Cameras could start rolling for new film major

By Daniel Thoman

There might be new contender on the block of majors at UAF. Maya Salganek, a professor in the theatre department, has been filling out paperwork in order to get a film major program added to UAF’s list of majors. There has been a film minor offered by the theatre department since 1992, but never a major. The effort to create the new major has been in the pipeline since 2007.

Salganek has been working to convince the regents that a film major is a good idea. The biggest draw right now is the tax cut incentive that the state is offering any film that spends at least $100,000 in the state.

The regents want to know how much tuition money a film major could be looking at by 2017, and the only way to even try to guess the numbers is “guestimating,” said Salganek. However, given the growth of the film classes in the last five years, “easily doubled,” she feels confident that the interest the board wants is present. There are already a number of classes that could help to form the foundations of such a degree, and many of them are cross-listed with other departments.

Salganek’s vision for the program is that there would be a number of film professionals who would come up and speak to the students, either as full- or part-time faculty. The valuable contacts of film professionals would be an incredible resource to those students looking to get into the film industry.

The competition for film locations is a harsh one. Every possible location is trying to “out-incentivize” each other, according to Bob Crockett, owner of Alaska Locations, Inc., a company that provides crew for any films that come to Alaska, and president of the Alaska Film Group. The Alaska Film Group was the group that lobbied for the tax incentive.

Since the film industry has the potential to be a “multi-billion dollar” source of jobs and work, Crockett explained, it is important to develop people who have practical working experience on sets, something that Alaska is lacking in, along with other film necessities such as a sound stage. Both Salganek and Karen Pearson, who works for Sprocketheads LLC, echoed that sentiment. Sprocketheads works with films that come to Alaska, such as Everybody Loves Whales and even the first Michael Bay Transformers movie. Pearson said that the biggest problem for the film industry was that so much of the crew gets “on-the-job experience,” which can make it hard to get a foot in the door; thus, the benefits of the degree program that would train people in what they needed to know.

Salganek said that the state could likely only support a single feature film at any one time. With a studio film having a crew of about 200, and even an indie film pushing up to 75, the few people who have experience in the major crew positions could be quickly tied up, which would exacerbate the current problem of films bringing up their own crew, or only hiring a few positions. “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” for instance, actually used no local help and was crewed entirely by those brought up for the project, according to Salganek.

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