MSU Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies Premieres

Building on a heritage of innovative and creative work in the study of film, MSU has created a brand new film studies major that premiered Spring term 2015.

“I’m thrilled to have this major go officially live,” says MSU Department of English Interim Chair David Stowe. “It represents the culmination of years of patient work by department faculty members. Film Studies is clearly raising the intellectual metabolism of the College in various ways, including through collaborations with the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.”

Director of Film Studies Joshua Yumibe agrees: “I am very pleased with the start of the new major. Our film studies courses investigate cinema as a global art, business, and technology of representation that are deeply informed by social dynamics of race, gender, and sexuality. Engaging critically and creatively with new forms of digital technology, our students examine how the moving image functions today in our media environment.”

The department has clear, recognized strengths in film production, independent, minor, avant-garde, and experimental cinemas.

David Stowe

Stowe and Yumibe say the program aims to prepare its graduates for a wide range of fields that utilize and depend on the moving image. In addition to graduate work in film and media studies, this includes entry-level jobs in the film industry and beyond. These range from film production, film criticism, and arts management, to such fields as advertising, public relations, software development or educational programming that draw upon graduates’ skills in visual studies, film form, and critical writing.

“What sets the new Film Studies program apart and makes it particularly attractive to our students,” says College of Arts & Letters Acting Dean Elizabeth H. Simmons, “is its broad global dimension, including the focus on the global south, and the opportunities for students to pursue screenwriting and film production in conjunction with the study of film.”

MSU's Rich History in Film Studies

In fact, the study of film has enjoyed a long and rich tradition at Michigan State University, producing a number of prestigious alumni and former students. For example, as a student in the late 1970s, Sam Raimi of Evil Dead and Spiderman fame worked closely with MSU Professor Bill Vincent.

In the 1980s, the Department of English began developing its faculty and curriculum in Film Studies. Between 1991 and 2009, the Department was the lead unit supporting the Specialization in Film Studies in the College of Arts & Letters, and between 2002 and 2014, it housed the Concentration in Film Studies as part of its Bachelor’s of Arts in English.

Faculty Scholars & Filmmakers

Yumibe and Stowe note that the new Film Studies program has cultivated a core faculty of internationally recognized scholars as well as filmmakers who maintain a rigorous, academic track record. Faculty have strong commitments to studying film in its global and transnational configurations, with particular emphases on films made in the global south.

“The department has clear, recognized strengths in film production, independent, minor, avant-garde, and experimental cinemas,” Stowe says. “Faculty are actively teaching screenwriting and production courses, while producing highly successful, award-winning works of their own that have screened and been well received at a variety of film festivals.”

Says Yumibe, “Ranging from Hollywood to Dakar, the popular to the avant-garde, and the late 19th century to the current moment, MSU’s film studies program explores a range of cinematic practices and ways of thinking about this globalized art form. It focuses on the critical, artistic, and digital literacy skills necessary, today, in all areas of the creative arts.”

woman lectures to students with projection

Photo: Ellen McCallum, associate professor of theory and American literature, teaches students in the film screening room.