Teaching and Learning Institute

TLI Grant Brings Production Power to Film Studies

Jennifer Fleeger, Assistant Professor of Media and Communication Studies, now asks her students to not only study, but produce, film.

Keeping an introductory course fresh is a challenge for every instructor. Jennifer Fleeger, Assistant Professor of Media and Communication Studies, has been teaching an introduction to film class at a variety of institutions for 12 years. A lot has changed in that time: “When I started teaching film, it wasn’t possible for students to make movies cheaply and easily,” Dr. Fleeger noted. “With today’s mobile technology, I can be a lot more creative with my assignments.”

Dr. Fleeger wanted to give a creative component to a class traditionally devoted to film analysis because she feels that students have a much better understanding of how movies work when they make them on their own. With the help of TLI Grant, Dr. Fleeger purchased several iPads and put them to work for group assignments. Students in the class reproduce shots from the movies they study, create experimental videos, and compare the effects of different cinematic techniques. “My favorite assignment last semester involved Adele’s song, ‘Hello’. Each group turned the lyrics into a dialogue within a particular genre, such as a western or horror film. We were able to use the results to analyze our assumptions about how genres work.”

Thanks to students’ familiarity with the technology, the iPads are useful in other courses as well. Dr. Fleeger has asked students to recreate Cecil B. De Mille’s lighting scheme in a film history class, and her colleague, Dr. Nadler, has used them for assignments in his New Media class. “The advantage of these devices is that we don’t have to eat up a lot of class time explaining how apps work,” says Fleeger. “We can get right to the meat of the assignment.” This is important, because the iPads are a tool for understanding the cinema as an art form and means of human expression. Dr. Fleeger wants students to see filmmaking as a path to learning about the world. “I hope these assignments inspire them to think. Making art is one way to do that.”