Entertainment and media studies offers students hands-on media production

Peter Moens

In 2017, the class ENTM-201, From Song to Screen, was offered at Augustana College, the result of film production company Fresh Films moving into the Augie campus the previous year. The class had students actively take part in planning, producing, directing, filming and editing music videos on behalf of real bands, learning the process through firsthand experience.
Later in 2017, the Entertainment & Media Studies minor was offered. Three years later, with Fresh Films fully integrated into the Augustana campus environment, the ENTM minor has slowly expanded and is still going strong.
The ENTM minor is actively sought out due to students’ determination to get involved in the world it leads into.
“I left high school knowing that I was going to do something film-related,” Peter Isota, a graphic design major participating in ENTM, said. “The film production company was very appealing. The minor was appealing because you get practical experience along the theoretical side of thinking.”
Some students, like Joseph Flynn, an Augustana graduate who currently works on Chicago Fire, simply fell into it after getting a taste of its curriculum.
“The first class that caught my eye was a music video class,” Flynn said. “I just thought the idea was awesome that I could have the opportunity to make a music video and actually leave the class with a product. After that, I just started to follow the filming process and I fell in love with filming, too.”
The curriculum of the minor is simple. First, students are required to complete ENTM-201,which has them directly take part in producing a music video, as well as ENTM-202, a class on the global entertainment industry. In addition, there are two “columns” of various different classes, one themed on creative work or direct involvement in production, such as screenwriting and directing.The other looks at behind-the-scenes facets like accounting and marketing.
The last requirement is students must partake in a certain amount of work with at least one relevant internship. ENTM is intended to be an experiential minor, ensuring that students gain first hand exposure to working in media.
Experience is a key facet of the minor. Students being directly involved in some aspect of media production allows them to get a sense of how compatible they are with it and what specific facet of media they might end up pursuing after graduation.
“Our goal is that when you walk out of the minor, the students who want to go into filmmaking have the skills that translate well into going wherever they want to go into the industry,” Estlin Feigley, a founder of Fresh Films and professor of communications, said.
The ways someone could take part in the entertainment industry have a great variety, reflected by how many different positions students strive for.  Isota said he’d like to do directing. “It covers a lot of my interests, like cinematography and writing; I’d like to reach a point where I can direct my own thing,” Isota said.
“I would have gone right to shows and eventually made my way to film, though COVID has nicked a lot of opportunities I had,” Haley Clebanoff, a 2019 graduate who worked with Fresh Films as a student, said.
Mark Wroblewski, a junior taking the minor, said, “Film editing would be the primary job that I would want. My second choice would probably be producing, scheduling, researching the weather, planning lunch, getting release forms, etc.”
And the minor seems to be doing a good job of preparing students for life in the media industry after graduation. Isota praised the ability to work with people who are currently doing the same things they are teaching, while according to Wroblewski, it lays the groundwork well.
Flynn speaks similarly, saying that the minor acts as a “catalog book” that shows what the industry is like, and it is vital that students get experience: “There’s no other way than to get into it, make mistakes, and learn from them,” Flynn said
Students and graduates, when asked how the ENTM minor could be improved, do not have many major problems. The most common refrain is that it could stand to be expanded, increasing the options available and encompassing more of the creative and production processes, perhaps even expanding into a major.
Fortunately, it seems that such expansion is on the horizon. According to Feigley, the current hope is that ENTM will be ratcheted into a major in the near future, which would provide more time and more options for prospective media students at Augustana.
“Right now, the hope is that very soon we’ll be ratcheting up to a major,” Estlin said, “but the minor right now is a fantastic way for students to get involved.”
“Media has always been a focal point of how society consumes information,” Isota said. “It’s crucial knowing and understanding how these things work because whatever you’re doing, you’re probably going to work with people from this industry anyway.”
With the enormous popularity of film, television, and other forms of popular entertainment, it is no wonder that this industry attracts so many different people. And to that end, it’s no wonder that people with such different interests and goals get drawn to Augustana’s ENTM minor and want to see it grow.
“I like to see life as having fun,” Clebanoff said, “and if you want to aid in making everyone else’s life fun and enjoy working in adulthood, I believe you should go towards the entertainment industry.” Entertainment makes many people’s lives better, and the ENTM minor helps  graduates make that happen.
Additional reporting by Carly Davis