Class Catalog: Film Appreciation

Vydalia Weatherly, Staff writer

Do you like watching movies? COM-160 Film Appreciation taught by Communication Department Chair Brian R. Sheridan, M.A, who has been teaching at Mercyhurst for approximately 18 years. Film Appreciation focuses on the history of American film, which is an area of interest for Sheridan. While some students may want to study films from other countries, time constraints does create a hindrance. However, Sheridan says that the course discusses foreign films’ influence on American film. The course highlights American classics, including “Chaplin and Keaton,” “The Great Train Robbery,” “Bringing up Baby,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Graduate” and “Singing in the Rain.” At the end of the semester, Sheridan will pick a film “just for fun,” such as “Airplane.” Topics covered in the course include the founding of film, the creation of silent film, the establishment of Hollywood, the golden age, the Red Scare, the production code, the impact of television, cable and VCRs. The course provides students with the opportunity to watch American Classics, an opportunity students may have not been afforded in the past due to them being hard to find on streaming services, outside of HBO Max. All movies are watched during class time. “Movies are a group activity. They’re made for big screens and for multiple people to have reaction to,” Sheridan explained to why movies are not watched outside of class time. Class discussion and test questions are based on the films watched in class. “I try to approach the class from the perspective that you’re not learning to be a film maker, so that’s not the important part, it is kind of the media literacy part of you know a little bit about the history, you know a little bit about how things are produced, what changes have happened, so when you do watch a new movie you recognize or know where all of that came from, because it is a continual. There is a through line in history of show business or film business I should say,” said Sheridan. Film Appreciation is typically taught every other year in the spring semester. This semester the course is being held during Mini B Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Anyone can take the course. However, this class is high in demand and fills up quickly. There is often a wait list, so if you want to take the course, you must be proactive in scheduling. “I wish I could accommodate more students” added Sheridan. Students do not only find the class enjoyable, but so does Sheridan. One of Sheridan’s favorite parts of teaching the course are the students that enjoy silent movies. “I love silent movies! Most people don’t want to watch them, because they don’t understand how to watch them. So, they are usually blown away by the quality and the sheer talent of these silent film makers,” said Sheridan. Another favorite part of teaching the course is “the students who come back later and say I was talking to my grandfather and he remembers going to the movies to see the move we watched in class and I could talk to him about the movie because I saw it too. So, that’s always a good feeling,” added Sheridan. While the class is well received, Sheridan did admit that some students may struggle with the earlier movies, “but once we get into things that are in color and more contemporary, there’s more of a connection.” For students who have taken Film Appreciation and enjoyed it, Sheridan recommends taking a media literacy course that is offered every few years in addition to COM-101: Communication in Society, which discusses the history of mass media. Students should keep in mind that the Communication Department is not the only department to have film related courses. Students should also research courses such as the History and World Language Departments has to offer. Mercyhurst used to offer a film studies minor that incorporated different departments, but that minor is no longer available. Students with questions about the course, you can contact Brian Sheridan directly.