Long-awaited film major to start fall term

This fall Portland State students can look forward to a new major in film, after the program was approved by the State Board of Higher Education in a meeting on Sept. 7.

This fall Portland State students can look forward to a new major in film, after the program was approved by the State Board of Higher Education in a meeting on Sept. 7.

The major, a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science program in film, was approved at the meeting after a recommendation from the Provost’s Council of the Oregon University System.

The film major, housed in PSU’s theater arts department, will consist of 56 credits, comprised of 10 core courses and 16 elective credits.

While the major is housed in the theater arts department, it will include a large interdisciplinary element, as the elective aspect of the major includes a wide variety of courses from across several departments that have been approved by the theater arts department.

“This is a very exciting program,” said Shawn Smallman, Portland State’s vice provost for production and dean of undergraduate studies academic affairs. “It’s very popular with students, and Portland is an arts-centered community.”

Smallman also said the program requires little additional investment because it draws on existing film classes already being taught on campus.

In total, 14 departments are represented on the approved list of elective courses, with theater arts, English, communication, art and Black Studies offering the majority of the courses.

“I am very pleased with the major,” said Sarah Andrews-Collier, chair of the theater arts department. “And from my standpoint, the faculty feels the same way.”

While earlier drafts of the proposed major were to have an emphasis on hands-on production courses, such as courses in film directing or editing techniques, current renovation plans for Lincoln Hall are forcing the theater arts and music departments to be relocated on campus following next summer, according to Andrews-Collier.

This will halt the implementation of most production courses in the curriculum until the departments return to Lincoln Hall in 2010, she said.

Andrews-Collier also said the curriculum will be tailored to make up for a lack of production courses, offering a host of other types of film courses, to provide students different options for their major requirements.

“Part of the reason it’s flexible is so we can see which areas of film students are actually interested in. This is a more contemporary way to train students,” Andrews-Collier said. “Currently, there is no requirement on the production side.”

Students are also aware of the significance the new film major could have for Portland State.

“Not a large number of students are interested in film right now,” said Caitlin Porter, cinema event coordinator for PSU’s Fifth Avenue Cinema. “But I think that will change. It’s exciting that we will be attracting more students with an interest in film. And Portland State’s program will probably be more affordable than most.”

Although the film major has now garnered majority support, the program was a subject of contention when it was voted on earlier this year by PSU’s Faculty Senate.

The controversy over the major proposed by the theater arts department stemmed from a common concern among opponents that the major’s curriculum did not include enough courses from other departments such as the English or communication departments.

Theater arts included several interdisciplinary courses as electives in the major’s curriculum before the proposal was tabled in March. The major was later approved 48-22, at the Faculty Senate’s May 7 meeting.

William Tate, theater arts professor, said the controversy stemmed from misconceptions regarding his department’s intentions-there was no intent to seize the major or exclude other departments, he said.

The department simply initiated the proposal by creating a line item for the program in the department’s budget, he said.

“It was really due to a lack of communication and a misunderstanding about our goals and intentions,” Tate said.

English professor Lee Medovoi opposed theater arts’ bid for the major at the Faculty Senate meeting in March, citing theater arts’ control of the major as well as its lack of a strong interdisciplinary component.

“I hope the major works out well. There are a lot of potential directions it could move,” Medovoi said. “Obviously I thought there might be a different approach. It doesn’t really matter now because it’s been approved.”

Demand for the program is considered quite substantial by both administration and faculty, with approximately 50 graduates within the first five years of the program’s existence, Andrews-Collier said.

“The demand has been there for a long time,” Andrews-Collier said. “There is not a week that goes by without someone walking in and asking why we don’t have a film major.”