Six months ago, Alan Arrivee took a position in a state he’d never lived in to help students achieve their potential and to share his passion for cinema.
He barely has what any student at Ole Miss would consider a proper office, but Arrivee doesn’t let his lack of equipment or space diminish his spirit or determination.
In the fall, a cinema minor will be added to the Liberal Arts catalogue for any student who wants to turn their love of movies into a career.
The minor will require 18 hours to complete. There are two required courses – one in the English department and one in theater – followed by several options to fulfill the remaining 12 hours of electives necessary to receive the minor.
One of the required courses delves into the basics of film production while the other focuses more on the theoretical aspects of the film production process.
“People who don’t ever want to hear about analyzing a film have to, and people who think picking up a camera is too much like a trade school activity, they have to, so they at least understand the perspective of both sides,” Arrivee said.
Beyond these two requirements, the courses range from film-acting courses to courses about films in most modern languages, such as Russian, Spanish and German.
After winning multiple awards in film festivals around the world, including the European Independent Film Festival, Arrivee is more than qualified to spearhead such an undertaking in the Ole Miss community, but he is not alone in his efforts.
Twenty other professors from departments all over campus are on board with the cinema minor and are teaching many of the courses.
While only 20 people have expressed interest thus far, “it’s a good number to start with,” Arrivee said.
Not only will students get to make their own films, but they will also have the ability to have the films screened both on campus and potentially at Oxford Film Festival.
“It’s only natural for cinema that there’s an audience, so we’re not trying to make it a filmmaker’s workshop where the only people who critique the films are in class,” Arrivee said. “There are in-class projects that don’t necessarily go any place else, but I always remind the students if something turns out of really high quality, then we’ll include it in the cinema slot in the theater season.”
This season, the theater department will encourage students to attend screenings done by Arrivee and students participating in the Ole Miss Film Competition.
Silent Radio, a short film by Arrivee, and three other short films done by the winners of the Ole Miss Film Competition will be screened April 7 through 9 in Meek Auditorium.
Jordan Berger and Houston Settle, junior theater majors from Chattanooga, Tenn., have won the competition before and have become a true “power couple” in the Ole Miss cinema scene.
While Settle has been seen on screen in more than his fair share of short films, Berger can often be found behind the camera concentrating on the cinematography. Despite his lack of previous acting experience, Berger understands the importance of being able to look at films from all angles.
“I definitely want to get the feel for the acting aspect of it,” Berger said. “Even if you’re the director, you’ve got to know how to communicate with your actors.”
The film they are creating for this semester is loosely based on the album “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel, which is itself loosely based on a series of dreams about Anne Frank.
“For so long, we’ve talked about wanting to make a short film, and now we get that opportunity,” Settle said. “If (Arrivee) hadn’t come along, we probably wouldn’t be making this film at all.”
Having taken cinema courses in the past, they are grateful for all that Arrivee has put into the program for the benefit of his students.
“Last year, he got people making all sorts of films in his classes,” Settle said. “Everybody was making short films, I think that’s what really started motivating people. Once they saw their projects, they realized they could really do this.”
Berger and Settle are both in the documentary fieldwork course this semester and are already thinking about how to put the material to good use.
“Next year, we want to make a full-length documentary about the nightlife in Oxford, like the world through the eyes of an Ole Miss student,” Settle said. “You know, show a bit of a darker side.”
Above all, Arrivee wants to reach as many students as possible and become more involved in the program.
“I’m promoting the program openly,” Arrivee said. “I want people to get involved in this and take the plunge and say one of the things I want to study is cinema. However much interest there is will be however much commitment there is from the University as a whole.”
Students wishing to declare a minor in cinema should go to Ventress Hall during the first few days of the fall semester and register. For more information on the minor, visit Arrivee in Isom Hall or check out the website at http://olemiss.edu/depts/theatre_arts/.