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Film Studies: An academic outlet for aspiring filmmakers

By Olive Overmoyer, For The Miami Student

Although it isn't available on the registrar yet, students have already started to fulfill the requirements for the new film studies co-major.

Whether looking to expand their understanding of cinema and its importance as a global medium, or learn about the production side of film, students can find all that and more in the newest addition to the Department of Media, Journalism and Film.

"I think it's an important part of a liberal arts curriculum," said Kerry Hegarty, the film studies coordinator.

Hegarty was a leading voice among those that tried for years to create this opportunity for students. As a co-major, film studies is available for any student to pair with majors outside of the MJF department.

Studying film is not just for those who wish to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, but it is also for those looking to change the way they think.

"By studying film, [students] not only understand film more deeply, but they also understand visual culture and popular culture more deeply," said Hegarty. "And they become more reflective consumers of popular culture and more autonomous beings in the modern world."

Film studies isn't just about sitting back and watching movies. More importantly, students learn about the cultural context of the art.

"You kind of get a more philosophical view of film and why the themes of the stories are what they are and the social ramifications and what inspired those," said senior Nathan Hengstebeck, who will be one of the first students to graduate with a degree in film studies.

After taking many film studies classes throughout his college career, Hengstebeck is excited to see this major come to fruition.

"I am a filmmaker, so learning about the history of cinema and all that is extremely important for myself, as well as anyone else who's interested in breaking into the industry," said Hengstebeck.

The courses within the major will cover media, film studies, film theory and film history. Interested students will have the opportunity to take classes and learn about the process of producing film.

"Since film is such an all-encompassing medium, studying film gives students critical thinking skills, analytical thinking skills, visual literacy skills and creative thinking skills," said Hagerty.

Within the major, students will study film from all regions and cultures. Not only will they be taught about the medium of film, but also about the cultural significance of what they are watching.

"You're not talking about the films and the directors 100 percent of the time," said Hengstebeck. "You're talking about the social situation at the time that those films were released."

Students of all majors could potentially use the skills gained from taking film studies in their everyday lives.

"Our lives are so saturated with moving images that it's an amazing advantage to be able to learn those skills to analyze how they work, and, in that sense, to figure out how to make them work for you," said Jennifer Malkowski, a professor of film studies.