WKU's Film Production BFA prepares students for success
- Elizabeth Roth
- Tuesday, March 21st, 2023
WKU’s BFA in Film Production has seen incredible growth since its introduction in the Fall of 2020, and only continues to grow with each semester that passes. The program is set to produce up to 60 student films this year alone, with an estimated total of 85 majors.
The BFA is focused on preparing students for work in the film industry. On student-led production sets, every student has the opportunity to work in each position on set twice in order to be able to do everything well. The program trains students in above-line creative roles as well as below-line technical roles. The philosophy of the program is that students must have technical experience in order to succeed, and the program is ready to provide that technical experience.
Within the program, students take the Film Capstone, which is essentially a business of the business class. Within this class, students learn how to advocate for their own representation, how to budget when producing their own films, and how to set up taxes as independent contractors. In addition, they complete their thesis, which essentially allows them to focus on the production role that they would ideally like to primarily operate in.
Kyle Hodes and Johnna Kuegel, two students in the BFA program, work closely together on production and post-production during the creation of their student films.
Kuegel, a junior from Owensboro, KY, was drawn to the BFA program as a way to branch out from her background in agriculture. Although she was originally looking at the video production side of things, the experience and opportunity offered by the BFA ultimately drew Kuegel into the program.
“I set up a conversation with Sara Thomason, who’s our faculty supervisor, and that interview is where I found out about the BFA and BA. The program sounded exactly what I wanted in my head, when I imagine my future, and what was going to set me up to succeed in the future. Talking to Sara really sealed the deal there. I decided this was what I wanted to do, and that I was going to do the work to get there,” Kuegel said.
Hodes, a junior from Louisville, KY, fell in love with WKU’s campus and decided to pursue the BFA as opposed to following his background in broadcasting.
“In high school, I did a lot of broadcast journalism, I worked for WDRB, which is our local news station. I was just very bored with how I did things, it was just the same process different story. WKU by far had the best in-state film program, and I just decided to go for it and I don’t know, I just fell in love with it,” Hodes said.
The students of the program are expected to perform the roles of below-the-line personnel on a film crew, including operating equipment, safely and efficiently. They are expected to utilize above-the-line skills to create visually appealing short films with compelling narratives. Students must demonstrate an understanding of the structures and means of production in studio and independent film. They have to communicate effectively on set and in film analysis, and critically evaluate a film or solve production problems in an organized fashion. They must also coordinate and supervise a crew and in turn serve as collaborative team members. Students are evaluated on these skills frequently in practical assessments, which ensures that they stay safe on film sets.
Sara Thomason, the Film Program Coordinator, believes the BFA program prepares students thoroughly for the practical realities and a career in the film industry. It teaches students not only the technical knowledge they need to succeed but also teaches students whom to talk to and what to have instead of a resume as well. Knowing how to create their own reels or portfolios and knowing how to network properly are also valuable parts of learning how to succeed in the film industry.
“Demystifying that process is really important to us. Just as much as preparing the students with the technical, creative, and filming skills,” Thomason said.
“If you are interested in visual storytelling or visual language this program would be of interest,” Thomason said. “We like to ask our students what is unique about film that helps them tell their stories. What I love about film is that more than any other medium it can express a story that is most close to how we experience life. Students who are visual, who like storytelling, who like working in teams and being creative and who aren’t afraid to work hard, those are the students who do the best. Our mission is to provide a comprehensive film education to all students regardless of economic background or prior knowledge of film,” Thomason said.
The BFA program is primarily hands-on work, and primarily group work. Students in the program work as a team to complete their student films, cycling through each role available on set.
Kuegel explained that the program sets students up to be able to do any job on a film set, and that students in the Film BFA graduate with a wealth of on-set experience as well as an extensive understanding of set protocols. She notes that students who follow the practices of the BFA program are hard workers who are career ready.
For Hodes, his experience in the program has led him to become expert in time management and understanding his own capabilities. Hodes said that during the BFA program, he has learned the importance of taking care of his mental health, and the skills he’s learned of advocating for himself and for his health can be applied to any area of life.
Hodes and Kuegel both agree that one of the most valuable parts of the BFA has been the people that they have met and connected with. The BFA program forms a strong bond between students, and Hodes and Kuegel both feel that the people they meet in the program are the people they are going to be working with for years to come.
“We are going to go into this very people-oriented industry, and we have that bond. A lot of directors and actors in Hollywood, once they’ve established that rapport with one another, just keep working together. We’ve made that bond here,” Kuegel said.
Once he completes the program, Hodes plans to go into cinematography and would love to contribute to the growing film scene in Louisville, KY.
On completion of the program, Kuegel would love to edit and is primarily focused on that process, but she says that working in every position in the program has opened her eyes to all of the possibilities available.
For more information about the BFA in Film Production at WKU, visit https://www.wkufilm.com/#program.
Photo kindly provided by Kyle Hodes and Johnna Kuegel.