by Keenan Wostenberg
When looking at content in student films, Professor Scoggins asks himself three fundamental questions: Is it a good story? Will it be well made? Is it good for the world in some way? “Those questions haven’t failed me yet, and I think [and] hope they’ve helped students, too.”
Prof. Scoggins continued, “I haven’t personally found myself objecting to any particular subject matter. Students in my classes have wrestled with everything from opioid addiction issues, to sexuality, to drug abuse and addiction, to suicide, and sometimes the subject matter can strike some as objectionable. There’s language at times.”
JPCatholic’s Filmmaking Handbook states that many of these topics are restricted in lower level classes. It also declares that “expletives must remain mild and infrequent”, specifically for 100 and 200 level classes.
Directing 1 and Production Execution, both 200 level classes, stray from these restrictions often.
When asked if the filmmaking handbook plays a significant role in the approval process, Professor Scoggins said, “The production handbook, which all students are encouraged to follow in all classes, lays out content guidelines for lower level classes, and goes on to say: ‘There may be an occasion where some of the above restricted content is permitted in a 300, 400, and graduate level class, but only with advanced approval of the instructor and in a manner and style that the mission and integrity of the university is not jeopardized or harmed.’ So sure- the handbook plays a role, though it is somewhat elastic as students move through their class years.”
Isaac Kiedrowski, studying acting at JPCatholic, commented, “I don’t know what the school forbids, but it seems like there is just a lot of grey area. I feel like it ends up just being up to the professor.” Regarding the language restrictions, Junior Luke Pulver said that the rules “only prevent us from being taken seriously because it blocks us from capturing the reality of the adult world.”
Other students feel student content can be inappropriate, and that the content restrictions are justified. Freshman Timothy Shurtliff said, “There was a video last quarter that I declined helping with because I didn’t feel comfortable supporting the message. It dealt with the Church scandals, but in a way I felt wasn’t appropriate for such a delicate and sensitive issue, so I turned down the opportunity.”
Professor Scoggins asks students to remember what the university stands for when making their films. “For me, the bigger issue is how the students choose to treat the subject matter, rather than the subject matter itself.”
The “Acceptable Content in Student Productions” section of the Filmmaking Handbook lays out more specific details.