To Whom it May Concern:
I am a proud graduate of Northwestern’s RTVF class of 2005; I use the skills I learned at NU every day in my career as a video editor and occasional screenwriter.
In addition to having a short of my own (Love: The Movie) funded by Studio 22 in 2004, I was a frequent and enthusiastic crew member on Studio 22 films throughout my undergraduate years. I consider Studio 22’s student-run, upperclassmen-teach-underclassmen environment an irreplaceable aspect of my college experience.
If I understand correctly, the changes that have been made at NU reduce the power of student-run groups (including but not limited to Studio 22) to choose what projects gets funded, and by association which projects receive access to the resources and equipment that the department allows only to certain films.
When I was an undergraduate, faculty decided who got into the Creative Writing for the Media Program and the senior directing sequence; perhaps in the intervening decade more programs have emerged that students need department approval to take advantage of.
Keeping opportunities alive for students to decide which projects go forward and which don’t will serve as a counterbalance to faculty tastes and ensure a wider range of types of projects. An arts program should be as committed to diversity of perspectives, voices and tastes as it is to diversity of demographics.
One need only look at Northwestern’s staggering and successful range of student-run groups in other arts (theatre, dance, music) to see that students choosing for themselves what to do brings something special to the campus and to the sum total of work that the campus produces each year. RTVF should encourage the variety that stems from this sort of decentralization.
Of course groups like Studio 22 are prone to error in their funding choices, to questionable judgment and outright cliquishness. The department is not wrong about those concerns. It is not the intention of this letter to convince you that every decision every group made in my four years on campus was wonderful. (Hell, they turned me down for funding twice.) But right or wrong, those choices were the students’ choices. In the over-a-decade I’ve spent in ‘the real world’ as a working artist and filmmaker, I’ve come to understand more and more that making movies (indeed any sort of art) means committing to something and risking making a mistake along the way. I am happy to endorse a system that allows students to make mistakes—to learn the hard way that maybe John Smith was better at touting his creative vision than finishing a movie, that maybe they should have given the grant to Jill Brown instead of Jane Jones, and so on.
I hope that Northwestern will always be full of avenues for young filmmakers to learn their craft, to obtain vital hands-on training and to chart their own courses. I believe that student-run, student-granted societies like the Studio 22 of my youth are an essential part of that.