Re: Teaching film [Was: Experimental films showing at various Universities]

From: Flick Harrison (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Nov 28 2008 - 12:58:25 PST

I finally have to chime in briefly on this.

My film MFA program at UBC was awesome, mostly because it was based on
filmmaking, rather than skills development.

The undergrads got their tech training, but they were expected to
learn the real hard part of those jobs on their own, while making
films. It was narrative-centred, but hey, Canadian filmmaking is
practically an underground / third cinema in its own country, so the
idea of a career-oriented filmmaker is not quite the same as it would
be at, say, UCLA or such. They got film history and film theory along
with their production, plus a B.A.

The department turned out earth-shattering (for the BC economy) films
like Live Bait, Double Happiness, the Grocer's Wife, and others.

But none of these box-office smashes (by our standards) is actually a
profit-making enterprise - government funding drives our whole
industry. And thus the film program, even as a Canadian career
factory, was nearly eradicated last year... only concerted efforts by
faculty and alumni - including big names in the local service-
production scene - managed to save it.

This is part of the educational focus on marketable skills, big-money
departments. Film training is mostly moving to Vancouver Film School
and other trades-training type places, rather than something you do as
part of a general arts degree.

This echoes, almost precisely, the movement in journalism. My
undergrad was at Carleton, where I did a BJ (honours) in a well-
reputed school; between 89 (when I entered) and 94 (when I left) there
was a definite shift in hiring preference, due to down-sizing and
concentration of media ownership, towards college-trained media
professionals, i.e. co-op students and people trained to use cameras
and tape recorders, and away from people with a generally-educated
mind that prepared them to think critically about government, society,
etc. Some people who graduated with me with a journalism degree went
on to a short college course that taught them more practical skills so
they could be employable.

Then again, the film-school / j-school universe is not that old; time
was when you'd enter the news biz by running copy, or enter film (as
noted here previously) by assistant editing, pa'ing or whatever.


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