Schieffer College Special: Classic Film Series

By Christina Ligi, News and Media Studies major, Class of 2019

Dr. Joan McGettigan, a Film, Television, and Digital Media associate professor and movie lover, hosts the Classic Film Series open to all on Thursday evenings. This community has developed over the years and has become something quite special within the Schieffer College.

Joan McGettigan arrived at TCU in 1997 and instantly became involved with the media department’s film library. The dean at the time, David Whillock, encouraged McGettigan to pursue this endeavor and granted her access to the college’s Gwendoyln P. Tandy Memorial Film Library. Since 1998, she was fortunate to find the FTDM department had an extensive film collection including a variety of formats — VHS, laser discs and the then-new DVD format.

The film library is exclusive to Schieffer College professors and its main purpose is to provide students with films through an educational forum. However, because this series acts as a public performance viewing, licensing fees must be paid. In order to enable the series to continue, McGettigan requests contributions from those who attend regularly in order to continue enjoying these films together. Without hesitation, the series remains fruitful from the generous donations of the regular filmgoers.

The series has always included around eight to 10 movies a semester. In the beginning, McGettigan would choose themes or topics; however, as the number of regular attendees increased, McGettigan encourages the audience to share their requests to create the semester’s schedule. This program highlights a package of variety, from black and white films, comedy to drama, to older and newer films. McGettigan prefers to share her passion for Hollywood movies from the 1930s through the 1960s.

Over the years, McGettigan notices the majority of the audience appreciates good dialogue and compelling acting, as well as the terrific production values, including beautiful sets and costumes, and music by great composers. Those who attend have truly developed strong relationships, and occasionally if someone misses a movie, another regular attendee will call them to make sure they’re okay. She says, “They save seats for the folks who use walkers or wheelchairs; they can get a bit territorial if someone new mistakenly sits in ‘their’ seat.” On a typical Thursday night, McGettigan says around 45 to 50 people will attend the screening.

McGettigan best explains why she began this series in 1988: “I started the Series because I believe that it’s important for us in academia to expand the idea of ‘education.’ I believe that more than ever now, as I’ve seen that those who attend regularly have a better sense of how film–how media in general–can shape our lives and influence our ideas about the world. But I also get great personal satisfaction out of it. I’ve made some wonderful friends and gotten a chance to learn about Fort Worth and the Metroplex as it’s been experienced by non-traditional students…. They’ve been incredibly generous in their contributions to keep the Series going for all of the people who attend. No politics or current events, just good acting and a chance to escape.” 

To show how much of an influence McGettigan has made on the attendees through this classic film series, she recently received a message from a mother and daughter who once were regulars. Although this attendee has recently moved out of state, she reflects upon the great times she and her mother spent together on Thursday nights.

“We still talk about things we learned from you about different movies. I continue to add some of the classics into my watchlist and I miss your enlightening and entertaining background stories about the films and the stars. You definitely broadened my horizons with all of the insight you provided. I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how very much I appreciate you dedicating your time and talent to hosting this series. You are a remarkable professor and I LOVED getting to learn from you on the occasions upon which I was fortunate enough to attend the sessions.”

This classic film series is definitely something special for the Horned Frog community to enjoy. Each screening is hosted on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Moudy S 164. For the spring 2019 film schedule, visit

For more information, please call the Department of Film, Television and Digital Media at 817-257-7630.