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Earlier this year, Cleveland State University announced that a $7.5 million grant from the State Capital Budget is slated for a soon-to-be School of Film, Television and Interactive Media.
In April, President Ronald Berkman held a press conference along with several state legislators and Ivan Schwarz, President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission. Topics of discussion included the growth of the local media production economy and the rising interest in Cleveland as a shoot location.
The new standalone film school, which would be the only one of its kind in the Midwest, could potentially bring in more Hollywood films like The Avengers, Spider Man 3 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Don’t start counting your pennies for boom mics, editing software and tuition costs just yet. The university will create a standalone film school, but there is little information about where the new facility will be, how much it will cost, or when it will be built. The project is still in its early stages, but talks of the school have already begun between administration, faculty and students.
John Ban, Associate Professor of Digital Media at CSU, who also manages the school’s only studio, said that the university originally planned to build the new school onto the back of its School of Music and Communication. However, other locations like Ideastream have been considered, but that as of press date, conclusive decisions haven’t been made.
“We’re looking at this as an opportunity to really enhance what we have and [to] become a little more specific, a little more geared toward [students’] needs as craftsmen to be able to work out there,” Ban said. “Right now they’re great generalists and we’d like to make them a little bit more specific in certain areas of film that would make them worthy to go out and get a job right away.”
The current film program is a course sequence of the Film and Digital Media program and consists of just ten courses, seven of which are required to earn the film degree. Ban explained that film students do not currently have an adequate environment in which they can practice or access specific programming.
CSU has recruited Bob Bassett, Dean of the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University in Orange, California. Bassett, who began at Chapman in 1981 as a film professor, initiated it’s then-abysmal program which he’s helped grow into a standalone, state-of-the-art facility.
Gregory Sadlek, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, in which the film program exists, held a meeting in August between Bassett and film students to discuss their concerns. Dean Basset began the round-table discussion by asking each student to introduce themselves and to talk about their goals after college.
“My goal is pretty much to become a scriptwriter, however I can do it all,” said Chad Smith, Film and Digital Media major during the meeting. “I am what I have to be and...when I graduate, I definitely want to bring film to Cleveland.”
We spoke with junior film major Najada Davis after the meeting. After Davis learned about Dean Basset’s visit, he created a Facebook event to get more students to attend. Davis is currently working with other students to create an organization of film majors to act on behalf of the student body. He said that when it comes to the new school, he’s mostly concerned with creating internship opportunities for students and having modernized equipment at the new school.
“We should have quality equipment,” said Davis. “I think things should be up-to-date to a certain standard and we probably shouldn’t be working with equipment from the 1980s in a class that’s supposed to be modern.”
Dean Basset also asked students about the problems with their current courses and facilities. Students said that the current Film Program lacks the space to collaborate and work after-hours, that courses are too general, and that they have to fund their own projects.
“We are all talented individuals,” said Smith during the meeting. “We can make film big in Cleveland, all of us. Like I said, we just need the opportunities…and resources. It’s so hard to film with a zero dollar budget.
Senior Lukas Hamlescher, a senior with a focus in indie film also voiced his concerns during the meeting. Despite the discussion with Dean Bassett, Hamlescher is not convinced that the administration’s plans for the school coincide with those of the students.
“To be honest, I think that the administration thinks that the future is money,” Hamlescher said. “They think that the students are going to bring money to Cleveland and to the state...I’m not so sure that creativity and collaboration and secured jobs and alumni are really on [President Berkman’s] mind.”
Students are now part of the conversation about planning the film school, but Hamlescher says that’s just the start.
“I think this is just the beginning,” Hamlescher said. “I think people are now together, voices are heard, opinions have been heard and shared and it’s just time to move forward with this [and] keep the energy going.”
The Vindicator will keep you updated in the coming year as more information about the School of Film, Television and Interactive Media emerges.