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Film Studies Program
Previous activity

Knowledge and skill goals for this undergraduate degree program are recorded in the most recent CU-Boulder catalog.

In some summaries of assessment activity, goals are referred to by number (e.g., K-2 is knowledge goal 2).

Assessment Activity in 2003-2004
Assessment Activity in 2002-2003
Activity in 2001-2002
Activity in 1999-2000
Activity prior to 1997

Activity in 2001-2002

In the 2001-2002 academic year, outcomes assessment evaluations of the University of Colorado at Boulder Film Studies Program were solicited from Robert Muratore, owner of Denver-based Grim Productions; Cori Chavez, filmmaker and Media Director of Float Rail, Inc.; Philip Rowe, Boulder filmmaker; and Diane Waldman, associate professor at the University of Colorado-Denver. Mr. Muratore, Ms. Chavez, and Mr. Rowe evaluated student films, while Professor Waldman reviewed the Critical Studies courses and program objectives.

The outcomes assessments were based on evaluations of advanced student films from the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Production) track in the program. Each evaluator was invited to the final screening of a section of the capstone course FILM4500 Advanced Film Production. Mr. Muratore attended the narrative genre section, Ms. Chavez the documentary section, and Mr. Rowe the experimental section. In evaluating the Bachelor of Arts (Critical Studies) track of the program, Professor Waldman reviewed syllabi, assignments and student papers and exams from three critical studies courses representing middle, upper, and elective levels.

All four reports are uniformly positive. The three production assessments contained detailed observations of student films, reflections, both positive and negative, on the technical demands and limitations apparent in the films and the program as a whole, and a general enthusiasm for the artistic and professional merits of the films themselves.

In her review of the documentary films, Ms. Chavez first points out that she graduated from the CU Film Studies Program in 1996, giving her a unique insight into the technical demands which confront the current student filmmakers. She notes "astute technical abilities and quality narrative skills at the show" and observes that "great attention" was given to "sound/image recording, mixing and editing." In regard to the equipment available to the students, she applauds the use of digital video cameras and computer editing as being "very appropriate for the personal documentary class," explaining further that such equipment "allows the students to shoot more footage… and gives them more time to edit." Ms. Chavez sites several student films not only for their variety of material, but for the innovative ways in which the material was presented to the spectator. The only criticism in her review refers to the students' use of direct address, in which the filmmakers talk directly into the camera, noting that two films in particular "could have been stronger works without the physical presence of the filmmaker."

Mr. Muratore, in his review of the narrative films, also identifies himself as a 1993 CU film graduate, noting the expansion in the department's faculty and facilities which he believes "translates to films that have more polish and diversity, and also more regard for pacing and story." Mr. Muratore notes a diversity in the films' content, praising them on the whole for their "maturity and regard to the filmmaking process." He points out the many creative challenges the narrative filmmaker faces, as well as the intense technical demands of 16mm cinematography and ProTools sound design, concluding that it is "an incredible and arduous undertaking for the faculty at CU to impart these skills upon their students in an effective manner within such a limited scope of time." Later in his report, he likens the CU program to that of NYU and USC, stating that though CU cannot compete with these schools on a financial level, "the faculty is certainly producing filmmakers of that caliber." Mr. Muratore's complaints concern the ineffective sound mixes in the student films and "the lack of films finished on film stock." He suggests that offering a separate ProTools sound mixing class would begin to address this problem. In regard to finishing on film, Mr. Muratore points out the many benefits of training students in this expensive and time-consuming process, stating that "the process itself teaches students economy, discipline, and appreciation for the art of filmmaking." Mr. Muratore concludes his review with the observation that, despite a limited number of course offerings and a small operating budget, students are emerging from the program with "inventive, moving, and yes, even professional projects."

Mr. Rowe's evaluation of the experimental films proves to be the most enthusiastic of the three, though he also mentions the "severe limitations in facilities and equipment" under which the students had to work. Nevertheless, the quality of the work produced in this atmosphere inspires Mr. Rowe to "write not an assessment, but an appreciation." He goes on to describe and analyze in detail several films covering a wide range of styles and genres, including claymation animation, narrative, abstract, documentary, comedy, and one "astonishing phantasmagoria of a film," thus emphasizing what he sees as the "wide range of genre and technique" in the program. (Even a rap video was found to be "perfectly executed.") Mr. Rowe did comment on several films which were "not perfect," and yet displayed moments of "beauty and passion for the art of film."

In evaluating the Critical Studies program objectives, Professor Waldman looked at syllabi, assignments and papers and randomly sampled student exams from three relevant critical studies courses: Film History, part II (a major requirement), Journeys into the Interior (an elective course), and our capstone course, Film Theory. In light of our stated program objectives, Professor Waldman states at the outset of her evaluation that "I am happy to conclude that the students do appear to be acquiring the kind of knowledge and skills enumerated as program goals."

For Film History II, a required course for all our majors which focuses on the sound period of film from the late twenties to the sixties, Professor Waldman appraised the syllabus, the course outline, screenings, readings and exam questions and finds all of these criteria to be right in line with our program goals. She does raise an interesting question about why this course ends where it does and does not, for example, move into more recent developments in world cinema. Film Studies has often discussed the need for Film History III (from the late sixties to the present), but we simply do not have the faculty resources at this point to offer this kind of class every year. And we do, in fact, cover much of this ground in our several elective courses such as major directors and movements. Professor Waldman looked at short answer and essay exams (random samples) and finds the students were generally best at overall aesthetics and historical contexts and weakest on specific names and dates. Of the samples that she looked at, Professor Waldman assessed that most of the grades would have fallen into the B category if she were grading the exams.

Professor Waldman was most impressed with the international scope and range of films from Journeys into the Interior. She read eight samples of essays and concluded that "they were very sophisticated for undergraduate students overall." She states that in each of the essays, our students "demonstrated the ability to marshal concrete examples and to assess their significance for the film as a whole" and gave mostly A's to the student papers in this course. She concludes: "Obviously, I think the quality is very high."

Film Theory is required of all BA majors and is considered to be the capstone course taken in the senior year. Professor Waldman states that the use of both primary and secondary sources, the balance of classical and contemporary theory, the variety and particularly the sequencing of the written exams all contribute to meeting our program goals and objectives. She examined five randomly sampled responses to the final exam questions and concludes, "most of the students seem to have mastered important ideas about authorship in film, genre, and adaptation. She notes one exception of a student who did not do some of the readings and left out one answer. Professor Waldman was most impressed with the integration of feminist criticism into film theory proper (and not marginalized to women and film courses) and concludes that the "best essays were again very mature and beautifully written."

Professor Waldman concludes her evaluation of the Critical Studies part of our program by stating that the "knowledge and skills goals of the Film Studies program are being met successfully."

Note from the Chair:

In the last Outcomes Assessment Report, an evaluator had recommended that we create "some support in narrative film production." We have done so by hiring a tenure-track faculty member to teach narrative filmmaking. Our goal has been to encourage students to think creatively about narrative cinema instead of simply conforming to the Hollywood model. Our new hire is an independent filmmaker who is committed to this vision and actively promotes innovative forms of narrative filmmaking. Her presence has made a significant difference to our program.

One of the evaluators had complimented us on the "impressive integration of video and film." We have continued to address this issue, offering courses in digital post-production (both at the introductory and advanced levels) as well as in audio and special effects. Our students not only learn about traditional ways of filmmaking but also acquire a comprehensive knowledge of new technologies.

Activity in 1999-2000

In the 1999-2000 academic year, outcomes assessment evaluations of the University of Colorado at Boulder Film Studies Program were solicited from one Denver area film production company head, Timothy Ryerson of Absinthe Films, and by two area film scholars (although from an English Department) Kent Casper and Susan Linville, of the University of Colorado-Denver. Appropriately, Mr. Ryerson evaluated the production course films, while Professors Linville and Casper commented on the Critical Studies courses.

The outcomes assessments were based on evaluation of student films from the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Production) track in the program, and student exams and writings of middle and upper level students in elective and required courses of the Bachelor of Arts (Critical Studies) track.

All three reports are uniformly positive. The production courses assessment seemed very thorough: the evaluator saw a vast number of movies (more than 20) and rendered what seem like conscientious reviews. He points out what he thought of each movie, and the range of opinions reflect the diversity (of skill) of our students, calling the best "impressive," and the weakest devoid of any "merit". He commented of some of the experimental films that they were "idealistic and courageous," and that they generally showed "substantial technical skill." The evaluator pointed out that experimental filmmakers in our program seem "encouraged" to "push the art beyond its current limitations." Admitting that the movies were not all flawless, the report praises highly the quality of the movies in the areas of "experimental," "animation," and "documentary" calling many of the films "successful," "creative," "moving," "impressive."

In the narrative area, however, the report claims that these were the "weakest" films. According to the report, while most of the movies were technically satisfactory, "the films were weak in story and lacked a sense of…momentum." The evaluator concludes restating his praise for the majority of the student films saying ours is "an excellent program" in which movies show "excellent technical production values," and impressive integration of video and film, while suggesting that the program needs "some support in narrative film production."

In the Critical Studies area the evaluation was based on sample syllabi from one mid-level elective course (FILM 3003: Independent Women Filmmakers), and two upper level required courses (FILM 3061: Film History, II and FILM 4004: Film Theory), and randomly selected student exams/papers from each course. The evaluators admit that the sample of works is very limited, and that other supplementary materials should be available.

Commenting specifically on Film History II, the evaluators emphasized that the course seems to "have been successful," that "students answered the questions well," with the "appropriate information," and that "…the level of knowledge and intelligent analysis… was very good." Emphasizing the thorough coverage of contextual information in this course, some criticism concentrated on the students' neglect to use "film-specific terms and concepts" and the course's lack of films made in the last two and half decades, suggesting the course should include at least one more, recent, "preferable foreign" film.

The evaluation of materials from "Independent Women Filmmakers" led to the conclusion that the course made the students "engaged and enthusiastic." Some of the student papers, according to the reviewers were "strong… sophisticated and articulate," while others, although enthusiastic, showed lesser acquaintance with the proper vocabulary in film analysis. The evaluators were impressed (and perhaps puzzled) by "the sheer volume of films" students watched in Independent Women Filmmakers (more than 100). Criticism pointed out that the movies may be too many (yet, they admit the movies are mostly shorts) and that there are no clear reading assignments. However, they stressed how students showed to be most enthusiastic and judged the course to be "very appealing."

About the sample from "Film Theory" (a capstone critical skills course) the evaluators stated that the students show a "normal range of abilities," even though the questions from the exam were judged "fairly difficult." Students showed "good understanding" of some specific readings and "confusion" about others. Students also showed, according to the evaluators, "engagement and knowledge" yet, they concluded the exams "should be better" for the level of the course. Paradoxically, the evaluators stated that if they were to grade the 5 sample exams "we would award one A, one B, and three C's." The numbers, however, seem acceptable on average (20% A, 20% B, 60% C). Finally the evaluators stated that "the readings seem well chosen" and that although there are "…gaps in the coverage of film theory… the readings make sense together."

A gap in the evaluation may come from the apparent fact that the reviewers were not given access to senior student evaluative surveys which have been gathered and made available to reviewers in outcomes assessment procedures as recently as the 1996-1997 academic year. Based on the materials, however, the evaluators wrote that the program is offering "a wide range of interesting, lively courses," that "the students are being well served by the Program" and that they show that students are very much "engaged and enthusiastic" about their courses.

Assessment Activity through 1997

In 1989-90 and 1990-91, outside experts were asked to comment on a collection of student films demonstrating students' integration of their experience in the program. The outside experts included Dirk Olson, director of productions, Denver Center Media, Denver Center for the Performing Arts; James C. Berger, manager, Gannett Production Services, KUSA-TV, Denver; Susan Soltysik, producer, Dewey-Obenchain Films, Inc., Denver. In addition, final exams from a capstone type course were assessed by an outside reader, Prof. David James of Occidental College.

The film evaluators were uniformly laudatory. Examples of their comments include: "It seems quite apparent to me that University of Colorado film students have received far more than just rudimentary filmmaking instruction. I surmise that the University has talented, dedicated and energetic film instructors." and "The structure of your program seems to encourage students to explore and gain experience in all aspects of filmmaking . . . By the end of the screening, it was clear that individual students had gained invaluable experience. . ." Comments from the extensive analysis of the essays include: "The overall standard of the exams is very high. . . . even the least impressive of the papers shows a solid grasp of the fundamental issues of film theory. . . . at least half of the answers are distinguished, several very much so. . . . I have to conclude that your students are receiving some of the best instruction in film theory available in the academy... "

In 1991-92 and 1992-93, five students each year were selected at random from upper division critical thinking courses, including a senior-level capstone course in Film Theory (FILM 4004). Instructors submitted syllabi and course materials and portfolios of essays and exams written by the selected students. The essays were sent to external faculty evaluators, who were asked to review the work in terms of the program's published goals. In 1992-93, the critical studies materials were also reviewed by a member of the department's critical studies faculty. The use of an internal reviewer as well as external consultants provided internal corroboration and perspective for the external comments. In addition, media professionals were asked to attend and to evaluate final screenings in the Advanced Filmmaking course (FILM 4500) in order to evaluate the added skill of making a short, 16mm, sound film.

Assessment was suspended during 1993-94 because of major ongoing curricular revision and the program director's serious illness. (Professor Grillo died early in the Fall 1994 term.) Outcomes assessment resumed in 1994-95 with an external reviewer evaluating student papers from several critical studies courses and student films from the advanced film-production course.

Reviewers in the period from 1991-92 through 1994-95 included Allan Casebier, Associate Professor, School of Cinema-Television, University of Southern California; Peter Garrity, vice president, Wind River Production, Inc., Denver, CO; John B. Schwartz, consultant in electronic communications, Boulder, CO; Linda Williams, Professor of Film Studies, University of California, Irvine; and Howie Movshovitz, Professor of English at CU-Denver, film reviewer for the Denver Post, and an NPR film reviewer.

Evaluators were unanimous in feeling that the program is meeting its goals both in critical studies and production. FILM 3061 (Film History), for example, was described as "carefully designed to meet the stated goals", and students there were seen as "mastering the analytical, interpretive, and communications skills" stated in the program goals, evidencing "surprisingly fine work" in their exams. The essays from FILM 4004 (Film Theory) were described by one external reviewer as "particularly gratifying" and "exciting." In addition, the assessment presentation was commended for the way it allowed individual students' learning patterns to be seen.

Filmmaking skills were largely commended by the media professionals. The program was described as doing a "fine job" in transmitting the technical skills involved, although greater attention to narrative and writing skills was suggested. There was praise for the "high quality" of acting, for the creative exuberance exhibited in the films, and for "nurturing the obvious esprit which students expressed both through their work and their support for one another."

The 1994-95 reviewer commented, "This program, so far as I know, is the only one in film studies which requires students to take courses in critical studies as well as production." He found that the papers were "better written than I expected, and in all classes the students were trying to figure out essential aspects of film history and criticism." About the student films he said, "because of revious experience, I came to the evening film screening with dread in my heart...What I saw, though, was terific."

Assessment was suspended again in 1995-96 while program revisions were solidified, and resumed in 1996-97. Howie Movshovitz carefully reviewed material relating to our majors. Material relevant to both the BA and the BFA majors was evaluated. Randomly selected papers and exams from Film History II were provided for assessment. In addition, Mr. Movshovitz attended the student film screenings and was given video tape copies of student films to review and assess. His comments on the student films acknowledge the high quality and technical skills of our students.

In addition, a set of senior surveys was designed and distributed for the first time in 1996-97, with a common survey for all majors and separate individualized survey sheets for BA Critical Studies majors and the BFA Production majors. The surveys were designed late in the spring term and were distributed to graduation seniors at graduation and by mail after the last day of classes. The return rate was nearly 30%. In the future we will ask seniors to do the exit surveys as part of their graduation packets; thus we will have a nearly complete response from every graduating senior. Results of the 1996-97 surveys are currently being analyzed, and will be shared with the faculty and added to this summary in fall 1997.

l:\ir\Outcomes\OA9900\filmstudies.doc and OA0102\film.doc

Last revision 11/15/04


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