Nestled inside Doak Campbell Stadium where the Florida State Seminoles play championship-caliber football is the most famous program people have never have heard of — the FSU College of Motion Picture Arts. Moonlight, the film that took best picture honors at the Oscars, was made by a group of FSU film school graduates, most notably, director Barry Jenkins, who recruited a half-dozen other alumni to work on the movie. It is a coup for Jenkins, an honor for the film school and a reminder of the importance of the arts in higher education. Let legislators keep that in mind when they convene next week.
Jenkins was a student at FSU 17 years ago when he walked past the stadium and discovered the film school. Curious, he applied and joined the 30 students welcomed into the school each year. Late in 2015, Jenkins returned to his childhood neighborhood — Miami's Liberty City — with his crew of alums to film Moonlight, the coming-of-age story of a gay black man.
"It shines a light on what we do," said the film school's interim dean, Reb Braddock. "We take smart kids from diverse groups, put them together and learn how to work together professionally, that's a really big thing."
The film school is still relatively young, established by the Legislature in 1989. It has done many things right and can serve as a guide for setting up higher education to excel in Florida. First, it has a clear mission: Without apology, it relentlessly asserts that the arts matter in the real world. The school teaches not just the art and aesthetics of film but also the technical and practical aspects that are needed to turn that art into reality. Second, it works in the realm of the possible. Rather than expanding into a size that could become a mediocre, watered-down program, the film school has remained tight and focused, giving its small cadre of graduates the skills, expertise and equipment they need to thrive in their chosen industry. Most important, it nurtured them to create the art we all need — and in this case, the best movie of the year.
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