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Film Buffs Team with Students for "Greatest Scene Ever"

SOC Greatest Scene Ever Gallery 1

Film professor Greg Smith asks his students a very simple question: what is the greatest scene ever? The answers come from his students readily, from films like Gone With the Wind and North by Northwest. The challenge comes when he asks them another simple question: why?

The ‘why,’ Smith said, is what makes this assignment different, and allows him to assess his students’ filmmaking skills and perception. It’s part of making students more analytical and critical of films other than their own.  

“The answer could no longer be ‘because it’s cool,’” Smith said. “I wanted them to tell us the important things about it, what does the filmmaker do, what technology is used, what’s the lighting, the camerawork, how does that change your perception of the story.” 

The assignment was the basis for Greatest Scene Ever, the new television show on AU’s in-house cable channel. It features three nine-minute segments on scenes from three films from a genre, highlighting the important aspects of the scene and how it contributed to the film or the film industry. Thus far, Smith and the Greatest Scene crew, including his co-host, Program Coordinator for Audio Technology at AU Paul Oechlers, have featured the Western, the American comedy, and Hitchcock films. Next up, Smith said, are political films. 

“We can all name our favorite films, but when we break it down into scenes, it gets more particular, we talk about them in their component parts,” Smith said. “Great scenes make great films.” 

As the show has developed, Smith and Oechlers have incorporated new segments, such as a trivia question designed by the “high priestess of cinematic trivia,” professor Sarah Menke-Fish, which tests the audience’s knowledge of (sometimes) obscure film facts—such as who was originally vying for the role Cary Grant played in North by Northwest.

The team also decided to incorporate students into the production of the show, which is taped once a month, as a supplemental learning experience to what they were getting in the classroom. 

“We’re using students who are donating their time; we want them to learn something,” Smith said. “These students can see the results of what they do, they can put this on their reels and add it to their resumes, they’re getting real-world experience.” 

Smith is attempting to incorporate more of the AU community, using the theater department to develop the set, and bringing in film professors and personal contacts to contribute to the discussion. 

“We have some amazing filmmakers in the family at SOC,” Smith said. “And the film department here is really a family.” 

On April 1, the team will be shooting an episode featuring the films of SOC Artist-in-Residence and two-time Academy Award-winner Russell Williams. “He’s going to be contributing to the discussion, and at the end, we get to challenge him: what is the greatest scene ever?” Smith said.