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August 2005, Week 4


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Barbara Baker <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 22 Aug 2005 10:02:45 -0500
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I'm sorry to be responding to a reply, but I did not receive the original posting (my e-mail system is acting up).  Forgive me if my reactions are more to the posts I did read.

At the state university where I teach, in the midwest part of the U.S., my department has two different types of film classes--those for Communication majors emphasizing a broadcast media degree, and a general education Film Appreciation class (with 100+ students per section).  General education is often a part of higher education in the U.S. when it is not in the U.K. or other countries.   My colleagues and I made the decision to show films during the class time instead of having students see them outside of class (even though most of the classes offered in the university are for 3 hours of credit).

We set the major classes for 3 hour blocks (afternoon or night classes), and often try to show a feature-lenght film per class or every other class.  We've tried the gen ed class that way, but it doesn't work well for a number of reasons.  Nor will studentse films outside of class.  Many work outside of class, others are just immature, and prefer socializing with their peers.   Therefore, for the gen ed class we screen films over two class periods, with group discussions afterwards (where students answer questions over the films).  This, of course, limits the number we can show in that class (we screen seven features total, with lots of clips to illustrate points in lecture).

We require attendance on the days we view films, but sometimes students miss (if so, in my class they must make them up outside of class, and write a short paper on them to get the credit).  Also, here in the "bible belt," we get religious (or other) students who sometimes get offended by certain types of films.  I warn them that we'll be seeing some potentially objectional films at the star of the semester, but, because we are a a state insttitution, I need to offer them alternative viewing option if they so request.  As with makeup assignments, they must see the film out of class (and write a paper about it).  Over the past seven years of offering this gen ed class, I've only had a handful of students who've chosen that alternative, maybe because it requires more work.

Students get credit (grades) for their group discussions, but even there, we sometimes get students who miss the screenings and who don't makeup them up. Therefore, I also have a policy stated in my syllabus that if they miss more than 3 of the 7 feature films, they flunk the class, regardless of their grades on exams or the final paper (which is on a film they see outside of class).   Students who miss that much class often door poorly on the other work, anyway.

So that's our policy for film viewing.  It has worked well for us, both for the gen ed class and the major classes.

Barbara L. Baker
Dept. of Communication
Central Missouri State University
Warrensburg, MO. 64093
[log in to unmask]

>>> [log in to unmask] 08/22/05 4:37 AM >>>
Timothy Shary writes:

>I always tell my students that screenings for film courses should be 
>considered the same as labs for science courses-- they are required 
>in order to learn the material.

I've tried that, but found that it just doesn't work.  The widespread 
availability of most films on VHS or DVD coupled with the fact that 
most students (at my institution, at least) are focused purely and 
simply on passing the assessments and have no interest whatsoever in 
the subject beyond that, means that they simply don't show up to 
organised screenings.  Another barrier (which is common in a lot of 
UK institutions) is that teaching sessions are timetabled in one-hour 
blocks, and it's very difficult to book a lecture theatre for longer 
than that.  The only other option is Wednesday afternoons, when 
there's no scheduled teaching: but we are strictly forbidden from 
putting on compulsory sessions relating to undergrad taught modules, 
mainly because the Students' Union insists on this, believing that 
it's more important for them to be playing sports, doing part-time 
jobs (understandable, given the economic climate of HE nowadays) or 
drinking themselves to oblivion in the bar.

Last year I was even vetoed from screening a 35mm archive print of a 
film that is not available on any form of retail video, unless I gave 
an undertaking that it wouldn't be mentioned in any of the essay or 
exam questions.  This was because the only possible slot for the 
session would have been a Wednesday afternoon, and I can't organise 
sessions on a Wednesday afternoon which are anything other than 
optional, i.e. over and above the course requirements.  If I'd 
screened the film on that basis, about three students would have shown up.

>The only instance other than illness (or family crisis, etc.) when I 
>excuse students from screenings is when they tell me the content of 
>a film will upset them, which is rare.

I absolutely refuse to do this under any circumstances.  In the first 
session of my 'Archiving the Media' module, and in the information 
which students have when they're deciding their final year module 
choices, I make it clear that in this one they will be shown (for 
example) concentration camp footage, extremist propaganda from both 
left and right, a home movie which shows a public guillotining and 
hard core porn.  If they're not willing to deal with that, they 
shouldn't be taking the module.  These people are adults, not 
children: and the ability to produce a rational and considered 
response to emotionally and/or ideologically problematic material 
should be a core skill for any graduate in a humanities or social 
sciences discipline, IMHO. If they've got personal issues which 
prevent them from being able to make such a response, they should go 
and do a degree in electrical engineering.


Dr. Leo Enticknap
Curator, Northern Region Film & Television Archive & Senior Lecturer 
in Media Studies
School of Arts and Media
University of Teesside
Tel. +44 (0)1642 384049
Fax +44 (0)8712 249151 

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