UC program leads student to his passion: filmmaking

Opportunities at Digital Media Collaborative 'creative and freeing'

Caleb Smiley began his studies at the University of Cincinnati as an electrical engineering major.

Then he discovered the College of Arts & Sciences’ Digital Media Collaborative, which promised him a story-based program that he describes as “creative and freeing.”

As his passion grew, what started out as a second major quickly developed into his primary course of study.

“I've just enjoyed filmmaking since I was young,” Smiley said. “But I had sort of forgotten that in favor of practicality in my hunt for a college and major.”

Smiley will graduate with a degree in digital media this spring and has learned valuable skills from his courses and their instructors in the program. Smiley said his most impactful and transformative class was documentary production with professor Kimber Andrews.

Smiley said initially he didn't have much interest in making documentaries. But he appreciated Andrews’ insightful and self-reflective methods.

Smiley’s passion remains fictional filmmaking. When he is not working in the equipment room, he is using gear that the Digital Media Collaborative provides its student filmmakers. Last year he had three films accepted for competition in the Nightmares International Film Festival.

So far this year, he has produced a short comedy about an inept plumber who destroys his town's water supply, and adapted an excerpt from Neil Simon's play Rumors, both of which are available to view on Vimeo. At the moment, he is finishing up his capstone project, which is a 17-minute short about the internet and embracing one’s oddities.

In the midst of producing films, Smiley still finds time to interact with other students in the program. For the past three semesters, he has offered a weekly cinematography workshop where he mentors newer students. During class Smiley and his mentees share ideas with one another and then sit down to watch what he calls, “fantastic and weird movies.” These peer-organized workshops are at the heart of the Digital Media Collaborative's mission. By breaking beyond the boundaries of the traditional classroom, these group projects have built a community of students around shared passions and created filmmaking teams that still collaborate on multiple projects.

Smiley encourages future students to pursue what they care about when navigating their best path through college. “That's stupid and cliché, but true,” Smiley said. “If you are making something you care about, learning something you care about, then things will go much better.”

This article is one in a series of profiles covering the opportunities within A&S’s Digital Media Collaborative.

Featured image at top: Digital Media Collaborative major Caleb Smiley.