A new concentration within the undergraduate art major offers students a formalized way to study film production.
Introduced this academic year, the filmmaking concentration will add a fifth area of specialty to the art major’s existing four — graphic design, painting and printmaking, photography and sculpture. The new track’s program of study will draw on existing course offerings from the School of Art and the undergraduate Film Studies Department. Students who choose to pursue the concentration will be required to fulfill the art major’s typical prerequisites, though they will also have the opportunity to substitute courses in the history of film for the usual art history requirement. Dean of the School of Art Rob Storr said the new concentration is an attempt to offer students a curricular track that will integrate the general study of visual arts with the more specialized study of film production.
“Rather than treating film as a separate category outside of the visual arts generally, we’d like to see it taught in the School [of Art], and have it possible for students to major in film with the same level of seriousness that they could with any other discipline,” Storr said.
John MacKay, chair of the Film Studies Department, said he thinks students should view the filmmaking concentration as an additional track through which they may pursue their interests in film production. MacKay noted that there has been — and will continue to be — a “practice”-oriented track within the Film Studies major itself, though he added that the new concentration will provide an outlet for those particularly interested in making film within the context of broader visual practice.
MacKay said he thinks that while the Film Studies major tries to give students the tools for becoming filmmakers, Yale displays a certain resistance towards stressing a rigid, preprofessional course of study for undergraduates, in keeping with its liberal arts values. He added that the major prepares students for the creative practice of filmmaking by exposing them not only to film production, but also to the history of filmmaking and film theory. MacKay stressed the overlap between the filmmaking concentration and the film studies major, but noted that the major still requires a much higher number of courses in the history, theory and analysis of film in addition to classes focusing on film production.
Film studies professor Jonathan Andrews said that he believes filmmaking is the “ultimate” liberal arts course, as it incorporates fields like psychology, theatre, literature, aesthetics, history and even physics.
Professor J.D. Connor, the director of undergraduate studies for the Film Studies Department, explained that over the past year professors from the School of Art and the film studies program have been reexamining undergraduates’ options for studying film. Taking into consideration their shared faculty, courses and students, the two programs conceived the filmmaking concentration as a way to share responsibility for the practical instruction of students, Connor noted.
“Before, students were trying to patch together a program out of offerings that were not necessarily coordinated — some things in the School of Art, some things in the film studies program — and they were having a hard time choosing,” Storr explained. “[The filmmaking concentration] will provide a clearer course for students so they’re not tempted by competing options. Now, they have one coherent option that’s been negotiated.”
Storr emphasized his commitment to a diverse concentration that will attract students working in a variety of disciplines within the context of filmmaking.
The undergraduate film studies major draws on courses from departments such as French, German, theater studies and the history of art, among others.