The students at the University College of the Cayman Islands are ready for their close-up.
UCCI stepped boldly into the future on Tuesday, when it celebrated a ribbon-cutting for a new production studio that will afford students a first-class education in filmmaking. The ceremony was attended by Roy Bodden, president of UCCI, and a host of students and dignitaries.
“I have this idea that the college must take the students into the world of the 21st century,” Mr. Bodden said of the cutting-edge facility. “We’ll be able to live-stream programs, lectures and interesting things that happen at the university. It’s pretty incredible for a university of only 1,200 students,” he added.
The college offered a course in documentary filmmaking for the first time in the spring semester, and the new studio will allow students to expand their interests and skills in the field. UCCI spent $40,000 on equipment, which includes a green screen, two editing suites and two state-of-the-art video cameras.
Ivan Eubanks, assistant professor of arts and humanities, is convinced that his students will gain more than just knowledge of film through use of the studio.
“When you think about filmmaking, and by filmmaking I mean every type of motion picture from documentaries to feature films to tele-journalism, it’s a very complex activity that requires a lot of different skills,” he said. “You can’t do a good video without understanding light and lensing. They have to have good reading comprehension. They have to be able to write. When you take it and put it in an active learning experience like this, essentially what you get is purpose-oriented learning.”
The students in the inaugural documentary filmmaking class worked on two projects: A documentary about Mr. Bodden and another about William Hrudey and the UCCI observatory. Unlike their other classes, this course was more about active learning and less about rote memorization.
“I really took a lot from this course, even though I’m not necessarily going to pursue a class in film,” said student Raidez Perez. “This class has been different from all the other courses offered at UCCI because I felt it was really hands-on. It’s not really something we could learn just by reading a textbook. We actually had to get behind the camera …. We don’t have a final exam and we don’t have a midterm. We just worked on our own project and that taught us to be responsible and to take initiative.”
Anthony Ritch, deputy chairman of the UCCI Board of Governors, said he hopes the studio will inspire the next generation of Caymanian filmmakers to get their start. He shared the encouraging story of his brother-in-law, who has made a career in film, and hoped to see others follow in those footsteps.
“You’ve seen it take place. You’ve seen it manifest right here,” Mr. Ritch said of a potential career in film, to the audience at the ribbon-cutting. “You’ve seen people turn dreams into reality on the big screen. And I want to say to you people that are students: This is the start of something new. I believe having it right here at home allows us to be absolutely amazing and on the world stage.”
But it will not take a Caymanian Cecil B. DeMille to make the studio a success. The faculty at UCCI sees the new studio as a profoundly safe investment just by offering new opportunities to the students.
“The world is a lot smaller now than it used to be,” said Mr. Eubanks. “Multi-modal communication is important everywhere. There are government agencies and corporations all over the world that use internal blogging for their communications, and those internal blogs will involve video, photography, writing and all kinds of other things. These aren’t just skills we can train students in in order for them to go into the communications or entertainment industries. There is that, but these are transferrable skills we hope they learn that they can bring to whatever career path they decide to follow.”
And that, for Mr. Bodden, is the bottom line. The college hopes to use its studio to launch video content that will publicize the work done by UCCI’s faculty and student body on a regular basis.
“It gives the students something to hope for and it makes the university college an interesting place,” said Mr. Bodden. “One of the important things I have to bear in mind as president is that we have to compete. Although we’re a state-sponsored institution, we don’t have a monopoly. The government sends its students all over the world, so to get students, we have to be an attractive campus. We have to be an attractive institution. So this is one of the things we’ll use to attract students and let them understand that it’s worthwhile to study at UCCI because they have these kind of opportunities.”