After six years missing out on graduation opportunities for seniors, 12 students in the Department of Film Studies will present films for the first time through the Advanced Filmmaking Projects Course to culminate their career in cinema in Oberlin. These films define the college’s career in the making and learning of these students and symbolize the “wrap” of their time in Oberlin.
In 2016, faced with staff shortages and a lack of resources, the Film Studies Department cut its support for VIPs from the program. Since then, the fourth year of study in the specialty has faced obstacles in creating a thesis film. While they were able to do this by private reading with a professor, the small number of Oberlin professors working on film productions and their limited bandwidth greatly limited the number of students who could create a final film for course credit. This semester, a course that replaces senior graduate majors, Advanced Filmmaking Projects, allowed 12 students to pursue the creation of their own works.
Alba Robledo Diaz 3rd year college is an exception to the typical 4th year profile of the course. She’s taking the course as what she calls a “trick” to her coronation, as she prepares to graduate early this fall.
“It’s like a private group reading with [Professor of Cinema Studies] “Ryan Brown Urso,” she said. “It works like this, so we have a scheduled meeting date, but it’s more about: We get together, we talk about what we’re all going to do and where we stand with our projects. Sometimes we have one-on-one counseling. When we have our meetings together, Rian designed the class so that you really feel like you’re in A professional environment; you have to show your project to everyone.”
For some students, like fourth-year college Katie Homer Drummond, the course is an opportunity to realize an already prepared text and pursue the ultimate consolidation of the topics they explored throughout their Oberlin career.
They said of their movie, “I wanted to do a horror piece on my end, and I wanted to do something that plays with the trilogy and the idea of the trilogy,” wolf girl. “There are three different sections in three different styles, and there is a piece of music used in a lot of different ways. I started out detailing it in the fall and writing an initial script, writing it over the winter, I finished it all and started getting the team together. It became more solid about a topic, Which ends up with the horror of puberty in young girls, especially combined with physical or medical trauma.”
Chris Schmucky, a fourth-year college student, took a different path with his project. He creates what he describes as an experimental piece, involving drawing on celluloid and mixing with free jazz, commissioned by the students of the conservatory.
“It’s almost like a dance movie,” he said. “It’s very different from what I used to do – I’ve done a lot of documentary and narrative work. I’m using this class as an opportunity to do something more personal and experiential.”
For fourth-years like Schmucki, the appearance of the class was a stroke of luck – not every fourth-year film-studies generation had the opportunity to make a final film.
“They haven’t offered this course since the spring of my first year,” he said. “I was able to work on a movie in my freshman year for someone who was taking this class, so now I feel like a whole moment.”
Julia McCormick is a fourth-year college student, who is co-directing the film Kevin’s partynoted that the course helps challenge the core problem of the major – the lack of a major coronation.
“There’s always a question in film studies majoring, ‘Why don’t you culminate in anything? “That’s something I was wondering,” she said. “I think this seemed like a last-ditch path to pursuing a larger project, but it was a bit tricky with everyone in the class pursuing a project at the same time. I think more organization with a major would have been better, so people could get a coronation, but maybe in the first semester instead of all in the second semester.”
Amelia Connelly is in her fourth year of college, writer and co-director of Kevin’s party Besides McCormick, he noted that the course also helps treat a lack of intimacy via the Film Studies department.
“I feel it goes back to what Julia was saying, about the lack of proximity or intimacy in the department,” she said. “I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault; I think this is an epidemic.”
This feeling is felt by almost everyone throughout the class of 2022. Some, like McCormick and Connelly, feel they have been denied the opportunity to gain greater training in film production, as they are sent home during the spring of sophomore year, when knowledge of production is usually first being taught.
“We get more confused than we would if we had more training in production, but also if the department is more intimate, so we know what other courses are being taken, we can get help from people who are learning those basics,” McCormick said. Bittersweet, because only when I had the opportunity to work on a movie in my sophomore year were we sent home.”
However, some filmmakers have noted that the course offers an opportunity to address the department’s lack of intimacy. Schmoky, who serves as director of photography on two projects in addition to his own, emphasized the role of these films and the great crews they require as a community-building experience.
“As far as the movies are concerned, it’s about the people you meet, and those connections you get,” he said. “I think I learned a lot in classes about filmmaking, but I think I appreciate films like this class, because you do the work, you literally make the films and you learn through the process.”
The Department of Film Studies will host project presentations open to the public at the Dye Lecture Hall on May 30.