Posted: March 22, 2017 at 12:43 pm
By Tessa Iglesias, Quinn Crosby and Tristin Toman
West Virginia University lost a promising young student last semester. Mikey Damico, now a freshman at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, left WVU purely because it does not offer a film major, but he says if there was one, he would definitely come back.
In the fall of 2016, Damico was a journalism major at WVU. He took the journalism route because he was told that the classes could be somewhat film related. It only took him a semester to realize just how unrelated the news-intensive film environment was as to the creative filmmaking courses he craved. Point Park in Pittsburgh called his name with the promise of a major in cinema production and classes better suited to get his career in film started.
There seems to be, upon arrival anyway, a common misconception to students at WVU that pursuing other degrees such as journalism, communications, or theatre will give them the know-how to become professional filmmakers. Students realize after a few semesters, that this is not true.
“I feel like for us to actually get legitimate consideration from the university to bring the film major here, something big is gonna have to happen,” said Sam Thompson,
Thompson is a senior at WVU pursuing a multidisciplinary studies degree, only because this was the best way for him to spend the most time on his filmmaking, rather than classes geared towards other careers that he does not care for.
Like Damico, Thompson started out in the Reed College of Media at WVU. He focused on broadcast journalism in order to get himself behind the camera. He felt the environment was good for someone passionate about journalism, but not for someone passionate about film.
Thompson is now spearheading the campaign to get a film major started at WVU, so other students in his position can get the most out of their degree.
Thompson hopes to become a writer-director after college, and he’s pretty much halfway there. In the last calendar year alone, he has managed to produce a film and win best director in the Creative Mind Group category for it at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, get an internship with Cannes Film Festival, where he was able to host an award show, and win a competition to get a short film funded by Sublime Universal, who flew out from London to give his film a budget. Thompson said that this made him the youngest filmmaker in the state of West Virginia to ever make a funded film.
Damico himself has managed to snag the title for youngest in program history to win best cinematographer at Sundance, according to the Weirton Daily Times.
Damico and Thompson both worked together for their Sundance short-film submission, “The SunDANCE.” They also worked with WVU student Davis Roher, and New York University grad Katy Lueck. Between the four of them, they walked away with best director, best cinematographer, and best actress in the Creative Mind Group category.
“Our main goal other than making movies and getting better at making movies is to show the school, you’re gonna regret not having a film major here,” said Thompson, who explained that he believes awards are the only thing that are going to get the university to pay attention and realize the need for a film major.
“If students can make these accomplishments without the help of the university, imagine how far they will go with the university’s help,” he said.
Damico, Thompson, and Roher frequently work together to make films, and their next goal is to get shortlisted for an Oscar next year. They know it’s near impossible, but they don’t care.
“I think it’s very important for WVU students to have the opportunity to go into a film major,” said Gina Dahlia, journalism professor at WVU, “Because I myself am an award-winning documentary filmmaker so I do see the need to express oneself through film which I look at as an art form.”
Dahlia said that she has had many students come to her within the journalism school who have expressed extreme interest in going into the film industry but she has unfortunately had to direct them elsewhere. She believes the best place a film major could fit into the university is through a collaborative effort between journalism and either the comm or theatre department.
Thompson on the other hand, believes film would fit “like a glove,” into theatre because they already have the necessary equipment, as well as many actors that filmmakers need to make movies.
Thompson gives us an in-depth look at the process behind the first scene of his Sundance entry.