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Film Studies Reels in Students

In the study of film, the term for everything that is inside the frame of the camera is mise-en-scène. Composition, lighting, costumes, set design and many other aspects contribute to the overall mise-en-scène of film or production. Mise-en-scène is the sum of many parts. Without those parts, there is no mise-en-scène, an empty frame, and empty story. Simply empty. However, when mise-en-scène is done well it evokes more than just a feeling. It can inspire culture and ideas that surpass anything that the human mind can think. Mise-en-scène is more than just a film term–it contextualizes our lives and makes sense of it.

Florida Southern College is in its first steps establish its own mise-en-scène with the new Film Studies concentration out of the Communication Department. The Film Studies concentration started Fall 2016 and continues to add classes with each semester. Currently, the classes offered are Storytelling for the Screen, Film History and Video Short Form, taught between the fall and spring semesters. There will be also an experimental course, Dance on Film, offered in the fall semester.  Now more than ever is the time to establish and expand a film studies concentration on FSC’s campus.

“Video and moving media is the future of communication, whether or not we want to agree with or resist it. It is the main market driver for advertising,” Assistant Professor of Communication Mathew Herbertz said.

“It’s extremely important for us as a Communication Department but also for people in other disciplines to gain these necessary skills in order to visually communicate themselves in the workforce but also to creatively problem solve.”

The Internet landscape and the future of content creation is changing with it. According to Cisco,  80% of internet traffic will be video orientated with the United States at a projected over 85% video internet traffic. Comscore says 64% of users are more likely to buy a product online.

“The biggest thing is cultivating an environment where students who might feel intimidated to put ideas into action are seeing other students do it. They are seeing stuff being made. You create a mentorship community where tons of content is produced your reaping the benefits and it gets people excited,” Herbertz said.

Film Studies wasn’t always at the forefront of FSC’s mind. Prior to Professor Herbertz spearheading the Film Studies program, Dr. Patrick Smith in the Psych Department taught several film classes before the concentration was formed, some of which were in collaboration with Dr. Mary Pharr of the Humanities.

“My first film class was a part of the honors class in 2013 around that time. It covered humanities and psychology to cover the general education requirement. Basically, that was my education in how to teach a film class,” Smith said. “One of the things that I learned doing interdisciplinary was to really, really understand the other side, as far the sociocultural ideas, the rationale behind making a film. Mary taught me how to see film as its own art medium.”

After that first class with Pharr, Smith continued to teach film classes mostly related to psychology. However, that first film class was one of the most successful. With most students in the class being freshmen, both Smith and Pharr scored the highest rankings on their student evaluation surveys for that year.

“Quite frankly we need film studies not just at Florida Southern, but we need to revolutionize films again.  Why do all the big films have to be Marvel part 80, there got to be some originality still right?” Smith said. “There are certain films that take you in and let you out. Quite honestly when Kevin Smith did Clerks years ago, that was a snapshot.”

It’s sobering seeing a discipline that was once a fun extra class turn into a legitimate concentration. In the last five to ten years, we have seen buildings upgraded and entire majors added that otherwise didn’t exist. However, to see something small and niche get the care it deserves is truly remarkable. The future of Film Studies is bright with more equipment coming and hopefully more students to follow.

“I see this program growing exponentially in the next five years. I think it will be a great recruiter for the school as well. There is going to be strides in the advancement of the equipment available to students. We’re going to have better stuff that is suited for a film program,” Herbertz said.

For the Film Studies concentration, it’s more than just a class here or there. It’s making it a cultural identity on campus. It’s implementing some of the language of visual storytelling earlier so that when students get to upper-level classes, there can be an emphasis on content and not just in skills. One of the goals is to make the FSC’s film studies competitive with those programs in the Central Florida area. Even more than that, the Film Studies program is not just a dream for the students, it’s a dream for Herbetz as well.

“Film Studies and this program means absolutely everything to me. Being a film professor is living my dream. Having the opportunity to cultivate a program like this is literally a dream realized, so this means the world to me,” Herbertz said. “I know how much being a film student has impacted and changed my life and having a mentor and film professor was life changing. For me having the opportunity to be that for other people is extremely important and fulfilling work.”

The mise-en-scène of the Film Studies program is more than composition or lighting. It’s about building a positive environment where students and professors can learn from each other and make the best possible content. It’s about kindness and mentorship and paying it forward every chance possible. When it comes to Film Studies, seeing the mise-en-scène isn’t enough, it’s feeling an aspect of content creation, both on camera and off.

“For me and for so many people in the creative industry, there is so much competition. There is so much resentment for other people when you see someone else succeed. I totally hate that. I am someone whose like ‘applaud everyone, congratulate them and build them up’ and that the kind of environment I want to build,” Herbertz said.

Related links:

Video Content is King

The Importance of Form: Introduction to Film Studies

Why Does Film Matter