Cleveland State film school making strides for August completion

By: Beth Casteel

Earlier this school year, The Cauldron reported on the progress of Cleveland State University’s new film and media arts school.

That initial update saw the program’s head, Frederic Lahey, as he was still in the early stages of production. Now, months later, The Cauldron met with Lahey once more to go over the progress of the new film school.

The first piece of discussion was regarding the curriculum. For many film majors, this has been a slight anxiety-inducing subject matter. As people in other majors signed up for their fall and spring classes, film majors had to sit patiently until classes were available on CampusNet.

Lahey, understanding the worries completely, assured that the curriculum has been written.

According to Lahey, the curriculum has been approved by the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences as well as the faculty and administration, and it’s also been approved by the University Curriculum Committee and the university.

In addition to it being approved, the classes have also been voted on by the Board of Trustees, meaning that all approvals are in. The only outstanding matter is getting the final approval by the Ohio Department of Higher Education, which will make the program have an official degree.

While it’s not officially a degree program yet, film majors are able to sign up for some of their fall classes. The school is still inputting the classes, but Lahey believes that both the fall and spring classes will be listed and available sometime within the next week or so.

Although, when they sign up, they should meet with Lahey to get advising help. This is especially true for those who are currently in the old curriculum.

Those in that program, specifically juniors and seniors, need to use an advising crosswalk to determine what communication classes translate to the new film program. This, of course, is still being worked out with Lahey. Students will want to meet with him to get class restrictions and things of that nature lifted so they can move on with the program.

The students who will be starting on the new curriculum will see a focus on different tracks. Examples of the tracks include writing and directing, cinematography, postproduction and more. By setting up the curriculum this way, students in the program will be able to specialize in a given area of film.

Having the curriculum set up this way, Lahey hopes that it will garner a more collaborative environment among students, allowing them to work with each other to create the best films possible and have a unified film crew.

“The curriculum and the idea of the different tracks in the proposed Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is that you have to have all your different food groups,” Lahey said. “So not everyone has to make a film, but everyone either has to write, produce, direct or shoot one. [By doing this] we will create collaborative environments for the students, which is what the real world experience is.”

Creating a collaborative environment has been something that Lahey has been working tirelessly to achieve since last semester. Keeping in mind what the school currently is working with, he made an environment that will allow students to really prosper in the new space.

“The space that we have here is not large enough, not hospitable and students are locked out of places, [something that] I disagree with entirely,” Lahey said. “We will be moving to a large open space that is really designed for students to collaborate and get to know each other.”

In terms of actually creating the space, Lahey and his team are still in the construction process, though it’s progressed significantly since the start of the school year.

As of right now, Lahey notes that they are currently in phases one and two of production, with phase three beginning sometime during the fall semester. For these initial phases, they are focusing on two studios and a production classroom.

Progress with the two studios, named “A” and “B,” have been steadily getting closer to completion. According to Lahey, the construction crew has already put steel structures over both studios, and they have been enclosed.

When all is completed, studio A will be 2,300 square feet while studio B will be 2,060 square feet, with both studios having 24-foot-high ceilings.

Once the construction of the studios is finished, the school will then move on to the interior construction of the building, including electrical setup and the actual interior design phase of the plan.

“[The school] has awarded contracts for interior construction, for electrical and for HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning],” Lahey said. “We’ve got another week or two to  completely finish the demolition phase and then it’s wholesale construction moving forward, and it’s very exciting.”

With the construction moving forward and plans of an interior design coming to fruition, Lahey has also focused on finding the best equipment for students to use while attending the program.

The school has already purchased about $400,000 worth of equipment for students to use in production classes now. They also have plans to purchase about $847,000 more that they are in the process of finalizing.

“I just went to the National Association of Broadcasters, the NAB convention, in Las Vegas to look at a lot of equipment manufactures to try to get competitive bids on them.” Lahey said. “[In addition to] our server system and things like that, we’re moving full throttle ahead.”

With progress to the school seemingly full speed ahead, it’s been a busy time for Lahey. It’s been hectic but he’s been able to learn a lot from this experience in building the new school from scratch.

Taking 24 years of experience from his previous job as the head of the Colorado film school,

Lahey has been able to bring his own personal knowledge of what worked at his prior school and what didn’t, so he can apply it as he lays out what the foundation will look like for Cleveland State’s film school.

“I very much took the lessons I learned in Colorado and applied them here, but what I’m getting here is a fresh start,” Lahey said. “Being able to build a school from scratch and design it from scratch means we’re able to have the intentionality and the layering of student experience that will create really highly qualified professionals.”

Of course, his plans coming into the creation of the new school did change over the course of being in Cleveland. This process isn’t “cookie-cutter,” and he notes that things like the curriculum or any of the other aspects of creating a school from scratch, has changed.

Whether these changes are due to working with the students and getting their perspectives or to things like seeing the struggles and strengths of a city like Cleveland, he’s kept an open mind toward his plans on what will work and what won’t at this school.

While the school still has a few more months to go before it will be completely finished, Lahey has high hopes for what the new school will be once everything is completed and students are in the rooms.

With the completion date continuing to grow closer, students will officially be able to enjoy the new space with the state-of-the-art facilities at the beginning of the fall 2018 semester.

“We’re very excited about our entering class. We’re expecting an entering class of about 120, and we’re excited to help the juniors and seniors finish out their program with the highest quality they can muster,” Lahey said. “I think everyone is going to be inspired by the new space and new curriculum.”


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