Thursday, February 21, 2008

Well then...

I clearly have no excuses for my lack of posting. Being someone who is deep into my tenure track and a now more active filmmaker, I've just been too busy to maintain this blog along with my other blog (which is a public one, in my real name).

So -- no excuses, I've just been busy. I thought of shuttering this blog altogether, but it still gets as many hits as my other blog, just on the strength of the "MFA" in the title. There are a lot of people who come to this blog because they're searching for information on the MFA and whether or not it's a terminal degree. And I'd rather people keep coming here for that, because I'm an unabashed supporter of that idea.

Anyway, things have been going fairly well for me. The film that I was so worried about a while ago did well at festivals. While it didn't play at any of the biggies, it ended up winning several "Best Feature" awards, and it got invited to two pretty high profile fests (not the majors like Sundance, but still, they were significant invitations). The story isn't over for this film -- there are some release possibilities on the horizon, so I'm hopeful that something will happen soon.

I've since made another film, a short. And a second feature is in the planning stages. I'm feeling a little creatively overwhelmed by the new feature -- it's a larger project than my previous one, which is both exhilarating and intimidating...

Anyway, if you came here with opinions, frustrations, or questions about the MFA, fire away. I may not post often, but I'm still here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Without Apologies

I'm trying not to feel bad that I don't post on here more often (hence the post title). I'm posting more and more regularly on my blog under my real name, and my film work has kept me increasingly busy (for those of you who remember my angst over all the rejections my film had received, I'll update by saying that it has screened in more than 15 festivals, a few of which were very strong fests, and has won three different "Best Feature" awards).

Anyway, the thing that prompted me to post today was New Kid on the Hallway's revelation that her 3rd year review was unsuccessful, and that she has been given a terminal contract for next year. Sometimes, this field doesn't make much sense.

By "this field," I mean "academia" -- New Kid and I don't share the same field (she's a medieval historian, I believe, and I'm a filmmaker). But since I'm on the tenure track, too, and am very angsty about what I need to do to get tenure (and am on approximately the same point on the tenure journey that she's on), this news hit me hard.

From all appearances, New Kid is a dedicated and thoughtful teacher and scholar who puts much time into both of those activities. And while I don't know her work specifically, from her postings on the subjects, I can tell that she is precisely the kind of person a school would should want working for it.

As I said, sometimes academia doesn't make much sense. This finite tenure clock makes people think and do crazy things (to whit: there's a reason I'm posting this on an anonymous blog). The fact that you have to justify your existence every year in such a bizarre way strikes me as problematic. The idea that you have to publish a book (for most academics, anyway) to get tenure is especially problematic in light of the crisis in academic publishing these days (not to mention how market-driven even academic publishing is; in a sense, the projected financial popularity of a book plays a bigger role in determining someone's tenure than anyone wants to admit).

I don't mean to condemn the entirety of academia here. In fact, the faculty in my department tend to be open minded and considerate (for the most part -- and you know I mean it because I can say whatever I want to on here).

But this kind of thing does give one pause. Here's hoping that New Kid lands on her feet somewhere that makes her very happy.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Starting the spring

Spring term is starting soon, so I'm already prepping syllabi and starting to think about courses. The thing I love about spring: it's my "light" semester (when I only teach two courses). And before anyone starts complaining about a teacher not wanting to teach, believe me -- that's not me. I quite enjoy teaching. But when I teach only two classes, not only do I also get to do my creative work (which is something that I believe makes me a better teacher), but I also get to spend more quality time with my classes.

I get to spend more time grading (i.e., better critiques of creative work), and I get to spend mroe time prepping (i.e., better prepared and more able to facilitate useful discussions).

So I like the spring. The fall, when I teach three courses, is considerably more hectic (and I cannot for the life of me imagine juggling four or five courses, unless I was teaching multiple sections of the same course).

The other reason I don't like fall as much is that my chair has asked me to teach the intro course for our major. He teaches one section, and up until now, one of our lecturers was teaching the other. The thing is, I'm not opposed to teaching it -- I actually think it would a fun course. And his reasoning makes sense to me (people joining our major, or considering joining it, should be introduced to it by someone who is going to be here long term).

But the fall is already a busy time, and he's also asked me to teach the "capstone" course in the major in the spring. Two new courses in a semester of three. And there's some other personal issue coming this summer that makes the fall a bit more hectic, so between the intro course, the capstone course, and my personal stuff, I'm dreading the fall.

However, the nice thing is that these are good problems to have, it's nice to be trusted with courses that are considered important, and I still enjoy my job.

In creative news, I'm starting work on a short film in the next few weeks, to be shot here and there (not in one concentrated shoot). And I'm beginning the long process of raising money to shoot my next feature. Life continues.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Signs of the Apocalypse?

I posted my final course grades two days ago, and I haven't had a single complaint, nor even a question directed my way about a borderline B that "should have been A."

Maybe I'm just getting better at communicating my expectations nd my students' status throughout the semester.

Monday, December 11, 2006

End of the Fall

The fall semester is coming to a close, and though I've enjoyed my classes, I'm definitely ready for a mental break, not to mention the fact that I find it really difficult to get any creative work done when I'm doing class prep every day.

I'm eager to get to work on my next film, a short documentary I've been circling for a while. And now that I've won a small grant to help pay for it, I'm kind of committed. So I need to get started on that (in truth, I HAVE started -- I shot a couple of interviews back in the summer).

In other news, I had an interesting conversation with the Dean of Arts & Sciences today. He doesn't know me (and I know this because I had to reintroduce myself to him), but after we spoke for a bit, he mentioned that he knew I hadn't gotten the sabbatical I applied for, but that I was very close to getting it and that I should definitely apply again. He said that he doesn't remember the ones who "aren't close."

I took this as a positive sign -- the dean, who doesn't really know me, recalled my name from having signed off on the sabbatical committee's recommendations, and he must have thought my proposal had some merit (it did -- but try to get a university committee to pay an artist to work on his or her work; no small task, believe me).

I'm excited about working on this film, even if I won't have a sabbatical to do it. It's a short film, and a documentary to boot, so there's really no marketability here (and it's a self-focused, navel-gazing film, too). In other words, I'm making it for myself, with no commercial agenda. I hope to get it into festivals, but I'm basically trying to make an entertaining film, and I'm not worrying about anything else.

That's kind of refreshing.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Sorry for the lack of blogging lately. This semester has been kicking my butt -- between three classes and travel for film festivals and other things, I'm just flat-out exhausted and getting very little work done.

I did make time to apply for summer financial support to work on my next film. Rejected by the University. It's not the rejection itself that bugs me; what bugs me is finding out from a colleague on the committee that, essentially, the committee feels as though this is "just part of your job description" since I teach filmmaking. Now, I can buy that they expect professors to do research/creative activity without extra support. But when they OFFER extra support, specifically for research projects and creative activity, this just smacks of a major double standard that ticks me off. So it's okay to give money to so-called "scholars" who are working on their next books, but not to the filmmaker working on his next film? At the risk of sounding whiny, it's the worst kind of academic elitism. And not for nothing, but it takes a major investment of time and money to make a feature film -- much more than it takes for a book. I'm not saying a film is more valuable than an academic book, but this double standard makes it clear where my "liberal arts" oriented colleagues stand. Not that I know any of the colleagues on this committee. With nearly 1000 faculty at the university (including lecturers and temporary faculty), how could I know all the people I need to know to be taken seriously???

In other news, the film has been doing pretty well, having just played at a semi-major film festival. At the moment, there are no other fests coming up, though I'm waiting to hear from a few. I have finished another script for my next feature, and I have two short documentary projects I'm about to embark upon, if I can pull everything together. So there's no shortage of creative ideas, but a serious shortage of funds and time.

Nevertheless, I'm moving forward with everything. It's nice to have ideas and to feel like I can make them happen, but I admit it would be nice to have a little travel money!

P.S. -- Is anyone still reading this blog? If anyone is still out there, please leave a comment. I'm not in any way pressuring or trying to pull people out of their comfort zones. I'm just really curious if I've lost all my readership after the recent long layoff(s) from blogging.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Needy Students

do you have needy students? I usually have one or more every semester. They're the kind who need constant handholding and affirmation on every assignment, who NEVER trust their own instincts, who don't want to walk into a class discussion without knowing they are right.

It's maddening and tiring. They're constantly at my door, when I'm trying to prep for my next class or just get some other work done.

Sadly, I see myself in them. I was probably one of these students, driven by a combination of desire to learn, desire to impress, insecurity about my own ability to truly comprehend the material, and a serious jones for positive affirmation. I'm probably still like this even today. When my boss talked to me about potentially moving towards being in charge of our (currently-in-process-of-designing) grad program, my heart leaped like a little child at the affirmation (but not, you know, at the workload).