A Seat In The Cinematic Classroom
By Oz Online | Published on September 9, 2020

With so many people moving to Georgia for the film industry, it’s no wonder that many of Atlanta’s universities have either grown or completely transformed…

With so many people moving to Georgia for the film industry, it’s no wonder that many of Atlanta’s universities have either grown or completely transformed their film programs to accommodate the cinematic boom happening in the state. Oglethorpe University, Georgia State University (GSU), and Emory University have all been at the forefront in fostering film communities within the academic world. The professors, program coordinators, and department heads of these film programs have meticulously planned and fought to create the impressive and impactful film programs that have now become crowning jewels for some of these educational institutions. Both Oglethorpe and Emory have brand new film programs that launched this very year. Meanwhile, GSU’s film department has been climbing the ladder of academic prowess for years to rightfully establish itself as one of the nation’s top film programs. Each of these three universities offer students something different, but they all have similar goals: to lift up new voices, to train students to be world-class film industry professionals and to give their students the tools they need to go out in the world to both view and make movies with undeniable skill and intention.

Oz recently spoke to a few key players within the film programs of Oglethorpe, GSU, and Emory to hear what each one had to say about their experience on the academic side of film studies and film production.

The Oglethorpe Objective


Before 2020, if you wanted to study filmmaking at Oglethorpe, you had to be a studio arts major with a concentration in filmmaking, video, and photography. This changed largely thanks to Dr. Katharine Zakos, Oglethorpe’s Program Coordinator for the brand new Film and Media Studies Department, which launched this past January. The program offers both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and requires students take courses in history, theory, and practice. Planning and fleshing out a new film and media studies program at Oglethorpe was an arduous process, however, and one that Dr. Zakos has been working towards her entire academic career. One institution she is happy to credit with helping her along the way? Georgia State University.






“All my degrees are from Georgia State,” Dr. Zakos proudly credited her alma mater. “I originally did a political science degree. I completed that in 2007 and then after that, I went on to work on my Master’s in mass communications, because my focus was on political news media and that was the direction I was kind of moving in … the more I did, the more I became interested in … film and media, [and the] entertainment industry, more broadly. After I finished the Master’s I started the Ph.D. of moving image studies.”

While completing her Master’s in mass communications, Dr. Zakos served as an advisor for GSU’s Communications Department. During this time, she met and spoke with many undergraduate students who were majoring in film and video. Her conversations with them and the positive feedback she received about the film program was part of what made her decide to pursue a Ph.D. in moving image studies. And although Dr. Zakos has family in the industry and is therefore quite familiar with it herself, GSU’s program still opened her up to a whole new world.

“When I started in the Ph.D. program,” Dr. Zakos recounted, “I recognized that there was so much I didn’t know about the history, the theory, and the studies side of it, which actually kind of informed my understanding of how the industry works today and where we’re at now, why we do the things we do. And even as far as techniques and things like that, it’s really fascinating to understand where things have originated, why they originated, why they may or may not have changed over the years.”

It was the hands-on teaching experience that Dr. Zakos enjoyed most during her graduate studies at GSU. While many teacher’s assistants (TA) spend the majority of their time grading papers or taking attendance, GSU’s TAs do far more interactive work with their students. In the classroom, Dr. Zakos saw her own potential for working in academia and made the decision to pursue an academic career in film instead of going into production.

“I felt like I could make more of a difference in the classroom by helping people [and] preparing them to enter the industry,” Dr. Zakos said. “One thing in particular that I found especially helpful — like when I was at Georgia State — I would bring in all my friends and other people who worked in the industry. They were very generous with their time. They would come speak to my classes for free and tell them the actual, you know, ‘This is what we actually do day to day.’ I think people have all these ideas of, ‘I’m going to be a director! I’m going to be this! I’m going to be that!’ And I think we don’t quite know what really goes into these roles or how they’re the same or separate in different places.”

For Dr. Zakos, pursuing a career in academia was never going to be a choice between film production and film studies. Dr. Zakos understands the importance of having both practical and theoretical skills in your toolbox when engaging with the film industry. And with skill often comes intention: a vital part of successful filmmaking.

“For me,” Dr. Zakos began, “it’s about knowing and making informed, deliberate decisions. So even if you think from a creative perspective, if I want to shoot a short film or write a screenplay or something like that, it’s helpful to me to understand what choices to make. It’s one thing to be able to say, ‘I know how to light a scene,’ but it’s another to then think about, ‘Well why would I light it this way and what’s the impact?’ And also to think and understand the legacy. So many filmmakers and media makers, in general, were all inspired by different people and so we’re all kind of … legacies of people who come before.”

Legacy and history is something you’ll hear more than once in this piece, because film professors, filmmakers, and film lovers alike understand how past creators still have an impact on what’s being made today.

“You look at someone like Tarantino and you see why he does the things he does and you look at all the different callbacks he’s doing to different genres and people. I think that that’s helpful in developing our own voice as creatives, and thinking about the most effective way of telling the story you want to tell,” Zakos said.

Learning how to tell a story through film and, furthermore, finding your cinematic voice is not unique to Ogletho


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