GMU Set to Offer Major in Film Studies


(Sunday, November 5, 2006 10:37 AM EST)

Students at George Mason University who dream of making Hollywood's greatest blockbuster or a documentary that raises public consciousness are in luck.

Starting in fall 2007, GMU will become the first institution of higher learning in Virginia to offer a multi-disciplinary undergraduate degree in film and video studies.

The new major will bring coursework from existing departments together in an effort to give students a well-rounded education in film.

As part of the undergraduate degree program, the English, history, communications, theater and foreign language departments will offer classes that will teach students all aspects of film including production, ethics, business, scriptwriting and critical analysis.

The program, which will be housed in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, was the idea of communications professor Cindy Lont and English professor Cindy Fuchs. Both realized that they, and educators from other departments, were teaching film within their subjects. It made sense to them to create a degree as part of a department-wide collaboration instead of starting from scratch, they said.

So far, their plans have gone without a hitch.

“I think the stars were aligned the right way,” Lont said in a recent interview.

The fledgling program received a boost from AARP, which donated $200,000 worth of equipment it no longer needs. The program also will benefit from a new student video center and an editing lab using Macintosh computer equipment.

Within the 120-credit program, which has a documentary focus, students take a core of film and video classes, but also specialize in a subject area of their choice. Filmmakers from around the area - and around the world - will teach a number of the program's courses.

Film majors will be expected to participate in internships, in an effort to provide real-world, hands-on training.

Lont, who is director of the program, doesn't think there will be any trouble recruiting students for the program. She is advising 18 students already. The film courses they take now will count toward the degree, beginning next fall.

Lont said she is very excited about the program, and believes in the importance of studying the subject academically.

“All mass media has an impact on society,” she said. “To critique is important. To create is important. Hopefully, we'll give students the background and ethics of what they're creating.”

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