Jonathan Barr Talks About how he got into Filmmaking and Teaching

Jonathan Barr photo credit: ENMU

Jonathan Barr is chair of the Department of Theatre and Digital Filmmaking and an associate professor of digital filmmaking at Eastern New Mexico University. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Film and Media Arts from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a Master’s degree of Fine Arts also in Film and Media Arts from Temple University as well.

Barr chose to study filmmaking at college because he’s “always loved movies,” but his decision didn’t happen right away. He said that he “went to college several different times,” and went back to college when he was in his thirties so he could get a degree and find a job because he was “out of work.” After going back to college this time, he said he thought any degree would be fine to get a job; so he chose filmmaking and realized how much he loved it while in college. Before landing on filmmaking, he tried Latin American Studies, Spanish Language, and Philosophy majors before dropping out.

He chose to go into the education side of this career path, because he reconnected with an old girlfriend who already lived in Portales. He chose to do education because “the only film job in Portales is film professor.” While he was in graduate school, he “fell in love with teaching, too.” Being an instructor at ENMU has actually been his first teaching job, other than being a teaching assistant in college. He has been an instructor as ENMU since 2011, first starting as a part time instructor before becoming full time. Film is said to have “story, picture and sound,” and he primarily teaches story, which is screenwriting and directing. He also teaches acting for the camera, film analysis and film history. He said that his favorite class to teach is screenwriting because it can be done without permission or equipment, and anyone can just write a screenplay on their own. Barr’s favorite thing about being a teacher is “helping young people to realize that their dreams are possible.” He also said that he likes Eastern because it gives students the opportunities that they wouldn’t have elsewhere.

With everything being online this semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everything has changed for him as an instructor in a department where in-person classes are vital. In response to classes being moved to online only, the department moved all the classes that are better suited for in-person learning to the spring. This semester, he is teaching film history, screenwriting, and freshman seminar, which are all easier to teach online. Right now, they are trying to prepare for the spring if everything is still online.

Barr said that “it is hard to anticipate” how film and filmmaking will change in the future. He said that one thing he thinks will change the most is distribution, because of how popular streaming platforms have become. Barr also stated that television has transformed because of how popular binge-watching series has become.

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