Valdosta Daily Times

August 28, 2013

Media instructor writes award-winning research paper

Kristin Finney
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Media is an ever-growing field with educators researching and writing on new aspects of the industry every year. Dennis Conway, mass media instructor at Valdosta State University, is one such educator.

In October 2012, Conway’s paper “Are Incentives from U.S. State Film Offices to Media Productions Worth the Money?” was published in the Journal of Media Education. This paper was also chosen for a Scholar-to-Scholar poster session honor at the Broadcast Education Association 2013 Conference.

Conway shared his response upon finding out that his paper had received honors. “I was thrilled. It was the only paper I’d ever entered into a competition. But it was probably the only paper out there on a newly controversial topic, so it did well.”

Conway’s paper researched U.S. state film boards’ incentives for productions filmed in their respective states. He gathered information on all 50 states’ tax-incentive rates, which is a large factor in production decisions of shooting locations. Within his paper, Conway offered the exact rates of each state. Georgia is in the lower third, offering a 20 percent base incentive and an additional 10 percent for a promo.

Conway has used his findings to educate his students. During his classes, he informs students about the benefits offered for filming in certain states.

Conway has been teaching video-production classes at VSU since fall 2009. While at VSU, he has also been active in several different committees including the Student Services Committee, Faculty Senate, Technology Committee, Executive Committee, Mass Media Promotion/“Branding” Committee, Mass Media MFA Exploratory Committee, Mass Media Sports

Communication Committee, and more.

His hard work to improve campus and student life reveals his passion for his job. Conway said of teaching, “I think my role is to light a fire under the students to do quality production work. Sometimes I can do that and sometimes I can’t, but I do try. I try to educate my students in the history and theory of production. We aren’t just doing the project, we are learning about its importance.”

He added, “Teaching college has been my favorite job, except for making my own feature film, which unlike teaching, cost me a lot of money. I’m lucky to teach digital film-making classes, because it’s easy to make students see their film as an extension of themselves, and a mirror of their own quality and ‘coolness.’ Consequently, they work harder, and they even show their films at holidays to their friends and family. They don’t do that with their term papers, although it would be nice.”

Before becoming a teacher, Conway attended Cornell University where he received his bachelor of arts in government. He then earned his master of fine arts in film and television production from New York University. Going to school in New York, Conway is no stranger to big names in the industry.

He worked on Spike Lee’s first film, “Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads,” while at NYU. He was also in the same class as Oscar winner Ang Lee and was invited to his wedding, though he wasn’t able to attend. He also worked with Keith Olbermann at the Cornell college radio station.

Having parents who were educators, and having no desire to go to Hollywood, Conway decided to become a teacher.

“I really do like teaching. I try to think of what I needed as a student or as a film maker and I try to give that to my students,” he said. “I try to give them confidence and the dos and don’ts. I try to teach them how to avoid problem areas in production.”

As for his teaching methods, Conway explained, “I think all quality films come from a quality script. That’s why I show plenty of films in class, long and short, for students to emulate. Then they submit three story ideas, which the class rates. Only then do we write a treatment, and script, and start shooting our group projects. So I start my class as a film guide, then become a writing critic, a production critic, and a movie critic.”