Dr. Alan Hueth, professor of communication, has helped launch PLNU grads into the media for the past 11 years.
Q: Where did your interest in communication and film begin?
A: It started out in high school—being one of the editors for my high school newspaper, the South Pasadena Tiger, and getting some stories published in the local newspaper, the South Pasadena Journal. In college, I explored radio, film, and TV at Cal State Chico—where I did radio news for the local PBS radio station and some film and television work in classes. I produced a PSA that got on broadcast TV, and then upon graduation, I became a program director for a Christian radio station (KCVR) in Lodi, Calif. In 1981, I got a job at a production company that was part of George Fox College (now University).
Q: Is that how you moved into teaching?
A: At first, I was working with students at the college—they assisted me in doing contract documentaries, interview shows, and training and educational programs for forprofits and nonprofits. We did some music video production, sports—I produced over 40 college basketball games—and I was involved in shooting some short films. I wrote, produced, shot, and edited dozens of shows in the ’80s—often working with student production assistants— and that was fun. In ’89, I started teaching full time at Eastern New Mexico University and then went to the University of Dayton, where I also finished my Ph.D. in 1998. While I was there, several projects just dropped into my lap: a radio project called New Rock and Talk that got onto the Galaxy 3 Satellite, more educational documentaries, and some corporate media. Then I went to NNU [Northwest Nazarene University] and started their media communication major. I also was a part of a start-up media major at George Fox back in ’82. It has been great to see these programs take off and thrive to this day. I came to PLNU in ’02.
Q: What kinds of careers have your students gone on to pursue?
A: There have been so many, but we have been able to track some who keep in touch with us. Jason Carter (05) is Disney’s stereoscopic supervisor and is in charge of their 3D animation operations. He was at DreamWorks from 2006 until this last year. He and several dozen other PLNU students sort of kicked off film production on campus with their film, Isle Nevis, produced back in 2004. One of those was Chris Roberts (05), who just produced his first feature-length film, has a regular gig with the Sundance Channel, and has produced some award-winning short films. His Doritos Super Bowl commercial won second place in 2009. Shelby Martin (09) worked for DreamWorks and was a production coordinator for the film Turbo, which is coming out this summer. Ian MacMaster (09) is the media director at the Church at Rancho Bernardo. There are several who are working at Shadow Mountain Church’s Turning Point television program. Mauricio Perez (09) is a videographer and editor for Fox TV. Mike Spear (pref. 11) and Samantha Melhaff (11) work at Invisible Children. Erika Scopelli (11) works for Universal Studios now, but worked for Skip Film in L.A. and was assistant editor on the trailer for the recent film Prometheus. Joshua Marble (11) is an actor, producer, and director. Chris Alexander (12) owns his own production company. Nicole Andelfinger (10) is a script reader. Bryan Bangerter (11) has had success as a filmmaker at several film festivals. These are just a few examples.
Q: How has our program changed since you’ve been here?
A: Technology has been huge because during this time we’ve transitioned from analog television to high definition. In terms of the curriculum, our cable television channel, Point TV—Channel 23, has really made a difference. Now students are shooting news shows, short films, comedy shows, commercials, documentaries, music and interview shows and if they’re good, they go onto Channel 23 on campus and are loaded onto our Vimeo channel … we’re getting into social media, Facebook, etc. We raised the “quality bar” when the TV station started. We also added the biennial London summer study program in 2004, where students study documentary and propaganda and produce documentaries, take tours at the BBC and other places, and meet with executives in TV and advertising. In 2009, we started taking students to the Sundance Film Festival every other year where they take a course and see films and learn about indie filmmaking. Finally, we started an interdisciplinary cinema studies minor and an interdisciplinary film and art major with the art department.
Q: What makes PLNU’s program different?
A: Essentially what we are doing is educating students to work in secular and Christian media. Closely aligned with that is we’re trying to teach young Christian students how to navigate their lives in a secular environment. That’s an important part of this, too. Every business, every industry, every occupation has its dark side, but the thing with media is that the darkness is so overt and obvious. So that means that in a postmodern, morally relativistic world, we all have to take stock of ourselves in our walk with the Lord, and that should affect what we consume and what we produce.