By Derrick Mow
The fall semester is coming, and at Corpus Christi College, this means many of you are looking ahead to your courses and thinking about what subjects you might like to explore.
I had the opportunity to interview Kenton MacDonald-Lin, a film and media studies instructor here at Corpus Christi College, about his perspectives on the discipline and how engaging in filmmaking and film critique has influenced his life for the better.
Kenton is sitting in his backyard on a cool morning in his home in North Vancouver, where he has lived for the past ten years or so. He is wearing a breezy short-sleeve floral shirt, paying homage to his Hawaiian roots. Cool, calm, and collected, his demeanour is exactly what you would expect from a film instructor. Introspective. Rational. Precise. Kenton credits film as not only a means of entertainment, but also a means of constructive storytelling.
Kenton: “The pandemic has forced people to realize the true value of media. We are dependent on good stories, which enrich our lives. We want to learn life lessons, but we do not want to experience the consequences which may come forth by doing so. Thus, we turn to film and storytelling.”
To Kenton, the elements of filmmaking can all be found in the nuances of life. Elements such as acting can arise out of instances of courage. The element of storytelling can be found when we reenact scenes from our lives, or when we tell our friends and family the silly anecdotes from our day-to-day lives. Through his courses and work, Kenton wishes to empower people to have stewardship over storytelling—to own and to care for one’s own unique experiences. People often think that their experiences are irrelevant, that their lives are not exciting. That is the biggest misbelief one can have—even the most seemingly irrelevant of stories can have the ability to inspire, to invoke awe, and to add flavour to one’s life.
Kenton: “You know, this is a weird story, but when I was in high school I ran for student body president and I won. What’s even weirder was the fact that I beat the prom queen.”
Derrick: “Sort of like Napoleon Dynamite?”
Kenton: [Chuckles] “Exactly like Napoleon Dynamite. I was this geeky kid in high school and there I was, winning student body president. Long before the elections, I volunteered to lead the committee for our school spirit week. I rallied friends for a week of events and together we put on a memorable talent show. I was invigorated, and thanks to a friend of mine, I got the idea of making my election speech dressed like “The Godfather.” There I was, up on the stage looking like Don Corleone, talking about my anecdotes and stories as a student. And that’s when I realized the power of storytelling—the fact that it has the ability to connect human beings, regardless of differences.”
Derrick: "That really is true. Stories are the one thing that can unite people, even if they are from different backgrounds or different lifestyles. What do you think a student can learn from one of your classes?”
Kenton: “That really depends on the course. In my FILM 100 course (Intro to Film), they can learn how to truly appreciate the medium of film. Think of a foodie who is interested in food and the culinary arts. They may enjoy eating food but they may not know the ins and outs of cooking, the various combinations of flavours which make good food, and the basics of cuisine. Everyone in their life has watched films, but this course will really teach you the things to look for in a good film. This course will teach you how to critique films, and the basic compositions of filmmaking—the lighting, the sound, the editing, the cinematography, etc. What I love about this course is when we get to explore “Meaning in Film,” and when students appreciate how filmmakers do this. Also, students learn to engage the various themes and concepts in film while growing in their ability to reflect critically in the process. FILM 100 is a good stepping-stone for other liberal arts courses such as philosophy, sociology, and psychology."
Derrick: “What about the other courses you teach?”
Kenton: “In my FILM 283 course (Intro to Screenwriting), students will learn how to incorporate their own personal experiences into shorts and full-length feature films and learn about story structure at the same time. It is a special course in which students will be able to write their very own full-length screenplay.
In my FILM 233 course (Intro to Film Production), students will learn how to create their own short films while learning about the film and media industry. This course is perfect for those who want to learn about “content creation” for film and for marketing. Students are also equipped to make shorts that can be delivered for YouTube while learning to use the tools they already have or with minimal equipment.
Finally, an acting course, FINA 101 (Intro to Theatre), is being offered this year after many years on hiatus. Students will learn theory, practice the theatre arts, and analyze plays from the past to present in the contexts they were created for. I am excited as we get to dissect Kim’s Convenience in both its theatrical form and its TV sitcom form in one of our classes together. The course is an in-person course and there are no prerequisites—I am excited to see the students grow in their acting skills for this course as well as for their own personal projects."
So there you have it. Taking a course in film will not only strengthen your ability to critique films, but it will also enable you to develop critical thinking skills and an appreciation for storytelling. It will enable you to look at situations from different perspectives, and give value to your own lived experiences. And all of this can be found in the vast variety of film and media courses taught here at Corpus Christi College, by our very own Kenton MacDonald-Lin.
Kenton MacDonald-Lin is a filmmaker, screenwriter, and instructor of film and media studies at Corpus Christi College. You can check out some of his work on his website, https://www.kentonmediaproductions.com. This fall, he will be teaching FILM 100, FILM 233, FILM 283, and FINA 101.
Derrick Mow is a former student at Corpus Christi College who studied courses in Screenwriting, Film Production, Literature and the Visual Arts. He is now in his third year of undergraduate studies at University of British Columbia, where he is completing his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and minor in Philosophy.