Above and Beyond the Classroom

Author: Paige Risser


Javi Zubizarreta, a rising senior studying in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre (FTT), says his and his fellow film students’ production ideas have occasionally thrown their professors for a loop.

“We’ll come at them with scripts that call for dinosaurs, monsters, WWII costumes, and all kinds of crazy production needs. And while they might shake their heads at first, they’re right there every step of the way, helping our visions come true,” he says. “When it comes to production, my professors are tremendously supportive of our creative pursuits. I’ve also had tremendous support from faculty when it comes to independent research.”

Indeed, Zubizarreta is already publishing work in a scholarly journal. Called Film Matters, it is the first peer-reviewed journal of undergraduate writing in film studies. Zubizarreta’s essay for the second issue, “Action Stars Who Don’t Get Any Action: Hong Kong Actors in U.S. Roles,” examines how stars such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li are commonly deprived of significant love interests.

Helping drive this kind of undergraduate student success is the department’s faculty-to-student ratio, which is one of the lowest on campus.

“The faculty can focus closely on our individual goals and ambitions and work hard to ensure that we receive the best possible training,” says Eddie Velazquez, a 2010 theatre major. “Many students first notice the wonderful facilities, but they later realize that the strength of the program goes beyond facilities and extends to the strong faculty relationships that enable them to succeed.”


Faculty mentoring and collaboration also go on well beyond the classroom, stage, or studio, often taking students across the country and around the world. Faculty have helped Zubizarreta, for example, travel to Spain and Ireland to study Basque and Irish cinema.

“For my history of film course, our professor also took us on a research trip to Los Angeles” he says. “It’s one thing to read about classical Hollywood and the studio system. It’s another to hold the original Casablanca script with all of Michael Curtiz’s handwritten notes inside.

“FTT at ND does a great job of taking lessons outside of the classroom—literally,” says Zubizarreta, “and that is a great environment to learn in and grow.”

Originally published by Paige Risser at ftt.nd.edu on August 16, 2010.