Netflix and… Learn?

It’s Thursday night, but you don’t want to go out and you have no homework due before the weekend. The perfect solution: watch a movie with your professors… yes, I said your professors.  Jeff Bass, Media and Production professor at Marist College, started the event Faculty Favorites in 2014 after a screening theatre was built into the Lowell Thomas Communications building.  Faculty Favorites is meant “to expand the film repertoire of students. I think it has a benefit for students and also I just think it’s a heck of a lot of fun” says Bass.

The event is ultimately “where faculty members pick some under-viewed or underrated movies that maybe students haven’t seen… that will help expand their film vocabulary.  Usually whoever is hosting has some theme in mind,” says Dan Amernick, a Media professor at Marist College.  Although the program is run by the media department and will benefit media students the most, other faculty and students are not shunned from coming to the event, or even hosting their own.  Bass says, “There are films on practically every subject and if a film is in somebody’s area of interest, let’s show it and let’s talk about it,” meaning that if a Journalism professor would like to open a night with a journalism themed film or a Sports Communication professor would like to show a film on sports, etc. it can most definitely be done.  Amernick also says, “It’s not just watching a movie. You get a little bit of the context, when these movies were made or why they were made or their significance or on a personal level.”  A Faculty Favorites event isn’t just a lesson or a movie, it’s an experience where opinions matter just as much as facts.

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Jeff Bass, Media and Production Professor at Marist College

Bass, the original creator of the idea for Faculty Favorites, says he came up with the event because he was constantly surprised at the well-known films that students haven’t seen as well as being inspired by seeing the beautiful, new screening room on campus.  Bass understands that “anybody can enjoy a good movie and there are movies on so many different topics.” So, a few nights a semester Bass has booked the screening room and hosted movie nights to show the younger generation some meaningful or tribute movies outside of class time.  As much as it is supposed to be entertaining, the education never stops when it comes to college. Bass says, “The reason why we as teachers get into teaching is because we like to share something that we find interesting. If it’s interesting to us… we love to give it to other people.”  That is exactly what he is accomplishing with providing these movie screenings all while offering his knowledge, inspiration, and even extra credit.  The goal is to enjoy a movie while understanding its importance and being inspired to be passionate about this area of study or career path. Often, Bass will show low budget films because he says, “a lot of my students are filmmakers and I want to show students that you don’t need $100 million to make a good movie.”

Since the program was only created a few years ago, there are a lot of future plans that Bass has in store for the event, some starting later this semester.  The first new idea is to introduce television show nights instead of movie nights.  During these Faculty Favorites, there will be a showing of a few television episodes from a specific show, especially one that isn’t aired anymore or hard to find online.  Amernick says, “My dream would be to do a specific line up from a night of classic television.” Basically, there would be a line up of television shows that would actually be the same kind of line up someone would watch years ago if they were watching—something that obviously none of the students at Marist have experienced before.  Another new idea is to let other faculty members from different departments host their own night or let students cohost nights with professors.  Bass is open to the idea of students getting involved, but says, “I think students would need help hosting their own night. But if a students came to me and said, ‘I love this film…can we make it a Faculty Favorites?’ then I would certainly consider it.”

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Dan Amernick, Media Professor at Marist College

Every event the hosts get about 15-20 students that show up for the screening.  The usual way of promoting a Faculty Favorites event is hearing about it in class from a professor or from an e-mail.  So, as of now, unless someone is part of the media department, it will only get to you by word of mouth.  To increase promotion, the professors may hang posters or even create social media if it’s necessary.  “As far as I’m concerned, I would not mind at all if there’s not one empty seat here. I would like to have the place full…” Bass says.  He understands that promoting the event more will be effective, but he’s taking it slow.  Amernick agrees by saying, “It would be nice if it was a packed house.”  Social media sounds like the best option right now and Bass isn’t opposed to having students be a part of Faculty Favorites by helping him with this and promotion.

Still such a new concept, Faculty Favorites has a long way to go, but looks like it’s on it’s way up and up.  It’s entertaining, educational, inspiring, and free for students and other faculty members that would like to attend.  Bass says, “I know you can watch movies on your phone or any time you want, but I believe that even with all of the individual technology that we have nowadays, there’s something about sitting with a group of people and watching a movie… There’s a charm about that and there’s the feeling of a group activity that will always be attractive.” Bass’ passionate feelings towards the movie going experience will help to build these events to be the best they can be, incorporating new ideas, films, and people.  When asked where he sees Faculty Favorites in a few years, Amernick responds, “Still down in Lowell Thomas room 019.”  

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