WCU to offer new film major

Newly approved by the UNC Board of Governors, the Motion Picture & Television Production B.F.A. is making pioneering steps at WCU. The program is new, not yet in the course catalogue, though many students are interested and excited about a future in production. Director of the program, Jack Sholder says, “We have students who have chosen the major and are serious, if not passionate, about filmmaking and films. The program has attracted a lot of attention, and we’ve had prospective students visit us from as far away as San Antonio.” The primary focus of the major is to teach perspective film makers everything from basic techniques and screenwriting to how to use modern technologies and equipment. “At the dizzying pace that technology is changing, we need to teach the latest, but we also need to teach the basics that haven’t changed. The essence of that is how to tell a story on a screen, be it a movie screen, TV, computer monitor or cell phone,” says Sholder. The newly formed major is still in its infancy, but if its instructors’ combined experiences are to indicate a level of expertise, the unique assembly which WCU has incurred speaks volumes. Sholder has directed movies and TV for most of the Hollywood major studios and networks; prior to that he earned an Emmy for editing. Pat Acheson worked as a network production manager in New York for 25 years. Terry Curtis Fox worked on features and major TV series and has served on the board of the Writers Guild of America, before which he was a film critic in New York and Chicago. Arledge Armenaki has shot features in Hollywood and North Carolina, as well as documentaries and award-winning shorts. He also started the cinematography program at the NC School of the Arts 10 years ago. In order for the program to be successful, it was necessary to buy new equipment and computer software. WCU is rapidly expanding, and current technology is essential in order to have a modern edge in the field of production. In the past six months, $100,000 has been spent in upgrades and additions. The program is completely digital and hi-def, which required the purchase of the latest Sony HDV camera packages, a full complement of movie lighting and grip equipment including a dolly and the Sony F900 Cine Alta camera. “We’re putting in a new Final Cut Pro editing lab which will bring us up to 40 computers on campus equipped for editing,” says Sholder. Although the program is still new, no one has actually obtained a degree yet. There are definitely students with talent who are doing interesting work, according to Sholder. There were two groups who entered the 48 Hour Film Project this summer and won prizes. It is expected that they will do even better this summer. Next year, students will be doing thesis films which will be entered into film festivals, as well. The film club on campus is actively creating projects for this semester and the following year. The club is organizing a Student Film Festival and Competition for this semester, and it is hoped that many students will come to the screenings to see what the production students are working on. The faculties of the Motion Picture Studies and the Motion Picture Production programs are organizing a “Half Frame Festival” to go with the Full Frame Festival that takes place in Durham. The Full Frame Festival is one of the premier documentary festivals in the world. Sholder and his colleagues have invited a director to come to WCU from the Full Frame Festival to take part in the Half Frame Festival which will showcase filmmakers from WNC. The Half Frame Festival will also include a workshop, screening and discussion with the visiting director. The production program has room for growth, and in the future, the faculty hopes to have their own department in the new College of Fine & Performing Arts, which is scheduled to become active fall 2007. They are looking to add faculty who specialize in computer graphics, animation, gaming, producing and post production, as well. Naturally, as the program evolves and gains recognition, the student enrollment will grow, as well. Sholder says, “This program is a work in progress, and we’re learning and trying to improve every day and every semester.” For more information about this program, contact Jack Sholder at jsholder@email.wcu.edu.