University needs film production program

Put cameras in students’ hands. Film is a powerful part of our cultural paradigm.

I’ll just send it out now, to anyone listening in the campus ether: Why doesn’t the University have a film production program?

It’s not hard. We already have the facilities: Video production studios in Rarig Center and the Regis Center for Art building, editing facilities at Murphy Hall, Apple G4s with Final Cut Pro software at Folwell Hall.

Is it too brash of me to suggest a streamlining of these operations, a reconciliation of these disparate components that might someday resemble a Frankenstein of a film program?

A cursory glance at the University’s One Stop site reveals that there is a bachelor of arts degree available in “studies in cinema and media culture,” which, unsurprisingly, has no Web page and is not even mentioned in some University catalogs. This is your first tip-off about how seriously this University treats prospective film students.

Next, you’ll find that comprising this so-called degree are three core courses from three different departments: two identically named introductory film courses in art history and cultural studies and comparative literature, and another introductory course in the “SCMC.”


The rest of your entire major is your own personal crazy-quilt of classes that hopefully make sense in your head, because they sure won’t make you a filmmaker.

(By the way, having those three departments involved is also the criteria for a bachelor of individualized studies degree. You can come up with your own ideas about alternate acronyms that more accurately reflect your economic prospects with this degree: bread is supper, bathed in squalor, etc.)

So, would-be filmmakers at the University have to scrape together a pansy-ass cocktail of mostly incompatible coursework from at least three departments and cross their fingers that it gets approved by faculty from each department and the College of Liberal Arts, and then head over to Minneapolis Community and Technical College downtown to take some real film production classes, which can only result in a certificate. For a bachelor’s degree in their field, area filmmakers who don’t want to travel too far still would have to traipse to Old Milwaukee.

In short, if you want to write, shoot, direct and edit films, the University cannot help you. Sucks to be you.

The travesty is, everyone knows a film program would easily pay for itself. Enrollment would be through the roof. Students have proven more than willing to pay for materials in their art classes; just look at what aspiring painters and sculptors shell out every semester.

My advice to the regents: Put cameras in students’ hands. Film is a powerful part of our cultural paradigm. Look at this election season. Political documentaries are a force to be reckoned with.

Anyone who needs convincing should look at the shelves of new releases at a local video store or check the movie showtimes in the local paper and sample the immense roster of sharp material from across the political divide this year. Things have come a long way from Nixon-era agit-prop.

But we all know this ridiculousness is not limited to film, folks. This is part of a larger problem here at our university.

The problem is too many vague “I” words have polluted upper-division course sequences, particularly when it comes to doing anything requiring an iota of creativity: individualized, independent-study, interdisciplinary, interdepartmental.

So, filmmakers, musical theater aspirants, future record producers and creative writers of all stripes, unite in your tragic cause. There is currently no place for “U.” But when there is a full degree in leisure studies and only “topics” or “directed study” in your field, you kinda get the sense of the type of people you’re dealing with.

Adri Mehra welcomes comments at [email protected]