New program to offer Creative Producing

By Shardae Smith

With the Media Production Center in place, Columbia’s Graduate Program will offer in fall 2011 a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Producing through the Film and Video Department.

“All of these film schools are putting out people who want to write scripts and want to direct films, but often they can’t get their films made because one thing that is missing is this creative producer,” said Film and Video Department Chairman Bruce Sheridan. “They will try and find people, who are money people, but those people can’t stay with the project long enough and don’t know enough about it creatively to make it successful.”

Creative producers are there from a film project’s beginning until its end, according to Wenhwa Ts’ao, an associate professor in the Film and Video Department. They are responsible for finding writers to turn raw material into visual entertainment, pitch ideas, secure funding and have entrepreneurial spirits.

“We are so affected by media in everyday life,” Ts’ao said. “I don’t know how conscientious we are about it because of the possibility of cell phones and downloading short films and feature length films to watch anywhere you go. But I think to generate people who can produce this media will be a good place to start.”

Columbia’s curriculum for the graduate Creative Producing program will revolve around the business aspect of the role, according to Cate Lagueux, Graduate Program director. She said other schools offering similar programs tend to blend these components together with no real context.

“The Columbia program is really holistic in that every semester you’re taking some business courses and some creative courses, and the link between the two is made clear from the start,” Lagueux said.

Students who majored in film and video as undergraduates aren’t encouraged to apply to the current M.F.A. program because it includes almost the same curriculum, according to Sheridan. He said all film and video students, as well as industry professionals and those returning to school after hiatus are welcome to apply to the Creative Producing program at Columbia.

“This is the first graduate degree we’ve done that we’re looking for people who have just finished their undergraduate [studies] as well as people with more experience,” Sheridan said. “We’ve put a lot of thought and effort into how we can have a cohort of students that mixes those two to their mutual benefit.”

Although Columbia students are welcome to apply, they will still have to compete with students from across the country.

Sheridan said because old distribution structures were collapsing due to the Internet, the department studied what other schools were doing and saw there was a need to rethink film education for the 21st century.

“All of the students who complete this degree successfully will have produced short films that go to festivals because we are the biggest producer of student short films,” Sheridan said. “And feature films will be developed that [students] can take to the markets.”

Applications to apply for the Creative Producing program will be accepted until January 2011.