UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 10 Summer 19 Library
Media Studies students visit the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing Arts (Credit: Andrea Press)
Media Studies

Media Studies Takes on New York

Few cities in the world have lit up movie and TV screens like New York has. From the epic treatment of Francis Ford Coppola in The Godfather to the love letters from Woody Allen that were in Annie Hall and Manhattan (among others); to Carrie Bradshaw and her Manolo-wearing pals traipsing the Upper East Side, and Tony Soprano and his crew and their over-the-line exploits in Jersey--the Big Apple is one place that is always ready for its closeup. In January, Media Studies students got their own closeup in a January Term course planned and taught by Andrea Press and Camilla Fojas. “We have done more general media studies J-Terms in the past,” Press said, “and we decided this year, we would do kind of an amalgam class with a focus on film, particularly since Siva Vaidhyanathan was doing one at the same time that was focusing on journalism. We wanted to develop a class for people interested in film, but also to create an opportunity to introduce the presence of New York in such a wide variety of films.” 

Media Studies students on the New Jersey Sopranos Tour
(Photo: Andrea Press)

In what was a jam-packed week of meetings and activities, students were treated to some of the best of the city on celluloid and in pixels thanks to a syllabus packed with top titles and then tours of their real-life locations. The two-week course included a series of screenings students had to watch in advance and discuss in class sessions along with assigned pieces of film criticism. The group did a Sex and the City tour that included the highest of high-end Manhattan, and a Soprano’s tour that found them in the working-class North Jersey neighborhoods where much of the show’s storyline came to life. The students also got a chance to see Brooklyn on film and in real life, exploring the worlds highlighted in movies like Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. “Camilla and I carefully chose the films and television shows to ensure they highlighted different aspects of New York,” Press said. “Because it is so hard, especially in one trip, to get a sense of the vast cultural groups you are going to have at your fingertips there, so I think the viewings and criticism helped that a lot.” 

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The action went beyond film tours, as the class had chances to meet with a variety of alumni from throughout the film and television industry and beyond, including UVA Arts Council Chair Gretchen Tibbits, and 2018 Media Studies grad Claire Crispo, who works for NFL Films in the area of talent and player relations. Other highlights included an alumni panel at the Yale Club on the changing landscape of television, and some toured the New York Times. “I’d say the week was a great success,” Press said. “For many of the students, it was their first time in New York, with so many of our students moving there after graduation, the more we can facilitate contacts with trips like this, the better it is for everyone.”  

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