VMA dept. requests attendance at screenings, gallery

by Rebecca Fiore / Beacon Staff • February 20, 2014

With the attendance of Bright Light screenings dwindling, the visual and media arts department will now ask all students in the major to attend at least two screenings or visit the Huret and Spector Gallery twice this semester, according to Brooke Knight, interim chair of the visual and media arts department. 

Knight said this new guideline is a trial run to encourage students to take advantage of the Bright Family Screening Room, a 174-seat space located in the Paramount Center, and the Huret and Spector Gallery, located on the 6th floor of the Tufte Building.

“We want our students to become really good audiences for this kind of work, which, in lots of cases, is the kind of work that they will produce when they graduate,” he said. 

The department decided on the new policy last semester, according to Knight, based on Boston University’s Cinematheque program, which requires students to attend at least two screenings a semester to graduate. 

For this semester, BU students only have six options to choose from, according to BU’s College of Communications website, compared to Emerson’s 30 title options. 

“The faculty feels as though it is an important part of a student’s education to see art and film as they were intended to be seen: on a large screen with good audio, or in a gallery setting where you can see objects,” Knight said.

Oppositional Realities, a student-curated exhibition which contains works from students throughout Boston colleges, is currently in the gallery, and Knight said there are a number of exhibits coming up.

If students fail to meet the guideline, there are currently no penalties, according to Knight. 

“There is no specific repercussion other than they lose out on the opportunity,” he said. “This is a way to encourage students to participate in a cinema and gallery-going culture.”

Will Taylor, a junior visual and media arts major, said he doesn’t believe students have the time to fulfill the requirement. 

“It’s hard to ask students to necessarily set aside time when we are already devoted to a lot of things on campus,” he said. “I think to have an additional requirement is unfair, but I understand where they are coming from because these are great events.” 

Taylor said he would like to go to more events, but between an internship and work, he doesn’t have the time at night to watch a movie. 

Knight said even though weekly email blasts are sent to all VMA students, and a Facebook page was created in January 2013, turnout has been consistently poor.

“We have 1,500 undergraduates in VMA, and sometimes we would bring in a guest director and have seven people there,” he said. 

The most popular Bright Light events are usually advance screenings, such as Inside Llewyn Davis, Cloud Atlas, and Mud, according to Anna Feder, the events and internship manager of the VMA department, who is in charge of the Bright Lights program. Since it began five semesters ago, most events have been accompanied by a speaker from the film, including writers, editors, and producers, according to Feder. This semester, there will be a mix of eight in-house speakers and two via Skype, she said.

“We would have a handful of events that packed the house — whenever we would have a name students knew, or a film students knew,” she said. 

Currently, most of the films Feder obtains are from the movie distributor SWANK. Other showings may come directly from professors, such as Bob Nesson’s January screening of his documentary Power to the Pedal.

Both Knight and Feder said they believe because this generation of students grew up with media on demand, they don’t value going to the cinema as much. Because of this, according to Feder, the movie-going community among film students is sparse. Even so, Feder said she is not thrilled about the new requirement, because she would like to see students voluntarily come in and have discussions with filmmakers. 

“People seem to miss this idea of people talking about movies and thinking about them,” she said. “It happens in the classroom, but that shouldn’t be the only environment.”

Before each event, the VMA department sends students a link to EventBrite, an online ticket provider, to encourage RSVPs. All events are free and open to the public. 

At the gallery, students need to just inform the employee at work that they went and their names will be checked off. 

The Huret and Spectator Gallery opened with the creation of the Tufte building in the fall of 2003. It is also free and open to the public, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

At the end of the semester, when the trial is over, students will be able to give feedback through a survey, and the department will hold a town hall meeting to discuss the results, Knight said. 

Feder said the requirement is not asking much from students. 

“There’s so much to gain from going to the cinema for everybody, but especially film students,” she said. “It’s different from seeing a movie on your television, iPad, or phone.”