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CWU Film Program Prepares Students for Industry Success

By: Kimberly Smith


May 17, 2018

In early June, students and community members will be able to attend the first screening of fifteen new films made by students of Central Washington University’s film program. Some of the student filmmakers will have been working on these ten-page scripts for over a year by the time their films finally premiere. This ambitious project is part of the film program’s new curriculum, which aims to better prepare students for future success in the film industry.

Though changes to CWU’s film program have been in progress for several years, this is the first year the new curriculum has been in place, according to Film Program Director, Professor Jon Ward. Some changes to the curriculum include the addition of a series of production classes. In FILM 380 (Production III), students try making their own complete films, which will be shown to the public in the spring. Next year, students will take on even more challenging projects in Production IV through VI.

The addition of these classes, along with other changes to the curriculum, is part of the film program’s goal to better prepare its students for success in the highly competitive film industry. The new curriculum’s primary goal, Ward says, is to ensure students are “ready to compete with anyone else that’s coming out of a film program.” Ward explains that success in this competition “doesn’t happen by chance,” but instead requires hard work and planning.

Under the new curriculum, CWU’s film students are encouraged to meet the standards required for future success. Current FILM 380 students, for example, are doing “way more than the minimum” amount of work, according to Ward. Some of these students will put in between 800 and 1,000 hours working on films during the 2018 Spring quarter. Even more impressive is the fact that these hours are not compulsory. Students choose to put in this hard work to contribute to the making of great films. The good reputation that students will build at CWU through this work, Ward says, will help them professionally in the future.

The work students are putting in under the new curriculum is paying off, it seems, as work by CWU film students has been acknowledged and praised by organizations outside the University. In 2017, for example, work by students in the program won first place in the Broadcast Education Association’s Student Narrative Category—an achievement made even more significant considering that University of Southern California received second place. “There’s nothing they’re doing that we’re not doing here,” Ward says. Though the new curriculum is still developing, this success is “a starting point” for the students and the program.

The premiere of the FILM 380 students’ new films in June will be another chance for the program to assess its efficacy. However, the showcase will provide equally valuable feedback to students. According to Ward, the program tries to show students that “when you push [your work] outside of Ellensburg and people care, that’s when you know you’re doing something right.” When audiences see these new films for the first time in June, the program hopes that, instead of thinking of them as work by student filmmakers, they will “think of them as just films.”

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