Film students see success

Cinematic Arts graduates first class

A landmark in Liberty University’s history will be made this May as 32 students will graduate as the first class of the Cinematic Arts department.

The program has come a long way since it launched in the fall of 2012. According to Stephen Schultze, executive director for the Cinematic Arts Zaki Gordon Center, the program was initially intended to be a one-year program applied at a community-college level. It is now being applied as a bachelor’s program.

“What has evolved is an awareness of the film program and the integration of the program into the film industry,” Schultze said. “Many of our students are getting placed in jobs when they graduate.”

According to Schultze, the Cinematic Arts program has a “learn by doing” philosophy.

During the first semester of their senior year, students must write and direct their own short film. Other assignments included in the program are writing a full-length screenplay and working on one of the school’s feature films.

ACTION — Students set up equipment for filming. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

ACTION — Students set up equipment for filming. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

One of the aspects the students had to learn was how to adapt to difficult circumstances that would alter the film schedule.

“Sometimes on the day of a film shoot you will not have a location. You will not have an actor. You will not have food and stuff for the crew,” senior Sharon Chimere-Dan said. “So you just have to quickly make due with something else and solve that problem somehow.”

Marissa Scalzo, a senior cinematography student, felt that the rough schedules helped her with flexibility and prepared her for her eventual career.

“I started to realize this is the industry, and this is how the industry works,” Scalzo said. “Getting to experience that in college before I graduated is so helpful. Now when I go onto film sets and the schedule comes out the next day (and) it’s completely changed from yesterday, I’m not freaking out. It is just another day.”

According to Schultze, the Cinematic Arts program’s goal is to reach the standards of a studio lot. Already, the school has produced two feature films.

“The intention for this program is to design it in a way that mirrors a production studio in terms of how the student enters the process, goes through a development process and, at the other end, knows how to make movies and be the storytellers of the future,” Schultze said.

According to Seth Houser, a graduating senior who specifically came to Liberty for the Cinematic Arts Program, the school continues to improve as it grows.

“It is definitely something that all of us together as a big group have been figuring out as we go on,” Houser said. “Throughout these first few years, our professors have found out what works and what doesn’t work. We are just now getting these facilities up and running and getting to use all of the cool toys that were only talked about the first year.”

The department has expanded its classrooms, filming and editing equipment and increased its students over the past two years.

“I think the greatest achievement is to see the students go from not knowing that much to seeing them being able to make movies and short films and to watch them seamlessly be able to integrate when they get out of here, “ Schultze said. “That is the thing that moves me and the thing that excites me and makes me and the faculty work long hours into the night to help them and support them in their process, because they are the success story.”

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