Christine Vachon, film producer and director of Stony Brook University and Killer Film’s MFA in Film program, spoke about the tectonic changes in the industry and what the future holds in a June 16, 2017 feature story in Filmmaker Magazine.
The article delves into how the traditional film industry is in a period of great transformation and asks arts educators, “What should a film school look like at a time of disruption, and how should a film school respond to that change?” From the magazine:
Producer Christine Vachon, who is also director of Stony Brook and Killer Film’s MFA in Film, answers by challenging the question itself. “There’s always a disruptive change,” she writes in an email. “For decades we’ve heard clamoring about independent film being dead — that this is the era of the webisode; that this is the golden age of television; that creating content via focus groups, purchasing power or integrating viewer decisions is how the industry will stay relevant and alive.” Vachon goes on to preach a platform agnosticism, one that film schools must adapt to: “Storytellers are now feature filmmakers, they are TV series producers, viral video makers, digital shorts creators, mobile story developers, streaming media content producers and whatever comes next.”
Magdalene Brandeis, the MFA in Film program’s associate director, is also interviewed and speaks about the importance of students learning how to size a project, and giving them experience in all aspects of the production process.
“We shape our curriculum to guide our students to look at each project holistically to determine the best medium, be it a full-length feature, short form or scripted television.”
Brandeis also says that Stony Brook is committed “to teaching students how to approach their careers as entrepreneurs, build and sustain relationships, and react and respond to the realities, practices and demands of an ever-fluctuating industry, while honing their creative sensibilities, voice and storytelling skills.”
Later in the article, Vachon stresses the importance of teaching the business of film as well as film itself.
“I have taught at many of the film schools in this country — and all over the world,” she writes, “and what I have seen, especially in the last few years, is that many schools function without an awareness of the reality of the film business today — and students today need, both financially and creatively, to develop an understanding of the business alongside their craft.” Stony Brook, continues Brandeis, is also committed “to teaching students how to approach their careers as entrepreneurs, build and sustain relationships, and react and respond to the realities, practices and demands of an ever-fluctuating industry, while honing their creative sensibilities, voice and storytelling skills.”
The complete article, Film Schools in a Time of Disruption, can be accessed at the Filmmaker Magazine website, and requires a subscription.