Film school creates new comedy filmmaking degree with Second City


DePaul students will have the chance to interact with Second City performers and comics with the creation of a brand new degree program.

Whether it be comedy films or films in general, it takes a lot of people behind the scenes to ensure that the final product looks good, sounds good and entertains its audience. For DePaul students looking to elevate their production talent or cut their teeth in the comedy film industry, the chance has finally come: DePaul’s School of Cinematic Arts has announced that it has teamed up with The Second City to create a brand new, film degree in comedy filmmaking.

The comedy film degree will be offered to both undergraduate and graduate students, with courses beginning in the upcoming fall quarter.  The degree program is the first and only one in the country to team up with famed Chicago-based improv house The Second City, which has been in the city since 1959. The School of Cinematic Arts, meanwhile, is relatively new, having been created in 2015 as one of the three schools within DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media aside from the School of Design and the School of Computing.

The Second City has produced numerous prominent figures in the film and television industry in its almost 60-year history, ranging from directors, award-winning actors and comedians such as Steve Carell, Bill Murray, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

Comedy film students will have the opportunity to take courses at both The Second City theatre in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood and at the College of Computing and Digital Media’s building in the Loop. Additionally, students will have access to green screens, sound stages and get the opportunity to interact with top names in the film industry. Course offerings for the degree will include “Evolution of Comedy,” “DNA of the Second City,” and “Comedy Improvisation for Filmmakers.”

Gary Novak, director of DePaul’s School of Cinematic Arts, expressed excitement in getting this program underway and mentioned that it was a combination of being at the right place at the right time.

“It made sense for us to be first,” Novak said. “This is taking (the) Second City approach, the creative approach.”

Talks about the two partners potentially merging went on for nearly a year-and-a-half, but the conversation got serious in December when The Second City reached out to the university based on the track record of DePaul’s film program. In December, both sides began to brainstorm ideas and once February rolled around there were degree proposals that eventually made the partnership possible.

“I think it’s a good fit,” said Chris Arthur, a junior film student. “It’s very specific, and I enjoy that.”

Over the years, DePaul’s film program has already been listed as one of the top programs of its kind in the nation. In 2014, The Hollywood Reporter, which is a multi-platform magazine that focuses on the entertainment industry, ranked the program No. 17 out of the 25 film schools listed. And last September The Wrap, an entertainment and media news website, ranked the program No. 36 out of 50 film schools in 2017.

Before the field of study became a reality, Novak stated that film students previously “would find their own information of sources,” but that is no longer going to be the case.

It says that DePaul is leading the charge in filmmaking,”

— said Kevin Bozeman, Stand up comic and professor

said Kevin Bozeman, a stand-up comedian and adjunct professor at DePaul.

“I hope that it attracts more students to come in from all over the place,” said Bozeman.

Even some current DePaul film students are already attracted to the new degree. Jacob Cantu, a freshman film student, plans to begin taking courses for the comedy film concentration beginning in the fall.

“I’ve always wanted to make comedic films and that was my goal from the start,” Cantu said. “Now that the biggest comedy theater in America is partnering with DePaul, it opens up many doors for me and any other aspiring comedic filmmakers.”

Notably, Novak says the degree is “not about teaching students to become performers,” ; instead, it will emphasize scriptwriting and the comedy filmmaking process. “It’s about developing content here,” he said.

Speaking of developing content here at DePaul, this program could help put Chicago on the map as being a top destination for film producers and content creators alongside New York and Los Angeles. “People can stay in Chicago and have a successful career in film and television,” Bozeman said.

While classes for the comedy film degree haven’t begun yet, anticipation seems high for a program that will hopefully benefit the overall trifecta of DePaul, the film community and Chicago. Essentially, the goal is to have “content shot in Chicago, created in Chicago, (and) produced in Chicago,” Novak said.