The film minor needs a major revamp

By on April 25, 2018

When I was taking one of the first film classes I needed for my minor, there was always this one student that would make the same joke every class. He would put on his best intellectual art school teacher-esq voice, mocking the professor, get in front of the class and say, “Today class, we’ll be talking about how Czechoslovakian artistic depression periods in the 1930’s influenced the age of the 1970’s,” and continue with some outlandish rant.

He would say it every class to a different person. Unfortunately, the humor of it was lost around the third time it was said, and I resented him every time he delivered the punchline. As much as I hated it though, he had a point.

I became a film minor to learn the techniques of creative storytelling, to learn what the journalism major couldn’t offer. The appreciation of art is of course the first step of this process, but it seems like it’s the only part offered for the minor.

Film, telvision and media majors can of course take the academic and the hands-on classes, getting the perfect mixture of opportunities to continue their passion for film and their desire to be filmmakers. Anyone with a different major that is simply taking it as a minor, however, is stuck to the course materials.

According to the “FTM Minor” page on the official Quinnipiac website, the Quinnipiac School of Communications offers to, “broaden your appreciation for visual storytelling as an art form,” and specifically to, “familiarize you with the basics of screenwriting and film production.” You would imagine the university would give you hands-on experience using all the university has to offer, so despite being a film minor, you still retain the “Film Student Experience.” You would expect that for the amount you pay, you’re getting the best. You would think.

The reality of it is sitting at a desk and discussing the same twelve movies over and over, going into what makes them as iconic as they’ve become. That seems valid for one or two courses, studying the history and analytics of the film industry. But that is all there is.

There are four entire classes solely focusing on the historical values of film, and only one where we get to interact. I get it, knowledge is power. However, there is only one course that offers to input your own creativity and produce a final product, that being of a 12-20-page script at the end of the year. We don’t even get to do anything with them. They just collect dust under our massive text books about European drama of the 1960’s.

With FTM 102: “Understanding Film”, we get the basics of what makes a film, a film. Then we take FTM 240, which is basically the same class. And if you take 102 and 240 at the same time like I did, you’re spending 6 hours a week learning, and then relearning, the same material while simultaneously wondering when you’ll be able to get your hands on a boom pole, let alone an FS5 or C100 camera.

There is a line from Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that I always look back to when making academic decisions. It’s where Indy is riding Mutt’s motorcycle through a library and Harrison Ford’s line is, “If you want to be a good archaeologist, you have to get out of the library!”

The same goes for filmmaking. Studying it won’t be particularly useful if you aren’t out in the field using what you learned. Otherwise that information is just being wasted on someone who hasn’t been given the opportunity to put it to use.

Rather than just complaining about my problems, I’m going to suggest a plausible plan to fix the neglected minor.

Option one, the condensing method. I say we keep the current courses that consist solely of sitting, but we combine them into two classes instead of the four we have now. I propose we start “Understanding & Analyzing Film,” and a single “History of Film” course. None of this “Part 1” nonsense. What we’re left with now is screenwriting, and two empty spots to fill in whatever your film minor heart desires.

There are a few problems with this, I’ll admit. If you haven’t taken the prerequisite, getting into a higher class will be nonexistent.

My other option, and the one I believe in the most, is creating two divisions of the FTM minor; the film scholar minor, and the film production minor. We can leave the Scholar minor alone entirely using what we have now. We also create a new FTM course that is designed to be as hands-on as possible for someone that isn’t taking a major in film, but still wants to maintain their interest in the technical side of film production, rather than just filmmaking as we know it now.

This isn’t a new concept either. If you look at other majors Quinnipiac offers, they give you the choice to go down a few different paths. If you browse through our website and look at the fine arts minor page, the School of Communications allows you to take, “three separate tracks,” which, “enable you to engage with subject matter on terms that match your personal goals.”

Being able to have a say in what your classes are focused on should be a belief shared within the School of Communications.

All I’m saying is if the film majors get to hang glide three hundred feet above the ground, gopros around their heads, soaring above giraffes and zebras in South Africa, I should be able to take one lousy documentary film course as an FTM minor.

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