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Neoliberal film schools

Hawkins, Dillon
This dissertation explores the neoliberalization of higher education and its impact on practice-based film education. Thanks to neoliberalism—a political economic practice characterized by an emphasis on free-market capitalism, limited government intervention in the economy, and the promotion of individual and corporate self-interest—film schools are recognized by the film industry, and in some cases regional economies, as essential infrastructure for industrial practices and economic development. Thus, the film industry and governments have become major financial contributors to film schools and assisting curriculum reorganization to privilege industry and economic concerns. Understanding neoliberalism’s impact on education, film schools have also promoted themselves to the industry to amass financial assistance. Film schools under neoliberalism, then, can be understood as complicit sites of knowledge and labor production for practices preferred by industry as a means of survival. However, there cannot always be a one-to-one correlation between the values of a film school and its students. Film school students can and often do negotiate their film school education, if not outright oppose it. Case studies in this dissertation include major film schools situated in U.S. universities, like University of Southern California (USC) and New York University (NYU), to outline the concept of a neoliberal film school, before turning to community college film schools situated in regional film industries, like Georgia and New Mexico, to underscore how they function as infrastructure for the so-called post-Fordist film industry and their region’s economic redevelopment. Finally, the dissertation turns to a reconceptualization of international film schools under globalization accelerated by neoliberalism. Globalization discourses allows scholars to re-evaluate previous assumptions about nation and film schools to understand how some institutions and their students may operate with different missions than that of the nation-state—or how some schools originating as nation-state projects have morphed under the specter of neoliberalism.