University? Community College? Film students?

From: JEFFREY PAULL (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Nov 20 2008 - 16:26:14 PST

After 38 years of teaching Film, I've recently retired. Much of that teaching was at a community college.
The assumption was that we train people for jobs - to be good employees.
In my Year-1 Film Production course, along with that mandate, I interleaved the study of mainstream fiction
(Speilberg-type) films with experimental films, (Brakhage, Hoffman, Lipsett, Deren,)
using the interplay of differences as areas of discussion.
Discussion always focused on the student first: "Believe the evidence of your own eyes."
which was then mixed with examinations of style, technique, meaning and possible intention.
In other words, a context was established which included the student's own experience,
regardless of what that was, and it was extended into the worlds of the (for them) unknown.
Ignorance and habits weren't judged as "bad" or wanting. But a bit at a time, as each student was willing or able,
they exchanged a bit of ignorance and habit for their increased awareness and understanding.

Most - maybe all - of these 17 and 18 year-olds had never seen anything but mainstream movies and TV.
But by semester-2, between half and 2/3s of them catch on and accept or enjoy these strange experimental films.
Time and again I was told something like, "Now I really like to watch them. I just never saw anything like them before.
I didn't know movies like this existed." Meanwhile, their understanding of the different ways that people can express their ideas
broadened their awareness of the worlds beyond their own area code.
And if they didn't like them, that was OK, too.
And these were community college students, specifically rejecting University education,
expecting only job-training in their courses.
I think what helped their experimental film experience was the reoccurring familiarity of the mainstream stuff.
There was plenty to learn from with those movies, as well.

The students were reminded now and then, that inside this room they were no longer consumers, they were students,
and we all called each other by our first names.
I locked the door 5 minutes after class started.
So they were ready to turn off their cell phones and keep their laptops shut, and they rarely talked
unless it was to share an idea with their neighbour.

I've also had occasion to teach film at university, (Year -2) as well.
Students walked in 10, 20 40 minutes late. (The situation prevented locking the door.)
Discussion was much, much less lively and inventive than the community college students;
often most of the university film students just sat there, about as expressive as their coffee cups.
When I mentioned this to one of my colleagues, she said, "Welcome to University.
You're the professor and they expect you to lecture; they're the students and they expect to take notes."


On Wed 19/11/08 22:44 , Jack Sargeant email suppressed sent:
> > . Their expectation is that media will be available at
> their demand
> > and on their schedule: when they click a YouTube URL,
> or go the
> > local Blockbuster, go to the reserve desk. The students
> don't even
> > watch TV anymore, they get on DVD or on the Web. In
> terms of the
> > topic at hand, it means they routinely skip scheduled
> film
> > screenings with the expectation they'll be able to see
> the required
> > material in the library. When you tell them: "it says
> on the
> > syllabus that it's a film print, which means the ONLY
> way you can
> > see it is in the auditorium, they look at you like your
> from Mars
> > and talking in tongues." just as, after you exhort them
> until you
> > are blue in the face that they have to see cinema on a
> big screen,
> > in the dark, they go ahead and watch it on their iPhone
> because it
> > just doesn't make any difference to the culture in
> which they are
> > enmeshed.
> To me this is the biggest problem with teaching film, quite simply
> many (most?) students don't seem to be interested in cinema anymore
> so much as iPhone / download visual experience... forget renting
> films, how do you even get them to watch videos? I have taught post-
> graduates who wouldn't / couldn't watch a movie without talking - and
> even had students answer their phones in class....
> depressing
> Jack
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at (address suppressed)
> om>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.