The University Board of Regents approved the reorganization of the Film Arts and Cultures program at their May meeting, a step that recognizes the evolving nature of the discipline and gives independence to the program. Starting this fall, the University will put the new Department of Screen Arts and Cultures within the College of Literature Science and the Arts.

Richard Abel, Interim Dean for the Department of Film Arts and Cultures, said people pushed for the name change because of the department’s specificity.

“We were becoming dissatisfied with the name because it was tied to the technology. We wanted to come up with a name that encompassed all aspects of the discipline,” Abel said.

Associate Dean for the Humanities Department Michael Schoenfeldt said that the new name acknowledges that media has expanded beyond film and video over the last 10 years.

“The new name is a sign of a rapidly evolving field,” Schoenfeldt said.

In a recommendation to the Board of Regents, LSA Dean Terrence J. McDonald wrote that while film studies has always been an interdisciplinary field, they are not interdisciplinary in the same way as the other programs within the college.

McDonald argued that “the Program in Film and Video Studies is more on the order of the Department of the History of Art as an intellectual discipline,” and as such, the program requires the title of department, according to the University’s own criterion.

Schoenfeldt agreed with McDonald’s recommendation.

“Over the last 10 years the program has grown from an adjunct department of English where a few people taught film to a powerful independent program with a clear sense of independence and its own disciplinary protocols,” Schoenfeldt said.

Nick Tanis, an Associate Professor of Film and Television at New York University, who has had 30 years of experience in the field, said film programs should be kept independent of established departments, like English.

“An English teacher may be able to analyze a screenplay, but they don’t necessarily know how to write one, or to understand what challenges a writer of screenplays faces or how to market a screenplay once it is produced. Nor can we ask them to be fluent in film. What will work on the page will not necessarily translate to the screen. A screenwriter knows the difference,” Tanis said.

Abel said that the change from program status to departmental status could result in more funding, but that this was not a given.

Regardless, Schoenfeldt had an optimistic outlook on the future of the department.

“It is certain to become the premiere program in the Midwest,” Schoenfeldt said.

The program will begin to move into new facilities over the next few years, and hopes to offer a Ph.D. program starting in 2007.

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