Cinema, Vlogging, and Other Film Related Ventures
Jojo Ames '20
Although Randolph-Macon offers a film studies minor, the college has yet to expand the discipline. Efforts to expand the film program into a major program that contains numerous historical, theoretical, and experiential based courses appear to be moving at a snail’s pace.
Students haunted by creativity and cinematic dreams, whether that be sitting in a director’s chair or receiving praise for writing a screenplay on par Paul Schrader’s Taxi Driver, have limited opportunity to pursue their ambitions on campus. Only a handful of film classes are offered and the majority of them are placed within a genre-related or historical framework. Only one filmmaking class is part of the curriculum, and unfortunately, it does not provide students with the opportunity to produce completed short films.
“I would love to see R-MC adopt classes that focus on film production and structure,” said Hayden Osborne, an R-MC senior and film studies minor. “I wish I could have taken courses about shot composition and framing, editing, film scores, and costume design.”
Ben Norfleet, an R-MC senior and film studies minor, harbors a similar love for cinema. “No other art form is able to capture emotion and thought like cinema,” he said. “It makes the unbelievable believable. If Macon were to diversify its film program and add more production courses, I think it would get a lot more students involved.”
The reason for the program’s current state appears to primarily revolve around financial concerns. Video, design, and editing equipment is expensive, and R-MC has several but not all of the resources and facilities necessary to launch such a comprehensive program. There is also a shortage of faculty who could teach within the discipline.
But there is hope. Over the past few years, members of the film studies council have discussed the advantages of implementing a Film Major at R-MC. In 2016, a proposal was submitted to the Curriculum Committee and the Venture Fund, and there are plans to resubmit an updated version soon. It appears the program is moving closer and closer towards making expansion a reality in the near future.
Doing so would be a very beneficial move not just for R-MC students with Hollywood dreams, but for students hoping to enter other career fields as well. The world has entered an age where mobile and online video viewing and digital creation is prospering like never before. Generation Z, the generational cohort after millennials, could most aptly be described as digital natives. They spend hours on their cell phones, get their news from social media, and watch YouTube and Netflix rather than traditional television networks.
The eldest Gen Z members, those born between the years 1997 and 2003, will soon be entering the workforce. Collectively, due to the environment they grew up in, they are creative, filled with wanderlust, and visually oriented. Many are video and technologically savvy and harbor film and media related aspirations. The current zeitgeist among them is to forgo traditional career choices and become an online social influencer or content creator. Vlogging, video game streaming, podcasting, and creating short form media and entertainment on YouTube and mobile apps like TikTok and Byte is the 21st century American Dream.
Alex Hermanson, an R-MC senior and English major, is a prime example of the contemporary content creator. In his spare time, he uploads daily vlogs to YouTube, films athletic content for The Premier Lacrosse League, and hosts his own podcast Anybody & Everybody. This kind of work requires video editing, cinematography, and photography skills, knowledge Alex had to gradually learn on his own.
“It was tough learning everything on my own,” he said. “I wish R-MC offered more film production based and creative courses. We are moving into a time where communicating and entertaining through various online media platforms are the next big thing. Within the next ten or fifteen years, if more colleges aren’t offering classes related to film, media, and online content creation, I’d be honestly shocked.”
Only time will tell if R-MC will capitalize on the growing interest in film and video production that is taking over the American youth. Professor Eren, chair of R-MC’s film program, believes the future is looking bright.
“Virginia’s film industry is growing and contributing well to the local economy,” she said. “Students of R-MC are studying in an area that features rich cinema exemplified by the annual French Film Festival, James River Film Festival, Environmental Film Festival, and the recently founded Richmond International Film Fest.”
Virginia has also been home to several major Hollywood productions in recent years, including Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Perhaps, the future does look bright for R-MC’s film program. New majors and minors have been continuously added within the last few years and more and more students are taking an interest in film related ventures. A few years down the line, R-MC might become part of Virginia’s thriving film community.