Video program comes into focus Villa Julie's new production facilities impress former students

November 30, 1997|By Jill L. Kubatko | Jill L. Kubatko,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Joi M. Shilling had a surprise when she returned to Villa Julie College this month to check out the new digs of its liberal arts technology and video department.

As the department's first graduate in 1992, she remembers when the program was squeezed into the second floor of Villa Julie's library.

"This is amazing," said Shilling, a photography director and junior editor with Sheffield Audio and Video in Baltimore County, touring the spacious quarters in the new three-story Academic Center during a recent open house for employers using video production. The building opened in August.

"The [old] space was very small," said another returning graduate, JoAnne M. Benzing, Class of '93. She is a project manager with Milner-Fenwick Inc., a producer of patient and health educational videos with facilities in Timonium.

"It felt like we were working in a closet," Benzing recalled.

The new facility is far from a closet. The basement floor alone houses eight editing suites with the latest in video technology, a soundproof room for voice-overs, a three-camera studio and a control room.

The building also houses a distance learning center, where students can take part in college courses through television uplink; computer classrooms; lecture halls; a theater (called by some on campus "the mini-Mechanic"); an art gallery; and a studio theater.

Like the building, the video program is diverse in its offerings. Students can focus on producing, directing, editing or the technical aspects of video production, while gaining a liberal arts background.

Sally P. Harris, associate professor of drama and communication arts who chairs Villa Julie's communication arts division, said the combination of liberal arts, a hands-on approach and theater courses helps students become well-rounded when entering the job market.

"Combining theater with the video program teaches students teamwork -- to see the big picture and how things are staged," Harris said. "The liberal arts courses help us to train thinkers."

Among the four-year program's core courses: basic video, basic photography, principals and theory of theater and production, field production, history of film, introduction to drama, improvisation, history of performance styles, directing and theater production.

As juniors, students build on their knowledge of equipment and basic techniques with practical experience, when they choose a corporate client and create a video for it. In their final year, students produce a 15-minute documentary.

This year's documentary -- on Boordy Vineyards in Baltimore County -- garnered an award from the International Television and Video Association in a competition that included 17 universities, according to Louise "Chris" Hill Roberts, an instructor of Villa Julie's video program.

"The seniors wrote, shot and put together the entire video. This is the kind of quality we are striving for," said Roberts, noting that students in the program have won six regional awards.

Besides competitions, students gain work experience through internships at Maryland Public Television, Coastal Productions, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., and local television stations, including WJZ (Channel 13).

Steve Kuhn, manager of media services with USF&G Corp., who visited the campus as a prospective employer, said the program's use of state-of-the-art equipment helps graduates "hit the ground running" in the job market.

The program has 60 students and boasts a freshmen class of 20 this year, its biggest to date.

"We have 15 students to a class and do a lot of one-on-one. We tell them if they are good, or if they should try something new," Roberts said.

Pub Date: 11/30/97

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