Cinema Studies Grads Talk Inspiration

Earlier this month, eight students graduated in the inaugural class of cinema studies majors. The program, part of the College of Arts and Sciences, offers an interdisciplinary major and minor devoted to studying the artistic, cultural, and political dimensions of motion pictures.

So, we asked a few of the newly minted graduates to write about a movie that changed their life or made them want to study film.

Ben Murphy (’15)


What movie changed your life or made you want to study film?

“The fours films I always go to that changed my life or pushed me to go into filmmaking are The Truman Show, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, and Star Wars. However, the thing I really look to that locked me in on becoming a filmmaker was actually the TV show LOST.”


“When I was growing up, my brothers and I would watch Star Wars all the time. We picked apart every bit of the films, recreated scenes, consumed all the video games, and listened to nothing but John Williams’ score. But at the core of it all, we loved these stories and characters.

As I got older, films like The Truman Show, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Back to the Future all continued to drive my love for films and storytelling. I rewatched these films over and over again and tried to recreate the feeling of these stories by making home movies of my own.

However, it wasn’t until the television show LOST that I fully committed to wanting to do TV and film work as a career. TV shows these days are so cinematic, it’s amazing. Shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and House of Cards are great examples of this booming increase in quality, cinematic television; and I think LOST​ was one of the first shows to start this movement.

LOST captivated me each and every week, and the whole atmosphere of that show really drew me in. Something just clicked in me, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I also realize now that all of the films I mentioned have incredible and iconic music scores by amazing composers—Phillip Glass on The Truman Show, John Williams on Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Alan Silvestri on Back to the Future, and Michael Giacchino on LOST.”

What’s Next?

“After graduation, my eventual plan is to move to LA or New York to continue my film career. That move is in the near future. But ultimately, for me, as long as I’m crafting films and stories that I love and working with creative, collaborative, and kind people, that’s all I could ever ask for.”

Murphy was a double major in cinema studies and journalism and electronic media. He recently produced two films that played at the Nashville Film Festival. Read more about Murphy and his films in Tennessee Today

Kyle Knell (’15)


What movie changed your life or made you want to study film?

“I wouldn’t say there was one exact film that made me want to study cinema. I love watching all movies. However, my favorite movie of all time is Miracle (2004), directed by Gavin O’Connor (about the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team).”


“I’ve played hockey for the past fifteen years (including the past four for the club ice hockey team here at UT as an assistant captain and team president). When I first saw Miracle, I had just started to play hockey seriously/competitively. I can remember watching the movie and being mesmerized by it.

In one of the last scenes, when Al Michaels says, ‘Do you believe in miracles?… Yes!’ I remember the chills it gave me (and still does). From that moment on, my love for the sport grew tremendously. I also appreciated the way a movie was able to create that kind of an emotion in an audience.

I continued to watch a ton of movies throughout my childhood. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in high school when I took a media class (where we created a televised school news to be broadcasted during the day), that I found my passion for editing and creating videos. When it came down to me choosing a college to attend, it was between here and MTSU, which has an outstanding video department. However, they didn’t have a hockey team at the time, so I chose to come to UT and major in journalism and electronic media (visual communications path).

I found out about the cinema studies minor when I was a freshman so I took the classes and fell in love with them. Being able to learn more about movies, as far as the aesthetics go (camera angle, shot distance, editing techniques, etc.) was a definite plus. Having teachers like Professor Larsen and Professor Maland was a perk as well. By the time the cinema studies major was announced last year I had already completed the minor, so I did the math and found out that I’d only have to take a few more classes and I wouldn’t have to go to school an extra semester. Knowing that, it was a no brainer for me to double major.”

What’s Next?

“Currently I am the production director for the Knoxville Ice Bears. I film the hockey games, create the graphics, and stream them for online viewers. Being able to mix the two passions of mine would be an ultimate dream. I would like to move up to the NHL or even film Olympic games with NBC. However, my dream job would be to end up with ESPN Films and produce the ESPN 30 for 30s.”

Andrew Dudenbostel (’15)


What movie changed your life or made you want to study film?

“While there are a lot of films I’d consider life-changing, the one I find myself constantly coming back to is an Italian film called Cinema Paradiso. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1990, and it’s about a successful yet lonely film director looking back on his childhood working in a movie theater in his rural Sicilian village.”


“The film is very much a nostalgic love letter to film as an art and the movie-going experience, so it certainly appeals to the cinephile in me. But more than that, I love the emotional impact of the film, the way it uses story and pictures and music to create an immersive experience for the viewer. Like all truly great films, I get this rush of raw empathy and emotion that I can feel in my chest when I watch Cinema Paradiso. Film is the only medium that has ever brought about that feeling in me, and I think it’s my fascination with that particular feeling that led me to cinema studies.”

What’s Next?

“I’m going to a Master of Fine Arts degree in film directing this fall at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Once I have my degree,  I hope to move back to Southern Appalachia to teach film at the university level.”

Rebecca Rummage (’15)


What movie changed your life or made you want to study film?

“My favorite film is The Breakfast Club. I am a huge John Hughes fan. The story line follows this bunch of misfits as they discover themselves.”


“I think it changed my life/made me want to study film because it is so universal. Every person that watches it sees a little bit of themselves in each of the characters. That is what makes it an epic film. From the moment I saw this film I knew that I had to create something that would entertain an​ audience and could live on through generations to come.

I found the Cinema Studies program at the end of my freshman year at UT and fell in love instantly. I have always been a film fanatic, and now I had another outlet to break down films and find bigger meanings behind them. My friends and family hate going to see movies with me now because I always have something to say about it. I think that’s what makes it fun. Professor Maland, Professor Larsen, and Paul Harrill made the cinema studies major come to life. Their passions for film and filmmaking are electric. They made my passion for the subject grow from a whim to a desire to go into the craft. I’m pretty sure Professor Larsen got tired of reading my papers because no matter what the subject of the paper I found a way to write about The Breakfast Club. What I love most about film and filmmaking is that it can translate to a wide array of people. Maybe one day I’ll be able to make something that touches at least one person that’s all we can ask for.”

What’s Next?

“I don’t have a set plan for after graduation. However, I ultimately want to become a producer for scripted television or films. I would even like to write if at all possible. This field is very difficult to get into, so I hope that my dreams will come true with a lot of hard work.”

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1 comment

Bryan Crow May 19, 2015 - 4:48 pm

It’s great to see a Cinema Studies program at UT! When I was there as a student in the 1970s, the cinema teacher was Dr. John Jellicorse, in the Dept. of Speech and Theater. I took all of his classes, including one on the films of Clarence Brown. UT hosted Mr. Brown for a film festival in his honor in 1973, and I was on a student panel with him in the audience. I got to sit next to him in CBT for a screening of The Yearling. Now I’m working on a book about his films, and I travel to UT whenever I can to work with his shooting scripts in the Special Collections library.

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