Faculty Spotlight: Sheila Schroeder
For the past 21 years, Dr. Sheila Schroeder has been a professor of film studies and production at the University of Denver. Students today will know her best for classes such as Introduction to Field Production and Editing, Scriptwriting, and the Documentary and Narrative Film Production capstone classes as well as the creation of Project DU F.I.L.M.
Dr. Schroeder didn't always know that she wanted to go into film as a career. She graduated from the University of Indiana in 1999 with a PhD in Mass Communications, writing her dissertation on women's sports and media. She credits a specific moment for changing her mind, when working with a friend on a documentary film project while in her PhD program.
"I always point to a moment at 5:00 a.m., standing in a cornfield in Oldenburg, Indiana, seeing the mist rise off the corn and bugs playing in the sun as it was rising, and filming to the sound of bells from the local nunnery." She was struck by the sense of beauty in the shot, the privilege of seeing the moment in its raw form and using it to tell a story.
"I could do this for the rest of my life," Dr. Schroeder remembers thinking.
Now, with an impressive collection of her own films under her belt, Dr. Schroeder works with every one of DU's film majors in one capacity or another. Her favorite class to teach is Introduction to Field Production and Editing, because of how much it changes from quarter to quarter. While the goals have always remained the same, she says that the "fun part about it" is "how we reach those goals continues to evolve, how technology evolves, storytelling evolves, and what students need to reach those goals evolves."
When asked about her proudest achievement at DU, Dr. Schroeder only hesitates for a moment before naming Project DU F.I.L.M. The initiative, which is now entering its fifth year, was designed by Dr. Schroeder as a collaborative, experiential, mentorship, filmmaking program bringing together faculty, professional alumni, and students to create, promote, and distribute films. Project DU F.I.L.M. (Film Initiative Linking to Mentors) has created two short comedies so far, both of which have received critical acclaim at a number of international film festivals.
Project DU F.I.L.M. is a unique initiative that allows students to work side-by-side with alumni on a professional film set, giving them the opportunity to network and learn skills from professionals currently in the field. The project's second goal is to place special emphasis on populating the cast and crew with people from traditionally underrepresented groups as a way to fight against industry-wide inequities.
Dr. Schroeder is currently working on the script for a third short film for the group, titled Hunting Season. Unlike the first two comedies, this film will be darker in tone. The script has already been awarded the runner-up Award of Excellence from the Broadcast Education Association and has been selected out of a pool of 200 scripts for a table read in LA this summer.
Dr. Schroeder's advice for students is to always follow your passion.
"Get involved," she says. "Create work. Create networks among your peers. Look outside the University for opportunities, whether they be internships or another creative project to which to lend your experiences and skills. Do the work. Follow your passions."