A professor speaks to a group of students sitting in the film viewing room with black and white film on the screen over his shoulder.

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York College launches Film and Media Arts major to foster future film leaders

Taijay Blagrove smiles for the camera, wearing a button down shirt and bow tie

With a Mass Communication major around since the 1990s, and a Film Studies minor since 2004, it was time for the Film and Media Arts major to bring together the classes that would best support a student pursuing a film career.

Maybe it’s working on the set of the next Netflix hit or editing the footage for an ESPN special–wherever York College of Pennsylvania students end up, they can point to their education as the starting point for an exciting future.

With the demand rising for professionals as directors, script writers, producers, and editors, York College saw an opportunity to add a major that would bring together the classes that would best support a student pursuing a film career. While a student interested in that industry might once have majored in Mass Communication, many of those courses focus more on broadcast journalism. Although the College has had a Film Studies minor since 2004, it wasn’t quite enough to meet the industry requirements.

Launching a new major

That’s why York College decided to launch a Film and Media Arts major in the fall of 2019. “In some ways, it’s been a long time coming,” says Ian Olney, Professor of English in the Arts and Humanities Department. “So many careers today really demand employees who know how to create and analyze media. It isn’t just for those with a future in Hollywood.”

What makes the program so unique is that it balances film and media production with film and media studies. A lot of schools have a film major, but most require students to choose whether they want to pursue film production or film studies. “We are unique in that we balance those two things,” Olney says. “Students do both from the very start of the program. In their first semester at the college, students are taking basic courses in audio production and video production.”

At the same time, students are taking classes like Intro to Film. They’re learning how to analyze visual media, getting a grasp of film history, and watching movies from all over the world. “That’s important,” Olney states, “because you can learn everything on the production side about how to make a movie or piece of media, but without a familiarity with the history of film or how movies work, you’re not really able to match that technical know-how with a deeper understanding of media.”

Students are also learning from industry professionals. The College hosts campus visits from film and TV actors, makeup effects artists, producers, and directors. Students have the opportunity to pursue internships with media companies and filmmakers, both in York County and in the surrounding region. Students also have access to recording studios, labs outfitted with professional editing and screenwriting software, and cutting-edge production studios on campus.

A major with focus

Taijay Blagrove, a December ’19 graduate who majored in Mass Communication, originally thought he’d find a future in journalism. “I ended up taking a completely different career path,” the Dover, Delaware, native says. Through several video courses at York College, Blagrove fell in love with audio and video work. It was while working on a music video project during his sophomore year that he decided he wanted to study audio and video more closely. He’s currently pursuing his master’s in TV, Radio and Film from Syracuse University and hopes to someday do film production for a professional sports team.

“I think having an actual Film and Media Arts major will help people focus on what they really want to do,” Blagrove says. “I was able to choose enough electives to build the course plan that interested me most, but this will make it a lot easier for incoming students.”

While the new major has had a successful start, Olney envisions a strong interest from future students attracted to film and media industries. “We’ve had this pent-up demand from students at the College who have been really interested in this area,” he says. “Now, we can help prepare them to fulfill the demand for professionals skilled in creation and analysis of film and media.”