Western Carolina University

UNC BOARD APPROVES NEW PROGRAM                                                                                                  

  Image: Jack Sholder (standing), director of WCU's new program in motion picture and television production, makes a point to cast members on the set of Chemistry. Image: Jack Sholder (left) reviews set notes with student Christopher Hamilton, script supervisor for Chemistry.
Jack Sholder (standing), director of WCU's new program in motion picture and television production, makes a point to cast members on the set of “Chemistry,” a production based on the short story “Chemistry” by WCU's Ron Rash. Seated (from left to right) are faculty members Terry Nienhuis and Claire Eye, and standing is student Parker Millar.
Jack Sholder (left) reviews set notes with student Christopher Hamilton, script supervisor for “Chemistry.”

It's “lights, camera, action” for Western Carolina University, as the University of North Carolina Board of Governors authorized a new bachelor of fine arts degree program in motion picture and television production on Tuesday, April 11.

The program, expected to begin accepting students this fall, is designed to prepare students to take part in the motion picture industry of today and of the future, said Jack Sholder, a Hollywood director and screenwriter who joined the WCU faculty in 2004 to create the new program.

 “The motion picture and television industries have changed more in the last 10 years than they have in the previous 50,” said Sholder, who directed “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2” and “The Hidden,” and who won an Emmy Award for editing work on the TV production “3-2-1 Contact.”  “With the advent of the digital age and broadband technology, we believe technology will continue to change the face of these arts and industries at a rapid pace.”

A recent article in the New York Times called degrees in media-related fields “the new MBA” because they teach skills such as teamwork and team-building, time management, writing, critical thinking and technical competence with complex equipment.

Western's program will expose students to the history, craft and art of motion pictures and television while providing hands-on experience with some of the most up-to-date equipment in the industry. Students will be working in audio and video studios located in Western's Center for Applied Technology. The studios feature $4.5 million worth of leading-edge video camera, and recording console, video switcher and video editing stations. The equipment includes a high-definition digital video camera similar to the one used to produce the latest “Star Wars” movie and the same type of video switcher used to broadcast “Monday Night Football” and “The Tonight Show.”

While students will work in a studio with all the latest bells and whistles, Sholder said he also stresses the artistic side of the business. “We will teach students how to tell a story on the screen – be it a cinema screen, a television or a computer – in an entertaining and original way. We will give them the technical skills to do so. And we will provide them with the breadth of knowledge and the creative strategies to adapt to whatever new technologies may emerge,” he said.

“We believe students need to understand the whole process, even though they may only work in one segment of it. We want students to know how the real world of motion pictures and television operates – the unspoken rules, shortcuts and etiquette,” said Sholder, who has directed some 20 films and TV programs.

Even before the program officially gets under way, WCU students already are working with faculty members on several projects, including a production based on a professor's short story and the making of a documentary about the process. In the project, students and faculty are collaborating on a production of the short story “Chemistry” by Ron Rash, who holds WCU 's Parris Distinguished Professorship in Appalachian Cultural Studies.

Alex Dillard of Wilkesboro is working as a camera assistant on the “Chemistry” shoot. “This program is the whole reason I came to Western. I just think the potential is incredible for this program and the students in it. The sky is the limit,” said Dillard, a junior and a 2003 graduate of Wilkes Central High School. “I am astounded that we have all this expertise from the industry to share their insights, that we have all this technology on our campus and that we are actually able to use the equipment as students.”

The program taps the talents of Terry Curtis Fox, a Hollywood screenwriter whose credits include “Hill Street Blues,” “Diagnosis Murder” and “Stargate SG-1” and who now teaches screenwriting at WCU; Padraig Acheson, who heads the television production program after 28 years of network experience in New York; Bruce Frazier, Western's Belk Distinguished Professor of Commercial and Electronic Music, who has won Emmy Awards for contributions to TV programs; and Arledge Armenaki, a cinematographer with 19 motion picture credits.

For more information about the program, call (828) 227-7491 or e-mail jsholder@email.wcu.edu .

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Last modified: Monday, April 17, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Western Carolina University