New Faces, New Places

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!

-Jason Mittell

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