An alternate film school — University of Idaho adds Film and Television Studies to its degree options


The University of Idaho will offer a film and television studies degree beginning fall 2017, the first of such programs offered in the state.

Russel Meeuf, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Media (JAMM), will serve as the first director for the film and television studies program. Meeuf said this program is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Journalism and Mass Media, English and Theatre Departments.

“This is an interdisciplinary collaboration in order to create a degree track that mirrors what’s traditionally offered at film schools . . . to help people prepare for a broad variety of careers in film and television industries,” Meeuf said.

Meeuf said this degree track would require students to take a variety of classes between these departments starting with ENGL 230, Introduction to Film Studies. Different courses will expose students to both the production and theoretical aspect of film and television, he said.

The program will utilize classes currently offered at the university, but new classes will be developed for the degree, Meeuf said. One such example is JAMM/ENGL 231 Introduction to Script Writing, which will be cross listed as both a JAMM and English course.

JAMM/ENGL 231 will be taught by Benjamin James, a temporary lecturer under the Theatre Department, who will move full-time into the English Department beginning summer 2017. James is a screenwriter from England who will be primarily teaching screenwriting courses at the university.

James said he will be teaching a 400-level Screenwriting course, which will be cross listed as a JAMM, English and Theatre course, on top of the intro class. He is also in the process of developing an adaptation course that explores how a piece of literature can be translated into film.

“Film, television is the major storytelling medium of the 21st Century. Almost every single one of us would have watched so much media and so I think being media literate is really essential,” James said.

Meeuf said students will be required to take five core courses adding up to 16 credits and additional core credits. Students will be able to take 12 credits of electives to enhance their area of emphasis, he said.

Associate professor Anna Banks from the English Department said the program was spearheaded by Meeuf, but the idea really came from students.

“What we were finding was that students were in a way developing their own major. There were students who were interested in film, seeking out and finding these classes,” Banks said. “They might have other majors but they were piecing it together or were doing an area of emphasis in film studies, so part of this is to serve that demand.”

Banks primarily teaches film studies, film theory and criticism, and literature and film.

Banks said she will be one of the principle faculty teaching this program, alongside Meeuf and James. The first director will be Meeuf but the idea is that the role will be rotated between the English Department and the JAMM Department, she said.

Banks said they hope this program will serve as a recruitment tool to attract more students to the university. Meeuf said his vision for the program is to have about 15 to 20 graduates a year.

“Media is changing. Film and cinema, how people consume them is changing,” James said. “Considering ‘how is it constructed,’ and how it affects our lives is super interesting, so we’re trying to meet that appetite in the student body and I’d really like to see it develop into a really strong film program that will help pull in students from all over.”

Meeuf said the program is currently awaiting final approval before it becomes official and students won’t be able to enroll for this program until July 1. However, he said students who are interested in the program should register for ENGL 230 and ENGL/JAMM 231 courses for fall semester.

“Because it’s this inherently interdisciplinary, the classes are going to be taught from quite different perspective with people with different background and training and I think that will be really beneficial for the students,” Banks said.

May Ng can be reached at

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