Thursday, November 29, 2012

"SouthLAnd" -- A Case Study Course Proposal For John Paul The Great Catholic University

I have learned that there is a rather prestigious university that offers a course based on the TV series "The O.C." So, I have decided to propose such a course based on the series "SouthLAnd" for my daughter's alma mater, John Paul the Great Catholic University (referred to herein as JP Catholic).

JP Catholic is a university which concentrates on instructing students in the areas of entrepreneurial business and media.  One of the degrees offered is a B.S. in Communications Media with an emphasis in Entertainment Media.  The course which I am proposing would be particularly applicable to this degree.

"SouthLAnd" is a television series centering around the lives and work of officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.  It is a work of fiction, but the storylines are based on the actual experiences of these officers.  The show began its run in 2008 and will be entering its 5th season on the network TNT in February of 2013.

Media students may benefit from the study of the following aspects of "SouthLAnd":

     1. technical -- cinematography and sound:  "SouthLAnd" is filmed primarily on location using hand-held cameras.  Much of the work is done outdoors.  A lot of the action and dialogue take place in moving vehicles.  These things present special challenges to the film-maker.  Learning how these challenges are met by the technical crew of "SouthLAnd" would be invaluable to the students.
     2.  writing -- The students will:
          a.  examine how character arcs are adequately developed when a series contains a relatively large number of main characters, as this show does.
          b.  study how the development of each character in this show leads to many possibilities for future plot lines.  The students may also practice writing future plot lines for the various personas, with a special emphasis on keeping each one appropriately in character, and yet letting each develop in a manner that would be engaging to an audience.
          c.  learn how to write appropriately for this specific genre, asking -- for each type of character -- how he/she would think, speak, and behave.  This may be a bit difficult for young film students, but is an essential part of learning to write a story well.
     3.  directing -- The students will:
          a.  study how this job is structured when a show is as complex as "SouthLAnd".  Each show involves many locations, scenes, and story lines.  Is the job delegated to many assistant directors?  If so, how much say does the principal director have over the decisions of the assistant directors?  How do they coordinate their activities?  If the show is directed -- for the most part -- by one person, how does that individual schedule his/her time in order to complete each episode efficiently?  How does that individual ensure the quality of each episode when being bound by a tight shooting schedule?
          b.  examine how to direct a show that may contain some disturbing elements -- such as the violence which would necessarily be a part of this type of series.  The students will ask themselves how these elements can be realistically and appropriately portrayed.  I believe "SouthLAnd" does an excellent job with this, and the students could greatly benefit from a study of it.
          c.  examine how to direct a show that contains some elements that may be personally uncomfortable for them -- such as strong language and sexual content.  How does a director handle these scenes, so as to ensure the show's realism, while at the same time ensuring that the cast and crew are treated with dignity.
     4.  production:  "SouthLAnd" utilizes many different locations and sets for each episode.  The students will study how such a complex series is managed by those tasked with both securing locations and props and decorating sets.
     5.  public relations and marketing -- The students will:
          a.  learn how a target audience for a show such as "SouthLAnd" is determined.
          b.  learn how a target audience for this show would be reached and how the marketing of the show to that target audience would be best accomplished, based on that audience's demographic.
          c.  ask themselves what type of television network would be a good fit for a show of this genre, and learn how to best pitch that show to such a network.
          d.  discover how the cooperation of the LAPD has been enlisted for the production of "SouthLAnd".  What was necessary for that cooperation to come about?  What is necessary for that cooperation to be sustained over several seasons?
     6.  Catholic thought -- As this is a Catholic university, the students can examine this show relative to Catholic teaching, as follows:
          a.  The students will ask themselves what qualities of each character and character arc, and which elements of the individual episodes and overall story lines, are consistent with authentic Catholic teaching.  Having discovered this, they can examine how these things are presented in a way that is believable and sensitive, not "preachy" or condescending.
          b.  The students will also ask themselves what elements of the show are not strictly in line with Catholic thought.  They will be asked to discuss, in a way which invites their sincere opinions:
               *Is it appropriate for a Catholic person to incorporate non-Catholic ideas into his/her stories?
               *If not, why not?
               *If so, why?
               *How can the inclusion of non-Catholic, or even anti-Catholic, ideas in a television show contribute to beneficial discourse in our society between people of differing opinions?

If you are still reading at this point, thank-you for lending a listening ear to this proposal.  I realize that it is problematic in various ways.  For example, the students would have to actually watch the show.  How they would accomplish that would have to be determined.  And the scope of the course I have outlined is quite broad, so it would probably have to be narrowed down quite a bit.  I do think, though, that this type of course would benefit an aspiring film-maker.  And a case study can be a very valuable learning experience, as the merely conceptual takes on a more concrete form.

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