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New Era of Inner Circle Led by Bo Chamberlain
Kristopher Kennedy

With the departure of faculty gatekeeper Jason Oswald last spring, the reins to the Inner Circle, a student club at Baylor dedicated to watching film, were turned over to Bo Chamberlain, a middle school social studies instructor and alumnus of the Baylor class of 1990 and a member of the club under the late Dr. John Miller.

“I just wanted to bring [Inner Circle] back to what it originally had been,” Chamberlain says, “a not well-known group of real hardcore people that were dedicated to the art form and to being part of the group, too.”

Inner Circle is a student organization at Baylor for, as Chamberlain describes it, “the appreciation of film as an art form.” Chamberlain adds, “Film is a potent medium that can be every bit as nuanced and complicated as great written work....people just tend to take things on face value and the deep dive on the film is getting forgotten in a lot of ways.”

To start off his first year at the helm, Chamberlain made a statement by declaring a new attendance policy: two unexcused absences from a meeting gets you the boot. “To be able to have great conversations you need to spend time together and have shared experiences,” he says. Back in the days under Miller’s purview, attendance for Inner Circle was stressed and strict, adding to the overall sense of community for those involved. Chamberlain called it “a place of belonging.”

And this place of belonging is very essential to what Chamberlain is trying to achieve. “I wanted kids that were in [Inner Circle] to feel like they belonged in a thing, like it was part of their experience here; it wasn’t just something they did,” he said. “This club, when I was here, it spoke to kids who were the piece that didn’t quite fit in the puzzle all the time.”

Inner Circle carries an importance beyond film. Chamberlain wants his students to develop a critical eye, saying it’s essential “to see what people are actually trying to do beyond just the superficial.” He alludes to the student who doesn’t “really get” a movie. But to that student he says: “If you’d realized what the goal of the movie was in the first place, the whole thing would’ve made sense to you. And sometimes it’s not super obvious. And there are so many different ways to get your point across.” He continues, “If a picture’s worth a thousand words, what are thirty pictures a second worth?”

“Valuable,” says Chamberlain, when asked to ascribe one word to Inner Circle, “It’s a valuable experience. People have different value of it, different evaluations...[for students] to watch films that they would have never watched and to experience ideas that they never would have engaged with, that’s education.”

Chamberlain also notes the connected history of the club: “Different generations have seen the same movies. I’ve got friends that are twenty years younger than me that were in Inner Circle...[when I took over] they were like, ‘Show ‘em Metropolis! Come on Easy Rider!’ The great ones that people are like, ‘Wow, I will never forget watching that movie.’ And so I just love that connection with people.”

Amalgamating the old with the new, a timeless yet shifting blend and fusion of values, ideas, and expression—that’s film. However, it is also quite fittingly an appropriate way to characterize the revitalized Inner Circle program. Bo Chamberlain, returning nostalgia and idiosyncrasy, has revamped Miller’s film club, shaping it for the present, looking out towards the future. “[Film] can make you cry and have the worst day and [be] the most heart-wrenching thing or you can have the most uplifting thing and it’s two hours everybody shares. I love it, I love it.”

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