Flagler Launches Cinematic Arts Major with More Hands-On Experience for Students

Visiting Filmmaker Jim Gilmore watches as a student records in the studio
June 29, 2023
By Elisabeth Shirley, '22
A new interdisciplinary Cinematic Arts major at Flagler College will let aspiring filmmakers get involved with all aspects of narrative and feature filmmaking in a program designed to model a real professional environment.

“As a freshman, you'll be playing with the toys, you'll be using the equipment, you'll be using the cameras, and you'll get immediate access,” said program coordinator and Communication Professor Dr. Tracy Halcomb (photo inset). “Whereas I think it would take you maybe two to three years at a larger school before you get that kind of hands-on experience.”

Tracy Halcomb

Whether you're a writer or a video producer, Halcomb and Visiting Filmmaker Jim Gilmore (pictured above) have worked together to create an interdisciplinary program designed to have something for everyone as part of Flagler College's Communication program.

“We're giving students a broad foundation of academic experiences, many of them very applied,” said Halcomb. “I think it's very unique in that every department in our school of Creative Arts and Letters is represented in the major.”

The program, modeled to follow other, bigger universities who have cinematic arts programs, will give students hands-on experience working with professionals in the field on projects aimed to be distributed nationally, setting this program apart from existing majors.

“One of the challenges was how to create a cinematic arts program in a smaller liberal arts college,” said Gilmore. “There's this really cool idea for professional connection to keep generating creative products out of this program, and out of all the different departments in the school.” The first project they have sight on is with Fort Mose Historic State Park, site of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement. Students will be involved in all parts of the pre-production, as well as production stages of the film.

“We think employers will be able to look at that and say, 'OK, well, you've got an idea of how this all works,' " said Gilmore. “When I taught here within the department, we were teaching students how to make short little personal films, but we never really had the time to connect all the dots to make a big thing.”

Gilmore said that the idea of the Cinematic Arts program is that new filmmakers will continuously bring fresh projects to allow students to work on projects outside of the usual production classes.

“Most undergraduates don't work on any kind of feature length, or even significantly long film in their undergraduate career. And saying is there a way we can bring that to our undergraduates here at Flagler, and there is,” said Gilmore, who returned to Flagler from the University of Michigan.

Halcomb said this program is also a great complimentary minor or major for anyone looking to broaden their horizons. Gilmore said students will be able to do this by getting to work with cameras and professional equipment right off the bat without needing a lot of prerequisites. “We've tried to design it so that someone coming from theater, or the arts or creative writing, would be able to get familiar and comfortable with it really quickly without having to take a bunch of technical classes to have that expertise,” he said.

Halcomb and Gilmore have been working together years prior to this program as well. Even after Gilmore moved to work at Michigan, they continued to collaborate on academic conferences and multi-year projects like "Cracking Aces," which featured professional women poker players, and then a Major League Baseball scouting documentary.

“And I think that also gives us kind of a level of comfort, taking on the Fort Mose project, where we're just like, oh, we can get a lot of other people involved.”

Halcomb said she hopes that students, whether it is through the written word or visual image, “will have a portfolio that will help support their belief that they are a very creative storyteller.”

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