New specialization in film making added to cinema studies program

Trevor Tyle, Staff Intern

In addition to the many new changes happening on campus this year, the cinema studies program at Oakland University is adding a brand new Bachelor of Arts degree —specialization in filmmaking.

According to Andrea Eis, director of cinema studies at Oakland, the degree will combine existing filmmaking classes at Oakland with a new set of courses that focus on film history and theory, providing students with the basics of filmmaking. In contrast to the Bachelor of Arts in cinema studies, which concentrates on the critical studies aspect of film, this new degree will give students the opportunity to work hands-on in the art of film production.

After completing the required film history, theory, methods and introductory courses, students may digress into many of the newly added filmmaking electives, which will focus on developing skills in areas of film production such as screenwriting, cinematography and editing, among others. A capstone project specific to the degree is also being introduced and will give students the opportunity to create their own thesis films.

“Students like myself that are more interested in the filmmaking and production aspects of the industry rather than critical analysis and history can concentrate more of our efforts in developing these skills and taking advantage of the range of filmmaking classes Oakland has to offer, while still getting the well-rounded experience of studying history and theory,” senior Bushra Varachia siad.

When speaking about the variety of skills focused on with the new specialization, Eis revealed that students learn “all parts of the production cycle for a film—pre-production, production and post-production.”

She believes what students acquire from having experience in all areas of film production will both prepare them for a career in film and enhance the quality of their work.

“In our program, [students’] education in good filmmaking practice is enriched by having to understand and work all of the roles that it takes to make a film,” Eis said.

The amount of skills acquired is no exaggeration.

“Students write scripts, create storyboards, scout locations, audition actors, plan shooting schedules, obtain talent, location and music releases as needed, plan set and costume design, all before starting to film,” Eis said. “They learn how to use a variety of cameras, lights, and audio gear, to become more flexible in learning new technology, and then are the cinematographers as well as directors for their shoots.”

Students also do their own editing with the use of professional software. This amount of work is put into as many as four short films for students in beginning classes; however, the length and complexity of the films increase as students progress further into their degree.

Those who major in specialization in filmmaking will also have plenty of opportunities to prepare for their field of study, as a variety of internships and field experiences are expected to be made available.

Additionally, professionalization opportunities will be offered, including work on film sets. Involvement in such projects is encouraged by the department, which gives students the opportunity to work with Michael Manasseri of Flux Capacitor Studios, a film partner of OU, as well as resident filmmakers the Deka Brothers. This type of work will give students experience with short films, feature films, commercials, music videos and documentaries.

The degree was introduced due to the rising student interest in the subject matter, and according to professor Adam Gould, adviser of the OU Filmmakers Guild, students are “very excited” about the new addition.

The cinema studies department worked toward creating the new degree for “several years,” Eis said.

“As it turns out, though,” she added. “The planning we did to expand over time means that we will be better able to incorporate the numbers of new students we expect with the specialization, in a stronger and more expansive program.”

Senior Sarah Griffith is one of many students excited about the addition.

“I have been interested in production from the start, so after hearing about the filmmaking specialization in the works for so long, it is very exciting that I will be able to partake in it before I graduate and be a part of the first group of students to complete the major with this option,” she said.

Grffith further acknowledged the benefits of the specialization, noting that it helps to “showcase all of the skills I have learned from my production classes at Oakland.”

The excitement for the program is promising for Eis and other members of the cinema studies department who hope that its success can lead to the addition of more film-related degrees.

“If the program is successful, we hope to add more areas of study.” Eis said.

Advanced classes in effects and other post-production work, as well as more in-depth work on directing and cinematography, and animation could be offered in the future as well.

They are also optimistic that its success could allow them to upgrade their facilities and equipment in the future.

The degree will become available to students in the upcoming fall semester.