Lily Inskip-Shesnicky is currently a fifth-year film studies major with a minor in computer science at Carleton University. She is interested in supernatural/horror cinema combined with Canadian and sapphic cinema. Her favourite films include the Rocky Horror Picture Show (Sharman, 1975), Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Miyazaki, 1984),and Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Sciamma, 2019).
Why did you choose Carleton Film Studies?
I didn’t choose film studies. In the beginning, I went into computer science, but then I realized it just was emotionally taxing to be doing a degree that I wasn’t passionate about, just because I thought I needed to have a fallback plan. Eventually, I switched to film studies in my second year. I was already at Carleton, so it made sense to stay here, but we also have one of the better film theory programs in Canada because a lot of other schools have more production or business-focused film programs.
How did you hear about the program?
I went to an arts high school in Ottawa. I think knew about it because I was in a writing program, so besides going into like English or something, film studies would have been another choice because of screenwriting. But I found the program based on the first-year course.
How would you describe being in Carleton Film?
I would say enticing because there are so many different niche subjects. If you want to learn about Scandinavian cinema, learn about sci-fi, learn about contemporary Quebecois cinema or film and philosophy, you can do it all.
I would also say creative. You would think that film theory doesn’t have much room for creativity, but you get to choose from a lot of different topics and it’s really fun flexing your brain muscles to think of different ways to analyze a film. For example, I wrote a paper about semiotics and film. I was questioning, does film have a grammar and a language? It was interesting comparing it to other language studies.
It’s also really rewarding and exciting to work with the professors to figure out what to write, how to do it, and what readings are helpful. Sometimes they connect you with experts outside of the program.
What skills have you learned from film studies?
Critical thinking and analysis skills. The ability to look at a piece of media in general, not even just a film, but artworks, comics, books, whatever, and see through the top layer of the media to analyze what the creators’ intentions were. Also, bringing different lenses to different media, like feminist perspectives.
Also becoming a better writer overall, an academic writer. I’ve gained research capabilities, like how to find what you’re looking for. I also became a research analyst for one of our professors here, Kester Dyer, researching supernatural Quebecois cinema.
I also took the screenwriting and filmmaking classes, so I got to experience the more hands-on side of film. You also learn about the industry and its history, so you get a good idea of how the industry runs, which helps you see the current market in a different light.
How have you used these skills in other areas of your life?
If I’m going to see a movie with my friends or reading a book, I find that I can turn on a critical side of myself to really analyze and pick out the different aspects that I want to talk about.
I also have a broadened worldview from taking different national cinema courses. An embarrassing amount of my knowledge of the outside world besides Canada and western nations is because of my film courses….I don’t normally like history, but I find that film has given me a new appreciation for it.
I’m also doing a computer science minor because I didn’t want to waste the credits I got in my first year, but I think I can still apply certain things I learned in film to computer science. For example, pacing myself when doing my assignments. In computer science, you have to produce the right answer, no matter what you do, which is frustrating. In film, it’s more about how you get to your answer rather than whether it’s the right one or not.
Is there a specific class that you enjoyed?
My favourite class of all time was Introduction to Film Theory, because Mark Furstenau was such a good professor. But I’ve developed a niche research interest. I love Canadian cinema because going into film studies, I didn’t really think we had a definable National Cinema. I took the introduction to Canadian cinema course, which was interesting. Then there’s the Canadian genre course, which went into horror movies in Canadian cinema and introduced me to some of my favourites like Blood Quantum (2019) by Jeff Barnaby. It’s an Indigenous zombie movie. The director recently passed away, which was very sad because he’s only made three movies.
Any advice you would like to share?
For anyone who isn’t in film studies or is doing a minor and they’re debating switching into film, just do it. It’s taxing to be in a program you don’t necessarily care about or even a program you do care about when there’s another program you care about more. It’s just not worth the emotional upheaval to constantly be wishing you were doing something else.
I would also say make use of your resources. We have the Audio-Visual Resource Center (ARVC) where you can stream movies. If you’re looking for a niche thing for a paper, they’re more likely to have it than other places. The Ottawa Public Library also loans out DVDs, which is useful and if you don’t have a DVD player, you can screen them at the AVRC.
We also have a Film Lounge which you can go to, it’s only accessible by campus card so it’s a bit more private and it has a very nice ambiance. It’s also for music and another program, but it’s one of the nicest lounges I’ve been in considering how small the programs are.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions and go to office hours because professors love discussing their topics. If you’ve taken more STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) classes, I feel like office hours can be kind of daunting, but that’s definitely not true in film studies.
Did you complete a practicum or independent study?
I did a semester at Library and Archives Canada. I worked as an archivist and a visual media intern. I had to watch a bunch of media produced from 2014 to the present day, and the only thing that tied all of it together was that it had to be funded in part or in some way by the Government of Canada. I liked seeing all the different types of media that are out there and just how random all this stuff was. One day I’d be watching children’s cartoons, and the next day I’m watching a show about Alberton truckers. It was a good learning experience, and it’s a good way to spice up your timetable.
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Meet more Carleton Film Studies students and alumni in the Student Stories section.