By Eric Coker
Julia Jin had already decided to major in molecular biology as a freshman when she took the cinema class that would change her experience at Harpur College.
"It opened my eyes," she said of the American Cinema course. "Films are really powerful. Images are everywhere and influence our ideas and the way we think. When you watch a film for entertainment reasons, you don't think about the ideas it is sending you or reinforcing. But it does that with subtlety."
Jin then took two introductory, core courses before making the leap to cinema major.
"I thought that if I went through my four years without majoring in cinema, it would be something I would regret," she said. "So I decided to take the risk and do the second major."
Now a senior, the 21-year-old from Flushing has grown into a student leader and role model for others in the Cinema Department. Jin is president of Film Salon, which screens short, experimental films on campus every Thursday night. She has served as a programmer for the Student Experimental Film Festival, which shows dozens of works by U.S. college students in downtown Binghamton. Jin also does public relations for the Harpur Cinema film series and works as a production intern for Fox News 40 in Binghamton.
"She seems passionate about what she is doing—she has been an active programmer of Salon screenings and initiating an after-screening discussion" said Tomonari Nishikawa, assistant professor of cinema. "The audience has grown since then, and she worked together with other student officers to make the club SA-chartered."
Jin admitted that she had never picked up a video camera until her first production class.
"You point and shoot and hope in two weeks when you get your film back that there is something that shows up," she said. "I had no idea what I was doing! It was very, very new to me."
Jin's first film was about making tea: "I remember spending hours before class in the lab trying to make sense out of my footage and put something together with structure with rhythm. It was a learning experience, but my professor liked it."
Her films now primarily explore the theme of transformation.
"There is always a start and a beginning," she said. "You travel from point A to point B, so there is always a change."
Nishikawa has observed Jin's works at student film shows and has come away impressed.
"Her videos express transient moments through delicate camerawork, emphasizing her presence behind the camcorder, with full textures, colors, and often super-imposed images that would enhance the sense of the two-dimensional surface of the screen," he said.
Jin praised the cinema faculty, saying that its members have helped her acquire the passion necessary to make films.
"The faculty are so excited about the courses they teach," she said. "These people love what they are doing. That inspires me. They all love to learn."
Jin said she is looking forward to submitting her works to film festivals, while also taking an image manipulation class that will hopefully allow her to branch out into animation.
"Those films have a magical quality to them," she said of animation. "They created worlds and expanded my imagination.
For Jin, the Cinema Department has enabled an introverted student to express herself and grow over the past four years.
"When I came to (Harpur College), I didn't expect to be able to do all of this," she said. "You don't understand how much you are going to change. I never thought I would have this kind of impact. This has been quite a journey."
Last Updated: 6/3/15