The Experience, Mark McPhillips '20
Spring Lake, New Jersey
Film Studies, Sociology Major
I used to think that sophomore year was my favorite at Conn. That was the year I discovered the Department of Film Studies and gained invaluable tools for film analysis, as well as incredible insight into the world of film in general. Then, I thought junior year was my favorite year at Conn. I continued on in the film studies major and finally got to enroll in “Screenwriting,” arguably my favorite class I’ve taken both at Conn and abroad. Now, having just passed the 100 days until graduation mark, I have become more sentimental about the film department and my current opportunities within it. I am in a senior seminar, titled “Studies in Cult and Camp,” which is the perfect culmination of my learning. The class is an opportunity to think critically with my fellow majors and one of my favorite professors, Dr. M.
Our class is all about the films outside the typical Hollywood canon; the big blockbusters and box office smashes have no place in our class. We focus on exploitation films, psychotronics films, genres I had never even encountered before this class. We look at films that are considered “cult classics” but not in the conventional sense. We attempt to understand the social and political factors that influence our taste criteria to know how we, as a society, dictate the kinds of films that get special attention. I love our class discussions because there are only eight of us. Small classes are still one of my favorite parts of Conn. The Department of Film Studies is a pretty tight-knit, so it makes going to class that much more fun.
And the best part of my class is, of course, my professor, Dr. M. I first met her when I took her course “Studies in Film Culture” last spring. Anytime I needed to meet about a thesis for an upcoming paper, or just wanted to talk film, I could always schedule an appointment with her. It was during one of our meetings for “Studies in Film Culture” that Dr. M. first told me about “Cult and Camp.” We were discussing our mutual love of “Twin Peaks” (a TV cult classic of its own from the 1990s) when she informed me that her “Cult and Camp” class would be watching the show in its entirety. Needless to say, I knew I was going to take that class an entire year in advance.
Conn is a place that can facilitate interests outside the mainstream or foster one’s love for the eccentric. The fact that we have something as awesome as “Cult and Camp” within our course offerings is something I never take for granted. I’ve loved “Twin Peaks” and obviously have seen the entire thing, so the chance to analyze it in an academic setting was appealing to say the least. What’s more is that we dedicate an entire blog to the show, and each student is assigned episodes to write about. We comment on each other’s posts so the learning truly never ends. The blog is a more casual space so the stakes are lower and we can be more colloquial with our posts. It’s so much fun.
I realize now that senior year has been my favorite year at Conn. Between “Cult and Camp” and enrolling in only three classes this semester (one of which is my thesis), I have time to pause and appreciate how much these four years at Conn have meant to me. If there’s one huge takeaway I have from “Cult and Camp” it’s to find the fun in the strange. That’s a lot easier to do if you have time and an appreciation for the fun around you.