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Shafer on College Movie Genre

Posted on Monday, April 08, 2013

Assistant Professor of Media and Society Leah Shafer commented on the rise in prominence of college genre films in an article that appeared in The Review, the independent student newspaper of the University of Delaware. The article points to films such as "21 and Over," "Admission" and even "Monsters University," the prequel to the animated "Monsters, Inc.," as featuring college-aged protagonists.

According to Shafer, college films are now prevalent because party films, horror and dramas, among other genres are marketable to the college demographic.

The article notes, "Shafer says college students are an age demographic that still has an expendable income, and filmmakers are likely to target their audience by producing films that are tailored to the experiences their audiences are having. College-related films also attract high school aged students, who are looking forward to their upcoming college careers and the freedoms they will gain, she says."

"I would imagine that producers are interested in marketing these films to high school students, framing an aspirational film that would appeal to a slightly younger demographic of people who may be interested in thinking about their future, such as when they turn 21," Shafer says.

A member of the HWS faculty since 2008, Shafer received her A.B. and M.A. from Cornell University. She earned a Ph.D. from the department of theatre, film and dance at Cornell, with her dissertation "Brand Name Vision: Comedy and Props in the Films of John Hughes."

Shafer has served as an instructor in the department of cinema, photography and media arts at Ithaca College and as an instructor and campus coordinator at Bard Prison Initiative. Shafer's areas of interest include visual culture, new media, television history, celebrity culture, digital humanities and media literacy. She has also served as co-curator of a local film festival, and assisted in the direction of several Cornell theater department plays.

Her work has been published in several journals including Women and Performance: a Journal of Feminist Theory, Transnational Cinemas, and Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture.

The full article follows.


The Review
College generation reinvents coming-of-age films

Katie Alteri • Entertainment Editor • March 18, 2013

High school movies will now have to contend with the college movies to contend with in the coming-of-age genre with films such as the recently-released "21 & Over" and the upcoming "Admission" and prequel to "Monsters, Inc." titled "Monsters University" opting to feature college-aged protagonists.

Sophomore Logan Hayes says she finds films about college students more appealing than movies focusing on high school stories because she can relate to the more mature plotlines. She says she also thinks filmmakers are more likely to make pieces of this nature because high school students today are maturing at a more rapid rate and will also relate to the content.

"I think there is an increase in college movies," Hayes says. "I feel like kids are growing up quickly, and [producers] are hitting a lot of demographics by [making these films]."

Leah Shafer, a professor in the media and society program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, says college films are now prevalent because party films, horror and dramas, among other genres are marketable to the college demographic.

On Jan. 29, Nielsen, the leading global information and measurement company, released statistics from the NRG's 2012 American Moviegoing report documenting the age demographics frequented movie theaters the most. According to Nielsen, the combined age brackets of movie-goers aged 12 to 17 and 18 to 24 made up 30 percent of viewers, as compared to the second-leading majority 25 to 34 which made up 19 percent.

Shafer says college students are an age demographic that still has an expendable income, and filmmakers are likely to target their audience by producing films that are tailored to the experiences their audiences are having. College-related films also attract high school aged students, who are looking forward to their upcoming college careers and the freedoms they will gain, she says.

"I would imagine that producers are interested in marketing these films to high school students, framing an aspirational film that would appeal to a slightly younger demographic of people who may be interested in thinking about their future, such as when they turn 21," Shafer says.

Although filmmakers try to market college related films to younger audiences, high school students may go see these films, but they may not understand the references and humor, Hayes says.

And while college-themed films may be marketable to high school students, junior Brielle Gerry says the situation is not the same for the reverse scenario. She says she does not have an interest in seeing films about high school plots and does not think they are as enticing to college students.


"I think that movies that are made for high schoolers are probably not as mature," Gerry says. "I would almost get annoyed that I was watching something about high school just because of that."

Gerry says while she thinks 18 to 24-year-olds are the primary viewers of college related films, older age groups may also see these films because they want to relive their care-free college years.

Shafer says she notices her students are more enthusiastic about movies that are relatable. She says she features classic collegiate themed films such as "Animal House" in her comedy film courses and shows students in her women in the media course the independent film "Damsels in Distress," which was released in 2012.

"My classes are full of students who are most excited about watching work that speaks to their particular generation and their concerns and issues," Shafer says. "It's a perfectly reasonable set of interests, and I think in today's media landscape, which has so many niches of information, it's nice to see there is a particular type of film that could speak to a college student's identity."

Hayes says she enjoys many college related films, and she has been particularly satisfied with recent films about the age group, such as "21 & Over" and "Pitch Perfect." These films feature humor that college students understand, as well as music that the age group identifies with, she says.

Shafer says she notices filmmakers such as Harmony Korine gearing their films towards an older audience, although in the past filmmakers may have focused on younger generations.

Korine's upcoming film "Spring Breakers," which is set to premiere in theaters on March 22, features four college-aged females who involve themselves in various crimes in order to pay for their wild spring break trip. Korine is best known for his film "Kids," which followed a group of young adults in high school, but he has transitioned from that age demographic to college students with his "Spring Breakers."

Shafer says she is looking forward to seeing "Spring Breakers," and she hopes to teach it in her film classes in the future. She also predicts that films focused on college-aged students will continue to be made because they belong to a marketable demographic that audiences will continue to be interested in, Shafer says.

As long as college students continue seeing movies in theaters, the movies will be made, she says.

 

 


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