Film students expose the complexities of cinema

Meghann Patterson, staff writer

Mason film students are bringing together both film and non-film majors to learn about the production of movies.

The Films about Filmmaking series gives students the chance to discuss their love of film with a community that shares their same passion.

The president of George Mason University’s cinema fraternity, Delta Kappa Alpha, Irem Dogancali orchestrated this series, which kicked off last semester, with the help from Film and Video Studies faculty, Film and Media Studies, and other DKA members.

“The films selected for this semester’s series are inspiring, strange and entertaining stories about storytelling. They reveal and also represent creative processes, they imagine and project, just like film viewers might. As we are all film viewers at some point, it’s important to exchange ideas and understand one another,” said Cynthia Fuchs, director of Film and Media Studies.

The series brought out enthusiastic students to the JC for the viewing and discussion of the second film installment in their series “Ed Wood.”

Most students in attendance had not familiarized themselves with the film “Ed Wood” before the discussion. Some presumed that because Tim Burton, the director, and Johnny Depp’s names were attached to the film, it was worth viewing.

The film follows Ed Wood, played by Johnny Depp as he sets out to direct, produce and act in the greatest science fiction film ever. Along the way, he befriends actor and drug addict Bela Lugosi, who tries to make it back into the acting world with assistance from Wood and learns the many challenges of getting funding for films.

Following the screening, many students were actively engaged in the proceeding discussion which touched on the multiple aspects of film-making and the plot and characters in the film.

“In many ways, these discussions help strengthen cinema literacy for the viewer. Just as we’re taught at a young age to look between the lines in literature, I believe being able to look deeper in films is just as important,” senior Sean Mercado said, a Film and Video Studies major and head of Cinematic Affairs and Cinema Literacy in DKA.

Considering that this film was based on real life individuals, Burton’s portrayal of the characters Ed and Bela and their budding friendship was one of many focuses in the discussion. Students agreed that the two characters used each other as crutches. Ed used Bela as a selling point for his films and Bela used Ed as someone to lean on both figuratively and literally.

“Students who come and engage in the discussions will have a greater appreciation for the film medium, the film-making process and the deeper thematic elements of each individual film,” Mercado said.

Another focal point of the discussion concerned what lessens the quality of a film and the challenges of film-making. Unanimously, the students concurred that the stylistic choices and viewer preference determines the quality of a film.

For example, in Ed Wood, the film called attention to stylistic errors like props falling over, music and editing. In addition, students addressed how the film showcased the ups and downs of being a filmmaker and the lengths it takes to get funding for films.

Overall, students were pleased with the film and discussion and many felt compelled to continue discussing the subject after the event.

“We hope to run this series again next semester and after. It’s a great chance for students to program and organize an intellectual and entertaining discussion of movies with other students who have similar interests. They can share ideas about how films might be made, how taste might be shaped, how viewers’ expectations might be formed and how viewers can be surprised, by movies and by each other,” Fuchs said. “DKA is especially committed to thinking about films as art as well as commercial product, and their choices of films to discuss reflect this interest.”

The third and final part of the Films about Filmmaking Series will be “Lost in La Mancha.”

“We all have different understandings of media, films as well as TV, and we all bring individual perspectives to our discussions,” Fuchs said.