Training film students with Hollywood-standard equipment

The roots of Liberty University’s cinematic arts program extend well beyond Green Hall. They dig into years of developing programs to equip students with the hands-on experience they need to succeed.

Dan Gordon, a Hollywood screenwriter and director, first supported Liberty’s Cinematic Arts Department, otherwise known as the Zaki Gordon Center, named in honor of Gordon’s son who died. 

Liberty hired Stephan Schultze, executive director of the Cinematic Arts Department, to start the program at Liberty University 11 years ago. He hopes to help students learn through hands-on training.

Liberty’s cinematic arts programs offers students a specialized course structure through the cohort format and the ability to work with Hollywood-standard equipment.

The Dolby 7.1 Theater is photographed for the YouVisit online tours of campus on May 13, 2020. (Photo by KJ Jugar)

Green Hall holds several classrooms and workspaces where the students listen to lectures and experience hands-on learning. Cinematic arts students have the opportunity to work in a 4K production workflow, meaning that the graphics have four times the resolution of full HD. Examples of the facilities available to them consists of a greenscreen, ADR booths for recording dialogue, Foley rooms where sound effects are recorded, a DaVinci coloring system and a THX room that is used for mixing the surround sound of films.             

In the first two years of the program, students take their general education classes and program prerequisite classes. These first two years are designed to introduce the students to cinema history, screenwriting, sound design, cinematography and directing actors.

“We start early in the morning and go late at night,” Schultze said. “First semester junior year, they are working in a 4K workflow with RED cameras, which are state-of-the-art cameras within the industry, and production lightning and all those kinds of things. Our students have a seamless transition into the industry. They are using industry-grade equipment out here.”

In the last two years of the program, students demonstrate what they have learned and take part in projects that help build their portfolio, such as producing their own short films. Students can take on the roles of the producer, director, cinematographer, sound designer, editor and more.

Over the course of four semesters, students see many similar faces in their classes and make good friends along the way. The course program uses a cohort system, which divides juniors into groups of 20 that take classes together through their junior and senior years.

The Dolby 7.1 Theater is photographed for the YouVisit online tours of campus on May 13, 2020. (Photo by KJ Jugar)

“What’s great about the program and the cohort system is they really get to know each other and take those relationships with them (into the workforce),” Schultze said. 

Senior year, students go into production and create their own short films up to 20 minutes long. They are also able to step into their most desired roles, as well as take part in their classmates’ films. At the end of the semester, the students put on a film festival to display their films. Students also submit their films into contests, earning awards for both students and the Cinematic Arts Department.

Schultze highlighted the department’s eight feature films to date, including four national theatrical releases and a TV series for Sony. All their productions have exposed students to professional contacts in the industry that can lead to jobs after graduation. 

“They will not leave here wanting or needing to learn more in a particular area,” Schultze said. “It will be a lifetime of growth, plus technology changes so fast. But they will be able to seamlessly walk into the industry and get a job in that area of interest.”

For more information on Liberty’s cinematic arts program, visit their website.

Denny is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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