EARLY FILM EXAM
The early film exam is Tuesday, Sept. 24th during the class period. I’m explaining the format here. Please look over the following post, and bring any questions that you might have to class on Thursday.
The exam will take the entire class period (75 minutes) and will have two sections:
I. Clip Identifications and Explications (20 points each / 45 minutes total)
You will be shown three clips, each of between 30 seconds and 3 minutes. For each clip, you should do the following:
- Identify the film’s title, director, and year of release.
- Discuss the clip’s stylistic features (for example: mise en scène, editing, narrative structure, etc.)
- Relate those features to the film’s overall style and meaning. How do these features reflect the historical moment in which the film was made or the stylistic movement of which it is a part? How do these features combine to suggest an overall approach to narrative filmmaking?
II. Written Answer Response (40 points / 25 minutes total)
You will be given a prompt for which you will be expected to write a mini-essay (approximately 3 paragraphs) in which you make an argument in response to the questions asked. Your answer should contain the following elements:
- A discussion of at least three films that we’ve seen so far in this semester
- A reference/explication of at least two of the readings that we’ve read
The prompt will be broad enough for a wide range of responses, so part of your task in responding will be to define clearly how you are choosing to respond to the questions. Begin your mini-essay with a clear statement of what you are arguing about the films that you have chosen and readings that you will reference. When you discuss the films, remember to be as specific as possible, mentioning specific shots or scenes in your answer. Points will be given for answers that are clear, cogently argued, and refer specifically to the films under consideration.
FMST 201 / ENGL 220 Introduction to Film Studies
Production Lab Session: Monday, Oct. 21st
Storyboard and shot lists due: Monday, Oct. 28th
Due Date: Tuesday, Nov. 19th
Storyboard and shot lists due: Monday, Nov. 4th
Due Date: Tuesday, Nov. 26th
As part of your introduction to the history and analysis of filmmaking, you are going to work in teams to make a short fictional film that demonstrates the shot types and editing techniques we have been studying this semester. In particular, your team will demonstrate your understanding of the rules of Continuity Editing: the dominant editing style of the classical Hollywood cinema (1915 ~ 1960) that influenced other national film traditions.
To make this process easier, especially for those students who haven’t worked with a camera before, I’m breaking the assignment into a series of steps. Jonas Fryer is an advanced production student in the Film Studies program and he will introduce you to the equipment and provide assistance if your team gets stuck at any point.
This assignment is designed to help you with your understanding of continuity editing in the films you watch for class as well as give you some exposure to the production side of Film Studies. This project looks like it has a lot of moving pieces, but as long as you stay organized, follow this timeline, and start early, I’m sure you all will find this assignment to be a lot of fun.
- Teams will be made up of 5 people, with one group of 6.
- No fewer than 6 shots, at least 4 of which must be taken from the list of shot types below.
- It must be 2 to 3 minutes in length.
- It should not have sound, though you can provide background music if you choose.
- It must be filmed on campus, though points will be given for unexpected locations.
- Points will be given for creativity and originality.
- Points will be given for referencing films, genres, ideas, or styles that we’ve studied this semester (e.g. the western, Hitchcock’s cinema, etc.)
Low-angle of framing shot
High-angle of framing shot
Step One: Brainstorming, Storyboard & Shot List (Oct. 28th or Nov. 4th)
On October 28th (or November 4th for the 10:30 section), your team will turn in a storyboard and a shot list. These may not match perfectly the final film you submit—after all, this is a work-in-progress—but the more detailed both are, the more efficient you can be when the team is getting its shots. It’s worth spending some time at this stage; it will save you effort down the road.
A storyboard sequential series of illustrations or images that allow you to visualize each of the shots required to tell your story (or phases of shots, if the camera is moving), with a description provided underneath the image. Storyboarding will make your team think very specifically about what each shot will contain and how it be composed. For each shot, your team should decide how you want to arrange the details in your frame.
After you’ve completed your storyboard, the team should create a shot list: a detailed description of each shot that you’ll need to get. It includes the scene number, the shot number, the location (where you’re shooting), the shot type (eye-level close up, medium shot from high angle, etc.), the subject (what’s being photographed), and a description of what happens in the shot (e.g. Dan and Sylvie walking down the stairs).
Once you have completed your storyboard and shot list, you will set a time to meet with Jonas to have your project approved and get some hands-on training with the camera before you go out filming. This should take around one hour. Not everyone in the group needs to come to the meeting, but having more people come means that more people will get experience with the equipment. Come to the meeting with clear questions about what you need answered.
Step Two: Checking out equipment
At this point, someone in your group needs to check out equipment from the TLC. The TLC is open Monday to Thursday from 9am until midnight and Friday from 9am until 5pm. For filming, you need to check out a video camera kit and a tripod. Be clear that you need the equipment for Dr. Cheever’s film production assignment. Some important notes about checking out from the TLC:
- The maximum time you can check out equipment from the TLC is 3 days, so don’t check anything out until your group has set a day to film. Late fees are $25 per day!
- One person is responsible for the equipment when he/she checks it out. If someone in the group loses an item, the person who checks out the camera is responsible.
- The camera kit will come with a lot of pieces. After you check everything out, make a list of everything you have so you know what to put back into the bag when you return it.
- After you check out the equipment, plug a battery into the battery charger to make sure you have a full charge for the day of filming
- If you have your own video camera or DSLR, you are free to use that for filming; just be sure to get that approved with Jonas when you meet with him.
- The TLC also has tripods available for smartphones. If you have experience making film projects with your iPhone and you want to use that for the project; you can also get that approved by Jonas when you meet with him.
- GoPros are also available at the TLC if you think that might be useful for your project.
- Charge the camera batteries before returning the equipment to the TLC
- If anyone is having any trouble getting equipment, contact Melissa Foster from the TLC at email@example.com
Step Three: Getting Your Shots
Once you have your equipment, you should have already found a time and place to film your project. Almost everyone in the group should be there on the day of filming. Not only is there a decent amount of equipment to keep track of, but having more people there will make things go a lot easier, especially if you run into trouble with the camera. If you choose yourselves to be the subjects in the film, you definitely need most of the group to be there. Some important notes about filming:
- Be prepared for filming to take longer than you prepared for. Even for a two-minute short film, getting usable footage for one shot can take a while. Set aside at least a few hours for getting footage.
- You are in no way restricted to the shots you outlined on your shot list. Add any shots that you think might benefit your project.
- Before you go filming, make sure you have fully charged batteries!
- Keep the camera on automatic mode. This will save you a lot of trouble.
- Check to make sure the camera/tripod is level before you shoot the next shot.
- Start recording a few seconds before the scene starts and keep recording for a few seconds after the scene ends.
- When in doubt, film it. It is better to have extra footage that you end up not using than regret not filming something.
- If you want to use panning, tilts, or tracking shots, pulling on the tripod handle with a hair tie or rubber band may help you get smoother movements.
- Bring a quarter on the day of filming! Some of the tripods have bases that you can only unscrew with loose change.
- Keep track of the SD card you use for filming. If you lose that, you lose all of your footage (and you may get a fine from the TLC!)
- important: When you are out shooting, please keep your surroundings in mind. Be smart about shooting near traffic or in perilous locations. You will lose points if you put yourself or your classmates at unnecessary risk, regardless of whether you get the shot you’re looking for.
Because of the staggered deadlines and the amount of time it takes to edit, the groups in the 9am section should have collected all of their footage and turned in their cameras by Monday, Nov. 10th at the latest. This will ensure that the other section will have enough time to get their own footage. The 10:30am section should have all of their footage by Monday, Nov. 18th so you have enough time to edit.
Step Four: Saving Your Footage
Immediately when you are done filming, save your footage onto the hard drive Jonas gives to each group tonight. You can do this by removing the SD card from the camera and plugging that into a computer with an SD card slot. At this point, save all of your footage onto the hard drive and place the SD card back into the camera. The TLC will clear all footage on the SD card when you return it, so if you forget this step, you may lose all of your footage.
Step Five: Bringing It All Together!
At this point, you are finally ready to begin editing your footage. To keep things simple, every group is going to edit their film on iMovie. You will also only edit your film off of the hard drive provided tonight. This will make it easier to pass between members of your group. You can edit on your personal Macs, but the goal of the project is for every member of the group to learn continuity editing. Therefore, I highly encourage you all edit your projects in the TLC. The TLC computers have dual-monitors that are quite large, so it is much easier for multiple people to edit together than have everyone crowd around one laptop. Some important notes on editing:
- Editing takes a lot of time! Make sure you start well in advance of the deadline, and split up the work within the group so one person does not get stuck doing all of the editing.
- Save a back-up of your project file. This is the thing that is most likely to get corrupted at some point.
- Make sure you save your project file in the same location as your footage. This will save you a lot of editing headaches.
- If you choose to edit off of a personal computer, try to edit only on that computer. Having the project scattered across many different computers will make it difficult to consolidate into one.
- Team can make appointments to work with TLC consultants on iMovie. The TLC can make same-day appointments; just try to not walk in for help without an appointment.
- Com and YouTube tutorials for editing are your friends.
- When you finish editing, make sure your film is a .mp4 file. iMovie usually does this automatically when you save it to your hard drive but it never hurts to double-check.
And lastly ….
A common thread through all of these steps is that this project will be time-consuming, especially the editing. This is unfortunately just a part of the industry; film productions have a lot of moving parts! My main point here is that it is impossible to complete an entire film project the night before. Papers, presentations, and reports can be completed the night before (even though that is not recommended), but film projects literally cannot be completed in a single day. For this reason, I urge you to plan out this assignment well in advance and frequently communicate with one another so everyone stays on the same page. As long as you try to spread out this project, I’m sure you will also find this to be a lot of fun and a little refreshing compared to the assignments in your other classes.
If you have any questions, feel free to email Jonas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Paper Assignment
Length: 2000 words (approximately 6 pages, Times New Roman, 12-point font)
Paper topics due: Monday, Nov. 4th at 5pm via email
Final papers due:
Monday, Nov. 11th at 5:00 pm via email Wednesday, Nov. 13th at 5:00pm via email
In class and through our readings we have discussed the Western and its depiction of American expansion during the 19th century. We discussed how genre films combine tradition and innovation, drawing upon settings, characters, plots, and iconography from the Western tradition to represent and investigate American history and culture.
Your task is to write a paper based in the close analysis of one or two of the Western films we’ve studied. Your essay should provide a clear and well-conceived argument about how your film engages with the Western genre to suggest meanings to its audience. It should support that argument with ample evidence from specific shots and scenes in the film, making reference to mise en scène, editing, dialogue, camera angles, shot composition, lighting, and so on. To gain this evidence you will need to watch your chosen film(s) more than once or twice. Ask yourself: How do the visual aspects of the film combine with the narrative to create meaning for the audience? What, ultimately, does the film want to communicate about your chosen topic?
Since the purpose of this paper is to foreground your developing skills in film analysis, do not consult sources other than those explicitly assigned for the class (readings, etc.). Do not consult Course Hero or other websites that provide notes, papers, exams, etc., from other students.
If you are stuck getting started, I would recommend making a list of the qualities that are associated with Western cinema and then looking for those qualities in your chosen film(s). Rewatch key scenes and use the attached handout on mise en scène by Louis Giannetti that to get you started in thinking about them. How is the film using these techniques to create and build the spaces of the film? Then ask yourself: how do those spaces contribute to the questions about human existence and experience that the film explores? How is the film using the West and the Western to think about human experience in America?
Keep in mind: The most successful papers will not simply list the qualities of Westerns and then locate them in your chosen film. Rather, they will go beyond a description of those qualities to analyze how the film deploys those qualities to provide meaning for its viewers.
Possible themes to consider:
- Violence: How is violence used in the film(s)? What is considered to be legitimate or illegitimate uses of violence? What are the consequences of the use of violence for the individual or the society?
- Gender: How does the film define appropriate gender roles for men and for women? What qualities are men and women expected to possess (or not to possess)? What happens when characters violate those expectations?
- Society: What defines a just society? Or an unjust society? How can the just/unjust society best be achieved? Whose job is it to bring about?
- Heroes and Villains: How do we know who is a hero or a villain? How does the film use these simple categories to define what matters in our cultures? Is it ever difficult to tell whether someone is a “good” or “bad” character? What does such confusion tell us?
From Louis Giannetti. Understanding Movies. 13th ed. Pearson, 2014. pp 92.
“A systematic mise en scène analysis of any given shot includes the following fifteen elements:
- Dominant: where is our eye attracted first? Why?
- Lighting Key: High key? Low key? High contrast? Some combination of these?
- Shot and Camera proxemics: What type of shot? How far away is the camera from the action?
- Angle: Are we (and the camera) looking up or down on the subject? Or is the camera neutral (eye level)?
- Color Values: What is the dominant color? Are there contrasting foils? Is there color symbolism?
- Lens/Filter/Stock: How do these distort or comment on the photographed materials?
- Subsidiary Contrasts: What are the main eye -stops after taking in the dominant?
- Density: How much visual information is packed into the image? Is the texture stark, moderate, or highly detailed?
- Composition: How is the two-dimensional space segmented and organized? What is the underlying design?
- Form: Open or closed? Does the image suggest a window that arbitrarily isolates a fragment of a scene? Or a proscenium arch, in which the visual elements are carefully arranged and held in balance?
- Framing: tight or loose? Do the characters have room to move around, or can they move freely without impediments?
- Depth: On how many planes is the image composed? Does the background or foreground comment in any way on the mid-ground?
- Character placement: What part of the framed space do the characters occupy? Center? Top? Bottom? Edges? Why?
- Staging positions: Which way do the characters look vis a vis the camera?
- Character proxemics: How much space is there between the characters?
These visual principles with appropriate modifications, can be applied to any image analysis. Of course, while we’re actually watching a movie, most of us don’t have time or inclination to explore all fifteen elements of mise en scène in each shot. Nonetheless, by applying these principles to a still photo, we can train our eyes to “read” a movie image with more critical sophistication.“
Length: Approximately 2400 (7-8 pages, Times New Roman 12-point font)
Due Date: Monday, December 16th at 5pm via email
Your task is to write a close analysis of two films using the techniques of film interpretation that we have been developing this semester. Your essay should respond to the prompt and should provide a clear and well-conceived argument about what the movies communicate with their audience and how that communication happens. It should support that argument with ample evidence from specific scenes in the films. It should make reference to dialogue, camera angles, shot composition, editing techniques, and so on.
Since the paper should foreground your skills in film analysis, you should focus your attention on your own analysis. You may use materials that we’ve read for class (e.g. Wood’s essay on Shadow of a Doubt or Mulvey’s discussion of gaze theory) but the emphasis is on your ideas. If you would like to research additional materials, let me know in advance of doing the research. I can steer you in profitable directions. Any materials that you consult for the paper must be listed in a Works Consulted list at the end of the paper (MLA Citation style).
Do not consult Course Hero or other websites that provide notes, papers, exams, etc., from other students or other schools. To do so will constitute a violation of the UR Honor Code.
In “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962” Andrew Sarris discusses the three premises that undergird his definition of a cinematic auteur: technical competence, personal style, and interior meaning. In class we have been studying Alfred Hitchcock’s cinema, investigating his style and the central questions or ideas with which his films typically engage (premises two and three).
Your paper should analyze two of Hitchcock’s films, examining how Hitchcock uses aspects of film form (mise en scène, lighting editing, composition, and so on) to tell a story that communicates broader ideas about human experiences in and of the world. How does Hitchcock use stylistic features (premise two) to tell a story that speaks to larger ideas about human existence (premise three)? What does the film say to its audience about the world and our place in it? How is that meaning communicated in the visual and narrative techniques?
For example, a paper on Shadow of a Doubt might argue that Hitchcock uses high contrast lighting to reveal Young Charlie’s gradual awakening to her uncle’s hidden desires and that he argues are present in everyone. These lightening techniques culminate in the three fade-to-black moments that mark Young Charlie’s growing awareness of life as an adult.
Keep in mind:
The most successful papers won’t simply state the qualities of a Hitchcock film and then describe them in the film(s) you are discussing. They will go beyond a description of those qualities to analyze how they are used to make a point about individuals and their experiences. For example, we discussed how Hitchcock uses Young Charlie’s loss of innocence in Shadow of a Doubt to comment on midcentury American small-town life. The most successful papers will build to points of significance and substance.
Possible ideas and concepts to consider:
- The power of desire. How does desire operate, and can it be controlled? How does it affect individual’s behavior? Is desire ultimately a positive or a negative force?
- Masculinity and/or femininity: its construction, strength and/or vulnerabilities. What roles are men and women expected to perform? Are masculinity and femininity fixed and determined or fluid and evolving? How do men and women experience gender expectations?
- Identity: how it is constructed and what threatens it. How do individuals experience their identities in Hitchcock’s films? Are identities fixed and determined or fluid and evolving? Are identities easily known? What challenges the character’s sense of self?
- Voyeurism and cinematic spectatorship. What does it mean to gaze upon other people? How does Hitchcock imagine the gaze to affect our relationship with one another?
These topics are deliberately broad. You will need to focus them to create an argument that can be supported successfully.
Films to choose from:
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Rear Window (1954)