Indiana Wesleyan University students gained stronger ties to the entertainment industry in 2014-15 with a new film concentration in the Media Communication major, a class visit to Hollywood studios, and greater participation in the Los Angeles Film Studies Center (LAFSC) semester-abroad program.
The new film concentration allows Media Com majors students to count all LAFSC credits towards their plans of study. LAFSC is open to all students in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and several IWU Communication alumni are still working in Hollywood after their LAFSC semester.
Emily Walker, Media Communication and Theatre major (December, 2014) attended LAFSC her last semester at IWU. She spent the fall of 2014 taking film production and screenwriting classes at the center and most of her weekends and evenings working on film projects. The program also includes a 20 hour per week internship, which Walker completed at Alcon Entertainment.
“You’re really doing what people do in the industry,” Walker said. “Being out here for the semester, I feel like I have gotten my hands into so many more things that I would not have been able to touch if I had just moved out here (without LAFSC).”
Rebecca Ver Straten-McSparran, LAFSC Director and Professor of Film, sees the program as a great vocational extension of what communication students receive at their home schools.
“We are the school’s program,” Ver Stratten-McSparran said. “So if you’re in high school and you’re thinking, ‘I really want to do film,’ find the school that you really want to study in and explore the best of their programs…and then when you’re a senior and you think this is the place you really want to be, come out to LAFSC…”
LAFSC faculty also build strong ties between student’s faith and the film industry through classes focused on integration and networking with Christians in the industry.
“I would say, very conservatively, there are probably 10,000 Christians at all different levels in Hollywood…it’s a terribly exciting time to be here,” Ver Straten-McSparran said.
With the concentration, the IWU Communication & Theatre Division faculty hope more students will consider LAFSC, particularly in their senior year.
“We make sure every student has a strong foundation in media storytelling through our television, radio and digital outlets on campus,” said Randall E. King, Professor of Communication and Director of Broadcast Media.
“LAFSC is that extra edge. If you think you want to work on the entertainment side, you should consider going there, learning from the pros and immersing yourself in that filmmaking culture,” King said.
Watch student filmmakers at work at LAFSC:
One other bridge to Hollywood came during spring break, 2015, as students from Studio Production class spent 4 days in Hollywood touring studios and production facilities, including LAFSC, watching show tapings such as Conan and Jeopardy and meeting Christian professionals working in Hollywood.
They brought much of that knowledge back for their class project, the second half of the semester – an original situation comedy, produced at the WIWU-TV studios.
The film concentration and IWU production classes help round out the media com experience.
“God gives our students many different creative gifts that could be used in news, sports, film or entertainment media. We want them to have every opportunity to discover and develop those gifts, and for some that may ultimately mean working in Hollywood,” said King.
“Wherever they go, the fundamentals they learn at IWU will take them to some very exciting places.”