Despite its young age, Cinema has a rich history. Now in its eleventh year, the program has distinguished itself with team projects that call on each student’s individual talents, the skills of faculty who work and learn alongside them, and a shared devotion to the craft of filmmaking. Students and faculty have worked with Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, shot on location in Norway and expanded the scope of the program into screenwriting. In 2017, MovieMaker counted VCUarts Cinema among the top film schools in the U.S. and Canada for outstanding cinematography training. There’s a lot to celebrate!

The Cinema program hit the ground running in 2007, when award-winning filmmaker Rob Tregenza was hired as its first program director. Anne Chapman, professor and casting director, joined the faculty soon after.

In 2008, French writer/director and then-president of La Femis film school Claude Miller became Cinema’s distinguished director-in-residence. Students worked on his film Marching Band and collaborated with La Femis students to create multiple short films. Arthur Eng joined the faculty that year, with Marching Band premiering in 2009.

The first class of Cinema students graduated in 2010. At the same time, the annual Cinematheque film series had its inaugural season, and Kirk Kjeldsen joined as assistant professor, teaching screenwriting.  

Steven Spielberg took his production of Lincoln to Richmond in 2011, taking on nine alumni and 13 current Cinema students as interns and full-time crew members. The following year, Cinema’s film “Laila” was screened at the 20th Annual French Film Festival, 19th Annual James River Film Festival and the Salento Film Festival in Italy.

During the fourth annual Cinematheque, world-renowned New York Times film critic Dave Kehr visited as guest speaker. 2013 brought another major production to Richmond, with Turn: Washington’s Spies employing 20 Cinema alumni, current students and faculty during filming. That year, film critic, author and Nonfiction Editor of New England Review at Middlebury College JM Tyree joined the faculty. Editor Jochen Kunstler joined the following year.

Director Sara Driver (When Pigs Fly) was the inaugural special guest at the fifth annual Cinematheque, and Cinema became an official member of CILECT, the International Association of Film and Television schools, in 2014.  

Angus Macfadyen (TurnBraveheart) became the program’s artist-in-residence in 2015, leading students in shooting an adaptation of Shakespeare’s MacbethMacbeth: Unhinged premiered at the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival the following year.

Cinema students working at their summer intensive, where they produce most of their films for the year.

A slew of professional development opportunities opened around the same time. Two more major film productions arrived in Richmond in 2015: Loving employed 10 Cinema alumni and current students, and Imperium employed five alumni and current students. And alumni Spike Scarberry (BA ’10) and Allie Palmore (BA ’15) debuted digital internships for students at Bad Hat Harry and Josephson Entertainment, respectively.

In 2017, Homeland began filming in Richmond, employing 22 Cinema alumni and current students. That year also brought on independent producer Virginia Bertholet and alumna Yossera Bouchtia (BA ’11; BS ’11) to the faculty.

Most recently, Gavagaia feature film that Tregenza and professors Kjeldsen and Eng shot in Norway, has received rave reviews from The New Yorker and Slant. It was ultimately placed in the top ten films of 2018 by Metacritic.

2018 marks 90 years of creative daring at VCU School of the Arts. To mark this occasion, VCUarts is spending this school year reflecting on our shared history and envisioning how we can continue to pave the way for creative practice in the 21st century and beyond. Visit the VCUarts 90th Anniversary website to learn more about the many stories that have shaped our school, and to share memories of your own.


December 4, 2018