Wayne State College now offering students a four-year film degree

The fall semester of 2021, Wayne State College will offer students in Mass Communications studies a four-year degree in film production. The program is titled Digital Film Production and Theory. Dr. Michael G. White, Ed. D., will be one of the professors teaching the program.

“The film industry has changed a great deal over the years. Wayne State College had a really strong Electronic Media program when I started teaching here. The addition of film was really natural. Industry needs are evolving, and we wanted to train students in higher levels of production,” explained Dr. White.

Wayne State’s history for providing real-life media opportunities for its students goes back to when they did their first broadcasting with their radio station in 1971, KWSC-FM. The television broadcasting program with a working station started in 1976. 

Dr. White is a 1992 Mass Communications graduate of Wayne State College, with an emphasis in Broadcasting. He then continued with his studies to get an MSE in Communication Studies and then his E.D. in Education from the University of South Dakota.

“I began as a grad student at Wayne State College in 2009 in the Communication Studies program, and then transitioned into an adjunct professor in 2011 while finishing up my doctorate. I was hired full-time in the Mass Communications Program in 2019 as an Electronic Media Professor,” stated Dr. White.

The push for Wayne State to offer a program in film had two driving forces behind it. One was the industry itself.

“The demand for highly skilled film production workers is good right now. With the expansion of video used in social media and the streaming of films more content needed to be created. When I was a grad in the 90’s, working in film was like a dream. Today, there are jobs in smaller markets doing commercials, corporate, and the occasional film,” said Dr. White. 

The digital film program at Wayne State helps students develop skills in film production, on-camera performance, in addition to experience in cinematic production, acting, directing, lighting, and set design. Students finish the program with a solid foundation in media production, pre-production, and related skills. This allows students to graduate and immediately enter the film industry with the necessary skills to succeed.

The other demand for the program came from the students themselves. In 2015, film production was offered only as a minor at Wayne State. 

“The development of the four-year program in film production at Wayne State College came from student interest. We were seeing tremendous growth in the minor. Our program assessment data indicated students’ desire for a major. Recent graduates wanted more undergraduate preparation for entry into graduate film schools and they wanted more undergraduate experiences for careers in film and television,” stated Dr. Deborah Whitt, Ph.D., Department Chair of the Communications Department.  She went on to state, “Now our curriculum offers students a full range of multimedia content, scriptwriting, acting, film analysis, media theory, pre and post film production, and four years of hands-on experience. I am so proud of our faculty and students!”

Once the student were able to take what they had learned and put it into use and enter it in festivals, enthusiasm for the program spread like wildfire.

“The students loved making films so much and their skills expanded, I started expanding the curriculum to include production design, screenwriting, on-set sound engineering, Foley work, surround sound development, etc. Enrollment went up, one of our students got into a prestigious grad school, and the student films were being selected into some of the better festivals. The administration got behind us and funded a renovation of “The Attic,” the fourth floor of the Humanities building, which is also the home of the Mass Communications program. We expanded our video editing facilities to support stations for colorization, motion graphic and animation, and a lab dedicated to surround sound and Foley (live sound effects) work. We now have great cinema production equipment and students are trained just as if they are on a major union set in any large market,” said Dr. White.

During that five-year spectrum, from 2015-2020, a number of White’s films, and films of his students, went on to place and win in area competitions. Films winning awards by Wayne State Students include:  Sigmund & Dora, Something Lost, Connor & Annie, The Offer, Love Sick, and The Offer. The films of Dr. White’s that have won awards are:  Ghost In Her, Ever Fallen (full feature film), A Day with Lily, and To Live Again.

Recently, Dr. White got a phone call from a producer in California who wanted to know more about Wayne State’s “Film School on the Prairie.”

“I love the idea that students don’t have to go to either coast to get a film degree. They get to go to an affordable state college which opens up the option of grad school. Really, the best thing will be the experiences they get while at Wayne. I literally have students on set the first week they arrive at school. I wanted to be able to build something great here at Wayne State. It’s not just my Alma Mater, in many ways it’s my home. There is something special here. We are getting interest from all over the country. It’s just really thrilling,” stated Dr. White.

Dr. White sat in great anticipation during registration this summer for students to enroll in the four-year film-program. It only took a few moments before a student approached him and asked, “Where do I sign up for the four-year digital film program?” With a tear rolling down his cheek, Dr. White was more than happy to direct the student in getting enrolled in the program. FADE TO BLACK.

Amy Buster

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