Friday, May 27, 2005

Student Evaluations and Other Updates

This week, I got my student eval scores for the spring semester. Very high marks and great comments from my upper-level production and writing courses (my favorite comment on the back of one form: "Prof TerminalMFA f--king rocks!"). The numbers on the big lecture course (a history of cinema course) weren't as sterling. But, when you take the categories "Agree" and "Strongly Agree" together, the numbers really aren't bad at all (especially considering the relative number of students who appeared so bored that they were sleeping through both lectures AND screenings).

The only thing that concerned me was where my numbers are put next to some composite "comparison group" numbers -- I mostly fell a bit short in the Strongly Agree category on almost all of those. I really don't obsess over this personally, but I worry that the powers-that-be might. My department chair certainly does not, but in my first tenure review, the Associate Dean who attended to represent the College commented to me that some of the very small number of non-positive responses were probably 'first semester jitters.' Those comments were on a course where my eval numbers were VERY good, and I got the impression this Assoc. Dean was expecting ALL good responses.

As my department chair said, if everyone likes everything you do, you're not challenging them enough. So the only reason I worry is that I don't know what the tenure committee folks will say. The good thing is that I may not have a big lecture course all of next year, so my numbers will probably be pretty solid for Year Two.

Comments were almost universally positive. Students seem to really like AND respect me. Some of the comments really inflated my ego and had me feeling pretty good about my ability to get through to students with information AND make them enthusiastic and interested. So that was nice. I always dread reading the comments because I worry about personalizing some negative comments. Really the only negatives I got were about boring lecture style in the history course. I was aware of that and didn't have a strategy to change it, so I don't feel too bad -- there was a lot of info to communicate in a short period of time, and I did the best I could.

And next year, the new guy we hired will have that course, so I won't have to deal with it again.

On the film front, I still haven't cast the male lead. I have a few videotaped auditions coming from L.A. after a posting on los angeles. I don't have particularly high hopes, but I'm still pursuing all angles. I did cast the major male supporting role and am excited about that actor. The major female supporting role is still open, but I have a strong candidate. I'm just waiting to see a few of the video auditions that are still on the way from various places.

Major location scouting next week. We secured our biggest location -- a house that will serve as the main characters home, and a location we'll shoot in for one week of our three-week shoot. That's a big load off. Still plenty of locations to find -- street corners and parking lots and those kinds of things. We're looking for eclectic and unusual locations.

Production design meeting next week, too. That means I have to buckle down and make design notes and prop lists. I'd like to leave this to the production designer, but I'm not certain that's the best plan (remember we're using a crew that has a lot of students; production designer is a top-notch recent graduate, the departmental award winner for our program -- but she's still inexperienced and not being paid, so you never know how much you can count on them).

Speaking of not counting on students -- I was told this early on by the producer, a colleague on faculty. And I learned it this week when a grad student who we 'hired' as an associate producer basically decided to put his academic work ahead of the film with six weeks to go before production starts. Now, it's not that I don't understand that, but a commitment is a commitment, and it boils down to this student not managing his spring semester schedule well, not getting the stuff done we asked him to get done all semester, and wasting time on things he shouldn't have. And now he's not going to make up for that. So, in my book, that means "bye-bye credit" (i.e. he won't get the assoc producer credit), and don't count on me for a good recommendation. I don't mean that vindictively. He just hasn't shown me anything I can recommend other than ambition and the ability to overcommit himself.

But we're moving on. We have lots to do, and a short time to do a lot of it, so there's no stopping the train now!


At 8:26 AM, Blogger AiE said...

Craigslist and video auditions sound like a good idea ... lord knows there are tens of thousands of actors languishing in the LA area, looking for work.

Sounds like your evals were great--that's wonderful (and not surprising)!

As for the associate producer, well I guess I'm not that surprised. Filmmaker has had his share of grad students flake out on him.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger TerminalMFA said...

Surprisingly, only got about 10 responses on craigslist, and only about 2 or 3 were even appropriate for the role.

Thanks re: my evals. You flatter me (and I don't mind).


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