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Cinema Studies Major Guide for 2015-2016

What is Cinema Studies?

The Cinema Studies Program at UT is an Interdisciplinary Program in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Students who major in Cinema Studies take courses both in the history and analysis of films, as well as in cinema production. Students are challenged by our courses to become creative and critical thinkers about media, while also developing the technical skills to tell stories and express ideas.

Majors in Cinema Studies are prepared for careers in film, television, new media, and other industries (such as video game design, information science, and advertising).

A basic assumption of the program is that students will become better analysts and critics of films if they take some courses in production and that students will make better film/videos if they take courses in film history and aesthetics.  All our majors will:

  • learn more about the history of cinema generally and about the histories of some national cinemas;
  • develop analytical and critical thinking skills in researching and writing about films from a variety of perspectives; and
  • learn basic skills in production, including cinematography, directing, and editing.

Students with more interest in production will be able to take more courses in that area, while students more interested in the history, aesthetics, and analysis of movies can take more courses in that area.

Career Opportunities in Cinema Studies

A major in Cinema Studies prepares students for many different kinds of careers. Because we emphasize writing and critical thinking skills, the body of knowledge that constitutes our discipline, and basic elements of production, students develop the kinds of intellectual and communication skills that many employers seek.

With regards to production, besides the industry centers in Los Angeles and New York, Tennessee has a rich tradition of film and television production. Knoxville itself is home to a great deal of television production work, thanks in particular to such major companies as Scripps Networks Interactive (HGTV, DIY Network, etc.), Jupiter Entertainment, RIVR Media Enterprises, and others.   Some employment opportunities, then, are available locally, and students who are able to arrange internships after having taken some production courses as undergraduates will be more attractive candidates.

Cinema Studies also serves as a solid foundation for advanced professional or graduate training that would lead to careers in entertainment law, film archiving, information scientist/librarian, or teacher/professor.

Salary and Employment Trends

Film and television industries are highly competitive. We encourage students thinking about majoring in Cinema Studies to explore the Bureau of Labor Statistics online Occupational Outlook Handbook, which projects the job outlook in various fields between 2012 and 2022.  The page on Directors and Producers, for example, projects a 3% growth in employment in this area over that period, while another entry projects a 20% growth for web designers.  The site also estimates median pay for those who work in various employment categories.

High School Preparation

High school students can best prepare for a Cinema Studies major by doing several things.  First, take rigorous academic courses that challenge you to read and write well.  Learning about history and literature and drama and the other arts related to film will broaden your range of cultural literacy.  Second, watch current films as an active viewer but also learn more about film history by finding lists of the greatest films in film history and watching them on DVD (don’t limit yourself to American movies; explore great films from directors around the globe).  Finally, try to make short videos so that you get an idea of how images and sounds can be presented in a coherent and effective way to communicate your aims.  Those with strong reading and communication skills will be more likely to excel in the Cinema Studies major.

How to Major in Cinema Studies

Once you have fulfilled your first-year composition requirement you are eligible to enroll in Cinema Studies 281, the course we recommend you take first in the major.  When you declare your major, you will be assigned a faculty advisor who will help you plan your major and elective courses in light of your academic and career interests.

As a Cinema Studies major you will be encouraged to be added to the Cinema Studies email list.  The Program Chair regularly sends out emails with advising tips, announcements about internship and film festival opportunities, and information about special film events taking place on campus and in the Knoxville community.  We also encourage you to peruse our website – – as it contains additional information of interest to prospective majors.

Requirements for Cinema Studies

The Cinema Studies major requires at least 30 semester hours of Cinema Studies credit, and our courses are grouped into two broad categories: History/Theory/Aesthetics and Production.  All students must take Cinema Studies 281—the highly recommended first course in the major—and an introductory and advanced production course (introductory and advanced production courses are offered both in Art and in Journalism and Electronic Media).  Students then must take 21 additional hours to complete the major, at least 6 of which must be from the History/Theory/Aesthetics category and at least 3 of which must be from the Production category.

Highlights of Cinema Studies

The Cinema Studies faculty include many excellent teachers who are also well-respected scholars and skilled filmmakers.  Our faculty have won book awards for their scholarship, have been elected to leadership roles in professional organizations like the Society of Cinema and Media Studies, and have won widespread recognition for their films.  (Early in 2015 Paul Harrill’s feature film, Something, Anything—shot almost entirely in Knoxville and the surrounding area—had its theatrical premiere in New York and was selected as a New York Times Critics Pick.)

We encourage our students to get involved in campus and community film activities.  The UT Cinema Club is a student-run organization that watches and discusses interesting and challenging movies, focusing on a different theme or topic each semester.  The UT Film Committee selects films to be shown at the University Center.  Students interested in making their own films have set up Facebook pages to facilitate casting and collaboration.  Off campus, the Knoxville Film Festival and the Scruffy City Film Festival have given students the chance to work with festival management.

Double Majors and Minors

Students with an interest in Cinema Studies may also wish to consider a second major or minor in a related field.  More than half of our graduating class in the spring of 2015 were double majors; the two most popular second majors were Journalism and Electronic Media and English.  However, a cinema studies major especially interested in performance may wish to take acting and directing classes in   theater; someone hoping to become a documentary filmmaker might wish to major or minor in a field like history, sociology, or political science; someone interested in web design may choose to take courses in graphic design in the Art Department.

Academic Plan and Milestones

Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. For all first-time, first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, please visit the undergraduate catalog.  Note that we recommend taking the introductory production course the semester after taking Cinema Studies 281, then an advanced production course the following semester.   Ideally, a student would have completed the advanced production course no later than the second semester of the junior year.  Particularly for students who may be interested in a career in production, this will make a student more competitive candidate for an internship the summer between the third and fourth year

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