Film professor profile: Danielle Schwartz


Jiovani Bermudez

Danielle Schwartz Schwartz teaches Film Studies and Production classes to students interested in film at Winona State University. She believes in the the film program and what it can provide for students who pursue a career in the industry as she did.

Reanne Weil, News Editor

Assistant Professor in the English Department in Film Studies at Winona State University, Danielle Schwartz, had no idea that her parents’ decision to move to L.A. would lead to her getting a job on one of the biggest sets in film history– “The Hobbit”.

Originally from Michigan, Schwartz finished her Bachelor’s in English with a focus on film at Michigan State University and decided to seek employment opportunities in L.A.

“All of a sudden, for a job, my dad said, ‘Okay, we’re moving to L.A.’,” Schwartz said. “That worked out really well for me. After internships and smaller jobs, I finally got a role. I had no idea what I was working on; it was like a top-secret project. While I was interviewing, they couldn’t tell me anything. Then I found out it was “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”.”

While on set, Schwartz worked as a Production Coordinator, dealing with the behind-the-scenes marketing and funding issues. She worked multiple 18-hour shifts and even one 25-hour shift to complete the film in time for screening. When it was finished, Schwartz moved back to Michigan and completed her Master’s in English (focusing on film) through Michigan State as well.

“When it was time to do a PhD, because I really wanted to teach at that point, I got an offer at Binghamton University in Upstate New York,” Schwartz said. “I got a lot of writing done there. That produced my dissertation, which is the basis of how I teach film studies here.”

Two springs ago, a job at Winona State popped up on the market cycle and sparked Schwartz’s interest. While scrambling to finish her dissertation and completing interviews via Zoom, Schwartz’s husband hopped on a plane to scope out Winona and find them a home. That summer, they moved in.

“I didn’t know if I’d like it here because I’ve lived in a lot of big places,” Schwartz said. “I didn’t get to go and see Winona before I moved here, but I love it. It’s a beautiful place. I love the genuine sense of community here; I came here and people scooped me up and made sure I was part of the community. I didn’t get that anywhere else.”

At Winona State, Schwartz teaches Film Studies and Production classes and enjoys the creativity they allow for her students.

“In a Film Studies class, students make memes, video essays, they recut scenes from original movies and make lots of connections to previously-viewed films,” Schwartz said. “In a production class, you might walk in and see no one because all my students are out shooting a short film or shooting scenes for a trailer. I really want all my students to be comfortable working with each other.”

Kevin Keating, a third-year student at Winona State, was in an introduction to film class with Schwartz and spoke highly on the experience he had.

“Being a finance major taking a gen-ed, she made the class really interesting,” Keating said. “The class was really appealing to me. She was very polite and always brought energy to the classroom.”

Schwartz is in a fixed-term position, where she can get renewed for up to four years. The director of the program retired, and so far, there’s no talk of a 10-year track line opening. If it does not, the film program cannot run with only one professor to teach. Schwartz wanted it to be known that the program may be at risk of dwindling down.

“I don’t want students to lose the major or the opportunities,” Schwartz said. “The classes are community-centered, so they’re working with organizations out in the community. They’re learning so much. I think it would be a shame for that to be lost.”

Keating further recalled on a tough day that Schwartz helped turn into a fun one.

“I remember one time, it was Monday morning, and all of the students were really tired,” Keating said. “She got up, played some Taylor Swift on YouTube, and started dancing. She recognized that we were tired and tried to bring the energy into the class. I never went into the class dreading it.”

Schwartz provided advice to anyone studying in film or wanting to switch their major to film studies.

“If you want to major in film and love watching films, I say take the plunge and jump in,” Schwartz said. “Don’t worry so much about what your parents might say or the fears you might have about getting a job. If you have the urge to talk about films after, jump in.”