EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article appeared in the last issue of In Production, which comes out twice a year, which gives a look at what’s going on at Dodge College from semester to semester. You can check out the latest, and past, issues on our website.
When Barbara Doyle decided to leave Chapman last year, might there have been a moment of panic in some people’s minds? No doubt. Because replacing the Chair of the Film Division was no easy task.
The job itself is vast—it encompasses responsibility for five undergraduate and six graduate degrees, some 44 faculty and 84 adjuncts, about 1500 students, an endlessly complex production schedule involving students and equipment at all levels, and curriculum development, advising, mentoring faculty and students, and just a few thousand other details too numerous to mention.
And all of that needs to be handled by a person who is organized, committed to working long hours, and ready to give speeches, attend endless meetings, handle phone calls from parents and solve student problems whether those problems originate with some glitch in the system or are of the student’s own making.
Big shoes to fill, right?
Fortunately, Dodge College had a candidate already on base, and although Professor Eric Young may just be beginning to realize what he’s gotten himself into, the transition has gone smoothly. Faculty and administrators who work with Young are not surprised.
“Eric’s experience as an executive at Disney, in running his own production company, as a documentary producer and having an advanced degree in creative writing has given him strong organizational and managerial skills, an understanding of the film business and the filmmaking process and deep insight into storytelling,” says Associate Dean Michael Kowalski.
“He is also guided by a deep sense of empathy and fairness, and feels it is essential to know and consider all sides of an issue to resolve a problem. He’s a great addition to our administrative team.”
Professor Young brings a decade of experience as a studio executive at Disney, as well as hands-on experience in a wide range of film, television, documentary, and new media productions. He has worked in development as everything from a producer to a location scout, in positions from post-production supervisor to production manager. His credits include working on projects from
Nightmare Before Christmas
Making the African Queen
The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk
Having joined the Chapman faculty as an adjunct in 2008, Professor Young is familiar with not only our systems and people but also our students and their talents, capabilities and issues. He has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts from UC Riverside.
To get a better idea of who Eric Young is as a person and a leader, we asked Professor Young to share his thoughts about where we are and where we’re going at Dodge College.
Q: How did you come to teach at Dodge College?
A: My friend Nick Meyer recommended me to Dean Bassett. I had been teaching production and film studies classes at Idyllwild Arts Academy and discovered I loved teaching. Over the years, while I was working in production, I had great experiences volunteering as a coach for youth sports like basketball and track. Teaching naturally evolved out of those experiences.
Q: What do you think makes Dodge College distinctive among film schools?
A: Two things: the amount of production activity here that allows our students to work extensively in their craft. Secondly, Chapman Filmed Entertainment, which is a one-of-a-kind resource in film schools.
Q: You’ve had a long and varied career. What do you characterize as your primary strengths/areas of interest?
A: I’ve worked over the years in a variety of mediums including documentaries, movies, television and new media. I love the tradition of cinema as well as the new and experimental narrative forms. I’m also intensely interested in story and performance as the foundations of our art.
Stories should be developed so that they are realized in their most suitable form, whether the idea works best as a novel or a film or a video game — all have great power and, at their best, present empathetic characters that help us to discover common threads among all people and cultures. They help us to better understand and care about one another.
Q: How did your career in the industry prepare you as a teacher? How did it prepare you to be Film Division Chair?
A: I understand the filmmaking process from the ground up having worked in the trenches in production, and as an executive for a major studio (Disney) and my own company. So when I’m teaching, I draw from real life-experiences to help the students develop problem solving skills. At the end of the day, our most important ability is to know how to solve the many problems encountered in production.
I’ve served in a multitude of roles, but always gravitated toward leadership. To be a good leader one must help others accomplish their goals, which is also something that is very important in teaching.
Q: What do you see as the challenges of your new position?
A: Helping Dodge College transition to its next phase that involves growing the curriculum to address changes in the industry.
Q: What are your goals as Chair?
A: One goal is to improve students’ knowledge and appreciation of our rich film and television traditions and aesthetics. Without an understanding what’s come before, it’s difficult to innovate and forge ahead as artists. Another goal is to fully prepare our students to enter the profession at a full gallop, thus improving their chances of success.
Most importantly, we need to sharpen our understanding of what constitutes great storytelling toward creating meaningful and memorable work.
Q: In what primary areas do you see a need for improvement or changes in the curriculum (where do students need to do/learn more)?
A: At both ends of the process: conception/ execution of story, and business strategies. We must focus on helping students learn to create characters with stories that audiences deeply care about, and develop our student’s awareness of how to market their work to reach a worldwide audience.
Q: What changes do you forecast as the entertainment industry continues to evolve? How can or does Dodge College prepare students to meet these changes?
A: Audiences will continue to be increasingly fragmented and the best thing we can do is to expose our students to a full range of the traditional and evolving mediums of film, television, interactive, and virtual reality. In this changing landscape versatility with the ability to write, direct, produce, shoot, edit, perform and design for many mediums is vital. As the author Robert Heinlein once wrote, “Specialization is for insects.”
Q: What are your favorite films and why are those your favorites?
A: Impossible to say because there are so many! I’m drawn to character based work expressed in interesting, unexpected ways, so favorite filmmakers range from Charlie Chaplin to Alexander Payne. Some favorite films/filmmakers include
My Neighbor Totoro
The Tree of Life
(Terrance Malick), and
(Mike Leigh). And then, of course, there’s Hitchcock. Of them all, I adore Chaplin who remains one of the great humanists of cinema. His genius transcends the silent film form and is still relevant for audiences today.