Remembering Cinema Department Fixture Doug Punslan

By Meyer Gorelick

Staff Writer

Doug Punsalan, a beloved fixture of the City College Cinema Department, talented teacher, film producer and a man who dedicated his life to film, died suddenly at his home on April 6,of undetermined causes, although early reports suggest it was due to a heart attack.

Punsalan graduated from the City College film production department in the 1970s, and began working in the cinema lab during the 1980s. In the 1990s he became an instructor in the department, passing his encyclopedic knowledge of and passion for the art of film onto his countless students. 

Punsalan made several movies, including “Something Scary,” a feature anthology film he made in the late 80s that stands out as his seminal work among colleagues.

“It was a series of short horror stories with a twist and had amazing production value for what the budgets were. Doug was an unsung hero,” said longtime friend and fellow Cinema Department instructor Debbie Brubaker.

“He had a great sense of humor,” Technical Instructional Assistant Jing Endo said.

“Doug was incredibly funny, often catching one completely off guard with a solid pun or an obscure reference,” Cinema Professor Caroline Blair wrote in a tribute sent out in a newsletter.

“I had the gift of a long overdue conversation with him for an hour and a half on March 9th before the school closed due to the pandemic,” Brubaker said. “I had my students watching a feature documentary, and then slipped out and went to the Issue Room where the equipment gets checked out as that was Doug’s domain when he wasn’t in a classroom. We talked and talked and caught up and laughed a lot. I am so grateful to have had that time with him before he left us.”

Punsalan is survived by his nephew in San Diego, and is mourned by all those he touched during his nearly 40 year tenure as a cinema department community cornerstone.

A memorial will be held in fall when people are able to gather in person, and the date will be announced when it is set.

“He may have passed alone, but he was never alone in spirit. He has many people who loved and admired him. Me included,” Brubaker said.

The Guardsman