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Film studies concentration to give Northwestern State students path to the movie industry
Jun 19, 2012 | 313 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A new concentration in Northwestern State University’s Department of Language and Communication could offer a path to careers in Louisiana’s film industry. The film studies concentration offers classes in history of film, film theory and screenwriting for students interested in learning the craft of filmmaking.

“Graduates can leave here and work for a production company or work as a best boy or grip. It’s perfect for leading a student into film school,” said Dr. Andrew Crank, director of undergraduate studies in English, who created the concentration with Dr. Allen Bauman, director of graduate studies in English. Crank said he and Bauman, both enthusiastic cinephiles, developed the program in response to the robust growth of the region’s film industry as large budget productions are lured to Louisiana by tax credits and incentive programs.

“We were talking about why there was no presence of film on the campus as film possibilities grew more and more prominent in northwest Louisiana,” Crank said. “It seemed that students could land jobs in Shreveport or New Orleans or other hotbed areas of film.”

Film studies is a concentration of the English degree comprised of three introductory courses -- introduction to film, history of film and film theory -- which “provide the groundwork for the study of film,” Crank said. Advanced courses include film analysis, the horror genre and screenwriting, in which students are required to produce a feature-length screenplay developing character, plot, action and dialogue.

“In completing the screenplay, the students discuss plot development and submit scenes every week. The paper, heading, typeface and format are all very specific and the students must demonstrate some knowledge of putting together camera shots. It’s what any agent would want,” Crank said. The class also addresses how to negotiate the movie industry and how to market a script and pitch a screenplay.

The burgeoning concentration is currently focused on film analysis but Crank hopes to develop it further to focus on film production, where he believes the most jobs are available. Enrollment in the program is growing.

“The students are excited about it and it’s something that is invigorating to our program,” Crank said. “In the next five years, we would like to host a film festival to feature movies produced entirely on campus.”

Student Alex Cobb of Many completed a short zombie film entitled “Keeping Out the Dead” and submitted it for consideration at the Fear Fete Horror Film Festival in Baton Rouge this fall. The film was shot entirely in Bienvenu Hall, Northwestern’s biological sciences building.

“There was that time when I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but film was always something that interested me even if I didn't know it,” Cobb said. “When I was in band and we played movie scores from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘Gladiator’ it was exciting because we knew the story the music was telling and that's what interests me with film: the story telling.”

Crank plans to screen Cobb’s film locally this fall at a rare and unseen film night that will serve as a recruiting event.

“It’s usually horror-based, so it’s perfect,” Cobb said. About 75 students attended last year’s screening of “Carnival of Souls” and “The Strangers.”

Crank and Bauman are developing partnerships and resources to help the program, by networking with industry professionals who talk with and mentor students and by securing grants to establish a film library on campus. They acquired 350 classic, rare and unseen films and hope to build the collection to 500 films to be housed in the department, but available for any class. They also hope to utilize Northwestern State’s articulation agreement with Bossier Parish Community College to bridge the film studies concentration with BPCC’s film production program.

Crank’s background in literature and his interest in film as a reflection of modern culture led him to the concentration. Bauman studied film and has some expertise in camera angles and other technological aspects of the discipline.

“We both love film,” Crank said. “We were two colleagues playing tennis who love to talk about films and that led to the concentration.”

Crank said film studies has impacted retention in his department and he has been impressed with his students’ ability to adapt their ideas into the format demanded of a screenplay. Cobb, meanwhile, continues to experiment with projects on her own.

“If we can one day get classes at NSU for the technical aspect of film making then the concentration would be amazing, but right now I'm just learning as I go with that,” she said. “The writing portion and studying other films have been great. If I never get to work at a movie studio I want to work with the film studies at the university.”

For more information on the film studies concentration at Northwestern State, visit langcomm.nsula.edu/film-concentration or contact Crank at cranka@nsula.edu.

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