Film Studies Seniors Collaborate on Final Films – The Oberlin Review
After a six-year absence of capstone opportunities for seniors, 12 students from the Film Studies Department will make their film debuts as part of the Advanced Film Making Projects course to culminate their film careers at Oberlin. These films define a university career of creation and learning for these students and symbolize a “closing” of their stay at Oberlin.
In 2016, faced with understaffing and lack of resources, the Film Studies Department cut its support for senior program staff. Since then, the fourth years of the major have encountered obstacles to create a thesis film. Although they were able to do so via private reading with a professor, Oberlin’s small number of professors working in film production and their limited bandwidth severely limited the number of students who could create a final film for a course credit. This semester, a course replacing the role of senior capstone, Advanced Film Making Projects, allowed 12 students to pursue the creation of their own work.
College third-year Alba Robledo Díaz is an exception to the course’s typical fourth-year profile. She’s taking the course as what she calls a “dupe” for a cornerstone, as she prepares to graduate in early fall.
“It’s like a collective private reading with [Professor of Cinema Studies] Rian Brown-Orso,” she said. “It works like that, so we have a scheduled meeting, but it’s more: we meet, we talk about what we’re all going to do and where we are with our projects. Sometimes we have individual consultations. When we have our meetings together, Rian has designed the class so that you really feel like you are in a professional setting. you have to pitch your project to everyone.
For some students, like college fourth-year Katie Homer-Drummond, the course is an opportunity to carry out a previously prepared script and pursue a final reification of the themes they’ve explored throughout their Oberlin career.
“I wanted to do a horror piece for my finale, and I wanted to do something that plays with the triptychs and the idea of three,” they said of their film, wolf girl. “There are these three different sections that are in three different styles, and there is a piece of music that is used in different ways. I started describing it in detail in the fall and writing a proto-script, scripted it during the winter semester, finalized everything, and started putting the team together. It became more solid on a theme, which ended up being the horror of puberty in young girls, especially coupled with bodily trauma or medical trauma.
Middle school fourth-year Chris Schmucki took a different path with his project. He creates what he describes as an experimental piece, involving painting on celluloid and mingling with the free-form jazz music he commissioned from Conservatory students.
“It’s almost like a dance movie,” he says. “It’s very different from what I’m used to – I’ve done a lot of documentaries and storytelling. I’m using this class as an opportunity to do something more personal and experimental.
For fourth-years like Schmucki, the emergence of the class was a fluke—not every generation of fourth-year film students had the opportunity to make a climactic final film.
“They haven’t offered this class since the spring of my freshman year,” he said. “I was able to work on a film in my freshman year for someone taking this class, so now it feels like a full circle moment.”
Julia McCormick, fourth year in college, who co-directs the film Kevin’s partynoted that the course helps challenge the major’s fundamental problem – the lack of a senior cornerstone.
“There’s always a question with the film studies major: ‘Why doesn’t this lead to anything?’ It’s something I was wondering,” she said. “I guess it felt like a final class to pursue a bigger project, but it was a little difficult with everyone in the class pursuing a project at the same time. I think a little more organization with the major would have been better, so people could have a cornerstone, but maybe in the first semester instead of all of the second semester.
Amelia Connelly, fourth year in college, writer and co-director of Kevin’s party alongside McCormick, noted that the course also helps address a lack of privacy in the film studies department.
“I feel like it goes back to what Julia was saying, about the lack of closeness or intimacy in the department,” she said. “I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault; I think it’s the pandemic.
This sentiment is felt almost universally in the Class of 2022. Some, like McCormick and Connelly, feel robbed of the opportunity for more film production training as they were sent home in their sophomore year this spring. , when production knowledge is usually first. be taught.
“We feel more scrambled than maybe we would if we had more training in production, but also if the department was more intimate, so that we knew what other courses were being taken, we could get help of people learning those fundamentals,” McCormick said. “It’s also a bittersweet feeling, because just when I had the opportunity to work on a film in my sophomore year, we were sent home.”
However, some filmmakers have remarked that the course helps remedy the lack of privacy in the department. Schmucki, who works as a cinematographer for two projects in addition to his own, emphasized the role of these films and the large crews they require as a community-building experience.
“As much as it’s about the movies, it’s about the people you meet and the connections you make,” he said. “I think I learned a lot in filmmaking classes, but I think I enjoy movies like this, because you do the work, you literally make movies and learn through that process.”
The Film Studies Department will host screenings of the projects open to the public in the Dye Lecture Hall on May 30.