The Scoop on the Communication and Cinema Department

Professor Brett teaching Film Analysis: Hitchcock. Photo by Jeremy Simon.

What are employees looking for in recent college graduates? They want people who are able to express themselves well orally, in writing, and visually.  They want creative problems solvers that work well with others. More importantly, do you also know what it takes to make the best film ever? If these are things you think are important, then communication and cinema is the perfect fit for you.

There are over 100 students majoring in either communication or cinema at McDaniel. There are three faculty members in the communication department and two in cinema.

Dr. Trader teaching Intro to Communicaiton I: Interpersonal Photo by Jeremy Simon.

Dr. Trader teaching Intro to Communicaiton I: Interpersonal
Photo by Jeremy Simon.

Dr. Robert J. Trader, Associate Professor of Communication, said “It is a social science like psychology which focuses on individuals and mental processes, and sociology which focuses on groups and social issues.” However, communication focuses on messages and how people create, send, and receive them. He thinks the most important type of messages are persuasive ones.

Trader says that communication “is like the glue that binds us together and like the stake that drives us apart.” He said that the more strategic approach that people take when communicating with others, the more effective the communication process will be.

After students earn their degrees in communication, some students become news reporters or editors. Some students will go into professions where they are seen on television or heard on radio, like broadcasting a sporting event. Others will go to law school and become lawyers. Event planning, marketing, and politics are some other fields that students with a communication degree enter.

Trader teaches a lot of classes in the communication major, including Interpersonal Communication, Public Speaking, Visual Communication, Quantitative Research Methods, Interactive Media and Senior Seminar. In these classes, Trader hopes students learn “problem-solving skills, communication skills, and critical thinking.”

Cinema faculty Johnathan Slade and Richard Brett want students to understand the history of cinema and visual media, how to write professionally for television and film, and all of the myriad production aspects of how movies are actually made.

“Cinema is not just about how to run cameras,” Brett said. “I do not want students graduating and only being a light designer, an editor, or a story teller. We want students to graduate understanding every aspect of cinematic storytelling.”

Brett went to graduate school himself, earning his M.A. from the University of Iowa and his M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina.

Outside the classroom, Brett has also worked as a videographer and a screenwriter doing various projects. He and Slade, who received his M.F.A. from the University of Southern California, have produced documentaries for public television.  Both have won awards for their work.

Brett thinks that, beyond the realm for cinema, learning how to solve problems, leading a group, and learning analytical and creative skills are important for any job and for life in general.

Upon graduating from the cinema program, Brett and Slade want their students to know how to write for television and film productions and to have multiple options open to them, ranging from graduate school to working in one of the “thousands of cinema-related fields, like production design, editing, lighting, visual effects, location management, script supervision, casting, cinematography, post-production, or countless others.”

Both communication and cinema degrees open a variety of occupations for students and prepare them for success in the future. The professors in communication and cinema do not just teach classes, do research and sit behind desks grading papers; these professors help students to apply their skills from their communication and cinema in pursuing careers beyond McDaniel.