A glass-shattering scream can be heard around a tiny crappy LA apartment. A young woman rushes into her roommate’s room. No, this isn’t a murder or home invasion – it’s Chloe Aguirre, a 2019 alumna of Dodge College of Film and Media Arts finding out her film “Le Prince Oublié” just became a finalist at the Student Academy Awards.
“We were screaming and jumping up and down,” Aguirre said. “Seeing your name on the academy website was mind-boggling.”
She basks in her small moment of fame in her career. But she also reflects on how she got here. She’s never regretted, for whatever faults it might have, that she chose Chapman University’s Dodge College for her film education.
Recently The Hollywood Reporter has moved Chapman up the ranks from the sixth to the fourth-best film school in the country. Chapman is still unable to crack the top three schools: New York University, American Film Institute, and the University of Southern California.
But fourth? Most students and faculty agree that ain’t bad.
Harrison Segal, a junior film production major, is consistently working on Chapman film sets. He said, “I feel our class (2023) is vaguely responsible for us moving up in the ranks because we are the ones making the films during that time.”
Ryann Mackston, a junior creative producing major, said, “I feel really proud that I can attend classes in such a competitive and prestigious program. The Hollywood Reporter might have listed us at number four, but the students who attend Dodge have always been number one to me. There are so many talented and truly remarkable filmmakers at this school and I know they all have very successful careers ahead of them.”
Much of the credit, all agree, must go to its newest dean Stephen Galloway.
Some in the industry had questioned the Galloway choice after the retirement of longtime Dodge dean Robert Bassett. Galloway’s career had not been in academics. He worked for the Hollywood Reporter for nearly three decades.
But Galloway came in with a plan and moving up in rank was part of that.
“It’s been incredibly important to us to crack the top five. It helps with how the industry perceives us, helps with the quality of students we recruit, it helps our alumni who are out there,” he said.
Not that Dodge isn’t working on issues that students bring to the leaders’ attention.
Aguirre noted about her student days: “I was in the directing program, and although I was very appreciative of all the feedback from my peers and professors, there really wasn’t anything to help prepare me to start applying for jobs.”
Now Dodge has opened a new career center, led by professors Joe Rosenberg and Jill Condon. It will have its own physical office in early 2022 and is designed to help students and alumni find internships and jobs, and prepare for careers in entertainment and media.
It’s part of Galloway’s three targets of change: Hollywood osmosis, diversity, and modernizing the curriculum.
“Anything that doesn’t fit into there is gonna be secondary. These are the crucial ones,” Galloway said of the targets.
The first target: osmosis with Hollywood, which according to Galloway means a living breathing connection, not “Hollywood like the world of the Avengers.”
“I mean the entire entertainment media landscape. We are on the doorstep of Hollywood. It lets us know about them and they know about us,” Galloway said.
The industry is starting to know Chapman, according to Alex Edep, a 2020 Dodge alumnus:
“I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me and say I heard you’re from Dodge, all Dodge people are very professional. It’s kinda like a thing they know you have a certain level of professionalism and experience that not everyone has in film school.”
Aguirre had a similar experience, saying, “Having this university on my resume as a graduate is a really prestigious thing to say about yourself, that within itself has helped me within my career.”
The second target: diversity.
About this goal, Galloway said, “I believe it’s right morally, but also because all those companies have to target all those diverse audiences, they need to hire more diversity.”
Dodge College students have been fighting for diversity for years, and advocating for more cultural awareness.
“I think that Dodge itself has a pretty ethnically diverse range of students,” Mackston said. “However, I can’t say the same for most of the teachers.”
Edep made his thesis based on his own family and struggle with Armenian identity.
“We are now realizing how important and crucial diverse stories are, having so many stories that need to be told,” Edep said. “There are so many voices that need to be heard, and giving them a platform is 100% important.”
Galloway has told his staff, “If you’re bringing me three candidates I want diversity in that group.”
Under Galloway, Dodge now has four black professors instead of just one.
It’s also a big reason Dodge got a boost from the Hollywood Reporter. The magazine states:
“Diversity is a priority at Dodge, where 25 professors of color were hired in the past year and a mentorship program for underrepresented high schoolers will kick off in 2022.”
The third target: modernize the Dodge curriculum.
As the industry grows and changes so must the school, Galloway said, “If our goal is to educate our students for careers in entertainment and media we have to understand the world they’ll be entering, which is not the world we came from.”
The way people watch entertainment has changed vastly since the faculty has been in the industry. Media is turning more to streaming. Galloway noted:
“We need to start teaching entertainment as one universe with multiple options. We aren’t teaching TV writing and screenwriting, we are teaching writing for the screen. You can try writing anything.”
When it comes to alumni, Aguirre and Edep are doing the best they can, given the circumstances of the industry, but they said that the one thing they really took from Dodge was their network.
“I always run into Dodge people in the industry, and not only did I learn so much there but I have so many people I can call on if I need it. People who are in a like-minded mindset,” Edep said.
“My biggest take back from Dodge are the friends that I made that I still hang out with on the weekend,” Aguirre said.
Alumni students may have their rose-colored glasses on but some current students are feeling that there are improvements outside of Galloway’s “targets” that need to be changed.
“I feel like what I’m learning on set is teaching me how to get a job in the industry, I don’t think any of my classes right now are teaching me how to get a job that I want,” Segal said.
On the flip side, some current students feel they are getting everything and more.
Mackston said, “The materials that I’ve learned throughout my Dodge classes have all been built on top of one another to grant me a broader understanding of the film industry. In short, yes, I do believe that my classes are preparing me to obtain a job in the film industry after graduation.”
With Dodge College on its way to the top, students will never quiet down about what they want to see improved, and Galloway has a lot to listen to.
Griffen Hamilton is a junior studying screenwriting and English. When he isn’t cooped up in his room writing jokes, he can be found playing Clue, winning thumb wars, or watching Survivor.