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Explore A New Career
So You Want To Be A Film Major?
by Sarah N. Lynch

Growing up with a father who launched his own local television station in Kentucky, it comes as no surprise that Brittany Stevenson was destined to major in film and television production.

Even in high school, Brittany worked as a reporter for the CNN student bureau and her high school television news club. Now a junior at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, Brittany is studying the subject that has always been near and dear to her heart: documentaries and children's television programming. "My parents always knew I would have a career in the arts," Brittany said, noting that she went to a performing arts elementary and high school. "And the only medium where I can create a whole world is to become a film director." "My ultimate dream is to become the first African American woman to win an Academy Award for directing," she added.

The film production program at NYU is a tough one, but for students who love film, it is arguably one of the best places to get production experience. Brittany said that during the first two years of the program, students are required to take introduction classes that will prepare them to make films of their own. After they take the basics, students can choose to focus on specialty areas, including editing, filming, screenwriting, special effects, directing, production or cinematography. "Basically what happens the first two years is you take an overview of everything," Brittany said. "Freshman year you take sound image, which is the basics of the sound program. You go from analog to digital, so you learn how to record on decks all the way to editing on ProTools and you create your own sound projects."

Additionally, intro film students also must take a film history class, a class that teaches framing and photography and a screenwriting class. But at NYU, before a student learns to edit a film using computer programs such as Final Cut Pro, they must first learn the hard way.

"They teach you editing on the Steinbeck," Brittany said. "That's the old fashioned way of editing a film. Basically you are editing your film frame by frame using a razor and cutting it and pasting it together. A three minute project can take you about10 hours," she said.

Brittany said that so far, the project that she's most proud of is a film she created about Bedford-Stuyvesant, or 'Bed-Sty.' "I did a portrait of Bed-Sty. It's images over jazz music and it shows how the neighborhood is set up. I wanted to basically capture the humanness of this-I wanted to capture the essence of the community," she said.

But other students find out they want to major in film when they least expect it. That was the case for Barnard senior Mimi Borowich, who switched her major twice before finally deciding to major in film studies. "At first I was pre-med but then my friend told me about this really cool film class," Mimi said. "It was a really memorable class. It gave you an introduction to all of film from 1894 to 2001. The last film of that semester that semester was 'The Matrix.'"

"The class started me thinking how I really love this and for the first time, I was passionate about writing one of my papers. I didn't like studying so hard for biology and I'd look forward to the times when I'd be writing my film papers," Mimi said.

Mimi said that unlike NYU, which has its students focus primarily on film production and requires students to obtain hands-on experience with filming, the film program at Columbia University and Barnard College is geared more towards film theory and criticism. "At Columbia there are a bunch of required classes," Mimi said. "You have to take script analysis and after that, you take a screenwriting class."

"At Columbia, you're really developing a background. Film is a developing art form. Every year, technology gets better, so you have to have that background in order to gain a better understanding," Mimi said.

Columbia only requires one production class, but a number of classes allow students to create films in lieu of writing papers, she said. Although a lot of people unfamiliar with film may often believe that the major is all fun and games, Brittany said that belief is a fallacy. "Time management is the biggest challenge because after you finish shooting the film, you still have to wait to develop it and editing takes a lot of time," Brittany said.

"If you're a film student, film is your life. You live and breathe film. It's a lot harder and more involved than people may think," she said.

Mimi agreed that being a film major can be a lot of work. "Being a film major is a hellish amount of work," Mimi said. "But it's worth it and at times it can be incredibly enjoyable and fulfilling. Afterwards, you feel so accomplished. You can say, 'I just made a movie. I just edited a movie. I just produced a movie. And I did it all by myself.'"#



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