An Interview with Film Professor Jerry Hartman
By Noah Dauncey
When I came to Walla Walla University in 2016, I didn’t know much about where I wanted to go in this next stage of my life, and somehow ended up becoming a communications major.
At the introductory meeting in the comm. department, all the incoming freshmen got in a circle for the typical “what’s your name, where are you from, etc.” What caught me off guard was when we were asked to say what our concentration in the major was. I started panicking in my seat.
Not knowing what to say, I waited for my turn. But before it got to me, I heard someone else say “I’m concentrating in film.” I liked the sound of that. So, I just sorta said that too and went with it.
I met Professor Hartman in my first film class, Intro to Filmmaking. Jerry Hartman, referred to as “Jerry” within the film department, has been a professor of film, media, and culture here at Walla Walla University since 2003. Over the five years I have spent here, I’ve spent a lot of time watching and learning from his classes and wanted to hear more about what kind of films inspire a film professor.
I interviewed Jerry, asking him to tell me about his favorite movie, which happens to be 1994’s “The Shawshank Redemption.”
“The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of a lawyer wrongfully accused of murder and sent to the Shawshank prison. During his time there he learns about friendship, hope, and what makes a person good.
Jerry was more than happy to talk about his experience with the movie: “I think by the second viewing I would say it became my favorite.” Jerry has gone on to watch the movie too many times to count, yet he still remembers being impacted during his first viewing.
Jerry breaks down why it hit so hard, saying, “I was hooked because of just imagining yourself stuck in a situation where you’re wrongly accused of something… but it’s totally put together as a relationship film, like it’s the characters and their relationship with each other, and it’s a [total] allegory of a kind of Christianity, like giving hope to people.”
Of course, Jerry is keen to use scenes from “The Shawshank Redemption” in his classes. Whether it is to talk about shot/reverse shot storytelling or using the dialogue as an example of revealing something about a character, Jerry loves to toss his favorite movie up on the projector and ask the students what they see. He probably also plays the film in class because he likes to watch it.
Jerry especially looks forward to the day he can watch it with his kids at home. There is something special about sharing your favorite movie with the most important people in your life. Whether it is a movie like “The Shawshank Redemption” or even a classic like “Shrek,” it is always a delight to have a movie that gets your complete seal of approval, and it is even more of a delight when you share this part of you with someone else.