We live in an increasingly media-rich world. There is hardly a profession that does not involve the uses of cinema to at least some extent.
“Journalism, for instance, is reinventing itself as something well outside the confines of print,” said Alan Arrivée, Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts and director of the new interdisciplinary cinema minor at the University of Mississippi that will become available in Fall 2011. “The ‘story’ is now being told visually as well.”
The cinema minor is a natural combination with many majors, considering how many subjects are represented through cinema or involve the use of cinema. Many courses were already being taught on both the studies and production sides of cinema at UM with significant student enrollment. Examples of courses in cinema studies include Shakespeare on Film, Religion in Film, Italian Cinema, the South in Film, and Studies in Documentary Field Work. Cinema production courses include courses on digital video, screenwriting, directing, editing, and acting. The minor is supported by faculty members from art, English, history, library, modern languages, religious studies, Southern studies, Theatre Arts, and the Media and Documentary Projects Center.
All students enrolled in the cinema minor, whether concentrating on production or studies, are required to take some courses on the production side. They learn the systems and tools of the industry by taking theory into the field and learning by actually making movies.
“Those primarily interested in cinema studies gain knowledge of the cinema making process, which will better inform critical, comparative or theoretical work,” Arrivée said. “There is no substitute for getting out there and understanding through doing, even for those whose interests ultimately lie on the studies side of things.
“Cinema studies potentially involves so many subjects, that an almost unlimited number of understandings might be gained, depending on the subject of the course. Certainly, one understanding is that of the culture and time that produces a particular work, or group of works within a cinematic movement. But works of cinema may be compared with other works, such as works of literature or art, or may be seen through the lens of gender or of a particular political movement. The possibilities are almost limitless because cinema studies is not so much a subject within itself, but a way of seeing the world.”
For students who wish to make their own movies, there are almost limitless examples within the study of cinema of the choices filmmakers have made in the past concerning subject and aesthetic. Students take in these examples and reinvent them to form their own approaches.
“This is exciting to me, because this will determine the cinema of the future,” Arrivée said.
Jordan Berger and Houston Settle are two students who received a $500 grant for their film project The Ninth Floor, about a despondent young man who experiences reoccurring dreams about an imaginary lover in the 1940s. The film was shown April 7-8 as part of the Ole Miss Theatre’s spring season.
“The cinema minor benefits me greatly as I am trying to pursue filmmaking as a professional career,” Berger said. “Before this school year, film was simply a small branch off the theater department and had no real credibility to itself. This new minor has allowed people like me, who are serious about pursuing film, the opportunity to gain hands on experience and actual credit hours towards their future work or studies in film after Ole Miss. It has allowed me to be constantly involved with what I love. The whole thing has been a huge learning experience for me as I have gained skills and knowledge that only come with actually making a film.”