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​​​Rhode Island College film studies students created their own version of a nickelodeon, the nation’s first type of movie theater. 

“In the entertainment industry, film as participatory culture is major right now,” said Rhode Island College Assistant Professor of English Rosalind Sibielski. “We’re at a moment in history  where audiences are not just consumers of media but also interact with media. That’s what film as participatory culture is. Media projects under development now contain stories that have the potential to build fan bases and engender more active participation.”

From a career perspective, occupations supporting this new trend are in demand in the entertainment world.

“Many jobs that are adjunct to making movies, such as running social media accounts or fan conventions, didn’t exist 25 years ago, but they’re a growing employment field within the industry,” said Sibielski, who teaches Film 355: Film as Participatory Culture.

Even if students choose not to move to film-centric locations such as Los Angeles or New York City after graduation, skills developed in Sibielski’s course are transferable to arts management-related careers such as festival programming, box office management and event planning. 

During the fall semester, Sibielski’s students organized three campus events:

  • The first event was the RIC Flicks Movie Club Series, in collaboration with the Office of Student Activities. Prior to screenings, interactive activities with moviegoers were held, such as a scavenger hunt for gift cards and a Halloween costume contest.​
  • The next event was a theatrical performance by the local performance troupe RKO Army of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, based off of the 1975 interactive cult classic film.
  • ​The final event was the re-creation of a nickelodeon. In the early 1900s nickelodeons were storefront movie houses that showed a series of short films interspersed with live entertainment, lectures and political speeches.

Sibielski divided students into three teams to work on each individual event, and a fourth public relations team worked with each group.  

The course’s goal was to introduce students to career options in film in the areas of marketing, publicity and arts management fields, such as film series programming, festival organizing, fan convention organizing and event planning. The focus of Sibielski’s course was to put these career options into practice.

“This experience is going to go on their resumés,” she said.

Film studies major Enrique Castaneda-Pineda said the course allowed him to build on his prior experience in public relations.

“I appreciate that the class is being run like we’re working for professional clients,” he said. “Through cutting snippets of films to make advertising and filming public service announcements to place on social media, I’m getting a head start on the type of work that’s being done in the filmmaking industry. This will be extremely useful in the future.”

Film studies and business management senior Ryan Cardoso said he developed stronger leadership skills through the course.

“As project manager for the nickelodeon project, I built an event from the ground up,” Cardoso said. “From scheduling to making signs to preparing decorations, I was in charge of taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, and delegating tasks. While my intentions after graduation are to go to New York City for filmmaking, this course has taught me that there are many other jobs outside of filmmaking.”