Film Studies offers new perspectives, unique insight into films

Brendan Wolf, staff reporter

As the darkness of the room surrounded her, the film Get Out flashed across the screen, and Senior Riley Alexander found herself watching the movie as if she had never seen it before. In reality, she had seen it in the theaters, but this time was different, according to Alexander, as the classroom setting allowed her to delve into the issues the director was trying to highlight.

“Film is a really great way for people to talk about their opinions and share their view on the world,” Alexander said. “Watching the films in a classroom setting allows for a lot more critical thinking.”

According to John Cowlin, Film Studies teacher, his class is available to all levels of students and no prior knowledge is necessary. Cowlin explains that the focus of each class depends on the semester.

For example, one semester may be dedicated to film mechanics, where students learn about how movies are all put together and how this affects the viewer’s senses. Another semester may focus on film style, and how it’s not what is in a movie, but rather how the movie is told. Students watch myriad movies in the class that display the different film styles, where they are able to see how the director portrays the plot of the movies, according to Cowlin.

“You could imagine a movie that’s really realistic like a documentary, and then you could imagine something really fantastic and over-the-top where every shot is there to make you see something interesting,” Cowlin said.

According to Cowlin, roughly half of the classes each semester are spent actually watching movies. The remaining time is spent either breaking the movies down and analyzing them or learning a concept that helps frame what the movie is about, Cowlin says.

Moreover, there are no set-in-stone class projects and while they’ve done projects in the past as a kind of final exam, it depends on what each particular class is interested in exploring, according to Cowlin.

“I wrote the curriculum so there are gaps in it, and the purpose for the gaps is so we can fill them up with what the particular class wants to study,” Cowlin said.

According to sophomore Audrey Sarasin, the best movie they have watched so far in her opinion is Dog Day Afternoon because even though it was made in the ‘70s, it still relates to life and the police today.

“I never thought I would like an older movie, but it was super interesting,” Sarasin said.

According to Alexander, she likes the class because it introduces students to different forms of storytelling in movies. Alexander says another great thing about the class is that each student is able to form their own experience.

“I think it’s great that we have our own decisions we get to make about what movies we choose to watch,” Alexander said.

According to Alexander, going into the class, she didn’t like watching horror movies. However, her class decided to watch some of them, and watching them in class made her think about them in a new and better way.

“The biggest takeaway [from the class] was [to not] be afraid to engage and consume media that’s not something you would normally want to engage with,” Alexander said.

Cowlin says that he finds most people spend more time watching movies than they do reading books. Furthermore, he finds it is important to analyze films so one can appreciate them more and get the most out of each movie one watches.

“Imagine all the time you’re going to spend in your life watching a movie and then imagine that you have a dial [from] 0-10 on how much fulfillment you get from that film,” Cowlin said. “If you can sit back during those moments of entertainment, peace, or rest and if you can turn that dial up to a 7 instead of a 3, [that] probably makes your life better.”