MU’s role in film will lead to educational benefits

Sunday, January 16, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:26 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Mil Máscaras vs. The Aztec Mummy” is an educational film, in a manner of speaking.

MU allowed the film to be shot on campus in return for footage the information technology program in the College of Engineering will use.

That means this spring students taking Video and Audio I will learn to edit and create trailers, titles and special effects using footage featuring mummies, Mexican wrestlers and robots. Columbia producer Thom Baker, of Baker Film and Video, will teach the course with the oversight of faculty.

The students’ trailers could end up in commercial use. They could be included on the film’s possible DVD release, said Jeffrey Uhlmann, MU professor of computer science and producer of the film.

“We will be able to say we offer something very different than your average computer science department,” Uhlmann said.

He would also like to collaborate with local film producers and provide them with access to technology in exchange for benefits to students.

Video and Audio and Modeling and Animation are among the engineering classes scheduled to be part of the IT degree, which are pending approval. The University of Missouri Board of Curators could approve the degree next month, said Chris Weisbrook, assistant dean of academic programs for engineering.

In August, MU’s College of Engineering received a $1 million grant, $200,000 a year for five years, from SBC Communications to create courses and hire instructors for the information technology program. Through it, classes will be offered in information systems, mobile computing, game design and entertainment technology.

More than 60 students are on the waiting list to declare the major, said Weisbrook, who is also the director of the IT Program.

The engineering college, which is low on minority and female students, hopes to attract more diverse students through the new program, said Kannappan Palaniappan, associate professor of computer science.

Palaniappan, chairman of the committee that evaluated the need for the degree and developed the curriculum for the new program, said the film will “help advertise opportunities, give students real world experience and demonstrate that a real production is possible.”

Weisbrook said it would also give students who are artistic and don’t have an interest in higher-level math a shot at an engineering degree. She said the film could help recruit such students.

“There will be credits and the university will be mentioned,” she said.

If the film is successful, there might be more to follow, and MU might become more involved.

“One of the things we’d like to do is ongoing (film) production,” Weisbrook said.

The new program would help make Missouri a desirable place to make motion pictures, said Jerry Jones, director of the Missouri Film Commission.

“We try to attract out-of-state production to come spend money here,” Jones said. “As more crew and more resources are created, then it’s natural that the in-state production will grow.”

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