Four days of mentorship and learning for student filmmakers at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, called “The Roundtable” recently marked 15 years of the church-owned school’s Film Production program, which is based at Southern’s School of Visual Art and Design.
The series, the first of its kind at the university, featured more than 25 alumni as presenters, discussing such topics as Finding the Passion,” “The Real World,” and “Putting It All Together.”
Students, community members, and faculty and staff gathered for seminars, workshops, panel discussions, and networking opportunities. Alumni shared their experiences in writing for television, successfully creating independent films, and other real-world scenarios, as well as discussing strategies for social media marketing and lessons on how to format a production- ready résumé.
“It’s comforting to know there is something after graduation”
Southern’s Film Production program focuses on teaching the core skills of film production from a Christ-centered perspective. Hands-on experience with cameras, lighting, editing tools, and writing methods give graduates the necessary experience they need to land jobs in the industry.
Southern students Kit Clements, a senior animation major, and Jake Strauss, a sophomore film production and fine arts double major, describe the transition between school and the working world as intimidating. The Roundtable event was specifically created to ease students’ worries by sharing the experiences and knowledge of alumni.
“It’s comforting to know there is something after graduation,” Clements said. “Connecting with alumni is especially important because they can answer important questions and help us look at possibilities we haven’t even thought about.”
Strauss agreed: “[The alumni] have shown us what it is like in the outside world and the different paths that we can take,” he said. “Their encouragement and experience helps remove
some of the pressure and fears from us and our parents about finishing school without landing a job.”
“Southern is full of great collaborators and hard workers”
Freelance documentarian, Kevin Ekvall, who graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in film production, expressed how much he valued his time at Southern and the education he received.
“Southern is full of great collaborators and hard workers,” Ekvall said. “The people that graduate from here have a lot of technical skill and know the mechanics of filmmaking.”
One of the practical topics covered during the series was “Faith in the Creative Industry.” Leif Ramsey, who graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and now works in video production, shared his experience about working in a secular environment.
“No one has ever asked me to compromise my beliefs to do a project,” Ramsey said. “We set a schedule that allows us to not work on the weekends.”
Five-time Emmy Award-winning director and documentary filmmaker, Maranatha Hay, who graduated from Southern in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, explained that graduating from an Adventist institution has been an advantage to her in a busy industry.
“Going to Southern ended up being a huge advantage because core principles like Sabbath-keeping have helped me appreciate that weekly break,” Hay said.
For the closing night, a crowd gathered to watch professional work produced by alumni as well as projects created by the students. For David George, MFA, an associate professor in the School of Visual Art and Design and the event's coordinator, The Roundtable ended on just the right note.
“When the last piece played, there was such an incredible feeling of community in the room that it was hard to describe,” George said. “Everyone gave a standing ovation, but as we looked around we realized that it wasn’t completely clear whom we were trying to honor. I think everyone felt it. We were honoring each other. Honoring the willingness of the alumni to come back and share. Honoring the current students’ desire to learn. And honoring the amazing talents and gifts that we have been blessed with.”