Commentary: Boise State needs to keep investing in its film department

Stock image of a woman being recorded on a camera. Boise State film department.
Photo courtesy of CoWomen

In Pioneer Hall, the film department takes up the whole north side of the building. Their space was once a loading dock and an art gallery. Now, the art gallery is full of computers ready for film editing, and the loading dock houses a small set and a semicircle of chairs, presumably for class or rehearsals. 

The film department is happy to be in Pioneer Hall according to several faculty. However, faculty also said that the university has failed to give the film department the necessary funding and resources they need to keep growing.

Despite being “one of the fastest-growing programs on campus,” it still only has three official faculty members, and they need to rent professional-grade equipment for their productions, including things like camera lenses.

If students want to enter the film industry, they need to be able to use professional-level equipment. These skills are especially important for students interested in working “behind the camera.” 

Stock image of a woman being recorded on a camera. Boise State film department.
[Photo of a woman being recorded on camera]
Photo courtesy of CoWomen

Rulon Wood is one of three full-time faculty members, and there are only another three additional adjunct faculty. There is no additional staff. 

“We’re probably the leanest program per student. That’s the big thing … We really need more faculty and staff,” Wood said.

The film department currently has 117 majors with 430 enrollments in 24 classes split between these six people. Additionally, Ryan Cannon, another film faculty, is on sabbatical this semester, so the department is down one member. 

According to Logan Leavitt and Ashley Hackett, two current film students, all of the faculty work tirelessly to fulfill their roles. 

“[Cannon and Wood] are honestly amazing individuals. I am so thankful I get to take more classes from them … they bring so much energy [and] kindness. They just know what they’re doing,” Hackett said.

Leavitt even speculated, “There’s a reason Ryan Cannon had to take a sabbatical this semester … because they’re stretched so thin.”

Despite some of the struggles they’ve had, Wood, Leavitt and Hackett expressed their gratitude for what they have been given on multiple occasions.

“I don’t want to complain,” Leavitt said multiple times during interviews. 

“The university has been really supportive,” Wood also said. 

Wood and Leavitt also suggested multiple ways to combat this lack of resources. 

Wood suggested reaching out to community partners. Reaching out to local production companies would help connect Boise State to the local community. It would also give film students practical experience with collaboration, and it would create career networking opportunities for students. 

Leavitt suggested one solution is to have film students pitch a film for Boise State to fund, and then find ways to make a profit from the film. Not only would it help the resources problem, but pitching a film to a studio is a common practice in the film industry. It would provide a similarly practical experience for students. 

Boise State strives to “[provide] an innovative, transformative and equitable educational environment that prepares students for success and advances Idaho and the world,” as their mission statement reads. 

Both potential solutions fulfill this mission statement. 

When Boise State gave the film department Pioneer Hall in 2020 they were investing in students’ careers and futures. Boise State needs to continue to invest in film students’ futures.

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