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UNG adds four-year film degree

David Smith, an associate professor of media studies at UNG, talks with students Ben Olagoke, left, and Clay Brandon about the new RED Scarlet, a high-end digital cinema camera that shoots images four times more detailed than high definition.

In response to a sustained demand for skilled employees in Georgia's growing film industry, the University of North Georgia (UNG) has established a four-year degree in film and digital media. The University System of Georgia's Board of Regents approved the new degree earlier this week.

"The film and digital media degree is a hands-on program that will provide students with a great amount of experience, understanding of motion pictures as a form of expression, and awareness of how to succeed in the industry. Graduates will be ready to step directly into the workforce or can use the degree as preparation for a graduate program," said Dr. Jeff Marker, head of the Department of Communication, Media and Journalism at UNG.

According to a report published by the Motion Picture Association of America, the movie and television business in Georgia, either directly or indirectly, results in nearly 78,000 jobs and $3.8 billion in wages. Of that number, more than one-third are working directly in the industry in the state.

"The film industry is a powerful economic generator and is creating jobs for Georgians as well as new opportunities to a highly skilled workforce," Chris Carr, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said about the state's film industry. "Since 2008, more than 90 companies have located in Georgia to support the industry. These new businesses are generating jobs and ensuring the industry’s sustainability in Georgia well into the future."

UNG's new degree is an expansion of the university's Bachelor of Arts in communications, which already offered a concentration in film and digital media.

"We have offered the film concentration for a couple of years now, but having a separate degree program will allow the department to expand what we offer," Marker said. "We are already beginning to offer more courses in audio production and post-production, two areas of high demand in the Georgia film industry."

UNG's film program has top-of-the-line equipment, state-of-the-art labs with production and editing facilities, and the latest technology for its students to use. For instance, the department’s RED Scarlet, a high-end digital cinema camera that shoots images four times more detailed than high definition (HD), and is used by cinematographers around the world to shoot feature-length movies and documentaries.

Pete Smith, 60, of Flowery Branch returned to college after decades in the workforce to pursue a degree in communication with an emphasis on film and digital media.

"It’s incredible that we’re getting to work with the latest equipment, equipment that’s the industry standard," he said. "Because of this, we’re already up to speed, so it gives us a leg up on making our next career move."

Student interest has helped UNG's film program grow quickly in recent years, Marker said. In November 2013, the Board of Regents approved expanding UNG's two-year communications degree to a four-year degree. With about 60 students expected the first year from the film concentration, Marker projects more than 100 students will be enrolled in the four-year film degree in four years.

UNG also is one of the schools involved in the Georgia Film Academy, a state initiative announced in January by Gov. Nathan Deal and funded by the legislature in this year's budget. UNG's new film degree will encourage students to pursue special interests.

"The program of study requires students to become competent in all aspects of production but also requires them to develop expertise in a particular role," Marker said. "Students can use this program to pursue careers in all aspects of the process, as directors, writers, producers, editors, cinematographers, or digital effects specialists."

For more information about UNG's film or other communication programs, visit the Department of Communication, Media and Journalism website at

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