At Ball State, select students are being given a large amount of creative freedom while working with an established television network in order to help educate the public on classic films.

This course — “Let’s Movie Design Studio” — has been led by Richard Edwards, the executive director for strategic learning, since 2016. The students in the class make products for Turner Classic Movies (TCM), a television network founded in 1994 that mainly airs classic films. 

TCM works on a monthly schedule, dedicating each month to a certain theme or genre. During February, for example, the network aired only films that have won Academy Awards as a part of “31 Days of Oscar.” 

Edwards said TCM wanted to create free educational experiences to help people learn about classic movies and not just watch them. He said TCM chose Ball State because of the school’s well-known telecommunications department, the immersive learning courses and its online course services.

“When TCM started to look for a university partner to do the educational mission, we checked all of their boxes,” Edwards said.

Representatives from TCM fly to Ball State to pitch the needs of the network to the students in the course. Students who work on the course work directly with the professionals from TCM.

“It really is a very professional experience for the students,” Edwards said.

Henry Tegeler, junior telecommunications major, said he took the immersive course in 2016 as a video editor and producer. He plans to participate in the third installment of the course as well. 

“I wasn’t sure how involved with TCM I would be, and I was really surprised,” Tegeler said. “It was really amazing how much we actually worked with the company.”

The students' work goes through the same approval process as professionals who work for TCM. Students are given two weeks to think of ideas ranging from videos, digital engagements, web materials and social media campaigns, and then pitch them to TCM via video conference. 

Once these ideas are approved by TCM, the students spend the rest of the semester creating the final products with full creative control. However, every two weeks during the semester, students must check in with TCM to show their progress and receive professional feedback. 

Edwards said this process is instrumental to a design studio in order to ensure the product is successful.

Tegeler said TCM was friendly in their interactions with the students, but also provided plenty of helpful criticism and guidance. He said he learned a lot about how television networks work in terms of marketing and working with clients.

Becoming a team member

Students in the course are recruited by Edwards and are selected due to their particular skill sets, whether it’s video, marketing, design or writing.

The first student-involved course was made of seven students who dealt with slapstick comedy. The second year’s theme, “50 Years of Hitchcock” was focused on Alfred Hitchcock and involved 13 students.

Wes Gehring, a professor of telecommunications with a strong knowledge in film and comedy, has worked with the past two courses and is planning on working on the next one. He said working on the course has been enjoyable and made him explore areas he was not as familiar with.

“It’s good for everybody,” Gehring said. “Students, faculty and the university in general.”

In addition to video conferences, TCM also pays to fly students to the Turner Entertainment Network campus in Atlanta to pitch ideas and talk to professionals who are working on the Turner campus.

Tegeler said it was great to tour the campuses and talk to professionals who are in the same line of work he is pursuing. 

The next theme

The upcoming third year course will be about the history of the Hollywood musical and will have eight students on the team.  Edwards said the materials will be worked on with the help of Vanessa Ament, a professor of telecommunications and an Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Endowed Chair for the TCM course. The final products will be released in June.

“Three years in, we’re just doing this consistent project where for one month a year, we’re supporting Turner Classic Movies as they feature a different film genre,” Edwards said.

Contact Andrew Harp with comments at adharp@bsu.edu or on Twitter at @adharp24.