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Please note that the FMMC blog is going dormant, as our new departmental website will be more frequently updated. Please visit there for any news and updates to FMMC.
One of FMMC’s honors graduates this past year, Aaron Smith, wrote a project that warrants broader dissemination, given its timely topic and “prescriptive” tone. Aaron wrote about transmedia storytelling in contemporary television, specifically exploring what lessons can be learned from experiments from the last decade and how future storytellers might devise more successful examples.
Aaron has posted his thesis online, inviting comments through the CommentPress system – you can comment on individual paragraphs, sections, or the entire project. Aaron would appreciate feedback – anyone interested in contemporary television narrative and transmedia issues will find interesting material to chew on here. Below is the thesis abstract to whet your appetite – please comment, reblog, or otherwise engage with his work:
“Transmedia Storytelling in Television 2.0” by Aaron Smith
In the era of convergence, television producers are developing transmedia narratives to cater to consumers who are willing to follow their favorite shows across multiple media channels. At the same time, there still remains a need to preserve an internally coherent television show for more traditional viewers. This thesis offers a model for how transmedia storytelling can coexist with and enhance a television narrative, using Lost as a case study. By building a world to be discovered, creating a hierarchy of strategic gaps, focusing on the unique capabilities of each extension, and using the “validation effect” to reward fans for their cross-media traversals, television/transmedia producers can provide a satisfying experience for hard-core and casual fans alike.
The Film & Media Culture Department welcomes the Middlebury community to two events presenting the independent work of our seniors:
Thursday 5/7, 7:30 pm in Dana Auditorium: Independent Video Screenings by Waylon D’Mello, David Ellis, Jason Gutierrez, and Matt Leonard.
Following the screening at around 8:30 pm on 5/7, we will have a end-of-semester reception in Axinn’s Abernethy Room to celebrate the retirement of Don Mitchell.
Monday 5/11, 1:30 pm in Axinn 219: Independent Written Work presentations by Ioana Literat, Jared Rosenberg, and Aaron Smith
Hope to see many of you there.
This week, there are two screenings with filmmakers attending:
On Wed April 15 at 7:45 pm in Dana, we’ll be viewing the PBS broadcast of Planet Forward. The show is a companion to the website, which features short user-generated videos about global warming and energy issues. The show’s producer and host, Frank Sesno, is a Middlebury alum, former trustee, and parent, and he has involved our current students in the project – two Middlebury videos are featured on the show, and one student appears on a panel.
Following the airing, we will watch some of the Middlebury-produced videos in full, and then have a panel discussion about the project and the issues with some of the student video producers, Film & Media Culture professor Jason Mittell, and Environmental Studies professor Jon Isham.
On Thursday, April 16 at 7 pm in Axinn 232, come see Wings of Defeat introduced by director Linda Hoaglund. Wings of Defeat brings viewers behind the scenes of World War II’s Pacific theater to reveal the truth about the Kamikaze-the “suicide bombers” of their day. Interviews with surviving kamikaze, rare battle footage and Japanese propaganda reveal a side of WWII never before shown on film. American vets from the greatest generation tell harrowing tales of how they survived attacks. Wings of Defeat shatters the myth of the fanatical kamikaze to reveal a generation of men forced to pay for an empire’s pride with their lives. The film is the 2009 winner of the Organization of American Historians Eric Barnouw Award.
Here is a group of festivals that students might consider entering – the FMMC department cannot speak to the quality of these festivals, but rather just offers links for students to consider. If FMMC majors are interested in submitting to this or other festivals, speak with the FMMC chair as we can help fund the entry fees.
– May 2009
– June 2009
– July 2009
– August 2009
– October 2009
– November 2009
This is a good opportunity for FMMC students to get work seen at a regional festival:
The Skidmore International Student Film Festival kicks off its sophomore year in 2009. All genres are being accepted and competition is for currently-enrolled students only. The entry fee is only $15. The final deadline is March 13th. See the website for application information.
Film scholar Laura Mulvey will give a lecture entitled “Back to Modernity: thoughts on reality, narrative cinema from another technological age” on March 6, 2009 at 12:30 in Axinn 229. Ms. Mulvey is a professor of film and media studies at the University of London, teaching this year at Wellesley College as the Mary Cornille Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities. Mulvey, one of the most prominent film scholars of the past 30 years, will discuss the new possibilities of spectatorship opened by digital technology and how these possibilities impact the field of film theory. The lecture is free and open to the public. Sponsored by the department of Film and Media Culture.
The Ivy Film Festival started in 2001 as a place for undergraduate and graduate filmmakers to share their work, and interact with other student filmmakers as well as established figures in the film industry. The 2009 Ivy Film Festival will take place from April 20th through the 26th, at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. We present selected films and screenplays to a wide audience, and a panel of celebrity judges (including directors, producers, writers, and agents) views the best selections from the festival.
Please submit films (short or feature length) and/or screenplays (short or long form) to the 2009 Ivy Film Festival online or through the mail. The deadlines are as follows:
Late deadline (February 14, 2009):
First film or screenplay submission – $30
Additional submissions – $15
Without A Box Extended deadline (February 21, 2009):
First film or screenplay submission – $45
Additional submissions – $20
If there are any questions, then feel free to email us at email@example.com. Thank you!
Super-senior JJ Hurvich will be screening her senior video project on Friday, 1/23 at 7:30 in Johnson, in conjunction with a studio art student show. Please come show your support for their work!
5:00 PM – “Self-Exposure / Full Disclosure”
Opening of senior work by Maddie Terry, ‘08.5, in the Johnson gallery. The show consists of works from a year-long independent photography project within the department of studio art.
5:00 PM – 7:15 PM
Wine reception with refreshments in the gallery and mezzanine spaces
7:30 PM – “Say Your Name into the Camera”
Screening of the senior work of JJ Hurvich, ‘08.5, who wrote, directed, produced and edited the film based on joint studies within the Film and Media Culture and English departments. The film will be screened in the Johnson lecture hall across the mezzanine from the gallery.
The Environmental Studies Department, Film and Media Culture Department, and MCAB present:
A screening of Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai followed by an opportunity to speak with the film’s Vermont-based producers, Alan Dater and Lisa Merton of Marlboro Productions
Wednesday January 21, 4:30 in MBH216
Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai, a new film by Lisa Merton and Alan Dater, tells the inspiring story of the Green Belt Movement of Kenya and its unstoppable founder, Wangari Maathai, who, in 2004, became the first environmentalist and first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Taking Root illustrates the development of Maathai’s holistic worldview and model for sustainable development. Maathai discovered the core of her life’s work when she turned her attention to the rural women with whom she had grown up in Kenya’s central highlands. Their daily lives had become intolerable: they were walking exhaustive distances for firewood, clean water was scarce, the soil was eroding, and their children were suffering from malnutrition. One hundred years of colonialism and neo- colonialism had devastated the forests they’d lived with for centuries. “Why not plant trees?” Maathai thought. Trees provide shade, prevent soil erosion, supply firewood, building materials, and produce nutritious fruit. With this realization Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots organization encouraging rural women and families to plant trees in community groups.
As the trees and the Green Belt Movement grew, a spirit of hope and confidence also grew in ordinary citizens – especially amongst rural women – only to be met with violent opposition from the government of Daniel arap Moi. Maathai and her colleagues soon bore the brunt of President Moi’s political oppression. In response, Maathai’s political activism only grew. At great risk she lead numerous confrontations in defense of the environment and social justice, all of which brought her country closer to democracy.
Through TV footage, newspaper headlines, and chilling first person accounts, TAKING ROOT documents these dramatic confrontations of the 1980s and 1990s and captures Maathai’s infectious determination and unwavering courage.
More info available on the film’s website.
I’m offering up an open thread here for ideas & comments about the FMMC program. I just had a great conversation with the seniors about the program, and would love to open that up to other students or alums to offer thoughts as to what FMMC could be doing more of, differently, or “stay the course.” This could refer to curricular issues, project opportunities, outreach, community building, or what have you. Please keep it constructive – comments that include personal attacks will be swiftly deleted! And feel free to sign your name or contribute anonymously. We’d all just love to get a better sense of what you want out of the department, and how we can best make the program grow and thrive!
Thanks in advance for your thoughtful comments.
Any students interested in doing an intership this summer should check out the International Radio & Television Society fellowship program. It offers funded internships in a range of radio & TV companies in New York City. The application deadline is December 1, so you need to move quickly. Good luck!
Two presentation on campus this Monday may be of interest for FMMC students:
The Long Memory: An (Incomplete) History of Grassroots Media in Quebec
by Anna Leventhal, Independent Scholar and Writer
4:30 p.m., Monday, November 24, 2008
Robert A. Jones ’59 House conference room
and a screening/director Q&A:
An East German Director in Latin America : The Ascent of the Chimborazo (1989)
by Rainer Simon, Filmmaker
7:00 p.m., Monday, November 24, 2008
Twilight Hall auditorium
Ascent of the Chimborazo (96 mins., German with English subtitles):
In 1802, the young Alexander von Humboldt led a scientific expedition to the Chimborazo in Ecuador, thought to be the highest mountain in the world and never before climbed. At great risk to his own life, as well as those of his companions – the French doctor and botanist, Aimé Bonpland, and the local créole aristocrat, Carlos Montúfar – Humboldt carefully measures and documents flora, fauna, soil, rocks, water, and the air itself. They survive snow, cold, and the thin mountain air and explore regions that no European had seen before. But it is his encounters with the indigenous people of Ecuador that deeply fascinate him. He explores their culture and language and comes to see German society in a new light. Partly filmed on location in Ecuador.
Director, documentarian and writer Rainer Simon worked for the East German DEFA Film Studio from 1965 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He made his directing debut in 1968 with a children’s film How to Marry a King. His film The Woman and the Stranger won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1984. Much of his recent work focuses on the life and culture of the indigenous people of Ecuador. Simon will discuss his film after the screening.
Sponsored by the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, the Department of German, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and the Department of Film and Media Culture.
Any budding filmmakers with 24-hours to spare should check out Apple’s Insomnia Film Festival – teams of 5 students have 24 hours (starting on November 15) to create a 3-minute video meeting particular specs, with the winners getting some nice prizes. This seems like a perfect challenge for Midd students!
I hope you can join us in welcoming Amy Bucher ’87 to campus on Monday & Tuesday. On Monday, November 10 at 7:30 pm in Dana Auditorium, she’ll be presenting her film, A Walk to Beautiful, an award-winning look at women in Ethiopia who struggle with the social and physical impacts of childbirth injuries. On Tuesday, November 11 at 12:15 in Robert A. Jones House, she will be leading a “career conversation” on her path from Middlebury to a career as a documentary filmmaker.
You can learn more about Amy and her films on her company’s website, Engel Entertainment.
Rescuers During the Holocaust: Their Challenge to Citizens Today
by Pierre Sauvage, Documentary Filmmaker
7:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Pierre Sauvage is a child survivor of the Holocaust and an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker. He is the president of the Chambon Foundation, which he founded in 1982. His 1989 documentary Weapons of the Spirit, explored the French Village of Le Chambon during the Nazi occupation, where 5,000 Jews were sheltered by 5,000 Christians. Sauvage and his parents were among the rescued. The Chambon Foundation was the first nonprofit educational foundation committed to communicating the necessary and challenging lessons of hope intertwined with the Holocaust’s unavoidable lessons of despair.
He is currently working on a film about Varian Fry, an American teacher and journalist who traveled to France in August 1940 on behalf of the Emergency Rescue Committee with the assignment of bringing some 200 well-known intellectuals in imminent danger of arrest (including Marc Chagall, Hannah Arendt, and Max Ernst) to safety in the United States.
Sponsored by the Charles P. Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life, the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, the Holocaust Remembrance Film Fund of the Film and Media Culture Department, Middlebury College Hillel, the Religious Life Council, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and the Department of Religion
Assistive listening devices will be available.
Check out this video, made by some FMMC alums in NYC:
Over the next few days, FMMC will be joining in the dedication of our new home and attending events with a number of scholars highlighting the various disciplines housed in Axinn. The full schedule is online, but here are a few specific events that might interest FMMC students:
Wednesday, October 15
Faculty Panel: “Sites of Memory”
Moderator: Jason Mittell; panelists: Rebecca Bennette, Dan Brayton, Rachael Joo, and Chris Keathley
Location: Axinn 229
A discussion about the relationship between memory and place in literature, art, and culture. This topic is inspired by the transformation of our old library—which was the College’s centennial building in 1900—into a center for literary and cultural studies.
Thursday, October 16
Lecture by Marsha Kinder, of USC’s Labyrinth Project
“Dramatizing the Archive: Contested Sites of Memory and Erasure”
Location: Axinn 232
The Labyrinth Project is an art collective and research initiative on interactive cinema and database narrative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Communication. Under the direction of cultural theorist Marsha Kinder, this initiative works at the pressure point between theory and practice. Kinder produces interactive narratives and installations in collaboration with visual artists and writers known for their experimentation with nonlinear forms.
Saturday, October 18
Faculty Panel: “Looking Backwards: Milestones in the Field”
Moderator: Jay Parini; panelists: Leger Grindon, Brett Millier, Paul Monod, and Michael Newbury
Location: Axinn 229
The “greatest hits” in their respective scholarly fields.
Saturday, October 18
Poetry reading by Donald E. Axinn ’51, Litt.D. ’89
Location: Axinn Abernethy RoomNoon
Reception and Dedication
Location: Axinn Winter Garden
1:30 & 3 p.m.
Tour of building with discussion of building history by Professor Glenn Andres
Screening of student films begins on continuous loop, until evening
Location: Axinn 232
Reception for “Frostiana” and “Sound Investment”
Location: Axinn Winter Garden
College Choir performs selections from “Frostiana”
Location: Abernethy Room
8:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Performance by Sound Investment
Location: Reading Room
10 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Black and White Ball
Bands: Project DCQ and campus band, Yuzimi
Just a reminder to current students that proposals for independent projects are due Friday, 10/10. Be sure to talk with advisors early this week to get everything set to go!
The MacArthur Foundation has been sponsoring an exciting competition for large grants in Digital Media & Learning. New this year is a Young Innovator Award for people 18-25 with ideas for encouraging participatory learning and engagement with digital media, with funding supporting a project and internship. This would be a great opportunity for our students or recent alumni with a creative and innovative idea looking for the means to make it happen!
On Tuesday, Middlebury welcomes a prominent figure in the world of cultural studies, John Storey. Students who have taken my Theories of Popular Culture course know Storey as the author of the books Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction and A Reader. Storey will be presenting a talk on the culture of globalization on Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 4:30 at the Robert A. Jones House. Hope to see some FMMC folks there!
One of the key elements of studying Film and Media Culture is continued exposure to film and media examples – faculty incorporate screenings into our courses to broaden the experiences of students beyond the conventional offerings at the mall, or to rethink how you look at Hollywood cinema. Middlebury has two free weekly film series in Dana Auditorium, and we certainly encourage students to attend as many as they can, as well as welcoming members of the college and town community.
The Friday night series is student run, featuring recent Hollywood hits. This fall’s offerings have a couple of highlights in Wall-E, another in the long line of great Pixar films, and The Dark Knight, an impressive example of blockbuster filmmaking that aims a bit higher than typical.
The FMMC department sponsors the Hirschfield International Film Series on Saturdays at 3 and 8 pm, focusing on independent and international films that are otherwise unlikely to play in Middlebury or Vermont. The flyer is below or downloadable, so please try to make a few screenings to broaden your horizons!
To kick off the year-long calendar of events, screenings, and lectures, check out Eric Schlosser, Wed 9/12 at 4:30 in Dana Auditorium. Schlosser’s best known as the author of the book Fast Food Nation, but his FMMC connection is that he was one of the producers of the film There Will Be Blood as well as Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Fast Food Nation. Try to go and ask about his adventures in the film world!
For current students: we are looking for a few people to serve as Lab Monitors in Axinn, especially in the evening hours. The job description is online and if you’re interested, contact Ethan Murphy.
We’ll also be hiring some office support to assist with projects from faculty and Francisca Drexel. Prof. Grindon is looking for someone to assist him with some research and class preparation materials, working 5-6 hours a week this fall sometime T/W/Th afternoons – if you’re interested, contact him directly. We’re also looking for general support for the faculty and staff, doing a wide range of projects with flexible hours – if you’re interested in that, please contact Jason Mittell.
For all budding documentarians:
The True/False Film Fest is heading into its sixth year of celebrating non-fiction film, and is seeking out groundbreaking documentaries from all over the globe. We are particularly interested in films that walk the line between fact and fiction, commenting in some way on our world and on filmmaking itself. On February 26 of 2009, Columbia, Missouri will transform itself into a Midwestern Shangri-La of independent film; between panels and parties, conversation and screenings, filmmakers and the town will come together and enjoy what is becoming one of the most talked-about film fests in the country. If your film is accepted you will receive travel and lodging, a festival pass and an unparalleled experience.
Deadlines and Entry Fees:
Earlybird: September 30 2008 Feature: $20 Short: $15
Regular: November 15 2008 Feature: $25 Short $20
Late: December 1 2008 Feature: $30 Short: $25
*Submit on withoutabox.com and receive $5 off of your entry fee
Submission formats: DVD or VHS (NTSC, VHS, or SECAM)
In a running feature on this blog, I’ll be profiling Middlebury alumni (both from the FMMC program and the college at large) who are doing interesting things in the real world and whose work deserves recognition. This first entry is on Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo, class of ’03.
Ryan graduated during the last major transition in Middlebury’s film program, as we became an independent program in 2002 as well as welcomed two new faculty members, Christian Keathley and Jason Mittell. I had Ryan in one class and have stayed in touch to see how he navigated the world of independent filmmaking. Ryan runs a blog called No Film School, chronicling how he’s trying to become a filmmaker without going to grad school – it’s definitely worth reading if you’re mulling post-Middlebury plans.
His day job is doing web design for the online music company Rhapsody, but his major accomplishment is becoming a pioneering award-winning online filmmaker. With partner Zachary Lieberman, Ryan has co-produced, directed, and written The West Side, an excellent serialized “urban western” (starring fellow Midd alum Damien Washington). They’ve currently released 4 of 12 episodes, and I think any film student will appreciate its elegant style, sense of genre play, and unified tone – personally, I love the aesthetic and the allusions to one of my & Ryan’s common favorites, The Wire. If you haven’t seen it, definitely check it out!
The West Side is a great testament as to what can be accomplished with no-budget filmmaking, and it broadens the possibilities of online video beyond the viral sensationalism of most YouTube shorts. This innovative focus on quality over quantity has resulted in a number of honors – the series recently won The 2008 Webby Award for Best Drama Series, and Ryan & Zack were profiled by Filmmaker Magazine as one of 25 New Faces of Independent Film. You can read more about Ryan and Zack’s approach to filmmaking and online distribution in a four part interview I conducted with them last year. I think their accomplishments point to new possibilities for aspiring media creators in the digital age – and speak to Ryan’s strong education in film at Middlebury, even with “no film school.”
The summer of 2008 has been a time of huge transitions for Film and Media Culture. First, the Program became officially a Department, a redesignation that acknowledges the growth and strength of FMMC since it became independent in 2002 – for students, the effect will not be noticeable, but it is a testament to your interest and support over the past years.
Much more noticeably, we have a new home! In May, the department moved into the Axinn Center (for the record, the full name is The Donald Everett Axinn ’51 Center for Literary and Cultural Studies at Starr Library!) along with the Program in American Studies, History Department, and English and American Literatures Department. This is particularly exciting as it means that all the FMMC faculty and facilities will be under one roof for the first time, as well as sharing space with other humanities departments rather than off on our own in Wright and Sunderland. In addition to the faculty and staff offices, there are 9 classrooms ranging in size, including a 20 Mac computer lab and a beautiful 65-seat screening room featuring 35mm, 16mm, and HD video – simply the nicest projection you’ll find in the area! The basement of Axinn is FMMC’s playground, with production facilities including a soundstage (complete with lighting grid and green screen), a dedicated animation lab, an equipment checkout room twice as big as we had in Sunderland, an audio booth, three editing rooms with 10 MacPro Tower workstations for post-production, a centralized high-speed XSAN server to hold video and audio data, and a lounge to help build community during those long editing sessions. We’re still equipping and configuring things, and I hope to post some pictures as rooms come together – if you’re on-campus in August, let me know and I’ll give you a tour of this new jewel at Middlebury.
To maximize use of these facilities, we’ve added some new faces to our department. Assistant Professor Hope Tucker has joined the faculty to lead our production curriculum – Prof. Tucker is a video artist specializing in non-fiction work. Some of you were able to see her presentation last winter, where she screened an excerpt from her film chronicling the cultural history of the lemonade stand in America, as well as a number of shorts in her Obituary Project, a series of videos offering memorials to people, places, and things that have passed away. She’ll be teaching Sight & Sound 2 and a Special Topics in Animation course this fall – hopefully many of you will have the opportunity to work with her soon.
As many of you know, Daniel Houghton has left Middlebury for the bright lights of New York City after two years doing an outstanding job as our Digital Media Intern. Although he’ll be missed, his role is in able hands with two new staff members. Ethan Murphy is our new Media Production Specialist, supervising the facilities in the Axinn basement, maintaining the equipment, overseeing student workers, providing support for students, and generally making sure the trains run on time. Ethan is a native Vermonter with a degree from UVM, but he’s spent recent years in Philadelphia, serving in a similar role at the University for the Arts. After working closely with Ethan for the past two months, I’m confident that we’re in very good hands – hopefully returning and new students will stop by Axinn 204 to meet Ethan. A more familiar face, Sam Morrill, is our new Intern – Sam graduated in ’08 with an English and American Literatures major, but took FMMC courses and was a staple in Sunderland. Sam will be overseeing the equipment room and working with Ethan to provide support to production courses and projects.
Finally, Professor Leger Grindon has completed his multiple tours of duty as FMMC Program Director, handing over the reigns to me as the new Department Chair. I want to thank him for many years serving in what I’m discovering is a less-than-glamorous job, and invite anyone to drop me an email or stop by my office in Axinn 208 to chat about the department. We have a lot of great things in store to highlight our expanded role at Middlebury this year, so stay tuned here for more updates!
Greetings! This is the first post in the new blog for the Film & Media Culture department at Middlebury College. I’m Jason Mittell, Associate Professor and Chair of the department, and I’ll be running this blog along with Francisca Drexel, departmental coordinator, and some assistance from other faculty and students. A special thanks to Aaron Smith, who designed the banner and helped configure the site.
The purpose of this blog is to share information relevant to our majors, minors, prospective students, alumni, and the broader Middlebury community. We hope to share career information like internship opportunities, film festival information, and announcements about relevant campus events. Even more interesting for the FMMC community, I hope to share links & embedded videos for relevant works, whether it’s a student project, an alum’s award-winning video, or a faculty publication. If you find anything online – or want to promote your own project – send the link and information to Jason Mittell or Francisca Drexel and we’ll post it!
So explore the links on right, including some alumni blogs, and stay tuned via RSS feed or compulsive reloading for some news, updates, and featured projects from Middlebury’s FMMC department.