Jack Hamilton / Assistant Professor, Media Studies and American Studies

 Mead Proposal – Music at the Movies

During my time as an assistant professor of Media Studies at UVA I’ve occasionally taught a course called “Sound and Cinema” that explores the impact of the arrival and development of sound technology on global cinema from roughly 1930-1970. It’s a popular course that I love teaching, and one of the elements that is most rewarding is our weekly “film screening,” when the class gathers to watch a movie in a dark classroom on a (relatively) big screen. I’ve found that most of my students rarely go to the movie theater, and instead tend to watch films either on their TVs or (most often) their laptops. The experience of watching a movie on a big screen in a dark room surrounded by other people is one they don’t often have, and in evaluations my Sound and Cinema students often identify the screenings as one of their favorite aspects of the course.

 I would like to use some of the generous funds provided by the Mead Endowment to curate a series of films about music at the Newcomb Hall Movie Theatre during the 2018-19 academic year. As a historian of popular music I feel as though I am in a unique position organize and curate a series like this, in a way that maximizes its potential as both education and entertainment. My proposal would be to screen six films in all (roughly one per full month of the school year), and to make standard movie theater “concessions” available at all screenings free of charge (popcorn, candy, soft drinks). I will introduce each film myself and then lead a “talkback” Q&A session after the film for any students who wish to stay and discuss the movie, although I would also leave room for the possibility of having occasional guest hosts if any of my colleagues desire to take part. A recurring series of this nature be a great opportunity to bring together music fans and film fans from around Grounds once a month to watch a film and discuss it afterwards. And while a proposal like this would aim to draw in a larger base of students than many Mead proposals, the Q&A component along with the sustained community of viewers that the series will create has the potential to create powerful and even intimate educational experiences for its participants.

I will use the Mead funds to both purchase the licensing rights to screen the films (excepting the ones whose streaming rights are already owned by the library) as well as to provide the aforementioned concessions for the students. I aim to hold the screenings either on Thursday or Friday nights and would make sure that the films showcased a broad array of musical genres as well as filmic genres. For instance, movies might include Martin Scorsese’s great concert film The Last Waltz (1976), the terrific posthumous Amy Winehouse documentary Amy (2015), Prince’s semi-autobiographical blockbuster Purple Rain (1984), the Coen Brothers’ fictionalized look back on the folk revival, Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), the fan-directed love letter to a Tribe Called Quest Beats, Rhymes, and Life (2011), and the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (1984). Finally, I actually took part in an event along these lines back in November of 2015, when I guest-hosted a screening of the movie Straight Outta Compton that was organized by the Student Hip-Hop Organization (SHHO). It was a very successful event that brought out a lot of students on a Friday night, and SHHO didn’t even offer the lure of free concessions. 


            6 films = $250 on concessions per film ($1500)

            Film purchasing/licensing = $1000

            Promotion (posters) - $180

            Total: $2680