Divorcing the Film Department from the English Department

Luc Bryant ’22

Contributing Writer

During my time at Trinity, I have had the pleasure of taking fourteen classes within Trinity’s English department. As an English major, I can never shake the feeling that this statistic is a bit low, but numerically speaking it is almost half of my current credits attempted. I owe the other half of my credits to my love for Film Studies, which on their own have taken thirteen credits of my time here. The thing is, there is an overlap between some of those credits: I may have counted some classes I have taken towards both English and Film Studies. This makes sense when you are from Trinity and know the Film department exists with one foot stuck inside 115 Vernon Street; it has been this way for some time now. Here is my case for the separation of the two departments. 

Just writing this, I can already hear the outcries of English and Film students alike. On paper it seems like a perfect merging of disciplines. One would analyze and study film much the same way one would study literature: through context, history, background, devices, style, story, emotion, affection, etc. until the first story was ever told on this Earth. But there is more to the study of film than just analyzing what has already been made. I would hazard a guess that most Film majors at Trinity have some desire, whether being acted upon or not, to do some work in the field of film production or media. I would also hazard a guess that the alumni of the Film Studies program all wish the production side of the major to be much larger. 

The requirements for Film Studies major specify three courses to be taken in the discipline of film production: FILM 201 (Basic Filmmaking) and two electives of your choice. The electives offered usually concern the three pillars of film: creativity, script, and sound and editing. This list is functional, but it is my opinion, and most likely the opinion of many a Film Studies major, that this list be as expansive as can be for the resources of a liberal arts institution.  

While on one hand it is true the school is wanting for more professionals within the filmmaking space to be able to facilitate this growth, I will say the ones I have encountered are more than capable of doing so if only it be requested of them by the school.  

But why does this warrant a separation of the Film and English departments? By having the English department being the overbearing parent to the hungry Film department, Film has nowhere to grow but in the shadow of English. I say this as an avid appreciator of all things cinematic and literary — the Film department cannot be what I and the rest of its students have hopes for. Criticism and theory can continue to be an important factor in the Film major, and indeed there should still be classes that bridge the gap between departments, in the same way American Studies bridges the gap between History and English. Growing the Film department’s production studies is a must for any Film Studies program in the modern age, where we so heavily rely on concepts of film creation in industry, art, and advertisement, but alas it will never be a priority as long as it remains a subsidiary of English. 

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