Story published by Student Filmmakers; written by Megan Harr.
The Ohio University Film Division (in the new School of Dance, Film, and Theater) is dedicated to providing an educational environment of creativity, diversity and excellence in which talented and disciplined students can examine and develop the art and craft of the motion picture as an art form, educational tool and a dynamic cultural force…
A rural and historic town located along the Hocking River in southeastern Ohio, Athens is home to Ohio University whose collective student body nearly outnumbers the population of the town itself. Its relatively small size means that the Ohio University Film Division is able to provide its students with a focused education in film that allows them to hone their skills away from the pressures of the industry before moving on to a more urban area.
The Ohio University Film Division is dedicated to providing an educational environment of creativity, diversity and excellence in which talented and disciplined students can examine and develop the art and craft of the motion picture as an art form, educational tool and a dynamic cultural force in the 21st Century. The Film Division offers a three-year MFA graduate degree in Film Production for those looking for advanced training in directing, screenwriting, producing, cinematography and a two-year MA graduate degree in Film Studies that focuses on film criticism, film history, and analysis. A BFA degree is offered through the Honors Tutorial College to exceptional undergraduate students.
Steven Ross, Director of the Film Division, has been a cinematographer and filmmaker for more than 30 years. Ross shares his experience with us and gives us a closer look at what the Ohio University has to offer prospective students.
What sets Ohio University Film apart from other film schools?
Steven Ross: We are primarily a graduate program although we do offer a BFA to a small group of exceptional undergraduates through Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College. We have a small, fantastic faculty. Although we are not in an epicenter like Los Angeles or New York, in the MFA/BFA program, we pride ourselves on creating the total filmmaker whereas other schools track students into screenwriting, directing, cinematography, or post-production. Because students have to rely on each other to fill all crew positions, we attempt to teach and provide experience in all aspects. In the first year students have a “boot-camp” where all of the students march in step from class to class. Meaning that they follow an integrated curriculum that covers technical skills like cinematography, sound recording, and post-production. You don’t have to go to film school to learn technical skills, but they are the tools of the trade and are needed for you to be successful in our program. We also offer crafts classes (screenwriting, directing, acting) and classes in producing and film studies. These interrelated courses provide a foundation for students and cover all of the bases. We create an all-purpose filmmaker. Most students go forward as writers or directors but they are adept in other aspects of the filmmaking process as well. Another thing that separates us is that we’re lucky enough to offer financial aid packages to almost everyone who comes here. Bigger schools don’t necessarily have the ability to do that. They are really expensive and we’re able to provide financial aid packages which help those who really can’t afford the costs of the NYU’s, USC’s, and Columbia’s. We also have a large percentage of international students (30%) and students from other fields.
By the way, congratulations on your recently re-vamped website (http://ousof.com/).
What are some new things happening at Ohio University’s Film Division?
Steven Ross: The biggest change is that after 50 years in Lindley Hall we moved into a brand new building which is right across the street from the Athena Cinema in the heart of downtown bustling Athens, Ohio. Being in a new space is exciting and we’re enjoying our new post-production facilities and screening room. We’ve built a green screen cyclorama in our new production space. We received a new grant to bring 3D to the OU School of Film which will be phased in this year. We recently added RED cameras to our arsenal of equipment. Other than that our students are doing what they typically do working to be the best that they can be.
What are some of the important learning goals and objectives for key courses (or new courses, if you have some new courses)?
Steven Ross: We provide teaching skills that are marketable. Our students go to NY and LA and all over the country and they are comfortable and able to walk on to film sets or into post-production facilities and feel comfortable. When our students leave school we know that they will have to invent their lives and start on a new and exciting career. We provide the space for filmmakers to find their voice and be creative. Here, students develop a creative portfolio that they can be proud of. Because the school is so small, there is a lot of one-on-one interactive time dealing with screenplays or production plans or career possibilities. Our faculty acts as a good sounding board for students looking to start careers within the film industry.
What kinds of tips could you give students for creating a successful application for Ohio University Film Division?
Steven Ross: I want to see a creative portfolio that shows quality not quantity. I’d much prefer to see complete works not clip reels. Something that we take very seriously is the personal statement. This is the one chance that applicants have to tell us who they are and why they want to be here. It’s the last chance we get to know them before we start reducing the pile of applications. Subsequently we have phone interviews. Basically, I’d like to see very personalized applications. I want to see what your ideas are and understand whether or not you have a talent and a passion for this craft. Those applicants with filmmaking experience probably have some advantages. However, we do have very successful students who have backgrounds in the sister arts of theater, photography, etc. that have put together wonderful applications. But if you do not have any inclination or any background in creative arts, your application and subsequent acceptance may be a long shot.
Similarly to Ross, Associate Professor Annie Howell has been successful in the filmmaking industry. Howell recently co-directed (with Lisa Robinson) her first feature, SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS, which premiered at SXSW and was released theatrically in a number of cities nationwide. Howell teaches what she calls “the blandly named Filmmaking I and Filmmaking II,” but states that the work she does helps shepherd first year graduate students through three projects, designed to develop primary writing and directing skills. Many Ohio University students relocate to New York or Los Angeles after graduation, and Howell believes there is a real opportunity in a more intimate learning environment before making that jump. “It’s important to me that students develop the confidence to be an artist. Athens is a great place to help that process along.” Howell guides each student to develop his or her own “tool set” of aesthetic methodologies, as opposed to conform to one particular type of filmmaking. “We want students to take risks here, and they do. That makes for a very exciting movie-making environment.”
Click here for more information about Ohio University School of Film.
**Deadline to apply for the 2015-2016 academic year is Feb. 7th**