saunders. 

Photo Credit: Alexis Camel

Their charitable work sold Saunders, but he was also enamored in the foundation he was able to build. The fall of 2016 was his freshman year at state and his pledge class was the first to have an actual house on campus. Saunders had a vision and along with his brothers, brought it to fruition. This meant that he could and would play an integral part in creating a legacy for the fairly young fraternity.

Serving as Director of Programming while also having the top GPA of his house during his sophomore and junior year, Saunders found ways to make the most out of the money they had without having members pay exponential dues. His favorite memory of serving that position was PikeStock, a homemade, makeshift festival that opened its doors to SDSU students that were not even in the fraternity. Complete with LED lights, CO2 spray, it was one for the ages, to say the least.

Now frats are fun and all, but Saunders says, “There’s so much more to me and what I do than drinking plastic vodka on a Tuesday.”

KCR is one facet of his identity that he takes a lot of pride in. With his sports career now over he already knew he wanted to continue in the industry of sports through our own KCR after being sold during freshman orientation.

His first show was KT Sportstalk with Tony Zarate and it actually garnered him a Top Sports Show award in its first season. Shadowing the Sports Director at the time, Saunders wanted each and every opportunity to immerse himself in the Aztec world of sports. He has covered every sport on campus from Women’s Water Polo to Men’s Baseball. Writing, announcing, and whatever else the sports department offered the opportunity to do. The most interesting coverage he did was a women’s water polo game which he had never watched before but was utterly impressed by their competitiveness. “Head Coach Sydney Crawford is awesome, and it was intense man. They’re pulling hair, grabbing each other, scratching each other under the water, talking shit, it was super fun,” said Saunders.

After a full year in KCR, Saunders believed he was ready for the Sports Director position, but the new management at the time believed otherwise. Without the position, he had worked so hard for, he decided to take a step back and venture into sportswriting for The Daily Aztec. He enjoyed his time covering football on the sidelines as a beat reporter, but he figured out that writing was not as fun for him as what he had done with KCR. He came back the following semester and did his own sports talk show yet again.

This past January, Saunders finally got his shot at the Sports Director position. When handed the reins he was left with more problems than benefits. However, the networking king that is Kyle Saunders was able to use the connections he made before to reconnect relationships and gain the trust of the sports teams on campus. After only a semester on the job, he believes the department is doing well. “It’s a lot better. I think it’s a lot more transparent,” said Saunders.

Where does Saunders want to go next?

He’s discussed opportunities with the San Diego Padres and he dreams of being on Sportscenter, but all he wants to do is be happy and surround himself with good people. “I’d love to be crafting up highlights all day and interviewing athletes, that’d be so cool. Traveling with a team would be really cool. I won’t say no to anything at this point,” he goes on to say, “I’m just doing what makes me happy and surrounding myself with good people.”

Saunders is an example of what having strong values and a good work ethic can do to your life and to the lives of those you interact with. He will acquire his Bachelor’s in Journalism and Media Studies in May 2020, but he’s already found success in his own right. Saunders said, “Success would be, a happy group of people around me.” If you see him on campus you can see just how successful he is. A lifelong fan of the Sacramento Kings, Saunders, and his hometown team are both on the rise to the top.

Photo Credit: Alexis Camel
Written by: Alexis Camel

Sunflower Seeds: Comfort Zones

In this seed, I’m working on getting out of my comfort zone. But just for a second, let’s think about the Cheesecake Factory…

Every time I go to the Cheesecake Factory I always order the Godiva Cheesecake. Not that anyone cares as to what my order is, but this is a habit for me and I’m too scared to try something else that I might not like.

I find myself eager to try new things and see new places, but I also get very comfortable with what works. The whole idea of it ain’t broke, don’t fix it kind of sticks with me. However, I must say that I have been getting better at stepping out of my comfort zone especially in this the past year.

This past March when I went to New York, I didn’t know anyone that was a part of the group. People had familiar faces, but I didn’t really know these people on a personal level. I’m not going to lie at first, I was a little nervous since I ended up getting lost on the subway alone, but I was able to make some great friends from that trip. I saw a city I had never been to with fresh faces. 

I usually don’t make the first move with guys, but within the few times I have, I have been pretty successful. I haven’t had a Cinderella story from my reaching out, but I have had a few fun dates from these. Besides spontaneous trips and flirty moves, I have been saying yes to a lot more in life, and I find myself enjoying life even more. I have done things that I never thought I would do, and I couldn’t be happier! The next time I go get a desert, I might just branch out. 

Written by: Nina Capuani

Sunflower Seeds: Summer Aspirations

With summer here, I have done some serious self-reflecting over the past school year and now have some summer aspirations.

I couldn’t be happier with how my third year of college went, but I am eager to accomplish more. In the past, I used a timeline for events in my life that should have or will happen at certain ages. For example, I expected to know exactly what I wanted to do with my major/career by the time I was a sophomore, but now I am going into my senior year and I still debate changing my major at least once a month. It’s not too practical to live your life on a time line, so now I just like to set different goals for myself! Therefore, I thought this summer would be the perfect time to set and accomplish some personal goals!

First and foremost, my number one goal is work full time.

As an extremely broke college student, this will really benefit my wallet. I’m currently in the fourth and final stage of interviewing for an internship, so if I get it I will be accomplishing this goal! If not, it’s not the end of the world but I really need to pick the slack and work a job or two. Since I am going into my senior year and being 21, I would like to not worry about expenses like going out or going to concerts. Besides having extra cash for fun spending, I want to have enough saving to be able to afford rent right out of college. I don’t know what is going to happen in a year, and I really don’t want to have to move back home to Chicago. I am just trying to look out for my future self!

A second goal I have is to travel more!

If I am working full time it might be hard to travel, but I am positive I can work something out. I’m not necessarily trying to go out on international rendezvous’, but I would like to see more of the West Coast. I have never been to the Grand Canyon and its not that far away! I would to do more fun weekend trips even if it’s to places near San Diego like Julian, CA. However, I do want to go back to New York at some point in early June, so hopefully I can come up with enough money for that!

Lastly, I just want to have a ton of fun!

This will be my last summer ever as an undergrad, and I want to have as much fun as possible before I’m in the real world. In my seed about New York I stated that I lived in an atrocious, filthy, and cockroach infested apartment this past summer. I lived with 6 girls in a tiny two-bedroom apartment. All of our twin beds touched because we didn’t have much room, but that wasn’t really a problem compared to all the others. Besides it being filled with cockroaches, it was abnormally hot (sometimes I would sleep outside by the pool because there were less bugs and it was cooler there). Anything and everything that you think could go wrong did. Even though the living situation wasn’t ideal, I had the time of my life! It was the most fun summer I have ever had given that I had cockroaches for roommates. I met so many incredible people and explored. I hope to do that again, but without the bugs of course!

All in all I think it is good to motivate yourself and have different goals. Mine really come down to making money, traveling, and fun! That’s not too much to ask for and they all relate to one and another, so I’m sure ill accomplish them. Weather your goals are big or small you really can accomplish them if you put your mind to it!

Written by: Nina Capuani