Inside the Department: Film Studies

By Kenji Koyama
rutorchnews@gmail.com

Though film studies is currently offered only as a minor for Roosevelt University students, the up-and-coming program may one day gain enough momentum to become a major.
The film studies minor is a six-course program that offers classes taught by professors from different disciplines. Students interested in minoring in film studies must take two core classes — Fundamentals of Film Studies and Film History — in addition to four electives that students can select from a list of eight courses.
The university’s website explains, “The core courses in the curriculum highlight the particular ways in which film engages its content, the varieties of interpretive elements and strategies that film entails, and the relationship between the historical development of the medium and the histories of the cultures in which it is embedded.”
With the proper interest and classes, the minor can turn into a major, possibly attracting students who want a degree in film studies to the university.
“Formally, the film studies minor began in the fall of 2013,” said Larry Howe, department chair of Literature and Languages, in which the minor is housed. “We had been offering film studies course for quite a number of years. Film History, Fundamentals of Film Studies and occasional elective courses like Shakespeare and Film and others.”
Film courses, in general, had their start at the university about two years ago.
Howe said that many students expressed an interest in film courses, but it was difficult to fit these courses into the English literature curriculum.
To amend this, Howe worked with other faculty members to brainstorm how to accommodate all students interested in film studies and “to invite more faculty in the university to participate, because there are faculty in history, philosophy and other disciplines who also used film quite a bit in their courses,” he said.
When asked about the possibility of turning this minor into a major, Howe said, “I think right now we want to make sure that the minor is solid. If it were to become a major, we would probably have to look into hiring more faculty who would be more dedicated to it.”
Internship opportunities for film studies minors may be in the works for the future, according to Howe. He cited the Chicago International Film Festival, held each fall, as a potential source for students to gain experience.
“There is a lot of work to be done in the summer and leading up to that event that I think would be an incredible learning experience,” he said.
Although the minor has just begun to set sail, students are already taking an interest in it.
“I like the technical aspects of talking about film, as well as the history behind film,” said Jada Bean, senior and English major. “I like film courses because it’s a little more difficult to interpret films compared to literature, in my opinion.”
Students looking to take film classes can ask their advisors for course descriptions when signing up for fall 2014 courses. Students are encouraged to speak with Howe and other English professors such as Ann Brigham, Regina Buccola and Janet Wondra, who have all recently taught film courses.
“I think it’s an important field because I’m a lover of the arts,” Bean added. “If students enjoy watching movies, then it’s a possibility that they would enjoy taking a film course to understand the history and evolution of the film industry and the technicalities behind filmmaking, and hopefully that will spark their interest in the field.”

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