New cinema studies major looks to script success

prof-student meetingSUNY Oswego’s new cinema and screen studies major will offer lessons far beyond making films, its co-coordinators said.

Bennet Schaber and Amy Shore, the new major’s co-coordinators in the English and creative writing department, point to a 2005 New York Times article headlined “Is a Cinema Studies Degree the New M.B.A.?” The skills students develop in these courses translate into many areas of business, Schaber noted.

“Being a film major is not a bad way to get a job,” Schaber said. He said the major, which received final approval in December, teaches such in-demand traits as organizational skills, resource management, technological know-how, problem-solving experience and communication.

“There is recognition in several business sectors that the skills of film majors involve similar tasks” to what successful businesses need, Shore said. For instance, the program emphasizes collaboration and creativity, which are increasingly in demand in the business world, she added.

“These are practical skills,” Schaber said of the interdisciplinary, humanities-based curriculum, which allows students to practice writing, critical thinking and synthesizing information. Students learn not only how to think creatively, but how to guide their ideas into completion, he said.

Majors take eight core courses in English and creative writing and broadcasting to learn literary, critical and technological aspects of filmmaking.

This foundation is complemented by four three-credit electives in anthropology, broadcasting, communication and/or English and creative writing. The major culminates with a one-credit capstone class in which they make their own film.

One of the program’s first majors, Ed Bosak, had a longtime interest in film, and took many of the component courses while waiting for the major to become official.

“All the classes I’ve taken have helped me in different ways,” the senior from Long Island said. “They really gave me an interesting approach to the theoretical aspect of the movies, and I think that helped my writing.”

Those courses reaped rewards when Doug Smart, who taught Bosak in a broadcast scriptwriting class, submitted one of Bosak’s scripts to the Broadcast Education Association’s national student scriptwriting competition, where it took second place.

Another first major, Jill Matyjasik, said the program caught her interest at a time she was unsure what to pursue, and it has paid off both with President’s List grades and a wider worldview.

“What it’s done is given me an outlet to a really broad field of careers,” said Matyjasik, who is considering becoming a teacher. Courses “are very much discussion-based rather than relying on what’s written in a textbook,” stressing critical thinking and communication, she added.

“You learn that film as a medium has its own place in history as a tool to actually capture a moment in time,” said Matyjasik, a junior from Liverpool. “Anyone can learn what a close-up shot is, but the classes also give you theory behind what you’re watching. Filmmakers are artists and like any other artists they have a message to get across.”

- END -

SCREEN DIALOGUE—Dr. Bennet Schaber, co-coordinator of SUNY Oswego’s new cinema and screen studies major, looks over some work with Jill Matyjasik, who is one of the first majors in the program. The new cinema and screen studies major is a humanities-based, interdisciplinary program that teaches critical thinking, organizational skills and resource management as well as how to make films, Schaber said.

(Posted: Jan 24, 2007)