Jason Knowles, who joined William Woods University this fall to teach filmmaking and broadcasting, hopes to propel students to create quality film projects to display in film festivals. By exposing his student’s work, Knowles hopes to create a name for the students and the university.
“I see an opportunity to create a top program for the university,” he says. With a strong curriculum, Knowles, who is the art division’s clinical instructor of tech and media production, aims for his students to begin thinking critically of the films they are making.
Working closely with professors Melissa Alpers-Springer and Joe Potter, Knowles and his film students are currently casting theatre students as actors in their movie projects. And with the help of Dr. Greg Smith, assistant professor of English and film studies, Knowles hopes to transform the way the film department operates academically.
“In the past there has been a huge disconnect between teaching the history and theory of cinema and the facilitation of actual film production classes,” he says. “Also, many colleges rely too much on technology today instead of techniques. Technology by itself does not solve the problem, it is just a tool.”
Knowles says current research studies conducted by several educators in film are starting to reveal the benefits of combining these two areas within individual courses. They have yet, however, to see an entire program integrated 100 percent. He hopes to see WWU become the first in the area, if not in the nation, to do this.
In his production classes, Knowles tries to impress upon his students the importance of their characters’ feelings and providing the audience with a chance to relate to these emotions.
“The story has to drive techniques. That’s your foundation.”
Knowles says he has seen some really good stories materialize from his students this semester. Some of their projects include:
- the story of a mixed martial arts fighter caught in a love triangle by Aaron Griffin and Chris Norton,
- a film centered around an insomniac by Sarah Knapp and
- Calvin Hawkins’ action-oriented film about a high school student that is being chased for reasons he can’t understand.
In Knowles’ Production 1 class, his students focus mostly on documentaries. The importance of concentrating on the real-life subject’s emotions, though, is still foremost for the film professor.
Some student documentaries include:
- a look into live-action role-playing padded fighting and the attraction for people by Lincoln Purvis,
- the torn labrum injury that is common among baseball players; how it affects players and their careers by Gianni Randazzo,
- an addiction to the video game “Call-of-Duty” by Kristy Pluchinski and
- a look inside domestic violence through the differing perspectives of survivors, social workers, hospital staff, police officers and the offenders by Kelly Maurer.
“We’re beginning to move away from the spectacles of YouTube and Google video. We need to focus more on films that make an emotional and informative impact on audiences, in theaters and at festivals,” he says.
Knowles believes by getting his students involved in film festivals, he will construct a system of networking.
“It’s not just what you know, it’s also who you know,” he says. “Knowledge and networking must work together in our field to ensure success. At festivals, doors will be opened and connections made. Also, students will be able to see other filmmakers’ work evaluated and judged, which is great because the constructive criticism will help them become better filmmakers.”
He adds, “At film festivals, you may get job offerings and find people to collaborate with. Nowadays, your crew will not necessarily be on set, but rather scattered all over the globe. You may have a guy in South Africa doing your music, while someone else in another country is doing your special effects.”
Knowles also teaches the radio broadcasting class where his students are producing several shows for the William Woods station – 94.9 The Pulse. One of these projects is an old-time radio play that will also involve the acting talents of WWU’s theatre students, due to air in November.