Lights, Camera, Action: JSU Establishes Film Degree


Jeffrey Nichols, right, instructs students at Longleaf Studios. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Beginning this fall, it will be easier for aspiring filmmakers to pursue their Hollywood dreams in Northeast Alabama. 

Jacksonville State University has established a new Bachelor of Arts in Film that aims to provide students the education and training needed to take advantage of Atlanta’s booming film industry headquartered just 100 miles from campus.

“There’s an unlimited number of possibilities available for students with a degree in film - from working in various positions within the industry to film criticism,” said Randy Blades, chair of the Department of Drama, which houses the new interdisciplinary degree program. “We’re providing students with a variety of skill sets, depending on where they want to go in film.”

Film is a collaborative art, therefore the film studies major will draw on the expertise of JSU Art, Drama, English and Film faculty to offer coursework in production, cinematography, theory and history of film. Students will gain hands-on experience in film production, acquiring the essential skills needed for a career in the film industry. 

The 120-credit hour major requires 31 hours of film courses, including: 

  • Introduction to Film
  • Film Technology Foundations 
  • Digital Literacy for Artists and Designers 
  • Stage Crafts
  • Introduction to Photography
  • The Art of the Film 
  • Camera and Film Techniques
  • Film Theory

Students must complete additional electives - such as Playwriting/Screenwriting, Editing for Film, or Techniques in High Definition Cinematography - as well as an internship in film and a Film Capstone course. Special topics courses will also be available, such as the Alfred Hitchcock course currently offered this summer. 

Blades expects the new program will serve as a strong recruitment tool for JSU.

“It will be popular because it’s one of the few film majors in the state that’s not communications based,” he said. “JSU’s film major emphasizes the creative side of film, which I think will appeal to students seeking to explore their creative side, while also teaching all the hands-on skills that they will need.”

JSU recently purchased a 18,000 square-foot warehouse near campus that houses Longleaf Studios. The building will soon be remodeled to include classrooms, a screening room and soundstage. It already houses the largest green screen in the state.

“Having the Longleaf Building is huge,” Blades said. “It’s something schools our size rarely have access to. Students can recreate film sets in class, while also having the chance to make student films.”

Students will have the opportunity to be involved with Longleaf Studios, the JSU-owned film studio that is currently making documentaries for Alabama Public Television. Housed in the Longleaf Building and directed by Seth Johnson, head of the Department of Art and Design, Longleaf Studios provides an on-campus film internship site. These options and the interdisciplinary film curriculum mean that, according to Blades, the career opportunities will be as limitless as students’ imaginations.

“If you have ever stuck around to see the credits at the end of a movie, there’s tons of opportunities,” Blades said. “It’s everything from art design to electrical and lighting.”

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