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Gregory Hess and his student research assistant ponder the
relationship between war, economics, and the election cycle.
at Oberlin? Most definitely. A three-hour marathon of student
film shorts last May was just the tip of the growing celluloid
Ann Marie Gilbert inspires teamwork on and off the basketball
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facts you might be interested in.
Coming into Focus
Interest Driven by Students' Creativity, Passion
by Betty Gabrielli
A thriving student
filmmaking community has been developing at Oberlin -- albeit well
below the official radar -- for several years. The first major blip
occurred last May during Student Film Night, a three-hour screening
of 13 film shorts before an over-capacity audience.
Two of the best were E4 by Kevin McShane '00 and Life About
At Allen by Peter Dybdahl '03. McShane's piece is a hilarious
send-up of a student who gets his arm caught in a vending machine
and has to live his whole life attached to it. Dybdahl's docu-short
is an irreverent take on high-school life.
Of course making films is tedious, costly, and hellishly frustrating.
Being obsessive-compulsive helps, but what carries Oberlin students
is passion, said Peter Cairns '02, co-director of the Film Co-op.
The College's link with New York University's Tisch School of the
Arts, established two years ago by Daniel Goulding, professor of film
studies and art department chair, also helps.
Cairns is one of 22 students who have studied filmmaking at Tisch
since the off-campus study option was launched. "Oberlin students
are much better prepared to make amazing films than their NYU counterparts,"
Facts back up Cairns' conviction. Of the 160 four-minute shorts completed
by the Tisch "Sight and Sound" class last spring, the four chosen
for the school's film show-case were by Cairns and seniors Aaron Fine,
Quintin Cushner, and Domenica Ruta.
"At Tisch, I was able to work with a fantastic independent filmmaker
who really took me under his wing," Cairns said. "But in terms of
students working on their own work, New York has drawbacks. First
and foremost, it's expensive. Second, particularly at NYU, everyone
has a film project. There is limited equipment available but, more
important, limited talent and passion.
"This is where Oberlin has the advantage. Since a good number of people
in theater, art, creative writing, and the Conservatory are extremely
eager to work on film projects, the potential for creative collaboration
here is huge. While we don't have much equipment, we do have an immense
amount of passion and interest."
One result is the revived Oberlin Film Co-op. Rechartered in fall
1998 by Chuck Haine '00, Peter O'Leary '02, and Cairns, it coordinates
student film projects, provides access to equipment, recruits crew
members, and gives technical advice.
Another result is the ExCo class in filmmaking initiated by Haine
in fall 1999. "The core of the Film Co-op is the first batch of kids
who took the ExCo class," said Co-op Co-director Matthew Marlin '02.
Marlin and Sarah Fask '02 teach this year's 12-member filmmaking class,
which attracted 100 students at pre-registration. ExCo also offers
six other film-related courses.
Video is getting its share of attention, too. The art department has
state-of-the-art, computer-based recording and editing equipment available
for independent work. It also appointed experimental filmmaker Rian
Brown-Orso as professor of media; her sound and video art classes
have a 50-person wait list.
Underpinning this creative mix is a strong base of existing film-study
courses. "We offer 17 courses in film every two years," said Patrick
Day, associate professor of English. "Yale offers 25 in its film program,
so we offer almost as many courses as a university, even without a
Such a major may be in the offing. The College's Committee on Film
Studies, which Day chairs, has developed a proposal for a film-studies
major, and the proposal is working its way through the appropriate
committees. "We hope to be up and running by 2003," Day said. "If
the full plan is followed, Oberlin would move from no film-studies
major to a leading position among liberal arts colleges."
In the meantime, Student Film Night 2001 promises to be a gala affair,
with premieres of ExCo shorts; video and sound works by Rian Brown's
students; and such "indies" as Marlin's Media Closet and a 30-minute
feature by Domenica Ruta and David Andalman '01. Ruta described it
as The Graduate, Oberlin style.