Film studies minor lets students explore film critique, production

November 19, 2018

A class project produced by Tyler Harris, who graduated in May with a minor in film studies.

It's no surprise that movies and television are popular storytelling media, but do you know what makes your favorite series so engaging?

For a handful of Bellarmine University students, their love of film is more than a hobby -- it's part of their studies, thanks to an academic minor launched four years ago by the Bellarmine College of Arts and Sciences.

Bellarmine's film studies minor was created in 2014 after two years of planning. When Dr. Jennifer Barker -- chair of the English department -- joined Bellarmine's faculty in 2012, developing the minor was part of the plan, as she had previously directed a film studies minor in East Tennessee State University.

The program currently has about 15 students, along with another 12 who have already graduated with the minor. Other students take individual film studies courses without pursuing the minor. Barker says the minor pairs well with many majors, but students pursuing it typically major in English, communication, art, philosophy, psychology or theater.

"I had a film minor once who was a pre-med biology major, and she told me that in her interview with medical schools she explained some of her ideas about about health issues based on movies we had watched. She felt this gave her a competitive advantage over many of the other students," said Barker. "Everyone watches movies and likes to talk about them: it’s the lingua franca of our time."

"I was drawn to the film minor because I have always loved movies and have considered pursuing screenwriting," said Rebecca Livingston, a senior from Louisville who is majoring in English. "The minor has definitely given me a new appreciation for the art of moviemaking and storytelling. One of the most interesting projects so far has been to create my own stop-motion animation. It was a lot of work, but so much fun!"

The film studies minor is one of 11 minors currently offered to undergraduate students. Others include anthropology, peace studies, marketing communication, and refugee and forced migration studies.

"The minor is set up so you have quite a lot of choice," she said. "You can focus more on critical classes or production classes, depending on your interests. Since it is interdisciplinary, you end up working with students from a number of majors and this brings in a lot of different perspectives. The small class sizes allow for a lot of individual attention and some really productive community building."

The program includes three required courses and three electives, for a total of 18 credit hours. Barker says the film studies classes tend to fill up quickly during registration. Many of the electives are cross-listed with other departments, such as art, communication and political science. 

"Movies and television shows are some of the most important and powerful cultural forms of the last century, though they are often viewed uncritically," said Barker. "Film studies courses guide students away from the habits of consumption towards an attentive and analytic appreciation for the complex content and structure of filmmaking."

Barker said the interdisciplinary minor is designed to deepen perception and discernment when it comes to visual storytelling and media literacy, skills that are applicable to multiple career paths as well as graduate studies.

I’ve been into film for as long as I can remember," said Tyler Harris, a manager at Baxter Avenue Theatres who graduated in May with a degree in English and a film studies minor. "Today, I write a lot about movies. Clearly the passion for film is there, but without Bellarmine’s film studies minor, I don’t think I would have been able to refine my tastes or my writing style in the same way.

"The film minor gave me all the inner workings of a more analytical approach to cinema and now I basically can’t watch movies like a normal person. I constantly analyze shot composition, take length, narrative structures, visual growth, etc. This may sound like a curse, but it’s actually an incredible talent — one that can be used to analyze other important things in life as well."

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