The Collegian
Monday, October 02, 2023

Film Studies major introduced

This year, for the first time, students at the University of Richmond have the option to major in film studies.

The major's requirements include six electives and three mandatory courses: Introduction to Film Studies, Film Theory and a research seminar.

Although this is the major's first semester, it is something that has been in the works for a number of years, said Abigail Cheever, associate professor of English.

Cheever, who began teaching at Richmond in 2001, said: "From the day I started at UR, students have always asked me if they could major in film studies. There are a lot of people in the community who thought it would be an exciting place for the school to go."

Senior Justin Mallaney, who will be the first film studies major to graduate from Richmond, said that his passion for films and filmmaking began before his days as a college student.

"I fell in love with film in high school around sophomore and junior year when I was watching a lot of Scorsese films," he said.

Cheever was Mallaney's undeclared adviser when he started school at Richmond, he said, and she helped him design an interdisciplinary major in film. By the time he learned that the university was going to introduce a film studies major, he had already taken several of the required classes, he said.

When Mallaney takes the research seminar this spring, he said he plans to pursue the option to make his own film rather than conduct research.

Peter Lurie, an assistant professor of English who has been teaching film courses at Richmond since 2004, said that although the university did not currently offer courses in film production, he was hopeful that one day it would.

"For the time being, we teach students to interpret films, not to make them, but we would like to add a filmmaking component," he said. "We have our minds set on it."

Lurie said that film production had already begun to surface in classes outside of the film studies major, such as journalism courses in which students created their own documentaries.

Lurie currently teaches two sections of Introduction to Film Studies, and he said that a number of students in the class had expressed an interest in film studies.

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"The intro course is a huge recruiting ground for the major," said Cheever, who has taught the course many times. "There seems to be a lot of interest this year among the underclassmen."

Sophomore Tiffani Lewis-Lockhart, who is in Lurie's introductory class, recently declared a major in film studies.

"I knew as soon as the film major came out that it was exactly what I wanted to do," she said. "I always knew I wanted to go into film or TV. I started doing theater when I got here in order to eventually get into film."

Lewis-Lockhart said she was a double major in English and film studies, with minors in theater and creative writing.

"I've always written," she said. "I've been writing since I was six, and that's just because I was six when I learned to write. I was writing stories before that, I just couldn't put them on paper."

She said she liked storytelling in any medium, but she particularly enjoyed writing scripts because of the visual aspect of film.

"Film is really important to me," she said. "It's an art style."

Cheever said she thought one of the best things about the new film studies major was the variety of angles that students could approach it from.

"There are so many applications, and so many different disciplinary and cultural traditions involved," she said. "Film studies is a program, not a department, so it pulls faculty from all over the school in different disciplines.

"We have professors from art and art history, Latin American and Iberian Studies, American Studies and more who are all teaching film classes."

Lurie, who taught film studies courses at Harvard University and Oxford University before coming to Richmond, said that neither of the two universities had an undergraduate film studies major.

"[At Richmond] it took a long time for people to realize there was a strong support and deep interest among the students to get the major started, as well as a strong willingness in the faculty," Lurie said.

Now the challenge would be to spread the word about the major so that everyone who might want to take part would know it was an option, he said.

"I can't just wander the campus with a megaphone or a sandwich board, but we'll see," he said, laughing.

Cheever and Lurie both said that there had been several prospective students who had inquired about the major and had been drawn to the university specifically because it had a film studies major.

"I am hopeful that someday the film studies major could even become a selling point for UR," Cheever said.

Contact staff writer Eliza Morse at

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