After two years of planning, President Michael Roth announced in Los Angeles on Feb. 18 that the University will be creating a College of Film and the Moving Image, which will encompass all existing film-related programs under one umbrella.
Professor of Film Studies and Curator of the Cinema Archives Jeanine Basinger, who is currently on sabbatical, commented on the new College in an email to The Argus from Chair of Film Studies Scott Higgins.
“Since its birth around the early 1970s, Film Studies has been interdisciplinary,” Basinger wrote. “We are delighted that the College of Film and Moving Image unites the Film Studies department, the Cinema Archives, the Center for Film Studies, and the Film Series into a single entity. Thanks to President Michael Roth, the EPC [Educational Policy Committee], our dean, and our provost for all the support that we were given.”
Interest in the film major has been growing over the years, increasing from 30 students when it was formed to over 80 students today. According to Higgins, because the film major is already so important to the University, the new College will only strengthen the work of the students by making it easier for them to work together. Acceptance into the College will not differ from acceptance into the film major.
“Filmmaking is intensely collaborative, and each generation of Senior Filmmakers draws their crew from the ranks of Wesleyan classmates, giving prospective majors first-hand creative experience,” Higgins wrote. “This is one reason that Wesleyan Film has such continuity from year to year, decade to decade, and that cycle helps strengthen our alumni network. Our studies courses, too, involve group collaboration and the student film series fosters a campus-wide film culture that unites students outside of the classroom.”
The College will be located at the Center for Film Studies and the Wesleyan Cinema Archives, and according to Higgins, the archives will serve as a greater resource for the students of the College.
“Last fall we had the great fortune to hire Andrea McCarty, who is the Charles W. Fries Curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives,” Higgins wrote. “The Archives are a major historical resource for film scholars at an international level, and Andrea will oversee its growth as more filmmakers seek a repository for their materials. She is also spearheading an initiative to integrate the Archives and the Major, by making the collections accessible to our classes and planning a course on media archiving that she will offer in our department. The College provides a framework for bringing the Archives and Major closer together, making the most of resources we already have.”
The College will also bring in a wide range of visiting professors to the University. In the fall of 2013, head film critic for the New York Times A.O. Scott will come to teach a course. Before replacing Elvis Mitchell as head film critic, Scott served as a book reviewer for Newsday and a frequent contributor to other publications, including Slate and The New York Review of Books, among others.
“The College of Film and the Moving Image, it’s more recogniz[ing] what we’re doing than changing it dramatically, but it’s going to help us bring writers and filmmakers and critics,” said University President Michael Roth.
Higgins anticipates that the College will become an important, competitive aspect of the University. According to Higgins, Hollywood Reporter has ranked the University’s film department seventh in the magazine’s annual international list of the top 25 Film Schools.
“Wesleyan Film leads all other liberal arts colleges in the field and compares well with major Film Schools,” Higgins wrote. “Yet, we are not a film production program. We offer a true liberal-arts approach to the study of the moving image. In the past half-decade, we’ve seen many other liberal arts colleges develop film programs, lots of them employing our model. We believe that Wesleyan offers a distinctive learning environment, one that cannot be matched by either the big production schools or the departments and programs at our peer institutions.”
Roth also discussed how this College separates the University from its peer institutions.
“It’s not a change to the curriculum,” Roth said. “I think it’s really great because Wesleyan, unlike other liberal arts colleges, we can actually have colleges within the University that are not bounded by the departments. [Currently] there are faculty from five or six departments working within the film department.”
Roth said that the College has already received financial support.
“It has already gotten donations,” he said. “We do hope that it will attract more donations so that we can put more endowment behind what they’re already doing.”
Roth also said that the new College is not intended to change the structure of the film department, but rather support its existing resources.
“We’re not trying to dramatically change what’s happening now,” Roth said. “We’re doing pretty well.”
Higgins summarized that the main goal of the College is to continue expanding the academic caliber of the film department.
“Our main motivation is to strengthen our approach to learning and create a framework that will support our continued growth,” Higgins wrote.