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Introducing the Digital Cinema Major
On April 11, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) officially approved the launch of a new Digital Cinema degree at Southern Oregon University in Fall 2019. The new major builds upon the success of the existing Digital Cinema concentration within the Communication major while introducing several new courses and immersive experiences for student filmmakers. It had previously been approved by the SOU Board of Trustees in January.
A degree program in Digital Cinema at SOU is a natural fit for a city like Ashland that has been recognized by MovieMaker Magazine six years in a row (2014-2019) as a “best place to live and work” as a filmmaker. Curriculum for the new program was designed with input from an advisory council made up of current and former students, film and media industry professionals, and experienced educators in the field, and was designed with both state and regional employment trends in mind.
“The prospects of successful and satisfying careers in the film and media industry are stronger today than they have ever been,” said Gary Kout, a local producer who lent his expertise to the Digital Cinema advisory council. “I’m excited to see SOU become a part of fulfilling the goals and dreams of many with the necessary education and certification of a true film school.”
Program Coordinator and Associate Professor of Digital Cinema Andrew Gay is quick to point out that Digital Cinema is more than a film school. “We’re excited to finally offer a major for the students out there who are looking for a ‘film school’ education,” Gay said. “But we also know that today’s student filmmakers need to be prepared for all kinds of visual storytelling careers that go beyond the traditional ‘film school’ format. Here at SOU, students will get that immersion in both worlds — in traditional filmmaking and in new digital worlds like streaming television and virtual reality.” For this reason, Gay notes, all Digital Cinema majors will be required to take courses related to innovation.
“What I see in the program description is a strong understanding of what is new and unique in the industry of today: the focus on current and emerging digital technologies; and the study and implementation of new paradigms for production and distribution,” said Kout.
The centerpiece of the new Digital Cinema program is a new 12-credit spring immersion called, “The Crew Experience,” in which student filmmakers spend an entire term “learning on location,” collaborating under the supervision of experienced professionals on the full-time set of a significant film project. Students will apply and interview for their crew positions based on the experience, skill levels, and portfolio of work they have developed in preceding classes. It is an experiential approach to professional production training that is not offered at any other film or media program in the Pacific Northwest.
State Senator Jeff Golden is also a member of the Digital Cinema advisory council and praised the new program as good for the future economy of our region. According to Golden, “Economic diversification is key to the health and wealth of Southern Oregon, and the media production sector is a promising target for growth in this region based on existing assets and infrastructure. Strategic investment in the education of future media professionals makes sense for Southern Oregon University and is responsive to recent workforce trends that have been reported by the Oregon Governor’s Office of Film & Television (Oregon Film). SOU’s proposed degree in Digital Cinema is innovative, forward-looking, and centered on student success. For these reasons, I believe the new major will make a positive contribution to the community, culture, and economy of Southern Oregon.”