University theatre department adds film major

Posted on Feb 11 2018 - 6:12am by Hadley Hitson

With upwards of 100 majors offered to the undergraduate students who come from across the globe to be Ole Miss Rebels, programs to study one’s passion are abundant at the University of Mississippi. In fall 2018, these opportunities will expand as the university adds the film major to its list of offered degrees.

The program for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film degree has been in the works for quite a while and has come to fruition through the efforts of Professors Alan Arrivée and Harrison Witt of the Ole Miss Theatre Department, which will soon become the Department of Theatre and Film.

This is a rare pairing, for most film programs across the nation are incorporated into schools of communication along with majors such as broadcast journalism.

“There are only about 25 programs in the whole country where film and theatre are put together, but I think it’s the perfect union,” Witt said. “The way we teach film, which is narrative film as you would see it in cinema or on television, actors are a central part of every project.”

Arrivée was the first to start the film minor at Ole Miss.

“That quickly grew to be the most popular interdisciplinary minor of the whole university, and based on the success, I think people have been thinking about a major for a long time,” Witt said.

Senior Matt Bosley agreed that the film major has been in great demand university throughout his time here, and he has chosen to take advantage of the production classes offered.

“I am a liberal studies major, which lets me take three minors and combine them into a major. I chose theatre and film as two of my minors, as most of the film production classes are in the theatre department,” Bosley said. “The students who do this have given it the name ‘The De Facto Film Major,’ as they can take nearly all of the film production classes offered.”

Senior Hannah Byrom is another student whose interest in film led to the creation of the major.

“I am definitely what one would call the ‘initial interest base’ for the film major program here at Ole Miss,” she said. “I wished film could be my major – I fell in love with it.”

Witt said the program will debut among the top film programs in the region.

“It will immediately be the number one film program, from a curriculum standpoint, in the Southeastern Conference,” he said. “The combination of being in the theatre department, paired with actors, and this level of intensive film production classes – you just don’t find them anywhere else. Most programs will be a B.A. with four or five film production classes, while we have over 12 spread out over the four years.”

New classes being added to the university’s course catalog as a result of the film major include post-production specialties, cinematic storytelling, cinematography I and II and advanced film production I and II. In these classes, students will be able to create their own feature films, web series and other forms of production.

“(Arrivée and Witt) did an incredible amount of work to get this program up and rolling, from pitching it to the university, to designing equipment packages, to developing the academic program the students will go through and so much more,” Bosley said.

Witt said the department is working to combine aspects of film and theatre to prepare students for careers.

“What we’re trying to do is prepare our students to go out into the world and utilize the craft they learn here,” he said. “We’re also changing the acting program here from teaching how to act for the theatre to teaching how to act for the screen. We’re really joining the forces of filmmaking, acting and our awesome design program here so that everyone learns those collaborative skills.”