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The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

Utica University Film Series remains a cultural stronghold for campus and local community

The poster for Films on Thursday provided by Professor Jeff Miller.
The poster for Films on Thursday provided by Professor Jeff Miller.

Utica University’s Film Series is a longstanding class and event that began in 1964 by Jurji Savyckj, a student of the class of 1966.

“Jurji and a couple other students were annoyed by the fact that you couldn’t find European films anywhere in Utica,” said Jeff Miller, communications and media professor and director of the Film Series since the spring of 2000. “There were a lot more movie theaters in Utica at the time as well.”

Miller said Jurji and the students made weekly trips to New York City in order to see foreign films and took notes on them so that when they returned to Utica, they could rent the film and show it on campus to other students.

“After he graduated, many different clubs attempted to keep the film series going until around 1974 when Scott MacDonald, a former English teacher took over the film series,” Miller said.

Miller described MacDonald as a leading American film scholar who wrote a large number of books pertaining to independent film. Macdonald ran the Film Series for about 24 years.  When Miller arrived at Utica in 1997,  his advisor for his dissertation told him how amazing of an opportunity it was that he was going to be working with MacDonald.

“It convinced me the first semester I was here to actually sit in on MacDonald’s classes,” Miller said.

Miller said MacDonald confided in him about being worried the film series would disappear when he would retire in 1999. Miller made the decision to take on the project with the help of two professors from the history department and one from the Spanish department.

“We decided that with the four of us, we might be able to replicate what one man could do before,” Miller said. “So two of us programmed the series for the fall of 1999.”

Miller took on the following in the spring semester by himself because it was too much work for his partner.

“Since then I’ve been in charge of the film series for over 24 years now,” Miller said. “I’ve enjoyed being able to show different films that leave students feeling interested and wanting to know and find out more.”

Today the series is called Films on Thursdays and Miller said an abundance of time goes into making selections. 

“This is not a, come see a movie and pat Professor Miller on the back, night,” Miller said. “I try to bring films that I hope will challenge the way people think of motion pictures.”

Miller said challenging the way people think of motion pictures is one of the reasons he tends to show foreign films, as there are very little to no foreign films shown in the Utica area.

“If you go to Syracuse, you might find a foreign film. If you go to New York City you’ll find some, and you might even be able to see some in Albany,” Miller said.

One of the reasons he enjoys the Film Series so much is that it brings people together to watch a movie, instead of everyone finding a movie to watch through other means such as their phones, Miller said.

“Some films might be able to be found on a streaming service through a person’s phone but it’s not the same experience,” Miller said. “So I really do try to bring films that make people become invested and want to watch it in its entirety.”

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About the Contributor
Charles Buckley
Charles Buckley, Features Editor
Class Year: Junior Major: Communication and Media Minors: Creative Writing and Theatre Previous Position: Staff Writer (2020-2021), Clerk (2021-2022), Features Editor (Fall 2023)

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