Chapman University located in Orange, CA is a small private school but lately it has been making headlines. Why you ask? Well, as of June 2006 it is the first film school in the world to have it’s own backlot studio. Chapman’s 800 undergraduate and graduate film students, part of the Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, will now be housed in the Marion Knott Studios, a beautiful 76,000 square foot complex.
The notion of a studio lot where students could get more hands-on experience and be in the atmosphere they would someday work in came to the thought of Dean Bob Bassett years ago. It took some time and money ($31 million), but his dream is now a reality. With a 4,000 square foot sound stage and it’s baby brother, a 2,500 square foot sound stage that students will have access to, they can shoot cinematography projects, create set-ups for broadcast journalism and film special effects on the green screen stage.
The facility will also house a foley stage for creating sound effects, 36 editing suites, sound booths, motion capture capable rooms, set construction rooms, audition spaces, Dolby surround sound mixing stages as well as numerous classroom and viewing/seminar rooms.
Also impressive is the 500 seat Folino Family Cinema theater where students will be able to screen their work, both 35mm film and digital film.
Chapman University offers film degrees in screenwriting, film production, film studies, public relations and advertising, broadcast journalism, and producing. An emphasis within these majors is also available. All of the faculty are currently employed within the industry as well as professors.
As a recent graduate of Chapman’s film school I must tell you, it is the most amazing film program. I loved every moment of it. From the first orientation when Bob Bassett told us to enjoy our last week of sleep because we wouldn’t be sleeping for the next few years to the grueling morning hours trying to finishing editing a film before it’s 8 a.m. deadline. It was the best experience I could have possibly had at a school.
The classes are mostly 10-12 students, with the exception of the lecture/seminar classes which get as big as 45-50 students. For a university class, that’s still incredibly small. If you’re looking for personalized education by professor who really actually care about you then Chapman is the place. All of my professors were always available to help students outside of class and even after graduation. Most give their students their cell phone numbers and private email addresses so they can be reached at any time. Chapman hires professionals who not only know their craft but are able and willing to help the next crop of aspiring filmmakers.
Chapman’s film program also has a few special programs to further enrich the curriculum. Among these is the Filmmaker-In-Residence program where one filmmakers comes and spends the semester with a select group of students chosen through an application process. These students meet the filmmaker weekly to work on their projects. It is this kind of personal hands on teaching that makes Chapman special, and will, I believe propel it to the top of the list as the best film school in not only the nation, but the world.