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

From: DOMINIC ANGERAME (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Nov 30 2008 - 14:08:00 PST

I certainly agree with what Patricia and Fred are saying. For almost 20 years I taught film production and cinema history (both avant garde cinema, narrative cinema, silent cinema, and surrealist cineme) at the University of California Berkeley Extension. The S8mm production class was so successful that it grew into a 16mm production class and I bought more than $25,000 worth of equipment including a flatbed and magnetic sound transfer machine, dat recorders, etc.) My History of Film Class grew to more than 50 students per semester and the production classes were full.

Suddenly to my amazement someone in the administration thought that my classes were not economically worth continuing. Sure, I rented more than $600 of film per semester, and the same amount on film stock and processing. They ended up canceling the classes and the equipment mysteriously disappeared even though I inquired about purchasing it myself. No reasonable explanation was given to me regarding why the classes were canceled. This was in 2001.

UC/Berkeley Extension closed for awhile and reopened about three years ago....Now I am attempting to teach again there--a History of Narrative Film course and cannot even find enough students interested in taking the class (I only need twelve). It appears that students now are just not interested in studying, in a serious sense, a course that deals with the History of Cinema either silent or sound film.

Dominic Angerame

--- On Sun, 11/30/08, Fred Camper <email suppressed> wrote:

> From: Fred Camper <email suppressed>
> Subject: Re: Teaching film [Was: Experimental films showing at various Universities]
> To: email suppressed
> Date: Sunday, November 30, 2008, 11:33 AM
> Thanks to Patricia and Craig for some fine comments.
> I think Patricia is right to put the problems of higher
> education in a
> larger economic context. Pushing almost everyone into
> college is maybe
> not the best idea, even though it would appear that our
> developing
> service economy favors this. Some students have always
> taken some film
> classes in the hope of obtaining easy credits toward a
> liberal arts
> degree, and as the intellectual level of the overall
> student body
> declines, so will the level of the average film student. I
> doubt that
> the technical schools that many German students attend to
> in lieu of
> college offer courses in avant-garde film alongside lathe
> operation.
> Also, the career oriented focus of education and students
> today, quite
> different from the late 1960s, doesn't tend to favor
> "useless" topics
> like avant-garde film, even though one could make a case (a
> case I hate
> making) that their influence on mainstream media such as
> commercials has
> been vast.
> I also understand that contemporary film study has a
> certain
> "scientific" bias, and insofar as one is doing
> sociology, examining how
> established film codes affect most viewers, this is
> arguably legitimate.
> And certainly the kinds of opinions that many
> undergraduates want to
> have about movies ("That actress wasn't slutty
> enough for her role."
> "Not enough explosions in this flick." OK, I
> exaggerate, but perhaps not
> that unfairly) are not things anyone can learn from. But
> for me the
> aesthetic experience is private, individual, deeply
> subjective, and
> ultimately transcendent, and it resists logical analysis.
> Plus,
> avant-garde film works quite differently from mainstream
> narrative, and
> though it by now has conventions I think they function in a
> way that is
> less susceptible to logical analysis. And the transcendent
> aesthetic
> experience is exactly the kind of thing that the greatest
> avant-garde
> films foster, whether through the massive light poetry and
> rhythms of
> "The Art of Vision" or the "tiny"
> completion epiphany of the final cycle
> of the central section of "Zorns Lemma."
> I agree with most of what Craig wrote, but I'd argue
> that surely
> students bear some responsibility for their own education.
> For example,
> if you already love avant-garde film, and take a
> poorly-taught course in
> it, well, then, look into the field more on your own!
> My more point about the "personal growth of the
> student" is that you are
> going to grow a lot more, and in more meaningful ways, by
> trying to make
> the best film you can, and by being challenged to do so,
> than you will
> by focusing mostly on fostering your own "personal
> growth." The best way
> to truly enhance a student's self-esteem, as a now
> retired teacher I
> have long admired used to say, is to teach him something.
> Fred Camper
> Chicago
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at
> <email suppressed>.

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