Summer programs offer an amazing opportunity to enhance the educational experience at Colorado College. For students, the summertime is no lazy escape. They pursue jobs and internships, and they catch up on the classes they couldn’t squeeze in during the regular year. Traditionally, much of this has been left to the individual student. Colorado College can help provide a more complete structure for meeting student needs, by sewing more outside collaboration into the fabric of our academic mission. We can do this by creating thematically linked blocks in the summer.

Filmmaking in the summer programs is perfect for this. As part of our academic mission, student filmmakers are writers charged with telling stories about the wider world. In order to find these stories, students must put themselves into new environments, and they must interact with people outside the college bubble. For example, we had an anthropology student who happened to intern at the Colorado Springs Therapeutic Riding Center. She made a very effective film about a little girl who uses horseback riding to help overcome her severe disabilities. The film is powerful, and the CSTRC uses it to explain their work. The girl’s family uses the film to explain her condition. Other students have made documentary films about local organic farming movements, Colorado refugee relocation organizations, small business development organizations, local school districts, local arts organizations, and many more subjects.

Often, these films have come about because the student was already involved with the local organization in some way. We’d like to take that a step further. We hope to develop summer filmmaking seminars that combine the level of community involvement we see in internships with the educational value of our concentrated Block Plan. We could do this by thematically linking two summer session blocks so that one builds on the other. Our goals are practical and academic at the same time. In the first block, for example, the student could examine documentary film forms and genres and complete filmmaking assignments that reinforce ideas discussed in class, in field trips, and by guest speakers. At the end of the block, the student could begin to work with an organization, focusing on learning what the organization does by listening and doing. In cooperation with the organization, the student would then determine the best story and approach for a documentary film. They’d return to campus and spend the rest of the two-block period pitching their story idea, getting feedback, conducting research, and writing, shooting, and editing the film, with a final public screening at the end of the course.

Summer is our chance to innovate. We see filmmaking in summer programs as a great model for fostering student involvement in the wider community, as well as classroom work within a linked Block Plan structure that is distinctly CC.

Clay Haskell is assistant professor of film and new media.