Photo of John Robert Smith in a production studio

John Robert Smith, a Clemson lecturer in film, hopes to expand the World Cinema program, adding courses and providing more internship and study-abroad opportunities for students. Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

CLEMSON – John Robert Smith has been appointed interim director of the World Cinema program at Clemson University.

Smith, a lecturer in film, will lead the academic program founded by Aga Skrodzka, a Clemson associate professor of film and media studies. Skrodzka chaired the steering committee that designed the program over the course of two years. The first director of the program was Barton Palmer, who recently retired. Professor Emeritus Palmer is a prolific film scholar and the former Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature.

“I was honored to be appointed interim director of World Cinema,” Smith said. “I think we’ve got the students, faculty and staff to keep the momentum going for this growing program, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Established only five years ago, World Cinema is an interdisciplinary degree program in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. The program now serves nearly 50 undergraduate majors, though far more students from across campus take film courses.

“Students love movies,” Smith said. “Everyone watches movies to the point that we take them for granted. One benefit of the World Cinema program is showing students that there are many ways to understand film. After taking a film course, students no longer take for granted the things they watch every day.”

Growing the program

Smith, who will serve as interim director for two years, hopes to attract more students to the program. He also wants to create more courses and provide opportunities for internships and studying abroad, all with an eye to boosting the career prospects of graduates.

“I want to see graduates get jobs they love,” Smith said.

Smith would also like the World Cinema program to have a greater impact across the Clemson campus through a film series. He envisions a future series in which World Cinema students would have a role in choosing films and speakers, introducing films and writing program notes.

Smith earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Furman University and a master’s and Ph.D. in English from Boston University. He first arrived at Clemson in 1999 as a lecturer in English but left in 2009 to attend Emory University. After earning his master’s degree in film studies at Emory in 2011, Smith worked for five years at a family business in Florida before reconnecting with Clemson in 2016.

Smith, who will continue to teach classes as interim director, is particularly interested in classical Hollywood cinema, particularly melodrama and film noir.

About World Cinema

Clemson students may choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in world cinema or minor in film studies. Students from other academic disciplines also may take film courses as electives.

At Clemson, film studies explore intersections between cinema and mass media, literature, politics and philosophy. Courses are taught by instructors and professors from a variety of disciplines: English, languages, communications, performing arts and others.

“A lot of the opportunities you might have as an English, history, philosophy or marketing major would be available through the World Cinema program,” Smith said.

The program does not emphasize production, although students may opt to take some courses in digital production as part of the curriculum. World Cinema is geared toward the study of historical, theoretical and cross-cultural dimensions of film and media.

The program provides a strong foundation for careers in such fields as teaching, journalism, digital media, library science, audiovisual archiving, tourism, advertising, programming for film festivals, film criticism and community outreach.

World Cinema focuses on both American and international film, which promotes cultural and global understanding, Smith said.

“Film’s great power is its potential to develop empathy in viewers,” Smith said. “There’s more than one way to see the world besides through an American lens.”