Seattle Central Community College Guts a Treasure

The Best Film and Video Program in the Region—and the Only One That Costs Less Than $25,000—Is Disappearing

Seattle Central Community College Guts a Treasure

Trent Roberts and Jesse Lomax

A STILL FROM ‘GETTING OVER’ Jesse Lomax’s graffiti film is surprising, subtle, and complex.

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Jesse Lomax couldn't even answer the question. How did Seattle Central Community College's film and video program affect your life? The college had announced two days earlier—on June 14—that it would be eliminating the film and video program after 25 years. Lomax just stood there, his eyes welling up. He was on the seventh floor of the Sorrento Hotel, looking out over the city, attending a reception to celebrate this year's 20 graduates. All the program's spots were filled; they always are. "We didn't know if he was going to be interested in anything until this," his mother said quietly.

Another voice—louder, angry—came to mind.

"This is gutting a treasure," said John Gordon Hill, a filmmaker and president of the board of Cornish College of the Arts, which does not have a film school. Neither does the University of Washington. The only other film programs besides SCCC's are at the private Art Institute of Seattle and Seattle Film Institute, where tuition costs $87,300 (for a bachelor's degree, the only available comparable degree) and $24,900, respectively. At SCCC, tuition for the entire two-year program in film and video was $6,500.

"This shouldn't be this good, and it is this good—it's the best in the region," said Hill. "How many other centers of excellence does SCCC have that it can be so cavalier?" (At least one: SCCC is known for its 33-year-old apparel design program—which was also on the chopping block last week but was then narrowly saved, and is now said to be "seeking efficiencies.")

"Other film programs," Hill continued, "teach you what to do. This program teaches you why you're doing it."

Lomax had been a tagger. He'd been in trouble with the law. Now he was talking about moving to LA for film work, maybe getting his bachelor's. His short movie, "Getting Over," had been a hit at the pre-reception screening at Seattle Art Museum. "Getting Over" told the stories of graffiti writers in Seattle, following them up onto green steel girders of bridges under wet skies and orange streetlights.

"I'm not gonna be in the NBA," one said. "So I'm gonna do what I can to be the next man in this."

In a surprise move, the camera panned out on one tagger being interviewed. It revealed that he's in a wheelchair—he lost his right arm and the use of his legs when he fell from a bridge and broke his back while drunk, high, and tagging. "Getting Over" was more than pro or con with regard to graffiti. It was a subtle, complex thing; there was art in there. The same goes for the program. It was more than strictly a technical or academic exercise for Lomax.

"I'm Jennie Grant, president of the Goat Justice League," the older lady on the screen sweetly said during a different video. She was one of the subjects in SCCC's student film showcase last week, which included documentaries, features, and a couple of creative ads. Subjects included: enviro-nerds (a beekeeper, a rooftop gardener, a goat lady who fought to make dairy goats legal in Seattle—now there are 36 of them registered in the city), artists making clay pots and photos in darkrooms, a misunderstood crossdressing straight man, a woman into corsetry (needles pierced through her arms, ribbons entwined among the needles), a guy teaching hiphop clowning to kids after school because he's madly in love with dancing and will do it anywhere (in the parking lot, in the hallway—"He dances a lot of places," one kid says), two self-consciously (humorously) white hiphop boys, a fierce black woman slam poet ("I always say my middle name so that all the people that said I wouldn't make it will know when I do make it that it's me"), a trio of drug-addicted single mothers and the women helping them, little girls with corporate dreams, a sleepwalking version of Rocky Balboa.

Some films were very good. Others were just okay. But together, they composed an incomparable portrait of the city as a city. This is the messy, economically diverse place that conservatives flee for the suburbs. SCCC's film and video program represents a version of Seattle that feels endangered, as budget cuts slash into basic services and do away with affordable education. SCCC is doing away with three programs this year (film and video, the publishing arts, and interpreter training), and even more important, tuition is set to rise by 12 percent next year—and an additional 12 percent the year after (a final decision about that will be made by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges on June 23).

Meanwhile, the central-city neighborhood immediately surrounding SCCC has undergone a condos-and-cuteness boom in the last five years.

"Capitol Hill is a place I've lived for 15 years," said Mark Rogers, one of the graduates, who also works as a guard at the Frye Art Museum and a server at Cafe Presse. His background is in photography, and he's also a writer; SCCC seemed the right way to marry the two. The film and video program is known, as Hill pointed out, for its liberal arts approach, not just its technical know-how.

"This is a school I've had great respect for," Rogers said. "I thought a community college was for the community. But I don't know; maybe this is the way Seattle's gonna go. It's—it is breaking my heart."

Marty Oppenheimer, owner of Oppenheimer Cine Rental, took the stage at the packed screening to encourage supporters to write the college administration in protest: "The college has a low level of respect for this program, but it has reached the lowest level," he said.

"The program is Seattle's, and possibly Washington State's, most comprehensive, hands-on, real-life preparation and education for crew employees entering the film industry," Seattle Office of Film & Music coordinator Chris Swenson wrote in a testimonial. Other testimonials came in from graduates now working everywhere: CNN, Microsoft, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Warner Bros., Tori Spelling's TV reality show, America's Next Top Model, the Dutch education board, Getty Images, SIFF, Disney. "The loss of the... film program... would have a huge negative impact in attracting and retaining film productions in Seattle."

Sal Tonacchio, one of the program's two leaders—Sandy Cioffi is the other—said the department wasn't given the chance to propose internal cuts before it was axed wholesale. "I just can't believe a community college, which reaches so many people who don't otherwise get reached, would cut a film program when we are so surrounded by visual culture," Tonacchio said.

"This has been coming for a decade," said Cioffi, "and they didn't do anything to stop it. The college administration is using the revenue issue as cover of darkness to do something because of their lack of imagination." For Cioffi, the maker of the documentary Sweet Crude and a candidate for Seattle City Council until she withdrew on the same day the SCCC program was cut, this decision is yet another example of widespread cultural privatization. "Our storytellers will have to be independently wealthy," she said. "Is that the future you want?"

Onstage Thursday night, the graduates didn't know quite what to say when asked about the future of the program. They were trying to celebrate their graduation, after all.

"I'll say something," said a woman who took the mic after an extended silence. She had introduced herself earlier as Christy X, sometimes Christy NC-17, "a supporter of the underdogs of the universe."

"I'm 38 years old, I'm a single parent, and I'm one of four single parents on this stage," she said. "This was once in a lifetime for me..."

Latesha "Livewire" Miller picked up where Christy left off.

"I'm another of the single parents," she said. "I have three kids—11, 10, and 9—and they got to see that I'm not afraid to go do a career that fulfills my heart. I did other work for 10 years. Then I got a chance. Not everyone's gonna get a chance." recommended


Comments (49) RSS

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As the program's leaders, how responsible are Sal Tonacchio and Sandy Cioffi for the demise?
Posted by clint on June 22, 2011 at 1:40 PM · Report this
Sandy Cioffi and Sal Tonacchio fought for the program harder than anyone. Every chance the school had to shut us down, (I was a student in the program this year) both of our instructors pulled for our success. I can't tell you the amount of sleep Sandy and Sal lost over trying to keep it going just this year. I have had many a talk with both of them over the frustration they were experiencing with administration of SCCC. Story tellers will always be stifled no matter what the venue. I just hope people will open their eyes to fighting for such a great program.
Posted by llukeknecht123 on June 22, 2011 at 3:52 PM · Report this
Sal and Sandy are the reason for the program's excellence. They poured themselves into it and fought like hell to save it.
Posted by jghill on June 22, 2011 at 3:59 PM · Report this
It's a good article, but I kept looking for where the author interviewed the SCCC administration to see what they have to sat about why they cut the program, about this outpouring of support, and about the motives being attrbuted to them by the people quoted in the article. I think this was a very shortsighted and wrongheaded decision, but still think your feature writer should have been curious enough to find out what the responsible parties had to say in defense of their thinking.
Posted by Criticus on June 22, 2011 at 5:22 PM · Report this

MS. GRAVES, great story (a sad story). Look for much, much more of this. The USA (by design) is in massive debt and verging on default sooner than later. This is just the tip of the iceberg. "Public Programs" are going bye bye. We should get used to it. As a society, we have decided, screw everybody else, i got mine, let 'em suck rocks. Really, that's the ethos of now, especially here in hip-o-crit Seattle.
Posted by Wild Bill on June 22, 2011 at 5:37 PM · Report this
"Meanwhile, the central-city neighborhood immediately surrounding SCCC has undergone a condos-and-cuteness boom in the last five years."

UH, some apartments and some Corprorate "Art Store" bread and Sushi joints and a Walgreen's ain't a boom. How many of those units above the coporate bread joint are rented? CUT? That cookie cutter crap?---Multi use project7-b-12, now serving 100 cities.

facts is facts.....The Egypto-Vison untouched, Bill's Off Broadway, untouched, the Mercedes joint, the pizza by the slice, Rudy's the Teriyaki joint to the West unchanged....the old Sizzler/Chang's building demolished, jack in the Crack gone, etc etc,,,,,Neighbors still there, the Taco del Mar etc etc....

BOOM? where, we're in a fucking depression

ain't no Boom on Broadway.
Posted by Wild Bill on June 22, 2011 at 5:47 PM · Report this
"....central-city neighborhood...'

By the by, it's called fucking Capitol Hill, on Broadway for God's sake, what are you, from Phoenix,,,(I know you're not)....Anyway, still a good story.
Posted by Wild Bill on June 22, 2011 at 5:58 PM · Report this
No doubt that some students taking the class feel that everything was wonderful and the leadership shouldn't be held accountable at all. But, it seems like just last week that I was reading the Stranger's coverage of Sandy Cioffi's ill advised run for city council. The thing that I keep wondering is whether she would have had more success fighting for the program if she wouldn't have been distracted by a failed political campaign. The timing of this raises some questions that I wish Jen Graves would have tried to answer.
Posted by clint on June 22, 2011 at 7:51 PM · Report this
"No doubt that some students taking the class feel that everything was wonderful and the leadership shouldn't be held accountable at all."

Clint - As a second year student in SCCC's Film and Video program I did more than "take a class" - I committed to a rigorous two year program - I was taught the professional in's and out's of: Film history, sound, script writing, team work, cinematography, lighting, budgeting, directing, producing and acting.

I experienced the frustration of being mislead by college administration, of being literally shut out of work study hours/access to our building for several critical weeks during the year. The pressure mounted as I watched our die-hard instructors push, pull and fight for the department (US!) to get the supplies/gear we needed for our hands on training and learning experience.

All this, AND we produced real work. And "this" was just the beginning of the struggle...

There was certainly nothing wonderful about shooting the immediate protests that followed the announcement of our program being on the chopping block, and it was a sub-zero kind of wonderful graduating under this mess of slamming doors in our face, courtesy of Seattle Central.

You mentioned leadership - What part of "leadership" are you talking about? Killpatrick, Brown or Pham? When I attended my walk and shouted: "Single parents in Film and Video" I was talking about myself. I wrote several key administrators a heart felt email regarding the closure of the program and only got a response from one "leader", AFTER I spoke my peace at graduation, what does this say about the college leadership IN SPITE of "budget cuts"?

As for Sandy? Do you know her? Have you sat in her office and spoken to her? I have. To insinuate that she could have been "more successful" at fighting for the program if she hadn't run for office is ridiculous and insulting. Her personal decision to pull out of the race is her business, and the closure of the program is everyone's business. Those lines can't be blurred. One doesn't lead into the other.

The administrations actions toward our department over the past year, and current decision to dog us doesn't rest solely on her shoulders. If you actually knew this person, , you might have a different opinion.

Sandy fought tooth and nail this year to make sure we had the gear we needed and pushed even harder to make sure that our voices were heard, in spite of the bureaucracy, lack of communication from the administration and overall craziness. In addition, she worked hard behind the scenes to negotiate a new teacher contract. Sal is always working, day and night, creating and implementing new ideas to make the program work/run more efficiently. They both care! How can that be questioned?

Without the guidance and leadership of both Sal and Sandy, there would have been no resolution when we were shut out of our own work space. Both of our instructors did their best to accommodate students, going above and beyond to help each of us individually with our personal projects. They found the best industry people in town to lecture and teach us. What more could anyone ask for?

Nothing is perfect, but the best parts of our program, came close.

The only part that was wonderful for me, personally, over the past two years was coming into a place everyday where I knew that I could be myself. I was taught by the best and embraced it. I was only one, out of twenty students who pursued social documentary work, and at times it was very challenging - BUT, being taught by a documentary filmmaker gave me the edge and support I needed to create my style and hone my craft/skills. This is the stuff that dreams are made of, and Sal and Sandy made it possible for me.

I am grateful that Jennifer wrote this article, the community needs to understand the impact of closing ONE film program down. It's not about entertainment value or whether someone lands a J.O.B, it's about the people, the principles of filmmaking and the passion behind it.


Posted by christyx http://guerrillafilms.co on June 23, 2011 at 2:59 AM · Report this
The tragedy is that SCCC Film and Video Department contributes to Seattle's economy by providing job training, future careers and future tax paying citizens. In so many parts of the country, only the rich can afford programs like this. If parents can't fork over $40,000 for a program, then either students borrow the money or never get an education. Is that a democracy? Is that the kind of future we want for Seattle and this country?

In discussion about cuts at Seattle colleges, where do you hear that excess administrative staff, bloated bureaucracies and highly paid deans and presidents take pay cuts or actually loose their funding? Exactly how much is the president of SCCC making a year? How many admin positions fill up his/her office?

If SCCC approached their budget issues like a real business, programs like the Film and Video department would not be touched at all. Why? Because it sells out; it attracts customers (students), and it creates incredible great PR (marketing). Instead a business would cut non-revenue creating jobs like deans, assistants to the president, and other bureaucratic admin jobs - where often these persons get paid much, much more than teaching staff.

Let's hope Seattle wakes up and saves this program so vital to its economy and culture

Posted by Acetracy on June 23, 2011 at 4:34 AM · Report this
SCCC Film and Video program is exactly what the Seattle and the US economy so desperately need: job training. This program has always had more than double the amount of applicants than available spaces which proves how successful the program is in creating future tax paying, working citizens.

The US economy and especially the SEattle economy are facing the worst unemployment since the Great Depression. Among youth without college degrees unemployment rates are up to 25%. Yet SCCC is cutting programs that not only give Seattle youth skills and degrees that will provide them jobs, they are also gutting a vital program integral to the culture of Seattle.

As the article points out, if SCCC Film and Video program is cut only students with parents that can fork over $30,000 plus will have any chance of an education. How do we expect the economy to improve and our democracy work if only the elite can afford education.

What is not said here or in any of the articles about SCCC, is why there are not cuts in the administration at SCCC. SCCC president makes a large six digit salary and has a huge staff. Deans are paid much, much more than teaching staff. Assistants to the president keep their jobs. If SCCC was really run like a business, the Film and Video program would not be cut because it produces results and revenue for SCCC, and instead you would see admin positions cut and bloated salaries of bureaucrats cut.

Where is the shared sacrifice on the part of the administration?

Let's hope Seattle wakes up soon to this tragedy and saves SCCC's Film and Video program.
Posted by Acetracy on June 23, 2011 at 4:58 AM · Report this
@9 I am not questioning whether or not they care. It seems pretty obvious that they do care and I agree wholeheartedly that this is/was a valuable program. I just question their effectiveness as leaders (not necessarily as teachers). It is too simplistic to infer that it is all the result of budget cuts and an evil, right-wing administration that just didn’t get it. It was the leaders’ job to make sure that decision makers fully understood the value of the program, realize it is so vital that killing it was not an option and to get creative about filling funding gaps. Based on Cioffi's campaign rhetoric and your defense, it seems like she is a passionate and impulsive individual. Was she an effective leader? With an imploded political campaign in her recent past and the death of an important program on her watch, the evidence doesn’t seem to support it.
Posted by clint on June 23, 2011 at 10:02 AM · Report this
I graduated from that program 10 years ago; Sandy was not part of the program yet, unfortunately because she really is an asset.

Sal was always very protective of the students who where motivated and hard-working; not everyone graduated who started - there were only 13 out of the original 32 who made it in my class. I've worked with students, and instructors, from the Art institute and have had to show them how to do the job they spent 90K learning how to do. The instructor that Sandy replaced now works with Seattle Film Institute - he was awful as a teacher and a generally sleazy individual and only lasted a year at SCCC; now you can pay 5 times as much to learn from him.

The course is difficult and stressful but so is the industry. Sal would always remind us that we are in the 'real world' and to take our projects seriously. Those of us who finished certainly did. Out of the dozen final projects produced by students my graduating year, at least 2 received Telly Awards and one of the projects I worked on my first year received a Telly as well.

How the school could drop a program that produces these results is beyond me.
Posted by aneeta's rose on June 23, 2011 at 11:45 AM · Report this
Bellevue College still has a thriving film and video program.
Posted by rose gee on June 23, 2011 at 1:04 PM · Report this
Only thing that will save the program is revenue. I propose as I always have that we do a "Reality Show" on the film program. Old graduates can be the crew creating jobs, and the new students struggle to get thru, a wonderful tale. Now lets stop bickering and start FILMING!
Posted by shewontstop on June 23, 2011 at 1:24 PM · Report this
Bellevue College has a Digital Video program and thriving Film Studies and
Movie Making in Communications Studies program in Arts and Humanities.

Here is information on their programs:

1. There is a Digital Video program which worker retraining will pay
for that is under Digital Media Arts. The Video Program is a
Professional Technical program - it teaches people how to do video for
three camera productions (soap operas, news, game shows, city council
meetings, sports events, etc.). They also, in Rick Otte's Advanced
Track - do numerous short little pieces on the City of Bellevue and events in and around the local area.

2. Film Studies and Movie Making are part of Communication Studies
(CMST) in Arts and Humanities. They have both an AA degree and a
transfer degree.

There are two places on the Bellevue College site that give you
information on their programs.


The above site has information on their AA Degree in Movie Making
which is a two year program.


This site discusses their Film Studies program whereby you study for
two years with Film Studies as a concentration - this enables you to
use all the film credits for transfer to a four year college or
university for achieving a BA in film.

Students in the screenwriting class often have their films produced
by either the Making Movies class or by the Film Club.

All of their instructors are working professionals in the area of

Bellevue College also has a large film club where students receive
funds from Student Programs to work in groups and create their own
films. The club alternates, sometimes meeting on Thursday afternoons,
other times meeting on Wednesdays. The club often times has local and
out of town guests speakers from the area of film come to their
meetings to talk to it's club members.
Posted by FGBG on June 23, 2011 at 3:26 PM · Report this
As a person who participated in this program several years ago I was not all that impressed. We went from 48 students to 13 in 2 quarters. That is an attrition rate of 73%. As a program to get the people paying good money to get into the business, in my opinion, is pretty poor. I'm not saying there should have been a quota or anything but when less than 27% of the people make it through the first year alone of a 2 year program then the program had other more serious problems.
Posted by Anon234567 on June 23, 2011 at 4:00 PM · Report this
Ballard Pimp 18
Not mentioned in the article is cancellation of the Interpreter Training Program for American Sign Language. Current students will be allowed to finish. Ten years ago it was recognized as the best I.T.P. program on the West Coast. For the past six years it has been cut, one slice at a time. The administration's attitude is simple: "Excellence? Shit, we don't need no excellence here."
Posted by Ballard Pimp on June 23, 2011 at 6:11 PM · Report this
This is very sad indeed. I want to point out though that we still have one excellent four year film and video program at The Evergreen State College. Yes, it is Olympia, but as a recent graduate I can say that the education I received there was incredible. The Northwest needs talented creative, educated grads. I also attended Bellevue College's video program and it was acceptable. Not all is lost here in the Northwest as far as media programs go, but I am scared. Also, SFI is a total scam. I went there to check out their new MFA program and at over 50K with no financial aid and no real track record, it is a waste of time and money.
Posted by studiomonitor82 on June 23, 2011 at 6:23 PM · Report this
I left the program after half a year.
Those who know Sal know he tends to have violent outbursts.
I wasn't about to stay in a program where a teacher would get frustrated at a DVD not working and chuck it across through room, through students like a frisbee.
Or let his frustration get the best of him and push a large metal cart with gear on it halfway across the room and into a door while screaming at the students.
Or claim, in a shouting volume, that sound gear was broken and had to be paid for by students because it definitely had new batteries and there was no way he was wrong. Come to find out, the students were correct and Bob the gear-keeper had forgot to put the new batteries in. Sal had to really struggle to get that apology out.
Classy guy.

I also attended the Seattle Film Institute, which I graduated from, and found to be a much better program.
No psychotic staff members there.
Lifelong mentors that are genuinely interested in helping each student succeed in their field.
Posted by anonymous06 on June 23, 2011 at 6:26 PM · Report this
litlnemo 21
Anon234567, I was someone who dropped out of the program after two quarters (well before you were there, I think -- I was in the first cohort of students in the program, back in the 80s), and it had nothing to do with the program itself. It had everything to do with my lack of money and (at that point) ineligibility for financial aid. (Long story.) People drop out for a lot of reasons that may not have anything to do with the quality of a program. (Some years I went back and completed an AA at SCCC but did not return to that program, though I would have liked to.)

Additionally, a program like Film/Video will tend to draw folks who think it's all fun and goofing off with a camera, and when they realize there is real work involved, they drop out. I don't think losing those people is a bad thing.

You were in the program, so there may have been serious problems that you know of at that time. I just don't think the attrition rate is proof of that.

(The ITP program is going too? Yeesh. They already killed off the City Collegian. What's going to be left from when I was there?)
Posted by litlnemo http://slumberland.org/ on June 23, 2011 at 6:31 PM · Report this
litlnemo 22
"Some years later I went back...", I mean. Damn typos.
Posted by litlnemo http://slumberland.org/ on June 23, 2011 at 6:34 PM · Report this
The fact is that the state handed down a budget that demanded cuts. Those looking to the SCCC administration as scapegoats for cutting programs neglect to say which programs THEY think should be cut. Because there is no option where programs don't get cut and staff don't get let go.

This is all fallout from our state's revenue debacle, which is what happens when people decide they shouldn't have to pay taxes for the services they receive, consequences be damned.

I guarantee you that nobody at SCCC would have chosen to cut any programs if they were given a choice.
Posted by Yes, but don't cut MY program! on June 23, 2011 at 6:37 PM · Report this
I graduated from this program in 1989. I don't remember any classmates dropping out; we bucked up and supported each other. One classmate helped me complete my final project as, through the program, I'd gotten a job on a film shooting locally, which starred Shirley MacLaine. One of our classmates was there to create media for the sign language community.

We had Mac design and PC mastery courses every quarter, which helped with the support classes in Media Law and Psychology. Based on the solid competencies learned in this program, I was able to move to LA and became an Avid editor. I've gone on to write and am packaging a successful pitch to an animation studio. "We weren't just taught how; we were taught Why" is a perfect summation.

When I applied for an internship at KING-TV, I was literally laughed at. "We got our intern from Northwestern, and we were slumming when we did that" the man told me. I feel amazed that the program lasted as long as it had, lacking such critical support from the community. Seems like they'd rather have marginalized people like me on welfare.
Posted by Escaped Poverty on June 23, 2011 at 9:27 PM · Report this
I attended this program for the one year. It's cheaper and more practical to get your own camera and start making some friggin' films. And go read some books. This ain't UCLA. Sal is quite unstable. Seemed like he had some power issues. He definately didn't foster an atmosphere of creativity. I know there are some people who came to the program to goof around, but there are other ways to deal with that than being a tyrant. Some people liked his style. Masochists I suppose.

Also...There seemed to be a fascination with being a victim. The "Art" was always about suicide, drug use, or hating on "the man". Maybe everyone needed to go to therapy instead of film school. There wasn't an original thought in the room, just rehashed left wing politics. I always thought good art transcended but could include politics. A good teacher will make you aware of that.

Classes would start completely full and be down to like 13 students by the second year. Some would tell you that it's because it so "difficult". It wasn't difficult and I got A's. I just found it to be an intellectually and creatively incestuous environment. Grading was subjective so if you didn't fit into the box, you would be graded accordingly. If you were there for the technical aspect, then the program didn't go deep enough. I'm suprised the program lasted this long.

Anyway...my two cents.

Posted by wordup on June 24, 2011 at 12:39 AM · Report this
It is easy to be short sighted here and blame two easy targets: state budgets ande the program teachers (for apparently having to do double duty as instructors and administrators), but the truth is that Seattle central has been mismanaged.

They are members of a district where other campuses aren't having to drastically and suddenly shut down several programs. No, this is happening now because administrators in the past haven't been doing their job well.

Which is why it's funny for people with a polical axe to grind to blame the instructors "as leaders" for not doing enough. The program had consistent high enrollments and high graduation rates--the instuctional leaders did their job.

Administration had a choice: to cut programs outrigt (which they've done) or to cut a little bit from all the programs so they all could share the pain(which is what other colleges are doing).

It would have been nice to hear the administration's logic and evidence for their choice.
Posted by TheNorwegian on June 24, 2011 at 8:58 AM · Report this
It is easy to be short sighted here and blame two easy targets: state budgets ande the program teachers (for apparently having to do double duty as instructors and administrators), but the truth is that Seattle central has been mismanaged.

They are members of a district where other campuses aren't having to drastically and suddenly shut down several programs. No, this is happening now because administrators in the past haven't been doing their job well.

Which is why it's funny for people with a polical axe to grind to blame the instructors "as leaders" for not doing enough. The program had consistent high enrollments and high graduation rates--the instuctional leaders did their job.

Administration had a choice: to cut programs outrigt (which they've done) or to cut a little bit from all the programs so they all could share the pain(which is what other colleges are doing).

It would have been nice to hear the administration's logic and evidence for their choice.
Posted by TheNorwegiam on June 24, 2011 at 9:01 AM · Report this
Bellevue College has an excellent film program - just head over here ;)
Posted by lancebramsay on June 24, 2011 at 10:43 AM · Report this
While the UW does not have a full-time degree program, it does have a certificate program in The Art of Film and Video.

In this program, students study part-time with award-winning practitioners in the field of film, and complete a short film on DVD.

Posted by UW certificate "The Art of Film and Video" on June 24, 2011 at 11:42 AM · Report this
@26 Jen Graves called them “leaders” in her article. I’ve never been a “leader” or an “administrator” at an educational institution, and I am lacking details so I could be way off on what the actual responsibilities are. I do have a limited knowledge of film and video processes though. The thing is, it’s an incredibly expensive endeavor. Video equipment is very costly and is constantly being rendered obsolete. Film equipment has a bit more of a shelf life, but the processing makes it as least as expensive as an alternative.

I’m guessing that isn’t news to the leaders of the program. But, I’d expect them to put that knowledge to good use. I’d expect them to realize that with enrollments of that size, the program probably isn’t breaking even just based on the equipment expenses, let alone factoring in labor costs. I’d expect that knowledge to motivate them to build relationships with the administrators and constantly build the case for the program’s value regardless of the cost. I’d hope that they would use concrete examples by finding graduates now working in the industry to contact the administrators to let them know how valuable the program was to them. I’d also think that they would contact all of the businesses that had partnered with the program to provide internship and employment opportunities to make sure that they were letting administrators know just how valuable the program was. I would also think they would make sure to be looking for educational programs that corporations have to show how they could trim some of the costs of the program. I would expect them to know that it was an uphill battle, but I would not expect the leaders to be surprised by the death of the program on their watch. They should have at least had some indication that it was coming. If they didn’t, it doesn’t seem like they were plugged in enough to what was going on around them.

But, who knows? Like I said, I don’t have all the details. Maybe the leaders did all of those things above and it was all a failure of administrators. Maybe none of that is truly a “leader”’s job.

My guess though as to how the decision went down was probably something along the lines of, “Film and Video. Super expensive. Instructors are hard to deal with. We can have ten sign language classes (or insert program with least amount of overhead here) with that money AND we can sell off all of that equipment to help close the gap somewhere else. Anyone against killing this?”
Posted by clint on June 24, 2011 at 4:04 PM · Report this
Seattle Central Community College's film/video program was a leader in the community in terms of higher education opportunities. We in the media community are sad that SCCC's administration decided to cut it despite its popularity and good reputation.

However, the article fails to mention that there are two-year video production programs at both Bellevue Community College and Shoreline Community College. There are still options for those students looking to do film and video work for under $25,000 a year in tuition in the Seattle area. There are also state-funded four-year schools - The Evergreen State College, Eastern Washington University, and Central Washington University - that have media production programs in the region.

While SCCC was a great program in a central location there are still other media production options for those looking to study film/video in college in the region. I feel that these points were sorely overlooked in this article.
Posted by Tigrus on June 24, 2011 at 4:51 PM · Report this
Sccc is all about churning out nursing students, dental hygenists, and business majors.

That's why they axed their award-winning newspaper. It was widely acknowledged as one of the best college newspapers (not just community college) in the nation. The nation. But it wasn't making money.

That's why they aren't tenuring new humanities professors.

That's why the 4th floor (humanities div.) is a festering dump full of broken furniture, equipment that doesn't work, and malfunctioning restrooms, while the rest of the campus gets regular upkeep.

Dental hygenists and business majors have high completion rates, easy curriculum, don't require flashy video equipment, and most of all... They aren't a bunch of single moms and weird activists causing 'problems'. 'Problem' is college admin-speak for Culture.
Posted by Anonymous Commenter on June 25, 2011 at 1:32 PM · Report this

I was an SCCC student for three years, until I switched to Olympic College in Bremerton (!!!!) because they still have a functioning student paper.

I watched the trend written about here, but begun a decade ago, from the sidelines and from the thick of it.

The fact is, in a time of budget cuts, the administration wants winners. Humanities and arts departments are full of misfits and malcontents. Art is messy. The successes it breeds are as often personal as financial. Non-completion rates are high.

Business programs, on the other hand, make winners. So do nursing, DH, and math programs. College administrations want winners.
Posted by Anonymous Commenter on June 25, 2011 at 1:41 PM · Report this
the Bellevue program is not the Seattle program. It can fuck off. Plus it's in Bellevue. The point is, this program got axed by people who didn't take the time to walk through it, spend a few days in the classes, or even get a sense of what it was they were destroying. There is NO ARGUMENT that justifies their perspective. There is no point bothering with "fair-mindedness" and that was their choice, not ours. So disabuse yourself of the notion, @clint.

Also notice that the leaders of the program were never given the opportunity to assess costs themselves, and decide how funds should best be disbursed. Yes, cuts could have been made. Yes, a fund-raising curriculum could have been added. My class fundraised thousands of dollars to cover our production costs in the 2nd year, not a bad skill and financially expedient for ourselves and the school.

The point is, there was no real discourse, just an arbitrary decision made by people who do not have the capability to reason creatively or strategically. It starts at the top with no consideration for the ramifications of cutting education, but it also bears out with the utter lack of imagination. The administrators couldn't even get us our own wifi-access or printer in our building. That's how little they cared, or understood, about what was going on with the program.
Posted by stilettov on June 25, 2011 at 1:52 PM · Report this

They understood enough. It's an art program. Art programs must go. Even if they produce moderately-employable artists.

Dental hygenists make money. Dental Hygenists are winners. We want winners.
Posted by Anonymous Commenter on June 25, 2011 at 2:20 PM · Report this
I have been working with a number of graduates of the SCCC film program, and they're the most professional camera, lighting and editing people I've worked with in my 25 years in the industry. It's not just a question of know-how, but also attitude and professional pride. Shame on SCCC.
Posted by OwenKindig on June 26, 2011 at 3:13 PM · Report this
@dancing bottom - we can agree on a few things - i think you're "dental hygienists" are winners theory holds merit.

i can understand the reasoning behind this opinion, but i'm also certain that the same meat heads who would support this black and white theory, also believe that single parents only want to pursue careers in dentistry AND weird political activists aren't affiliated with good dental hygiene.

I guess my biggest issue right now regarding the closure of the program, has to do with the folks who rant about "supporting the arts" - If people want to support the arts, ideally that would mean more than just supporting J.O.B. statistics.

On a similar note, those same folks and administrators should also understand that comparing dental hygienist employment statics to filmmaking employment is equivalent to comparing a Kenneth Anger film to the work of James Cameron. Apples and Oranges, baby.

Posted by christyx http://guerrillafilms.co on June 26, 2011 at 4:06 PM · Report this
@5: You didn't mention the bars. Try there.

This is the way to a brighter future, people. Fuck the children, fuck education, fuck everything except making up a tiny fraction of the money we're dumping into oppressing brown people halfway across the world.

Is it seriously too late to come back from this?
Posted by suddenlyorcas on June 27, 2011 at 8:53 AM · Report this
Also a correction-The Apparel design program has been there for 66 years, not 33
Posted by annybelle on June 27, 2011 at 10:46 AM · Report this
"How many other centers of excellence does SCCC have that it can be so cavalier?"

The Graphic Design + Photography + Publishing Arts programs are a collaborative powerhouse. As a grad of their design program, I've heard from other professionals and can confirm that we have the best facility, the best staff, and the most desirable grads. We also were given projects which forced us to get to know both the Apparel Design and Film programs intimately, and I can say with certainty that there are some amazing people there.

These 3 programs are facing some equally ridiculous cuts this year. Most importantly, cutting Publishing Arts is the single worst cut they could possibly make.

I would also really like to hear what the "administration" has to say for themselves. I'm thoroughly disgusted with them.
Posted by SCCC Graphic Design Grad on June 27, 2011 at 11:18 AM · Report this
Among other film programs, Seattle U just launched a Film Studies major.
Posted by ASeriousMan on June 27, 2011 at 11:34 AM · Report this
It's brutal to see popular and vital programs being cut. It's happening at every public college and university in the country.

It seems to be popular in this thread to say there are too many front office people making too much money. Well, they're being slashed left and right. The four year schools in the state have something like 20% fewer employees than a couple years ago. State employees have had their wages frozen for the past two years and for the next two, and now there is talk of unpaid leave. They're doing everything from cutting programs to walk students safely to their car after late classes, to putting timers on the lights so that the building goes dark at 5:30. They're scraping for every penny, and this is after significant tuition hikes.

And here is how they decide which programs to cut: They look at the numbers. If a program is consistantly operating at break even or better it stays. If a program consistantly loses money, it goes. That's it. Being recognized for excellence isn't a factor, winning awards isn't a factor. Breaking even is the only criteria.

Oh, by the way, it's just going to get worse. Locally and nationally we've got a public screaming that they want tax cuts, not hikes. Break even is going to get harder to reach.
Posted by theotherguy on June 28, 2011 at 10:03 AM · Report this
It's not too late to consider moving to another state, or since you're closer, to Vancouver B.C. -- there's certainly more production work there because they're known as being much easier to work with, and in fact, is where 'Seattle' based filming is done. Simple fact is, online bitching about budgets won't fix anything. Do it yourself (build a DIY group, and invite folks in), leave, or quit. Don't count on any public learning institution to teach you anything 'artistic', particularly in Seattle.
Posted by EricS on June 28, 2011 at 10:49 PM · Report this
How many millionaires are there in Seattle? And how much do they pay in taxes to the city?

ANS: 10,000 millionaires in the city limits.
ANS: No one pays income or wealth taxes to Seattle. The city generates the wealth, then goes hat in hand to Olympia for an allowance. Our city is rich in everything and I'm tired of begging to keep it clean, safe, and culturally rich.
Posted by belltownsenior on June 29, 2011 at 7:29 AM · Report this
Vancouver supports its film industry - does Seattle? This is what I learned in a recent trip north:

"Many Vancouver visitors don't know that Vancouver has a booming film industry or that movies have been made in Vancouver since the 1930s. Currently, BC's thriving film industry is the third largest film production center in North America.

"Vancouver Film Studios include Bridge Studios, Canadian Motion Picture Park, Eagle Creek Studios, Mammoth Studios, MJA Studios, North Shore Studios (was Lion Gate Studios), Vancouver Film Studios and Washington Studios."
Posted by belltownsenior on June 29, 2011 at 7:42 AM · Report this
With the city cutting SCAN TV and awarding North Seattle CC the 'rights' of public access. How is this shutdown going to work?
Posted by ibrother on June 29, 2011 at 5:18 PM · Report this
I would like to thank all the people trying to suggest other schools for people who want film and video educations. I will say I'm mad because there is NO OTHER PLACE ON THIS PLANET THAT I WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO GET MY EDUCATION LIKE I DID AT SEATTLE CENTRAL COMMUNITY COLLEGES FILM AND VIDEO COMMUNICATIONS. I really care that other people with my passion will not get the chance. I was quoted and I really am glad the the author of this feature understood what I was trying to say. I am still just upset and I will continue my fight for this anyway I can.
Posted by mslivewire on June 29, 2011 at 5:37 PM · Report this
there should be more articles written up on the closure of the program - i'm grateful that jen took a chance on us!

Posted by christyx http://guerrillafilms.co on July 20, 2011 at 3:11 PM · Report this
@31, @28 + @everyone: Now that SCC's Film and Video program has a large waiting list for students wanting to get into the last incoming class, would you guys recommend Bellevue College's Movie Making Program or Shoreline Community College's Digital Filmmaking Program? Thank you so so much for your input!!
Posted by julieflor on July 29, 2011 at 11:38 AM · Report this

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