Pushing Boundaries: Students earn experience, paycheck working at the International Film Series

Published: Feb. 1, 2017

Adam Elbeck and Melina Dabney pose in the CU Boulder film lab with stacks of movie reels

As Boulder’s first arthouse, the International Film Series (IFS) on CU Boulder’s campus has been drawing local enthusiasts and student film buffs for over 75 years. Staffed by student employees, IFS shows more than 60 films each semester, including foreign, experimental and art films, documentaries and classic cinema, as well as mainstream popular films in one of the most eclectic film venues in Colorado.

While student employees may have different majors and career goals, they’re gaining experience at IFS that will take them into real-world film industry careers.

Adam Elbeck was majoring in international affairs and interested in politics until he took a film course that changed the trajectory of his career plans. Realizing he likes movies more than politics, Elbeck changed his major to film studies with a minor in business. He runs the projector for IFS and is learning about movie distribution.  

“I think movies have a beautiful power to shape perception in society or how you feel about something,” Elbeck said. “Movies have the ability to change your perspectives and emotions surrounding sensitive topics. The film industry encompasses every kind of career, from accounting to the artists who design movie posters. I want to go into the business side of movies, into producing.”

Melina Dabney is a BA/MA student working on her final year of graduate coursework in film studies through the Department of Art & Art History. Noah Lustgarten is a junior in film studies. As student manager of IFS, Dabney oversees the smooth operation of the showings, ensures the box office is correct at the end of the night and catalogs any scratches or problems with the 35 mm print film. After graduation, she plans to teach.

“Film is a dynamic field that influences ideology,” she said. “You can track how film parallels what’s going on in history. IFS brings an awareness to the more art-cinema side of films.” Lustgarten would like to get involved in the film festival circuit and write movie reviews.

“Even if they’re bad, I like to watch movies,” Lustgarten said. “An impactful movie for me is Birdman that won best picture in 2014. I’ve seen it eight times. This movie and the unique way it was filmed inspire me to want to write and make movies.”

As many films as possible are shown on celluloid. Reel-to-reel projectors provide film buffs access to rare and archive prints from all over the world.

IFS has hosted esteemed directors and filmmakers who attend screenings and discuss their work with the audience after the films, including Nathaniel Dorsky, Tom Shadyac, Cory McAbee, Denver native Pam Grier and Derek Cianfrance, a film studies major at CU Boulder.

Pablo Kjolseth, executive director of IFS, has run the program for 20 years. For IFS programming, he says “the buck stops with me, but that’s not to say I’m at it alone. “I consider any interested cinephile who attends the IFS a colleague,” Kjolseth said. “I’m always receptive to the ideas and suggestions from CU Film Studies faculty, other departments, programs, students or the public. I have various film students to thank for making movie recommendations that really connected with the student population at large and in ways that bumped up attendance for our younger audiences.”

IFS screens films in Muenzinger Auditorium (in the Muenzinger building, west of Folsom Football Stadium).

During the spring semester, film showings run until May 7. For a schedule of upcoming films, visit the IFS website. IFS takes a break during the summer and resumes in the fall.