Radio-television-film department needs student support fund

Adrienne Hunter

Filmmaking is expensive, and so is being a radio-television-film major — especially at UT. For radio-television-film students interested in production, not only do they have to worry about traditional fees such as textbooks, but they also have to worry about funding their productions. Production costs can serve as a gatekeeper for lower-income students by preventing them from expressing their ideas through production classes.

The radio-television-film department at UT needs to ensure that the major is accessible to lower-income students by providing financial resources specifically for production projects.

Maclaine Lowery, radio-television-film senior, said that it’s nearly impossible to take production classes without having to pay for elements of the film out of pocket. Lowery said that despite access to certain equipment and production design resources by UT, students still often have to pay for equipment and props not provided by UT, as well as food, actors, locations and more.

Lowery said that she has not received any financial resources from UT to help fund her projects.

“They don’t really do a lot for low-income students,” Lowery said.

As a radio-television-film student myself, I have a unique experience in that I transferred to UT from Columbia College Chicago, where they had grants set aside for film projects that most students were eligible for. With these grants, we were able to pay for costs such as food, actors, locations, equipment and props not provided by the school.

“Since the COVID-19 crisis put a halt to production in the spring semester, we have been working tirelessly, with the aid of private donors and the Dean’s Office, to establish an RTF fund to help support student productions,” Noah Isenberg, radio-television-film department chair, said in an email.

Isenberg emphasized the importance of allowing thesis students to finish pursuing their projects.

“We are deeply committed to making it possible for our thesis students to finish the work that they started,” Isenberg said.

It is important that the radio-television-film student support fund continues in future semesters, outside of the extraordinary circumstances as a result of COVID-19. But the radio-television-film department should help more than just its thesis students.

Isenberg said that students can find funding for projects in merit-based scholarships. While students can apply for merit-based scholarships, the radio-television-film department does not offer grants for specific projects like other film schools such as Columbia College Chicago.

“There are significant differences between a very large public university like UT and a small private college like Columbia College of Chicago, which is not considered a peer institution of ours,” Isenberg said.

While UT is a much larger school, UT has the second-largest endowment in the United States at $31 billion.

Isenberg said that the radio-television-film student support fund may be able to provide further financial support for students in the future if it secures additional gifts. It is important that the radio-television-film department pay attention to the needs of lower-income students by making this fund available to them.

Expanding the radio-television-film student support fund would help a lot of lower-income filmmakers in the radio-television-film department overcome financial barriers that might have prevented students from pursuing a production track in the past.

Even with the establishment of the radio-television-film student support fund, it is still important that the radio-television-film department considers creating grants specifically for students’ productions in the future to avoid preventing lower-income students from expressing their ideas.

Hunter is a radio-television-film and anthropology senior from Houston, Texas.