By Nicole Veenstra
This year’s flu season is widespread, but there’s no need to worry because the Film and Media Studies Symposium is offering up the best medicine Feb. 27-28: laughter.
The two-day affair, titled “Just For Laughs,” promises to please comedy lovers of all ages and preferences with a packed schedule, including diverse discussions, speakers and screenings all having to do with some aspect of the genre.
According to Dr. Cynthia Lucia, film and media studies director and associate professor of English, the symposium is celebrating its fifth year at Rider. Over the years, the event has covered other subjects, such as horror and independent films. Last year the symposium paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences with films from 1962. The themes are typically discussed and decided upon by a combination of students and professors.
“Every spring there’s meeting with students and faculty, and the idea for comedy came out of that,” Lucia said. “Sci-fi was another option that we may do in the future. Student opinion is really valued.”
Beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 27, the mini-course on comedy will take place in Sweigart Auditorium, exploring various phases of the beloved genre in film and television. Additionally, faculty and students will lead roundtable discussions and presentations to analyze how comedians have tackled controversial topics with humor over time.
Lucia feels the symposium is an important part of Rider’s culture because it’s a unique approach to learning about film and offers simulating conversations as a result of the messages conveyed on the big screen.
“It’s great to hear different ideas from your peers,” she said. “Movies are enjoyable, and the symposium opens the eyes of people who like them, but haven’t thought about them in this way. It’s really nice to expand the way you think about film.”
Guest speakers will also share their knowledge on the subject. This year’s keynote speaker is Tom Papa, the comic actor, who is a ’90 Rider graduate. At 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 27 he will focus on the world of comedy and how to prepare for it. Papa is best known for hosting NBC’s The Marriage Ref and for starring opposite Matt Damon in the 2009 film, The Informant.
Kevin Lally and Dr. Thomas Doherty are also set to speak. Lally, who is the author of Wilder Times: The Life of Billy Wilder, will discuss the famous director and converse with faculty and students during a roundtable. Doherty, an American studies professor at Brandeis University, is an award-winning author, noted scholar and lecturer who will educate the audience at 7 p.m. on Feb. 28 about the effects Hollywood’s production code had on the comedy genre.
The symposium’s finale is a student film festival and competition, where students submit any original work from three to 10 minutes long. Professors will judge each video on overall creativity, originality, technical merit and performance of the actors.
Travis Maiuro, a junior English cinema studies major, is showing his short film.
“My film is Ben & Elaine,” he said. “The synopsis I generally tend to use is this: ‘Facing death by apocalypse, a fractured couple hastily tries to reconnect.’ I’m excited that I’m going to be part of the symposium. I try not to take these kinds of things for granted so I’m looking forward to it.”
Although some of the student productions are fantasy, others are subjects close to the heart, such as The Steeplechase by junior communication major Corey O’Neill.
“My documentary explores a track and field event known as the steeplechase,” he said. “It is a 3000-meter running event that includes hurdling over barriers, some of which are over a water pit. I’m excited to be presenting this film to an audience because the sport means a lot to me. It’s one of my favorite works that I have done so far and I think people will enjoy it.”
After the various main events are over, awards for best student paper, presentation, screenplay and film will be presented.
With so much to choose from, the schedule may seem overwhelming to newcomers. However, Lucia advises those interested in attending the symposium to listen to the different presentations.
“I have two favorite parts,” she said. “First is the participation of so many students. I love hearing their work and insights, and that also brings in a range of faculty members. It’s great to collaborate with a community of people interested in the subject. The other is being able to bring in outside speakers with cutting edge work.”
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Printed in the 2/22/13 edition