Creative Writing Students Immerse Themselves in Cinema

The Cinema Entertainment Immersion, or CEI, is one of Ball State University’s fantastic immersive learning ventures. It combines students from the departments of English, Theater, and Telecommunications to produce professional-quality short films. As with all of BSU’s immersive learning projects, the main goal of the CEI is for the students to gain a unique and practical experience. The CEI allows students to perform the central roles of film production, with students from the English Department’s Advanced Screenwriting course writing the scripts, students from the Theater Department’s Acting for the Camera course auditioning for and acting in the major roles, and students from the Telecommunications Department directing and producing the films. Throughout the project, the students involved learn how each role in film production works together as part of a cohesive unit to create a quality finished product.

Here’s what screenwriting Professor Matt Mullins had to say about the English facet of CEI:

“I select the best short scripts from the Fall Semester of English 410 (Advanced Screenwriting), and sometimes a few from English 310, if there are strong screenwriters in my section of the intro course.  Overall, I usually end up choosing between 15 and 20 student scripts for consideration for the CEI. Then Dwandra Lampkin (Theater), Rod Smith (TCOM), and myself sit down and pick the top five or six.  Those six scripts are then cast with students from Dwandra’s course and put into production by Rod’s students over the Spring semester in the context of TCOM 487 (the CEI course).  The finished films are then showcased every April at the CEI Showcase in Pruis Hall.

I think that the quality of the films is steadily improving.  I’m specifically focusing Fall sections of 410 around the idea of what creates a compelling story and what is suitable for the CEI in terms of story type/genre (i.e., no epics or sci-fi or ‘high-concept’ scripts); setting (things we can realistically film with the facilities here at Ball State—which do include some use of green screen/CGI); and age of the characters (the principals need to be roughly college-aged so they can be cast from the theater class).”

Because they require a lot from the students who participate, these immersive learning programs can seem daunting at first.  However, because of the extra effort, students get more out of these educational experiences both personally and professionally.  Such programs provide students with unique learning opportunities, enabling them to realize abilities that will prove to be valuable to their careers both during and after college.

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