By LAWSON ROBINSON
The Cinema Studies department originally started with a strong focus on the critical studies involved in filmmaking. This includes the history of film, the critical studies of film, and film theory. Over time, the program developed production courses that taught basic camera work and editing skills.
Professors within the Cinema Studies program noticed that students displayed a strong interest in pursuing the knowledge of producing film. Students wanted more production opportunities and the specialization track aims to accommodate those interests. The new expansion brings forth a specialization track that focuses on the production process of filmmaking.
Over the past couple of years, the Oakland University Cinema Studies department has created a number of different programs that helped cement their credibility as a department. A creative showcase is held at the end of every school year, in which student productions are displayed on the big screen. This past year, the Cinema Studies department held the creative showcase at the Emagine Theater in Rochester.
Professor Courtney Brannon Donoghue worked in conjunction with one of the biggest independent filmmakers in the business today, Mark Duplass, to create the “iPhone challenge”. This challenge tasks students with making a short film shot using only the camera on an iPhone. There is also a one-day film challenge in which students must create, shoot, and edit a short film all within the span of 24 hours.
One of the biggest programs created was a trip to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which originated in 2015. This trip is now conducted yearly and involves students visiting Toronto and interacting with one of the largest international film festivals. The TIFF trip gives students exclusive access to movie screenings and press conferences featuring the industries top actors, actresses, and filmmakers. Students have the ability to build and develop networking skills with people working in the industry.
The specialization track will add new features to the Cinema Studies department, but Professor Adam Gould insists the core of the department will stay the same.
“The foundation of our production courses is traditional filmmaking,” Gould says.
“As a department we recognize that a lot of the film production work in the Metro Detroit area is not on feature films but rather in the commercial, and corporate world. We want to give students the knowledge and skills to not only make their own films but to also launch a career in the media industries.”
The Cinema Studies department aims to teach the fundamentals of filmmaking in terms of camera work and editing, but they also recognize the job market that exists today. Professor Gould and the rest of Cinema Studies department want to provide “more opportunities and a strong sense of progression.” The specialization track will feature courses that build from the 100 level, to the 200 level, to the 300 level, and then finally finish with an indie filmmaking capstone class.
The studio space at Oakland University allows students to utilize a green screen, lights, and even dolly equipment. Oakland University benefits from being a smaller scale program in that the current student-to-camera ratio is three students per camera. This allows students to have more access to equipment and learning as opposed to a larger film school where they could be lost amongst the masses.
The new specialization track will help balance out the critical studies of film and will help maximize students’ abilities to start a career after college. Professor Gould and the rest of Cinema Studies department want to provide “more production opportunities and a strong sense of progression.”
The expansion of the Cinema Studies department coincides with the expansion of Oakland’s campus, and the potential for continued growth is far-reaching.