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

From: Chuck Kleinhans (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Dec 03 2008 - 00:48:15 PST

On Dec 2, 2008, at 12:51 PM, Jack Sargeant wrote:

> to 'get' or 'enjoy' or 'experience' film does not depend on
> intellect, what is necessary is a mind that is open to the
> possibilities of new experience. Students should posses such a
> desire to engage with the new and often challenging, but sadly some
> seek to merely re-enforce their own world views and seek evidence
> that supports this. I would suggest that their enquiring is stymied
> by the fact that they are aware that they need to pass their
> qualifications, get a job, and pay back loans, so the freedom
> offered by learning is often at odds with economic necessity.

I agree, but this discussion has tended to go on without
distinguishing different types of schools with different missions and
different student pools. Many years ago in analyzing the US K-12
education system in a series of books Robert Coles found from his
research that what students were taught, in a broad general sense,
was based in their social/economic class. Students at the top of the
pyramid went to private elite schools and learned how the overall
system works and how to manipulate it. Students in the middle
learned how to work within the existing system without questioning
it. Students at the bottom learned to fit into the system and conform.

In that frame you can have a lot of say, college freshmen, who are in
beginning film/media making or film/media aesthetics classes. But
where will they be 5, 10,, or 20 years down the road?

Those who are just going to be technicians just need to know "how
things are done" in the industry, and some schools are very proud
that that's what they teach and hire many adjunct faculty who work in
the unions and guilds on mainstream work on a regular basis. They
can show students just how to fit in. A guy with a film MFA once
told me that he learned very fast in seeking regular work as a PA or
assistant editor to not say he had an MFA but lie and say he'd just
got out of the army. They didn't want to hire someone who might have
their own opinion, but someone who would show up on time and follow

An earnest freshman once asked me what was the best thing to do to
make sure he could get a job in TV upon graduation. I said to make
sure his parents or another relative owned a TV station or worked
high up in a network. He was dismayed, but my answer was honest.
I've had some students whose parents really did own TV stations, even
chains of them, or who were Hollywood executives, or who had other
connections. They were talented and hardworking people, but they
certainly did have an advantage in getting internships, summer jobs,
and a good starting job upon graduation.

So, is a school, or a program, or a specific class teaching someone
what they need to know to get a job on graduation? Or giving them a
larger framework that will help them when they are in management/
administration 15 years from now? Or writing and teaching for an
increasingly international student body? It is functional to have a
broad liberal arts background, a familiarity with world art, an
openness to various national cinemas, an ability to spot creativity
and originality in media, if you are going to be making deals with
media producers, financial officers, state regulators, union reps,
museum curators, and gallery owners in the global media world.

Is studying or making experimental films a career? an avocation? or
irrelevant to how you're going to make a living? Maybe it depends on
where you want to end up and what path you choose.


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