WKU introduced the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production in the fall of 2020. Originally, the university only offered a Bachelor of Arts in Film, a more flexible program that allowed students to double their major. .
The BA program that was in place at WKU before 2020 struggled to serve the different types of students in the program. Sara Thomason, film coordinator and assistant professor, said the curriculum was not rigorous enough for students who wanted to work in the film industry, but was too much for students who took film major and did not plan to work in Industry.
To address this difference, WKU introduced the BFA in film production and updated the BA curriculum to better meet the needs of students, Thomason said.
The BFA in Film Production is an 81-hour pre-professional program that provides students with hands-on instruction in pre-production, production, and post-production, according to the WKU website.
“The requirements for the BFA and the BA are the same for the first year,” Thomason said.
First year film students take introductory courses such as Introductory Cinema and Basic Film Production to find out if their affection for cinema lies in watching and talking about movies or actually create them.
After the first year, students make the decision to apply to the BFA, which accepts 24 students each year, or to stay at the BA.
Students who are accepted into the BFA receive a “film boot camp” in the fall semester that teaches directing, cinematography, production and production design, according to Thomason. Students will produce 24 films in the fall semester and in the spring they will focus on post-production such as sound and image editing.
Thomason said the working days on set are typically 13 hours with a one hour break. These long working days are important for students, as this is what they will encounter in the film industry.
Our curriculum is tough and our students are tough because the film industry is tough and you have to be tough to work in film, ”Thomason said.
Thomason said the third-year students will work on sets for the senior students’ thesis films and create their second level of films in the spring semester.
In the fourth year of the program, students make their thesis films between synthesis courses. In the spring, the students post-production of the thesis films then project.
According to Thomason, the university recently clarified the policy regarding the ownership of student films.
In order to avoid the problems that could arise if the student director owned the film, the university now owns the films.
“When our students asked us for clarification, we asked the university for clarification,” Thomason said.
Since WKU provides the most money, resources and advice for the films, it has been decided that the university will own it, Thomason said.
“Nothing changes for the students,” Thomason said. “They can submit this film to any festival they want and they can show it to whoever they want to show it. The only thing we ask is that they protect it with a password, so that it is not accessible to the public.
The policy gives students the flexibility to use the films and footage they create, as they can get permission from the university rather than the director.
Thomason said student-created films are reviewed by the advisory committee and faculty who give students their feedback on the films. Students can fill out festival strategy forms if they want to submit their films to festivals.
Student films can be submitted to larger festivals such as Student Emmy’s and Student Oscars, as well as regional festivals, Thomason said.
Jacob Staley, senior in the BFA Film Production Program, was the 2021 recipient of the David J. Clarke Memorial Fellowship from the Ohio Valley Section of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, according to the WKU Website.
Staley said the film program saw him appear at the Student Oscars, Emmy Awards, and received the David J. Clarke Memorial Scholarship of $ 5,000.
Staley is now working on his own master thesis as a post-specialist working on sound design and editing.
“In order to get pre-production credit, I was a producer,” Staley said. “The movie is currently called ‘Whitney’. My job was to find places, actors and try to get funding.
Staley said he’s editing the movie and can’t wait to assemble the product they’ve been making over the spring semester.
“Everyone has been fantastic on our set,” said Staley. “We had a great time. We encountered almost no problems, which is really surprising.
Julie Bowles, senior of the BFA Film Production program, worked alongside Staley on the same senior thesis film as director of photography.
“I do most of the visual design and plan how Lightning works, basically helping to create the visual language for the movie,” Bowles said. “I was very involved with the director and the production designer.”
Bowles said the director gave her a vision of how the film would look and she did her job as a cinematographer to bring it to life.
Bowles said she’s always been drawn to the more technical side of things and that’s where she sees herself working in the future.
“I didn’t necessarily think about being a cinematographer, but now, after I graduated from school, I’m much more interested in having this creative role,” Bowles said.
After graduation, Bowles plans to work with smaller production companies that work on commercials or reality TV rather than full-length feature films in order to slowly prepare for a career in the film industry. .
Since there is no major film industry in Kentucky, students should consider leaving Kentucky upon graduation.
“If you want to work on the movies that you see in theaters, you have to go to where they’re shot,” Thomason said. “At the moment, these are not made in Kentucky.”
Thomason said the main areas for cinema are Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York and Canada.
“We have a program with WKU Global where we do an outside study program,” Thomason said. “We take our seniors to Los Angeles and we have them talk to the Directors Guild and the Writers Guild. We are trying to make it less intimidating for students who have never left the state.
Thomason said that while she wishes there were more opportunities in Kentucky for her students, she is currently encouraging students to seek greater opportunities outside of the state.
Staley and Bowles recently attended the WKU Global trip to California to get a feel for what the industry is like there and to make connections.
Since the BFA film production program began in 2020, the current group of seniors will be the first to successfully complete the program. Although the BFA program is a four-year program, a hybrid form has been created so that students in the upper classes of the older BA program still have the opportunity to participate in the BFA. Current sophomores will be the first group to experience the program as it is designed to be.
Ella David, a sophomore in the BFA program, said she plans to go to WKU for movies since high school. David said that by visiting WKU she learned that WKU would add a BFA program.
“When I came to tour here, Sara told me they were adding a BFA program, and I was interested because I really wanted to do film production,” David said.
David said her freshman experience confirmed that she wanted to get into film production and decided to apply for the BFA.
David said the time spent on set is the main difference between BA and BFA.
“I vividly remember the first time I went on set because I was so nervous,” said David. “I just remember coming in and watching the students in the upper class do what they were doing. At the end of the day we went for 13 hours in total. I was exhausted, but I just couldn’t help but smile. It was amazing. ”
David said the set days are to wake up around 5 a.m., assemble the equipment from Jody Richards Hall’s film lab, and then settle in to a location anywhere within a 30-minute radius.
David said the students are responsible for securing the locations for their films as well as the money used for the production design.
“I spent a lot of money out of my pocket cooking people lunches, buying costumes for the actors and finding venues,” David said. “The reason we don’t get a budget is so that the students in the upper grades can. In two years, when I make a thesis film, I will be able to use money that is not mine.
According to Thomason, because the program provides students with access to professional-grade equipment and a full crew, the only expenses students have to pay are the production design and the cost of feeding the actors and of the team.
According to WKU Film websitethe cinema program provides students with professional equipment such as RED Cinema cameras, Sound Devices recorders, and LED lighting packages.
“All the equipment that we provide our students for a daylong shoot could easily run up to $ 15,000,” Thomason said. “Some of our students decide to write really crazy movies that require a lot of production design or require them to bring in actors, but these aren’t things we need.”
According to Thomason, students have the option of applying for undergraduate and faculty engagement scholarships, four of which she has supervised. The program also offers $ 500 for thesis films.
“What we’re trying to do here is build something that doesn’t exist,” Thomason said. “We’re looking at a program where you get a high-level, expensive education for a regional university tuition rate. ”
Thomason said his favorite part of the program is seeing students who have no filmmaking knowledge grow up to be incredible storytellers and endure the vulnerability it takes to tell their stories.
“At the end of the day, we create a network and a series of connections,” Thomason said. “Our students care about each other so much, and I hope and believe they care about the program as well. We are all there for them.
Journalist Madison Carter can be reached at [email protected] topper.wku.edu.