SCC Film and Theatre elect to join forces

The two departments merged over the summer to glowing reviews

Ole Olafson, Reporter, Scottsdale Chronicle

On July 1 the Theatre Department merged with the Film School at SCC to form a single department called the Scottsdale School of Film and Theatre.  Several major universities including Arizona State University, University of California Los Angeles and University of Southern California have all recently undertaken similar mergers.

Randy Messersmith, Theatre Arts Director at SCC, was the first to suggest the idea to merge the two departments following their collaborative effort on the SCC production of “He Who Gets Slapped” in 2013.  The actual process of the merger required nearly a year of meetings, discussions and paperwork to become a reality.

“It became a natural progression to merge because we were already partners in so many projects.”  department co-chair Amanda Embry said.

Optimism abounds in the newly formed department.

“I have yet to have anybody find or be able to tell me what the downside with this merger is,” co-chair Shawn Mitchell said.

“It allowed us to brand ourselves,”  Head of Screenwriting Bill True said.  “It transcends even the community college…puts us solidly in the community and really establishes us as a leading artistic force in the community.”

Embry pointed out that students are seeing immediate benefits from the merger in the creation of two new classes taught by Messersmith.  TCM 285AC Special Topics:  Motion Picture/Television Production was offered this semester.  The course teaches students how to safely choreograph and perform fight scenes for the camera and focuses on unarmed combat as well as swordplay and knife styles.  TCM 230 Motion Picture Directing will be available in spring 2016 and will become part of the new directing track headed by Messersmith.  Both courses are examples of cross-curricular benefits which the merger has made possible.

True stresses that the focus of the curriculum will be to take a more holistic approach and train students in acting and production design as well as directing, producing and screenwriting.  This will allow students to be more agile in the job market and be prepared to take advantage of opportunities in film and television as well as traditional theatre.

Mitchell explained some of the other benefits to students that the merger has created.  A good number of these advantages stem from students being able to freely interact on projects.  Student filmmakers will now be more easily able to find actors for their films.  Likewise, the acting student will be able to gather professionally produced material for their demo reels.  Production designers who build sets for television and film projects will be able to reference video footage from those productions to showcase their design talents.

“Until we (became) one department there’s not that intermingling of the students.”  Mitchell said.  “Until there’s that mix you don’t get that creative think tank type place.”