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

From: James Cole (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Nov 28 2008 - 18:29:57 PST

The big question, for me, is where the 30,000 per student that Beth mentions
ends up. How much would it cost to buy/repair half a dozen decent 16mm
projectors? Maybe 3 - 5 thousand? How much to rent (over two semesters) a
hundred films to split over half a dozen classes. 15 thousand? In fact,
that seems high. If you wanted to rent Zorn's Lemma 100 times, it would
cost 12,000, and it's towards the expensive side of the Coop's catalog.
Perhaps I'm just naive, but to me it doesn't seem impossible that half of
one film student's tuition every year should go presenting avant-garde work
in its intended state.

Obviously most people here will agree with me, and I'm preaching to the
choir. I don't (and I don't think anyone should) fault professors for this
since they have their own diminishing salaries and weakened unions to worry
about first. And I can't really fault students for this because it's
unrealistic to expect most 18-year olds away from their parents for the
first time to care about experimental film the way I, and Beth, and Fred,
and Tom do. And to expect them to understand the tenuous position of 16mm
film and the Coop distribution system is not just unrealistic, it's

I can't think of a solution to this. It's not fair to expect professors to
expend what little leverage they have on trying to get good 16mm projection
facilities and a decent print rental budget. It's not fair to ask students
to band together for 16mm avant-garde film, since they've got a lot on their
minds and probably aren't aware of the problems until their last semesters,
anyway. And it's certainly not fair to expect the avant-garde filmmakers
and distributors to worry about it, since they have to, you know, eat and
make films.

Didn't George Lucas and Brian DePalma make experimental film? Maybe they
can spare a million... That's the thing that gets me; this whole issue can
be solved for less than the cost of a lightsaber fight. You see plenty of
influence of the avant-garde in Applebees commercials and the intros to NFL
games. People are making money from this, but it's all the wrong people.

On Fri, Nov 28, 2008 at 4:34 PM, Beth Capper <email suppressed> wrote:

> haha, well I would certainly blame some of the students. But I think
> it has more to do with the fact that people only begin to specialize
> their interests in undergrad (whereas in the UK they do it at 16).
> Students in the US aren't challenged from an early age to develop
> their interests and think about what they'd like to study. Although, I
> have to say that everything I know about film mostly comes from
> watching them, and thinking about them, as well as one elective class
> in post-war european cinema and an outstanding teacher in my final
> year of undergrad.
> Plus, while its sad to think of students as customers, how else can
> you think when you're paying 30,000 up a year? While I want to get a
> lot out of my MA program, I'm also terrified of what happens after...
> I mean, there has to be a balence between results and education. If I
> were american, there is no way I would have gone to university at all.
> It's not worth the money - especially not in the arts or humanities,
> especially not at art school where you basically spend that much just
> for the privilege of time and facilities, and occasionally an amazing
> teacher, but even they are few and far between now (maybe they were
> good once, but a lot seem jaded with the whole process now).
> I still think one can blame the school and education system more than
> the students and teachers. I mean, some people take initiative to do
> things on their own (and they are mostly the ones that end up
> succeeding) but you can't write off students who don't do that -
> otherwise, why even bother having an art school system? They need to
> be forced by the school to do courses in film history and theory, they
> need to understand WHY it will make them better artists/ smarter
> people.
> - Beth x
> On 11/28/08, Fred Camper <email suppressed> wrote:
> > Beth Capper wrote:
> >
> >
> > > The main problem, in my humble opinion (as a student at the Art
> Institute
> > of Chicago) is that art schools don't require that students be
> > intellectually challenged.
> > >
> >
> > I'd say something related but not identical. The majority (not all) art
> > students are shockingly, stupefyingly ignorant of the history of their
> > media.
> >
> > Oh, a painting student might have to take a few art history courses, and
> > thus some might actually be able to identify Giotto or Direr or Delacroix
> or
> > Cézanne or Mondrian on a test -- but how many have the genuine aesthetic
> > knowledge that comes from a deep involvement with looking, and looking
> > again, at the actual works?
> >
> > In cinema it's even worse. How many MFA film students have a deep
> awareness
> > of and involvement with, say, Méliès, or Griffith, or Eisenstein, or
> Dreyer,
> > or even Deren or Anger? Yet these are among our founders.
> >
> > A true story I like to tell involves a young man who, in the early
> 1950s,
> > having decided that poetry and theater, which he had been involved in,
> were
> > not for him, decided instead, at 18, to become a filmmaker. The first
> thing
> > he did, before actually trying to make films, was to read everything he
> > could find by Eisenstein. (Sound like anyone you know today? Not likely.)
> > Later, he obtained a print of "Potemkin" and viewed it again and again
> and
> > again.
> >
> > His name was Stan Brakhage. And in fact, one can see echoes of
> > Eisensteinian montage in his cinema up through "Dog Star Man." And guess
> > which four filmmakers from my list above were the subjects of his early
> > lectures, when he was hired to teach, collected in the book "The Brakhage
> > Lectures"?
> >
> >
> > > ...The problem is the school...
> > >
> >
> > I'm not sure I agree with this. I think one could make a case for
> blaming
> > the students themselves, or some of them.
> >
> > Were I to design a filmmaking MFA program, it would take three or more
> > years, and include extremely extensive film viewing, reading the writings
> of
> > filmmakers, and viewing their films again and again. Some films would be
> > required of all, while each student would have the option to also choose
> > others to explore in depth. And there would be an alternative way to do
> the
> > program in two years, by seeing and studying films on one's own, IF one
> > could past a difficult test before entering.
> >
> > I doubt that my program would do very well competing for students (who
> see
> > themselves, as has been correctly said here, as customers rather than
> > students) against those caring and nurturing programs that stress not the
> > quality of the work but "the personal growth of the student" (a long-ago
> > quote from a professor in the filmmaking department in Beth's own school)
> > and that feature critiques with questions like "Tell us how your work has
> > evolved since last semester" (a quote from an MFA photography critique I
> > once attended).
> >
> > Of course, people whose last names begin "Ca" are almost invariably
> > profound artists and thinkers who are exempt from my above comments...
> >
> > Fred Camper
> > Chicago
> >
> >
> > __________________________________________________________________
> > For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
> >
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

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