Ivy Leaf - Fall 2004

Spotlight on Michael Bartholow


Ask anyone about their favorite type of film, and the responses will be as varied as the pool of people asked: romantic comedy, drama, suspense, foreign, and a variety of others.

Ask Penn State Altoona student Michael Bartholow, and there's only one answer: Bartholow loves Japanese animated films. He's loved them since the first time he saw the animated sci-fi flick Akira at age 10. Since then, his love for animated films and Japanese culture has grown into more than just a casual hobby.

In fact, as a senior who's majoring in integrative arts with an emphasis in communications, he has even found a way to integrate his hobby into his college studies.

"I was completing an independent study project with [assistant professor of communications] Kevin Moist on the topic of filmmaking. We started chatting about some books that we each were reading, and I found out that Kevin also has an interest in Japanese anime films, and that's how our research project was born," Bartholow says.

They decided to carry their shared enthusiasm one step further and research the filmmaking process itself.

"Japanese anime has been in existence for 15 years or so, but it's really only broken out of the subculture and into the mainstream over the past five years. So there hasn't been a lot of research done about the process," Bartholow, a native of Indiana, PA, explains. "The genre hasn't been talked about much in 'filmic' terms, but more from the standpoint of Japanese culture. Kevin and I decided to look at it from the perspective of film angles and plots. I can't say that it's the first time any research like this has been done, but it's definitely cutting edge."

A large part of their research efforts involved gathering and watching all of the films made by one particular filmmaker upon whom they decided to focus their efforts, Hayao Miyazaki.

Their research, which has taken nearly two years to complete, focuses on comparing more antiquated film theory and techniques with that of Japanese anime.

Moist notes many positive aspects of involving Bartholow with the project:

"Michael has been extremely self-motivated throughout the process. He has such a creative mind and so many ideas that we can utilize. He's working on high-level projects that really will help him when he graduates from Penn State Altoona and furthers his study of filmmaking in graduate school."

Bartholow, in turn, has learned how to refine his research abilities and his organizational skills by working on the project. It also has taught him another skill: diligence.

"The research process is very complex. I've spent two years working on the project with Kevin and it's made me realize the importance of following through with something from start to finish."

The duo's diligence has paid off, as their research paper already has been accepted to the Mid-Atlantic Popular Cultural Association Conference. Bartholow and Moist made a joint presentation at the annual event, which was held in Buffalo, NY, this fall, just a month before Bartholow's graduation in December.

"Michael has been involved in so many aspects of the filmmaking process that will benefit him in the future," Moist says. "He's taken filmmaking courses at Penn State Altoona and has worked on a feature on Japanese anime that ran in our student newspaper and in LiveWire [the school's online student publication]. He even studied filmmaking this past summer in New York City and got to work on projects with some of the top film editors in the business."

His summer filmmaking experience consisted of an intense six-week session at The Edit Center, which brings together independent filmmakers who need their films edited and beginning editors who need the chance to learn from working on a feature film. "It was the most incredible experience for me because of the people that I had the chance to work with fromthe film industry. I still keep in touch with them now," Bartholow says.

Bartholow is excited to put this experience to practical use. "I really want to get my master's degree, but I'd like to get some marketable experience and work creatively before I begin," he says. "I'd love to eventually write for cartoons or comic books, but I need to cut my chops for a year or two on a variety of creative projects."

As one of Bartholow's instructors, Moist is quite impressed with the amount that he's been able to accomplish as a student.

"I'd say all of Michael's activities have been quite significant, and when our research article gets published, we can raise the rating to remarkable!"