La Sierra showcases new film minor

September 16, 2011
By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( After several years of consideration, La Sierra University officially rolled out a new minor degree this summer that will take advantage of the school’s proximity to the Hollywood film industry.

The university is offering a film studies minor which began enrolling students on July 1. The new program combines classes from three departments—Art, English & Communication, and History, Politics & Society. Classes are divided into applied skills, cultural and theoretical analysis categories. The program will also include activities tied to Hollywood.

Andrew Howe, assistant professor of history, spearheaded development of the minor degree. He anticipates bringing in guest lecturers from the film industry, involving students in Hollywood film festivals, and holding film nights on campus as part of the curriculum.

Such a program may help students land jobs in movie making, Howe said. “Anyone who has ever sat through the credits of a movie realizes the huge numbers of people who contribute to a cinematic product,” he said. “The more versed you are in the technical, critical, historical and cultural dimensions of the field, the more likely you will be to break into it on some level.”

“Above and beyond the practical considerations,” Howe added, “I’m hoping that our [students] learn how to appreciate film from a variety of different perspectives, and have fun doing it.”

Howe had considered implementing a film studies minor over the past several years given the slate of such courses offered in his department. “In looking over the bulletin I noted that the departments of English & Communication and Art also had offerings that made sense for such a minor,” he said. “The chairs of these departments were very supportive of the endeavor and worked to find ways to align their curricula with what I envisioned for the minor. After about a year of working out various configurations, we settled upon the current listing of courses.”

Applied courses in the minor degree include Creative Visual Design, Final Cut Pro Video, Screenwriting and Introduction to Acting. Cultural analysis courses include Hollywood & American History, Topics in Film, World Cinema-Asia and World Cinema-Europe. The latter courses provide introductions to national cinemas of the Pacific Rim countries and India, and of European nations. The Hollywood & American History class explores the political and cultural dimensions of the Hollywood institution from the late 19th century through the present day, according to an outline.

Theoretical analysis courses include History & Aesthetics of Cinema and Social & Critical Movements in Film.

The program will not include actual film production, although academic leaders have not ruled out the possibility of adding such a component should the minor morph into a full major degree.

This fall, three courses offered in the bulletin will count toward the minor: scriptwriting, photography and drawing. The latter course “allows students to practice and hone their abilities to visualize and turn concepts into reality,” and to ultimately draw storyboards which are comprised of significant moments from a scene, said Howe. “The process of storyboarding is a key part of filmmaking. Indeed, many investors won’t put up money for a project until they see both the script and a set of storyboards, as the latter give an early indicator of visual quality,” he said.

The film studies minor can be added to any major degree program, Howe said. He anticipates strong interest in the program from students in the communications department, particularly with the faculty addition of documentary filmmaker and La Sierra alum Carl Christman.

Christman teaches public speaking, interpersonal communications and screenwriting. He has written, directed and produced several documentaries including “The Culture of Fear,” which details the epidemic of fear in America; “Freedom Fries: And other Stupidity We’ll have to Explain to our Grandchildren,” which is a look at the links between patriotism and consumerism and the absurdity of many symbolic patriotic gestures; and “Birther: Obama’s Secret,” a satirical mockumentary of the birther movement.

Christman plans to encourage his students to join the film studies minor. “The film minor allows students to get a broad overview of the study of film and determine if they wish to pursue a career in the field,” Christman said. “Being located so close to the mecca of the entertainment industry, it is important for La Sierra to have a film program.”

Trisha Famisaran, director of La Sierra’s Women’s Resource Center and an adjunct professor in its School of Religion expressed enthusiasm for the new minor.

“I think film is an important means to explore academic and faith questions,” she said. “I was introduced to film theory back in graduate school and instantly began watching films in a completely new light. Film is an excellent medium to explore human nature, for instance, while drawing from the imagination and creativity. This minor will certainly compliment other La Sierra departments such as psychology, religion, English and history.”


PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University
Riverside, California
951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  September 19, 2011