From outside, Room 205 in Fisher Bennett Hall seems inconspicuous: across from the Cinema Studies office and just past the second–floor bathroom, only a brass nameplate distinguishes it. Inside, it’s an oasis.
Professor Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve (W, C‘88) has lined a table with Poland Spring water and candy for students to take. “We really love your work BUT,” reads a light pink poster on the wall above her desk. Visitors sit on a couch below pages of framed scripts, some on glass prints.
Her plans for the final touch? Posters that her students in “The Art and Business of Film” have made to advertise their masterpieces. She and her husband Emory Van Cleve have taught the class (CINE–285) together since Spring 2011.
In it, students go through the entire filmmaking process, from pre–production to post–production, after having been broken up into creative teams of four. But not every student makes it to the final phase and gets to see one scene of their work come to life on film. The groups pitch their screenplay ideas for their classmates to vote on, and some teams get cut along the way.
“Let me show you our graph,” Kathy says excitedly, standing from her spot next to her husband to reach for a piece of paper and a marker.
“It’s not a graph—it’s a timeline. She always calls it a graph,” Emory retorts, the couple’s repartee obvious no matter the subject. Kathy maps out the different stages of film production that the students complete—the same one all real filmmakers finish for every project. The students who get voted off at each step take on new roles in the class, becoming producers or agents who fight over the different projects and ultimately join new creative teams.
“The Art and Business of Film” melds the couple’s interests perfectly. While both teach Cinema Studies classes, Kathy also teaches in the English department, and Emory in Fine Arts. They balance their teaching with their professional work: Emory has credits in all facets of the filmmaking process, and Kathy is a screenwriter and producer as well as a novelist for children and adults. (Ed. note: they even have pages on IMDb!)
The most important thing to know before killing it in the film industry? Undoubtedly, Kathy says, “have a sense of humor. No one is dying; it’s not open heart surgery. Remember that we are just making movies.”
Nothing will get you further than genuine, hard work, Emory adds. Both professors recommend starting at the bottom, as production assistants or by shadowing anyone in the industry who will have you, learning all you can and working your way up. They both did.
Their words of wisdom have not fallen on deaf ears, and in fact, they recently reconnected with some CINE–285 alums during a trip to Hollywood. Kathy describes seeing her former students find success in the film industry as “the best feeling in the world.”
Like many Penn professors, the Van Cleves struggle to find a balance between their work as teachers and their personal work. “It’s really hard, and I don’t think anyone has found the balance yet,” Kathy says. “It’s a lot of waking up early in the morning before we have to take the kids to school.”
The couple has two sons, and while they don’t believe in any type of censorship, Kathy does have one rule for her writing students. “If you are going to use my kids’ names in your piece, they have to be heroes.”
One thing they don’t struggle with is teaching together. It seems their biggest dispute is whether or not to park at Drexel and save one or five dollars (the amount differs based on which spouse you ask). When asked about their experience co–teaching, Emory quickly explains, “it’s great, because I just let her talk.”
What does she talk about? A little bit of everything, but especially women in film. In many of her classes—and the film industry at large—Kathy has noticed that boys tend to write about boys, while girls often write about characters of all genders.“If my nagging gets one more female character a name in a Hollywood script, that’s enough,” she says. “Call her Mary, not Waitress!”
Together, Kathy and Emory Van Cleve have taught hundreds of Penn students since starting here in 2006 and 2007, respectively. And, in classic Street style, they’ve noticed that there are two types of students here. According to Emory, there are “the ones who are on Facebook in class—”
“They think we’re blind!” says Kathy.
“And the ones who get As,” Emory concludes. Take note.
It’s harder to answer the same question about Penn professors.
“I don’t really know that many Penn professors,” Emory says.
“That’s not true,” Kathy counters. He’s forgotten someone important and reconsiders.
According to Emory Van Cleve, there are two types of professors at Penn: “Those who are my wife and those who aren’t.”