PASSING by the office of University Cinema Associates at 930 Massachusetts Avenue, one notices that the picture window of their second floor office has been broken; perhaps the product of a rock thrown by an angry radical. The broken part of the window is patched up with a pink valentine on which is scrawled the single word "Please."
This as much as anything typifies the philosophy behind the Orson Welles Cinema and its brothers and sisters in the UCA complex. To charges of hip capitalism, the people at UCA will respond that there can be something of a romantic vision in a corporate venture, and that the venture can be of service to the community.
Frances Gitter, administrative director of UCA's latest venture, The Film School, and wife of Dean Gitter, one of the founding fathers of the Welles, explains the philosophy behind the UCA complex: "From the beginning, Dean and Peter [Peter Jaszi, program director at the Welles], and I felt that the actual presentation of films had been so plastic. We wanted a place where people could sit-down and talk. We've always thought of the Welles as a framework for generating real community feeling."
In order to reinforce this sense of community, UCA is trying to bring together members of the community who ordinarily don't come in contact with each other. One way they are doing this is through the Restaurant.
The Restaurant is described by the UCA people as an "international farmhouse cookery" encompassing food from France, Greece, and Armenia. But UCA is quick to point out that the culinary aspects of the Restaurant are by no means its most innovative aspects. The theme of the Restaurant is "brotherhood," and UCA sees dining as a group experience. What this means is that dinners will be served only for groups dining together. If a single individual or couple comes in, he or they will be seated with others to make up groups of four (for luncheon) or eight (for dinner). Since portions are designed for groups, strangers will thus have a reason to talk to each other, even if only to decide what to eat.
"For people who have dropped out of the money economy for one reason or another," said Frances Gitter, "we'll allow them to barter for meals. Also, hopefully, we'll be able to open soup kitchens from the profits of the Restaurant." The Restaurant should open early this week.
IN THE Film School, too, UCA is trying to bring together all sorts of people who ordinarily wouldn't see each other. Only about half of the 250 people already enrolled in The Film School are student types under 30; and the enrollment ranges from 15 year-old high school kids to 65-year-old retired doctors.
However good in theory such a diverse student body might be, it might well provide the UCA teaching staff with a few problems. The school offers eight courses, five history/ theory courses and three courses on practical filmmaking, and in any one of them a student with a fair amount of experience might find his progress being slowed by a class with little or no experience.
Some of the problems of The Film School faces now are purely logistical and should be ironed out soon. For instance, will the new complex (classrooms, labs, and 230 seat screening room) behind the present Welles Cinema open within the next two weeks as scheduled? If not, the practical filmmaking courses which will rely heavily on laboratory work, won't, as one UCA staff member said, "be worth shit."
Already The Film School boasts students enrolled in all eight of its courses, students who seem to be using the school as a full-scale film program. Frances Gitter said, "We have no structured program as yet, but we're working on it. They [the students currently enrolled] will want a progression from where they are and we want to be able to give them that without getting stuffy and heavy and losing flexibility. We realize that it is easier said than done."
Of course, any criticism of The Film School at this point is purely speculative. Most of the courses have only met once and instructors are in the process of finding out what their students are like and how to deal with them.
THOUGH students at The Film School might find their first semester riddled with a few of the problems that beset most schools during their first year of operation, they will also have their share of benefits. All students will get half-price admission to all commercial showings at the Welles Cinema, students will be able to buy books and equipment at UCA's F Stop at a substantial discount (cost plus ten per cent) and selected student filmmakers will get a chance to display their work at special screening sessions at the Welles.
Whether UCA is treading the waters of hip capitalism or is genuinely trying to serve the community remains a moot question. What is important is that The Film School is one of the only alternatives open to non-university students who are interested in film and university students who are not lucky enough to get into the Visual Etudies course of their choice. Applications at The Film School are accepted entirely on a first-come-first-served basis.
The five history/theory courses include:
Film History; Wednesdays, 3-6 p. m., October 7-December 16 (tensessions).