A two-pronged assault

 

UCD's commitment to film studies has resulted in what could be called a two pronged assault on the subject. The Centre for Film Studies at UCD offers an MA in film studies while the UCD School of Film offers practical courses in film production and screenwriting.

Both have received plaudits and support from those within the industry and, in operation now since the early 1990s, both are building on established reputations.

Tony Fitzmaurice lectures MA students in post-war Italian cinema and classical and post-classical Hollywood film. He says the UCD masters degree is the result of an "extraordinary level of interest in film studies among students".

"Before it was set up," he says, "film was taught as a complimentary study course in some colleges and by some faculties in UCD, but there was definitely something missing in the educational spectrum. You could say that the Centre for Film Studies in UCD moved into the breech."

The UCD MA in film studies is a taught course which also provides students with research opportunities. A one-year course (it can be taken part-time over two years), it deals with the history, theory and practice of film making.

Though largely academic, time is also given to the practical aspects of film making. "It's not a vocational or training course," Tony Fitzmaurice says, "but, given the nature of film as an aesthetic art form which has a commercial and technological side, it's important for students to go through what it's like to hold a camera and other practical aspects of film making."

To this end students can choose optional subjects which include scriptwriting and film production.

Tony Fitzmaurice says the centre has had visits and guest lectures "from a great many of the film industry's best and most successful over the years".

Students, he says, "come from all over the place, geographically as well as racially and from all kinds of academic and work backgrounds, from psychiatrists to veterinary surgeons. Apart from the basic primary degree qualifications, applicants need to be enthusiastic and interested."

Students emerge from the course, according to Fitzmaurice, with an MA "which opens doors and equips them for a lot of areas within the industry".

The centre also offers M Litt and PhD programmes, with places given on the basis of proven research ability.

The UCD School of Film is run by Leon Conway. His enthusiasm is infectious. He describes the school as "attached but separate" from the Centre for Film Studies, and says it's "an autonomous body looking after the practical aspects".

Looking after those aspects involves running short, intensive courses in film production and screenwriting, both of which take place over the summer months and both very much hands-on experiences. The school's founding patrons are the actor Gregory Peck and producer Noel Pearson, and its board includes the likes of Anjelica Huston, Jim Sheridan and Paul McGuinness.

Board member Neil Jordan has said he wishes the production course "was around when I was starting out".

The film production course is held over six weeks in Ardmore Studios and involves intensive practical instruction in areas, such as film lighting and cameras, location and post-production sound, art direction, script supervision, production management, editing, casting and directing.

Instruction is given by professionals working in the European and American film industries and Leon Conway stresses that facilities for the course are state-of-the-art.

Creativity is dealt with in film appreciation and criticism, and the course also looks at areas like film law, insurance and fund raising.

The School of Film course in scriptwriting takes four weeks, looks at the basic principles of dramatic construction and combines lectures, workshops, readings, writing and screenings.

Leon Conway points out that "New York University screenwriting people are brought over to work on the course" and says that "the standard of teachers and technology is top of the range for both courses".

Both are certified by UCD and, with some 24 places on each, demand is high.