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the late twenties, the film business was ensconced in Los Angeles
and soon enough the task of film education was taken up by the region’s
two big schools: UCLA and USC. During the 1929-’30 school year,
the Harvard course was reprised at USC and then packaged as a series
of mimeographed lecture transcripts by the Academy of Motion Picture
Arts and Sciences. The course was marketed to universities across
the nation, but purchased by just three: Iowa State, Stanford, and
founded the nation’s first film school in 1932 and UCLA followed
suit in 1947. In retrospect, the interval proved fateful. Throughout
the war years, a new understanding of film as a persuasive medium
for communication had emerged. Feature films, cartoons and documentaries
were produced to support and document the war effort. Servicemen
affiliated with the signal corps received training in film production.
And numerous technological advances (faster film for night and low
resolution shooting, new lenses with better depth of field) revealed
film’s intrinsic relationship to the coming electronic age. Film
was no longer just “the movies.” As a UCLA College of Applied Arts
report of the day concluded, “motion pictures have the power to
change world habits and culture.”
the moment of its founding, UCLA’s Theater Arts Department included
a Motion Pictures division. Kenneth Macgowan was appointed as the
department’s first chair, a choice which proved significant. Macgowan
was an accomplished theater critic (with a Harvard pedigree) as
well as a successful Hollywood film producer. He was a man as much
at home in an academic department meeting as a studio story conference.
Macgowan understood early on that the UCLA program would have to
establish its own identity; it could not prosper and grow as a trade
school living off the industry. His vision was for a viable and
independent scholarly enterprise.
first task for the UCLA film school was to make the case for cinema
studies as a stand alone academic discipline within the larger humanities
curriculum. In 1947, theater and film students took the same introductory
classes in their freshman and sophomore years: The Social Aspects
of Mass Media, Fundamentals of Acting, History of the Theater Arts.
There were also courses in set construction, costumes, lighting.
Only upper classmen were allowed to specialize in film or theater
and regardless of their choice, they were required to study both
production and history.