For the last few decades at City Honors, the International Baccalaureate program – commonly referred to as IB – has been a mainstay. A new addition to this program is the Higher Level IB Film Course, a rigorous class that focuses not only on the critical analysis of films but also on cinematic production.
To outsiders looking in, Film may sound like a less substantial class than others offered at City Honors – the type of course someone might take with the expectation of an “easy A.” Over the last few weeks, however, I have had the opportunity to learn firsthand that this is far from the case. To the contrary, IB Film is a course that challenges students to work hard while enjoying themselves, and also provides them with the opportunity to study a subject matter that may not be available to many high school students across the region.
“Not only is IB Film an extensive class that educates a student in the art of film production, but it’s also a film studies class that teaches students how to analyze films cinematically,” senior Anna Blatto said. “This, in and of itself, makes Film a very difficult class.
Fellow senior Christina Schultz describes IB Film as “by far the heaviest workload I’ve had out of all my classes.”
She said the class consists of “everything from writing screenplays to film analysis essays to actual film production. It takes a lot of time management and organization to get every assignment completed by the due date. But it doesn’t always feel like work, because I’m doing something I love.”
Sentiments like these offer insight as to the rigor of the course, but those who are taking it also recognize it as extremely rewarding. “This class has opened my eyes to the one subject that I adore and has shown me that this is a career I definitely want to pursue in the future,” Christina said. “I would absolutely recommend that everyone take a film class if they have the opportunity. I didn’t know I loved it until I learned more about it.”
“In order to succeed in film, you don’t necessarily have to be the most creative person, or the next Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorcese,” Anna added. “To be good at film, you have to enjoy film, you have to be hardworking and persistent, and you have to enjoy writing. As long as you have some idea of what you’d like to achieve, a filmmaker can come from anywhere.”
Both girls agree that Film is a worthwhile course that should be offered by those who can afford to offer it and taken by those with the opportunity and interest.
“Not only does Film offer students an increased set of skills, but it gives them skills they can apply to other subject areas,” Anna said. “Film has not only strengthened my writing skills but has allowed me to use film to further analyze and enhance other subject areas.”
“I feel honored to be taking a class that is somewhat exclusive to my school,” Christina said. “Film is so different. It’s a nice change of pace during the day.”
Because students in the film program are called upon to write, produce, direct and cast their own films, appropriate equipment is a necessity. The program is in need of new supplies, but the school and the city are hesitant to allocate the necessary funding.
With supplies needed for the progress and sustainability of the program and funds lacking, Christina and Anna have taken it upon themselves to raise the money to create a bright future for the program. The two brainstormed over the summer, and created the Cinema on the Hill film festival. With the school year in progress, the project is in full swing.
Cinema on the Hill is an event stretching over the course of the school year. It allows members of both the school and the community to enjoy the screenings of a selection of films in City Honors’ auditorium that they may not have the opportunity to see elsewhere.
“Anna and I wanted to choose films that encompassed different genres and were produced in various time periods and cultures,” Christina said. “I truly believe that there is a film for everyone in this festival. All types of people can come to our auditorium once a month and find a movie they’ll enjoy.”
“Some of the films, like Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Breathless,’ are films we just really enjoyed and wanted to share with everyone, while films like ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ are crowd favorites,” Anna said. “We like to think with the films we chose, we have at least one film for everyone to enjoy.”
All proceeds of this student-led project go directly to the City Honors Film Program, despite the fact that the students heading the effort will be graduating at the end of this school year. Because film has been such a large part of these students’ academic and extracurricular lives over the past year or so, they said they take pride and pleasure not only in giving back to the film community at school, but also in sharing the joy of cinema with members of the entire school and city communities.
“It’s important to keep arts programs like this going,” Christina said. “With the funding we need and the right equipment, the future film classes will be able to make fantastic films. I’d like to see fellow aspiring filmmakers succeed.”
The first screening of the year, “Maltese Falcon,” was held last month. Coming up next is a screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at 7 p.m. next Thursday.
“I’m personally very excited for this festival,” Anna said. “We really want to continue to spread the word and have as many people as possible attend not only to raise money for our film program, but to spread our love of film to everyone.”
“Rocky Horror Picture Show”
Nov. 21: “Au Revoir Les Enfants”
Dec. 19: “Meet Me in St. Louis”
Jan. 16: “North by Northwest”
Feb. 14: “Bringing Up Baby”
March 20: “Snow White”
April 24: “Breathless”
May 29: “Some Like It Hot”
All films will be shown at 7 p.m. at City Honors, 186 E. North St. Tickets are $3.
Joseph Nathanson is a senior at City Honors.