University of Mississippi students may soon be able to earn an interdisciplinary minor in cinema. By taking courses in both cinema studies and cinema production, students will learn the critical vocabulary and perspective with which to analyze motion pictures within larger artistic, cultural, historical, political, linguistic, and global contexts, as well as provide a greater understanding of and hands-on experience with cinema production, including screenwriting, acting, directing, producing, cinematography, and editing.
“It’s going to be an interdisciplinary minor; it’s not just the theatre department,” Rhona Justice-Malloy, chair of the department of theatre arts, said. “It will also involve a number of other departments in the College of Liberal Arts.”
There are faculty members from art, English, history, library, modern languages, religious studies, Southern studies, and theatre arts involved in supporting the minor. The director of the new minor is Alan Arrivée, assistant professor of theatre arts who joined the faculty in Fall 2010.
“Everyone feels a connection with films because they watch films,” Arrivée said. “So they’re curious to see how the films actually come about.”
Arrivée, a product of Northwestern University’s theatre arts program, brings with him years of experience in the film industry.
“About a year after I graduated, I got in my beat-up Ford EXP and drove to L.A. to be an actor in film,” Arrivée said.
The short film, “Silent Radio,” in which Arrivée acted, directed and wrote, won him numerous awards, including the best foreign film at the European Independent Film Festival in 2007.
“The fact that I made a film here (in America) involving a sort of cowboy figure in Wyoming that was appealing to the Europeans is something I’m proud of,” Arrivée said.
Arrivée said he was originally attracted to acting through movies.
“My own interest in film began long before high school,” Arrivée said. “I’ve been acting since I was in the first grade production of ‘South Pacific.’ I was being boiled in a pot I think.”
After living in L.A. and around Chicago, a move to small-town Mississippi might seem like a major cultural adjustment. But Arrivée said the move has come with some welcome changes.
“I do find that many of the students have good material for storytelling,” he said. “I’m not always dealing with a sort of ivory tower situation.”
Telling their stories is exactly what Arrivée encourages students to do. The Department of Theatre Arts will host a filmmaking competition that encourages students from any major to participate.
“We’ve had tons of interest,” Justice-Malloy said. “There are graduate students in many departments, particularly English, that want to write for film. Our hope is to get submissions from all over campus.”
The top film idea will receive $500 and use of any equipment that the department has to make the jump from just an idea to reality.
“The winning film will be screened on April 9, 2011 as part of the theatre season,” Arrivée said. “So there will be some glory, no matter the product.”
As for his own personal film favorites, Arrivée’s interests vary widely.
“I’m not the kind of person who worries about how I’ll look if I watch a certain movie,” Arrivée said. “The last movie I got really excited about was ‘No Country for Old Men.’”
Amidst his personal favorites you’ll find obvious choices including “The Godfather” and “All the President’s Men,” alongside some less familiar titles such as “The Seventh Seal” and “Blue Velvet.”
“But I’ll turn right around and watch a romantic comedy with my wife,” Arrivée said.
With many degrees across campus requiring a minor, Arrivée is confident that the new proposed minor will quickly become popular.
“I would definitely be interested in learning how to make my own movies,” James Hunter, a sophomore from Memphis, said. “I feel like with everyone having Flip cams and Youtube that more and more people will be making short movies now anyway.”
Digital technology has made the production side of making a movie not only cheaper but simpler, while keeping the product at a high level of quality.
“I can’t even imagine the amount of work that goes into creating a movie,” Ginny Webb, a freshman from Mobile, Ala. said.
With so much public involvement in cinema, programs in the subject are among the fastest growing in the country.
“I think it’s going to be really popular,” Justice-Malloy said. “We’re excited to have Alan here, he’s a great guy.”