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

From: Craig Lindley (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Nov 30 2008 - 04:27:05 PST

Having been involved in teaching over the last few years, I'd say it's not really
fair to blame the students. There seem to be three broad categories of people:
1. those who naturally gravitate towards AG cinema, 2. those who do not naturally
gravitate towards AG cinema, but who can come to appreciate it if it has been
presented and contextualised in an effective way, and 3. those who will NEVER
like it under any circumstances. Poor teaching will not get through to category 2,
and nothing will get through to category 3 (of course, it's always a question as to
how big category 3 really is). And most likely, really bad teaching can remove people
from category 1.
I've also observed the shocking lack of knowledge of history that Fred mentions. I have
shown films at places with students in the audience who have later come up to me and
said "what kind of films are these? We haven't ever seen anything like that." Which would
not be surprising if they were not studying in a program called Experimantal Film and Animation.
These students have been living and studying in more isolated provincial places where there
are few or no venues for historical AG films.
The failure in this case is very clearly with the teachers. The students typically come
across as being very hungry for knowledge, but are stuck in just the kind of programs
that Fred mentions, that stress the personal growth of the students but provide them
with no understanding of history and no environment of reflection and critique. The
outcomes of personal growth are often very unclear.
I suspect that the primary cause of this is that the teachers are not AG filmmakers,
but wannabee commercial filmmakers for whom 'experimental' film is what you're
constrained to make when you can't get a commercial budget.
Add to this: pervasive economic rationalism that requires everything to be relevant
to industry + the massively increasing % of people entering tertiary education over
the last several decades (the knowledge economy requires lower entry standards)
resulting in very much lower average levels of student motivation + education budgets
that pay departments for students who pass but not for those who fail + the general
evolution of culture away from the critical stances of modernism to fully embrace
ubiquitous consumerism + the movement culture away from reading and scholarship
towards the consumption of digital and interactive media of limited form but endless
variety of dressing + the anti-elitist rejection of AG art by intellectuals conditioned
by all of the preceding factors ...
Despite all of that, with the right kind of encouragement students often come up
with very good, conceptually sophisticated, creative and surprising work. So they
are a source of optimism that we are not at some kind of dead end.

-----Experimental Film Discussion List <email suppressed> wrote: -----

I'd say something related but not identical. The majority (not all) art
students are shockingly, stupefyingly ignorant of the history of their


> ...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.

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" ...

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