New Program Gives Film Majors a Leg Up in a Competitive Industry

Posted: March 7, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

George Mason is providing young, aspiring movie directors with insider knowledge of the film business. The brand-new Film and Video Studies (FAVS) program offered in the College of Visual and Performing Arts beginning this fall is an innovative program designed to teach students the skills necessary to compete in a challenging industry.

The FAVS program is a multidisciplinary bachelor of arts degree that includes core courses in arts and visual technology, communications, English and electives in history and modern and classical languages.

“I am very excited about this program,” says Cindy Lont, communications professor and director of the FAVS program. “Those of us teaching film and video studies at Mason always knew we had the faculty expertise and the student interest necessary to offer such a degree.”

Lont says that once Dean Bill Reeder expressed interest and support, Mason’s Board of Visitors and the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia soon gave their approval.

The unique program, created by Lont and Associate Professor and Film Studies Director Cindy Fuchs, includes lessons on production, theory, criticism, history, business, ethics and scriptwriting.

Though the program doesn’t officially start until the fall, 17 students have already enrolled and are participating in program-sponsored events, and nearly 80 incoming freshmen have expressed interest.

One of the distinctive aspects of the program is the FAVS 100 course. The students must take the one-credit class three times during the program . To complete requirements for the degree, students must create a final senior project, find an appropriate internship and participate in “Studio A” — a GMU-TV production — to meet and interview local filmmakers. The program airs to more than 600,000 homes in Northern Virginia on GMU-TV.

The first episode of “Studio A,” which was taped last week, will re-air on Thursday, March 8, at 5:30 p.m., and again on Saturday, March 10, at 7:30 p.m. The episode features Sarah Stein, an Academy Award-winning editor and associate professor in the Department of Communications at North Carolina State University.

“I would have loved to have had an education like this early in my career,” Stein said after the “Studio A” taping. “The people who taught me were the people I was working with. I had to learn as I worked professionally. Many aspects I had to pick up on my own. But if you don’t happen to be in a place like Manhattan, for example, where that information is easy to come by, a course like this one can make a huge difference.”

Stein, who completed her PhD after 25 years in the documentary film business, sees the dramatic importance of bringing into the classroom trained film professionals who can speak from experience.

“You’re able to look at things in a different way and listen in a different way,” Stein explained. “In a program like this, the students get the benefit of having people who are long-experienced in the film business that can teach you, interact with you and guide you. This program that George Mason is doing is not only a very important thing to do, but also a very smart thing to do.”

Chris Gatewood, a soon-to-be film major who attended the filming of Stein’s interview, noticed features of the show that are often difficult to portray in the classroom. “It’s interesting to learn how streamlined everything has to be in order to produce a show like the one we saw today,” Gatewood said. “There’s a great amount of preparation that goes into it, and if you try to go on-the-fly, then things get lost.

“One of the most interesting things we discussed before and after the show was how to get into the business,” Gatewood continued. “It’s a very competitive industry, so for students like us, getting in is the number one priority. This program is a great place to start — we get to meet seasoned professionals while we learn.”

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