The Perks of an Open Curriculum
The landscape for video production in 1998, my sophomore year. was quite different than it is now. Desktop video editing was still in its infancy. Hamilton had one computer editing system (at the time, an expensive Avid system which probably did less than what we can do on our phones now) that was only available to students taking video courses and you had to reserve time to use it and bring your own 1GB Zip disk to store your work on. There was no major (or minor) in media or cinema studies and the production tools available were slim. Despite all that, I entered my sophomore year with a newfound interest in pursuing a career in video production, after some exposure to the film and television industry through a family member. I thought for a while about whether Hamilton was the right place to help me get the education that I wanted in this developing and tech-driven industry, or whether I would be better suited to transfer to a school with a more rigid curriculum in film production.
But I had really fallen in love with Hamilton and didn’t want to think about going somewhere else. I had great friends,I was very active with the college choir and Hamiltones, and I appreciated the diversity of educational opportunities that I had. This led me to look into creating my own interdisciplinary major that could lead me down the path I wanted to go at the school that I truly loved. I ended up constructing a major based on courses within the visual arts, music, history, and English departments, as well as including some courses from a semester abroad program in London. It was a different type of education than what I would have received at a traditional film school (mostly limited by actual hands-on production), and I supplemented that with two summers of internships with different production companies, where I got immersed in editing and on-set experiences. I culminated my time at Hamilton by shooting and directing my first short film as part of my thesis. (While I may find looking back at this film to be a bit cringy, it was a hugely formative experience for me.)
After college, I got a job with a small startup production company outside of Boston where I worked for five years shooting, editing, and getting involved with every aspect of production. In 2006, I ventured out to start my own company Beryllium Pictures. We are a small team and create videos and commercials for many types of clients. Being in the Boston area, we have fallen into working with many healthcare and technology companies and organizations. I really enjoy the diversity of clients we work with and the stories we get to tell for them. The video industry has changed so much since I left Hamilton in 2001. I remember transitioning from distributing our work on VHS tape to DVD back in 2002, whereas now the idea of using any physical media to send our work to a client just seems silly. The needs for video have boomed too, and during this global pandemic, we’ve seen a growth in business as more and more clients use video to get their messages out in lieu of in-person communications.
I was fortunate to get asked to come back to Hamilton in 2013 to teach a filmmaking workshop over the course of a weekend with about a dozen students. It was great to see how the Media and Cinema Studies Department had grown (and even so much more since then). I’ve spoken with students looking to pursue a career in different areas of production and I always encourage them to really diversify their experiences during their time at Hamilton, where I think there are more opportunities than at a more concentrated program. I think Hamilton gave me valuable experiences and an education that gave me the confidence to run my own business. While self-designed majors were rarer while I was there, I sense that more and more students are figuring out how to get the most out of their education and I believe Hamilton really encourages that.