Film Program Limbo

During the 2015 summer term, film students who checked their class schedules noticed something alarming. There was no film professor.

“I came back from vacation, his [Bandar Albuliwi] name was listed for the course, and then I looked again about three days later and his name was off it,” said Peter Jay Bines, junior film major whose experience mirrors that of many of the film students. “That was how I found out.”

A look at the courses available for registration only showed a single film class, with Film 101 and Screenwriting Fundamentals, two foundational courses needed to take many of the upper level film courses, in danger of being dropped.

Many of the film students were concerned that the major was being dropped altogether, and with little information from those overseeing the program, rumors began to swirl about why Albuliwi left so abruptly, why the program was only offering one class, and why no one was talking to the students or answering their questions.

“There’s so much that we’re all aching to do, but the means just aren’t there,” Bines said. “I feel like we’ve yet to get into the meat of what it really means to make film. There’s always problems with the equipment; it’s just not consistent.”

With the empty space left by Albuliwi, some of the other Fine Arts professors stepped in. Jim Benedict, assistant professor of sculpture, used his previous cinematography experience to volunteer to teach the subject for this semester.

JU has also hired two new part-time professors, Cindy McLeod and John Boles, to teach Film 101 and Screenwriting Fundamentals.

“Two colleagues of mine, Sharon Y. Cobb, an award-winning screenwriter, and Todd Vittum, Executive Director of the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film & Theatre, both heard about JU’s search for a film adjunct and they contacted me,” Boles said. “I applied for the position, and here I am. I would like nothing better than to have the opportunity to continue contributing to the growth of the film program at JU. I love the cinema and find it extremely satisfying to help students pursue their dreams of working in the film industry.”

While there are few definitive answers about how the film program will change, the professors are listening to the students and working hard to address their concerns.

New film equipment is coming in this semester with direct input from the film students. Professors say they are passionate about the subjects they teach and want to see the program grow and improve.

“I’m excited about the fact that JU is pursuing that goal,” Boles said. “Jacksonville’s history in the industry is rich, and JU is the perfect institution to make that a reality. I suggest that any students currently enrolled who are not aware of the film track, look into it as a major. I pledge that I will do the best I can to enrich their knowledge of the medium whenever they take one of my courses. If any students ever want to talk film, I’m available to them.”

Students can contact Boles at [email protected]