Self-designed Major in Film Production with Colleen Ochab ‘18
By Madison Kobe ’18
As a liberal arts college, Carthage offers a wide variety of majors and minors. Students are able to major in multiple areas of study, and can add any minor for a unique combination. However, if none of the available majors or minors tickle your fancy, or if there are none that are close to the field you want to go into, you are able to design your own unique major. Colleen Ochab ’18 did just that, and is now graduating with a degree that no one else at Carthage will have this spring. I talked to Colleen about what it is like to have designed her own major, and learned a lot about her in the process.
Have you always wanted a career in theatre? How long have you been involved in theatre?
I cannot say that I have always wanted a career in theatre (or even do now). In college, I have seen theatre as a wonderful way to get involved and to learn the skills I know I need to get a job in the film industry on the production side of things, as film production is my actual career goal and personal love. Theatre has been a part of my life ever since eighth grade. It started off very small when I had a minor role in the required eighth grade musical performance of Thoroughly Modern Millie. In high school, I auditioned for the musical my freshman year and was rejected. On my walk out, the technical director caught me and offered to have me help with a light hang that evening. I went and then ended up being the sole operator of the sound board for the same musical of Guys and Dolls. I ran 24 live microphones! It was insane for my first attempt! I have been working on the technical side of theatre ever since!
Is there anyone in particular who inspired or supported you in your decision to pursue the fine arts?
My parents have always supported my decision to try anything my heart might desire. Obviously though, I think they were worried a little bit about this choice of career path as it can be very risky financially. Also, neither of my parents have done anything with the fine arts themselves. However, they saw the passion that I had for film making and agreed that a ‘liberal arts’ type approach to fine arts could be very useful and encouraged me to take part in the theatre department in college. In high school, I was very isolated from most of the theatre students because I was a volleyball player and an honors student. That doesn’t leave you much time to work on theatre! Most of my friends were going on to be doctors and engineers, not artists. But, I had one teacher who encouraged me to break from that mold and pursue what filled me with life. I knew the arts were where that passion was and I took his advice to heart! Now, speaking of my work at Carthage, William Newcomb, the sole technical professor, has encouraged me to again follow my heart and my passion, even if that will lead me away from theatre to a more film based career.
What was the process for designing your major? Did you experience any setbacks?
Really it was a rather straightforward process. I started by getting the self-design major form from the registrar. Then, it came down to sitting and looking at the course requirements for other majors in the theatre department and trying to create an equally weighty curriculum that met my educational goals. After that, the real difficulty was getting it signed by the faculty and approved by the college, proving that it would be a valid Carthage major. When I started this process, there were three other students also interested in attaining this major, but when I got it approved I was all by myself as they had moved on to other (non-artistic or theatrical) pursuits.
What challenge(s), if any, have you faced with designing your own major and meeting the requirements?
Honestly, designing the major and finding the time to meet with the people who could help me and plan a schedule of classes was a workload of its own my sophomore year, when the major was getting handled and finalized. It took up a lot of my time and I had to be really organized and dedicated to get it signed and passed by the college. However, I knew it would be worth it to graduate with a major titled Theatre Production Emphasis: Lighting and Sound. It is that title that would be noticed by future employers and help me get the job I desired. Since then, the only problem has been getting the one ‘special’ class on Advanced Sound to happen. It has been a really frustrating process because you have to rely on other people who have other responsibilities, some of which take priority over this one class. All is well now though, so that is good.
What has been a highlight of your time at Carthage?
This is a difficult question! Honestly, I cannot say it has happened yet. I have many wonderful memories, but I really have high hopes for my senior year. I have been taking positive steps to make it the best year yet. I am so excited for the premiere of my Medieval Times Documentary on Monday, December 4th. A lot of the people I work with at the castle will be coming out to see it and I am really excited to see the project completed. I really hope I will feel this huge wave of success and feel proud of myself. I am looking forward to that.
How do you feel Carthage has prepared you for life after college?
I am on the team that a liberal arts education is one of the most valuable things you can receive while an undergraduate. Taking classes in communication, theatre, religion, etc., have opened my eyes to the world and my place in it. Returning to the previous question a little bit, I had the amazing opportunity to study in India during J-term 2016. That was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life and I feel I really learned a lot about the world, especially a world that is so very different from our own. Overall, Carthage has taught me to be an open individual and to appreciate the life I live. I have learned how to deal with hardship and grow from it. And that is truly beneficial because life after college is only going to lead to more responsibility. So, having the ability to sail out the storm now will definitely help me later on.
What are your current plans for after Carthage?
After graduation, my first goal is to keep steady employment so I can be financially stable enough to pursue my life goals. I currently work at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament in their Sound & Lighting Department as a spotlight, light board, and sound board operator. I hope to continue this job but also pursue different roles at the castle to help me reach consist full-time hours. Right now, that looks like acting in the show as a Princess and perhaps working as a stable hand as well. Medieval Times has been my home and family for the past three years and I intend to make it my home for many more. I absolutely love it there! In the meantime, I also hope to pursue more work in the film production business. The end goal is to work on major films as a cinematographer or film editor. However, for now, I am starting small by taking on my own projects through my YouTube channel and little production company. For my Communication Senior Thesis at Carthage, I am the director, cinematographer, and editor of a 60 min documentary for Medieval Times that will be completed in December. I hope that project will be the springboard for future work in film industry. Of course, I also plan to travel, stay connected with my family, work out, and own quite a few pets, too! Hopes and dreams!
What advice do you offer to a student considering pursuing the arts?
1) Don’t let the opinions of others sidetrack you from your true passion and follow it at all costs. That is the only way your life is going to be truly fulfilling and make you happy.
2) Always consider double majoring in something else that interests you. Or take on a minor! Anything! The more paths you explore, the more likely you are to find the right one. My communication major has taught me so much about people that I can apply to theatre. And my Spanish minor has been so useful in actual work situations where I can help customers who do not speak English well (and other people cannot).