As underclassmen plan to declare their majors at the end of the semester, those who want to study filmmaking will have two options this year instead of one.
Although filmmaking classes have been offered in Yale’s Art Department for decades, this is the first academic year that the department has offered “filmmaking” as one of its five concentrations. Previously, students interested in pursuing filmmaking curricularly were restricted to the “production” track within the Film & Media Studies major. According to Russell Cohen ’17, a Film & Media Studies major, the creation of the new concentration may attract students who otherwise would have immediately decided to major in Film & Media Studies.
“I could see people having to put more thought into [their decision], though for many people it wouldn’t be a super hard choice,” Cohen said.
J.D. Connor, the director of Undergraduate Studies for Film & Media Studies, said he believes that the existence of two concentrations allows for students to study the aspect of filmmaking that appeals most to them. According to Emily Murphy ’17, a Film & Media Studies major, students interested in the technical aspect of filmmaking may lean towards the concentration in the art major.
Film & Media Studies professor Charles Musser ’73 said he thinks the change has led more students to take classes in both programs.
Faculty members in both programs highlighted that the tracks are largely different from one another, noting that Film & Media Studies production track is grounded in critical theory and film history while the filmmaking concentration in the art major places filmmaking in a larger artistic context.
Travis Gonzalez ’16, a production concentrator within the Film & Media Studies major, said that, were he able to go back and select between the two options, he would choose the track within the art major.
“It’s one thing to be a critic, and everyone at Yale tends to be a really good critic, but it’s entirely different to go and make something in production,” Gonzalez said. “When it comes to production, the opportunities in the art major are just better right now.”
The production concentration within the Film & Media Studies major requires six credits in film production, which can consist of combinations of filmmaking, photography or theater courses. On the other hand, the six credits that make up the filmmaking concentration in the art major are specific and involve either documentary or fiction film.
Connor and Musser said they think it is important for filmmakers to have a knowledge of film history and an ability to evaluate films from an academic perspective.
According to Andrews, the department’s filmmaking concentration is for students who want to focus on the art and practice of filmmaking, rather than on the history and theory behind the discipline.
“Looking into the history of what came before you in filmmaking is the same as a painter studying the styles of different painters that came before her; it’s important, but it’s not the same as learning to paint,” said Sandra Luckow ’87, a documentary filmmaking professor based in the Yale School of Art. “Theory, in the way that it’s presented at Yale, does not have much of an impact on production.”
Gonzalez added that while he thinks the production-oriented course offerings within his major are expanding, it is nonetheless difficult for the program to relax its focus on academic theory in order to strengthen its production side.
Connor noted that a substantial portion of the material in screenwriting classes involves learning what makes screenplays successful in the professional world, rather than the craft itself. He added that roughly two-thirds of Film & Media Studies majors are production concentrators, and that half of production concentrators write feature-length screenplays as their senior theses.
“Some of our seniors make movies that would gladly be projected in a gallery, but more of them are going to want to learn how to write a pilot for a TV series,” Connor said, adding that he thinks the opposite may be true of filmmaking concentrators within the art major.
As of now, there are two sophomores who have officially decided to pursue the Art major’s filmmaking concentration.