Cinema Study


Cinema Study


This class aims to develop students’ skills so that they become adept in both interpreting and making film texts.

Our objectives in this course are as follows:

1. To understand the nature and process of film production.

2. To learn how to read and analyze film as you would a novel, a poem or a short story

3. To familiarize ourselves with certain theoretical ideas presented by major film theorists.

4. To learn how to develop, write and revise workable screenplays.

5. To explore the major aesthetic trends in the history of cinema.

6. To work collaboratively with our peers to produce short films in a variety of different ways.

7. TO GAIN A GREATER UNDERSTANDING OF THE WAY ART WORKS—how it manipulates reality to make a thematic point (political, social, philosophical, sexual, aesthetic, etc.)

Why should we care?? 

Through the study and analysis of film texts and exercises in film-making, the course explores film history, theory, and socio-economic background. The course develops students’ critical abilities, enabling them to appreciate the multiplicity of cultural and historical perspectives in film. To achieve an international understanding within the world of film, students are taught to consider film texts, theories, and ideas from the points of view of different individuals, nations, and cultures.

Students also develop the professional and technical skills (including organizational skills) needed to express themselves creatively in film. The course emphasizes the importance of working individually and as a member of a group. A challenge for students following this course is to become aware of their own perspectives and biases and to learn to respect those of others. This requires a willingness to attempt to understand alternative views, to respect and appreciate cultural diversity, and to have an open and critical mind.

In addition, the course is designed to promote:

  • an appreciation and understanding of film as a complex art form
  • an ability to formulate stories and ideas in film terms
  • the practical and technical skills of production
  • critical evaluation of film productions by the student and by others
  • a knowledge of film-making traditions in more than one country.

Part 1: Textual analysis 

  • Construction according to narrative or other formal organizing principles
  • Representation of characters and issues
  • Camera angles, shots and movement
  • Editing and sequencing
  • Lighting, shade and colour
  • Sound
  • Location and set design
  • Features determining genre
  • Target audience
  • Historical, economic, sociocultural and institutional factors

Part 2: Film theory and history 

Aspects of film theory and history can be introduced to students by asking such questions as: Having followed the higher level film course, students are expected to

  • Who made this? demonstrate the following:
  • Why?
  • What can we tell about the film-maker(s)? • An understanding of the variety of ways in which film creates meaning.
  • For whom was it made? How does it ad- • An understanding and effective use of appropriate film language. dress its audience? What is the nature of our • Originality and creativity in developing an idea through the various engagement with film? stages of film-making, from conception to finished production.
  • What outside influences can we perceive in • Technical skills and an appropriate use of available technology.

terms of finance, ownership, institution and • The ability to draw together knowledge, skills, research and experi-sociocultural context? Hence, and apply them analytically to evaluate film texts.

  • What tradition is it in (for example, American • A critical understanding of the historical, theoretical, sociocultural, gangster film, Bollywood musical)? economic and institutional contexts of film in more than one country • To what other works might it be connected? • The ability to research, plan and organize working processes

Part 3: Creative process—techniques and organization of production

The ability to reflect upon and evaluate film production processes organization of production and completed film texts.

Initial planning

• Finding the idea

• Research

• Treatment and script development

Pitch and approval

• Developing the proposal

• Negotiating the proposal with the teacher

• Receiving approval to proceed

Technical planning

• Conceptualization

• Visualization

• Production scheduling

• Editing and sound strategies

Physical production

• Pre-production

• Production

• Post-Production journal

Film Studies Syllabus

Four (4) day study cycle for each genre of film

(Day 1) Learn about the genre (history, vocabulary, samples of genre)

(Day 2) Watch part 1 of movie-take notes, answer questions on board

(Day 3) Watch part 2 of movie-take notes

(Day 4) Discuss movie in class, write up post-production analysis

RUNNING ASSIGNMENT: Please find a way to support the local Film and Fine Arts Community. You will need to see one film shot, produced, written or directed by a Colorado native! This one-page film analysis is due anytime before the end of the semester!

UNIT 1: The Birth of Cinema/ Silent Film    

Key Concepts: Precursors, early photography, persistence of vision, critical inventions, Thomas Edison’s role, public reaction, inter-titles, continuity, Charlie Chaplin, landmark silent films, actors, and directors.

Film Examples: Lumiere Brothers’ First Films, A Trip to the Moon, The Gold Rush, The Kid, City Lights, Steamboat Bill, Jr., Metropolis, Nosferatu.

Time Frame:  Weeks 1-2

UNIT 2: The Introduction of Sound / The Musical  

Key Concepts: Important inventions, competing formats, public acceptance, newsreels, Broadway’s influence, changes in the musical genre over the years, landmark musical films, actors, and directors.

Film Examples:  Singin’ in the Rain, On the Town, The Wizard of Oz, West Side Story, Hard Day’s Night.

Time Frame:  Weeks 3-4

UNIT 3: Censorship/ The Comedy  

Key Concepts: Public concerns, MPPDA, The Production Code, The Hays Commission, the rating system, landmark comedies, societal influences, effects of constraints on art, landmark comedy films, actors, writers, and directors.

Film Examples:  Duck Soup, Bringing Up Baby, Some Like It Hot,

Dr. Strangelove, What’s Up, Doc?

Time Frame:  Weeks 5-7

UNIT 4: The Studio System/ The Western        

Key Concepts: The Big Eight Studios, vertical integration, art as a business, landmark westerns, landscapes as characters, mythological heroes, landmark western films, actors, writers, and directors.

Film Examples:  Stagecoach, Red River, The Searchers, Shane, High Noon, 3:10 to Yuma.

Time Frame:  Weeks 8-11

UNIT 5: Cinema and Patriotism/ The Combat Film 

Key Concepts: McCarthyism, Hollywood blacklist, House on Un-American Activities, First Amendment, Hollywood’s role in the war, war bonds, propaganda vs. patriotism, landmark war films, actors, and directors.

Film Examples: Bataan, Sergeant York, Sands of Iwo Jima, Stalag 17, Paths of Glory, The Great Escape.

Time Frame:  Weeks 12-15

FINAL PROJECT- Make your own movie!!!! See rubric! 

Create and produce a 4-5 minute original film as part of a team or as an individual and describe your specific role (director, scriptwriter, cinematographer, editor or sound designer) Students will be expected to “pitch” their film projects to the instructor.

Time Frame: Weeks 16-18

(End of Semester One)

UNIT 6:  Documentaries and Bias in Cinema

(Beginning of Semester Two)     

Key Concepts: Bias, first person accounts, journalistic versus editorial, history films, Cinema Verite, docudramas, biopics, re-enactments, propaganda, objectivity, landmark documentary films, artists, studios, and directors.

Film Examples:  Endless Summer, On Any Sunday, Sicko, Dogtown and Z-Boys, Riding Giants, Step Into Liquid, Dust to Glory.

Time Frame: Weeks 1-3

UNIT 7:  The Art of Cinematography/ Film Noir       

Key Concepts: The cinematographer as an artist, the rule of thirds, lighting concepts and terminology, techniques of focusing, negative space, shadowing, landmark noir films, actors, writers, and directors.

Film Examples:  Sunset Boulevard, The Maltese Falcon,

Double Indemnity, The Third Man, The Big Sleep, The Big Heat, Detour, Citizen Kane.

Time Frame: Weeks 4-6

UNIT 8: The Art of Editing/ Suspense Films

Key Concepts: The grammar of film editing, editing terminology, montage, cross-cutting, landmark suspense films, Alfred Hitchcock, other suspense actors, and directors.

Film Examples:  Diabolique, Vertigo, Rear Window, Rope, Wait Until Dark, Duel.

Time Frame: Weeks 7-10

UNIT 9: The Art of Director/ The Drama

Key Concepts: The evolution of the director’s job, the role of the director, producer vs. director, the auteur theory, the final cut, Orson Welles, David Lean, John Huston, landmark drama films and directors.

Film Examples:  On the Waterfront, Seven Samurai, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

Time Frame: Weeks 11-13

UNIT 10: The Film School Generation/ The Blockbuster

Key Concepts: Low-budget filmmaking, B-movies, location shooting, product tie-ins, conglomerate takeovers, landmark 1970s films, artists, and directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg.

Film Examples:  American Graffiti, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raising Arizona.

Time Frame: Weeks 14-16

FINAL PROJECT- Make your own movie!!!! See rubric! 

Create and produce a 4-5 minute original film as part of a team or as an individual and describe your specific role (director, scriptwriter, cinematographer, editor or sound designer) Students will be expected to “pitch” their film projects to the instructor.

Time Frame: Weeks 16-18

We may also screen the following movies:

(as they fit with the above content areas)

 FILM NOIR • Psycho (Hitchcock) • Devil in a Blue Dress (Franklin) • The Third Man (Carol Reed) • Citizen Kane (Welles)

GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM • Nosferatu (Murnau) • Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer)

NEWWAVE • 400 Blows (Truffaut) • Loves of a Blonde (Forman) • Two in the Wave Documentary

OTHER FILMS, GENRES, DIRECTORS, TOPICS • Television • The Fast Runner (2001) Kunuk • Indigenous Filmmaking 3 • The Long Take • Visions of Light Documentary- Cinematographer vs. Director • Life is Beautiful (Begnini) Hollywood’s Big 3: Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola • Short Films • Film Theories-Auteur, Realism, Formalism, Gender, Marxist, Genres

  American Teen (2008)

 Back to the Future (1985)

 Casablanca (1942)

 Cinema Paradiso (1988)

 Citizen Kane (1941)

 From Russia with Love (1963)

 The General (1927)

 The Godfather (1972)

 Gone with the Wind (1939)

 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

 Jaws (1975)

 The Matrix (1997)

 Millennium Actress (2001)

 Modern Times (1936)

 North by Northwest (1959)

 The Princess Bride (1987)

 Psycho (1960)

 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

 Rear Window (1954)

 Rebel without a Cause (1955)

 Run Lola Run (1998)

 Saving Private Ryan (1998)

 The Searchers (1956)

 Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

 Star Wars (1977)

 Sunset Boulevard (1950)

 The Truman Show (1998)

 The Wizard of Oz (1939)




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