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Mass Communication Makes Program Changes For New Year

Aug. 8, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Kim Mathie

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Tom Garrett has joined the mass communication faculty and will lead the department's new track in film production. Garrett brings a wealth of experience in both the industry and academia. —Submitted photo

This fall things will look different for students majoring in mass communication with an overhaul of degree offerings this past spring to reflect changes in the rapidly evolving media landscape as well as student interest.

Among the changes, broadcast and print journalism will now be called multi-platform journalism; the current public relations track will now include advertising; and a film production emphasis will round out the program. The department also offers an emphasis in broadcast production, which will not change.

The addition of film production stems both from student interest and department chair Jean Bodon’s belief that it is an important skill to have as journalism moves from a print media vehicle to an Internet-based, multi-platform vehicle that incorporates online newspapers, websites, social media and videos.

“Print journalism is morphing into something very visual,” said Bodon. When we teach students how to construct a story through writing, we should also include visual storytelling as well. What students learn about visual literacy will transfer to other tracks like advertising and public relations and give them access to more jobs.”

Teaching the new film production track is Tom Garrett, a movie industry professional and one of Bodon’s former students.

Bodon took Garrett on his first trip to Cannes; a trip Garrett says changed his life.

“It was a light bulb moment for me. I suddenly realized the size and diversity of the film industry,” said Garrett. “There are thousands of different jobs people can build careers on in the film and entertainment industry; not just in the making of films, but also in development, legal, management, promotion, marketing and sales. The career paths are endless.”

Garrett shared this epiphany with his students at the University of Tampa, where he took the film program to new heights by introducing students to industry professionals through lecture series and through hands-on attention with student filmmakers. Garrett hopes to bring that same passion to students at SHSU.

An independent filmmaker with dozens of production credits under his belt, including several feature films and documentaries working with Bodon, Garrett couldn’t ignore the draw of working with students.

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to work in film, but I stayed in academia because of the students; they’re such incubators of ideas and creativity,” Garrett said. “I need that inspiration. Also, I see the results of students who want it, go after it and get it; the changed lives of following their passion or discovering their dream.”

Garrett said he relishes the challenge of developing a film program at SHSU.

“It’s exiting to me to have the support I have and a clean slate to help build the program,” said Garrett. “Everything I heard about the faculty and community, I think we can really build something special that compliments what is already a stellar mass communication program with the film track.”

This fall Garrett will teach theory and production classes, including cinematography.

“Cinematography is an art form unique to motion pictures. It’s not a just a technical course,” he said. “Many additional technical difficulties and creative possibilities arise when the camera and elements of the scene may be in motion. It’s about how a film looks the way it looks, the workflow between the director and the cameraman and production designer; ‘the creative triangle.’”

It’s also about set design, costume, make-up, acting—the whole visual look of the movie.

Bodon believes Garrett’s visual literacy is a strength his students will immediately benefit from.

“He’s very visual, very tuned into the visual mood,” said Bodon. “It’s difficult to do.”

“Everything starts with story, even commercials are short films,” Garrett said. “Visual literacy complements public relations and advertising or general communications majors.

“The aesthetics and business of Hollywood films, independent films and TV shows are changing as the Internet and democratization replaces some of their function with the old ways of telling and delivering stories,” said Garrett. “I know in this global transmedia frontier that providing the artistic and intellectual growth that is challenging, supportive and entrepreneurial is what the mass communication department at SHSU prides itself in.”

Texas has a long history of film and television production and has maintained a strong reputation for being a great place to make any type of project. More than 130 production companies are based in Texas and have created an artistic, working community that attracts filmmakers and commerce it brings from all over the world.

Recently, Texas was the primary location for director Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” which went on to win the Palme D’Or at the 2011 Cannes International Film Festival. The state has also served as a location site for the films “True Grit,” “Spy Kids 4,” “Machete” and SHSU alumnus Richard Linklater’s “Bernie,” as well as the television shows “Top Chef,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Dallas” and ‘The Lying Game.”

In addition to teaching, Garrett hopes to take advantage of his numerous industry contacts to help students secure internships, promote student work through film festivals, and build bridges not only regionally and domestically, but with international programs like in Prague, which has a world-class film program; India, which has the biggest film industry in the world; and Latin America, where the once struggling industry is now thriving. Garrett wants his students to benefit from these international exchanges to expand their horizons and to build industry connections.

“I’ve personally never known anyone who’s applied for a film job,” said Garrett. “Ninety-five percent of people get film jobs by interning or having a mentor and always being ready and available, with your resumé handy and a willingness to get the job done.”

Until then, Garrett will build the program one film frame at a time, focusing first on creating a core community of passionate and invested students.



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