Tim Corrigan, chair of Penn's brand new Cinema Studies major, gives the program two thumbs up.
Tell us about the new film major at Penn.
There's been a film program and minor at Penn for about five years now. Last year we started the Cinema Studies major. The reason we slightly tweaked the name just a little bit is because we wanted to give it more expansive connotations.
Does it surprise you that many past Penn students have found success in Hollywood without the film background?
Of course not. Penn students are smart people who are sensitive to what's going on in the world. These students coming from Wharton or SAS have gone to Hollywood -- not necessarily with any training in film -- but with a passion for the arts and an understanding of the business, and have turned into success stories.
How will the new film program further help people along their path to Hollywood?
Certainly some people will look at the major and think, "Perhaps this is my ticket to Hollywood," and sometimes that will work out. I certainly don't want to discourage those ambitions. On the other hand, I think that what we're after here is a traditional liberal arts major. Students are going to be able to go out with all sorts of traditional skills, as writers, as researchers, and those can take them in any direction.
Could a Cinema Studies major culminate in a broad range of career options?
Absolutely. One might find oneself going to law school or to a Ph.D. program in the humanities. One could end up in Education. One could end up in politics. I think that the real power in looking carefully at media and film these days is that it impacts practically every field, every career possible. Everyone is dealing with the media in one way or another.
How do you think Penn students view the Cinema Studies major? Is it struggling with image problems because it's so new?
I don't really know, I haven't been in long enough to know that. I know that in my class, people don't necessarily see them as "easy-A" classes. I think there's a long tradition in academia where people probably did see film courses as much lighter than other kinds of courses, but that is something that I personally will correct very quickly in my classes.
Glad to hear it.
I'm delighted to have large enrollments in my introductory classes. I'm also delighted to see about 10-20% of the people drop in the first week because their expectations that this would be an easy class were disappointed. I think that it won't be long -- particularly because of the quality of the faculty that we have and will have -- before people will realize that this is a rigorous major and that it's demanding. It can be fun, but it's going to be demanding.
So what's your pitch for freshmen or sophomores who haven't necessarily picked a major yet, but perhaps enjoy a good film course?
I'd say, if you like movies, but have never studied them, take a course and see what you can do with them. You might be surprised that it's not simply sitting around and giving two thumbs up. I believe that following one's passion is the best way to develop the intellect.