Class 21: Film & Video Unit: Introduction

The next 20 or so classes will be dedicated to studying the principles of film and the video production process. We will investigate the following:

  • Film language and grammar: the conventions/rules that go into stringing a group of shots into scenes/sequences/film, including:
    • camera angle, camera distance, framing, mise-en-scene, editing
  • Film genres: westerns, musicals, horror, sci-fi, thrillers, film noir
  • National cinemas
  • A brief sketch of film history

You will be responsible for a number of written pieces throughout the unit. The larger assignments will include a shot-by-shot analysis of a sequence from a film of your choice (with some conditions applied), and a collaborative project that involves brainstorming a film idea, creating a pitch, preparing storyboards and a script, and shooting.

Today we will review the handout (available here) on film language, and start viewing the 1939 John Ford western Stagecoach.

Stagecoach serves as a fine example of how successful the classical Hollywood-style of film-making was. Focusing on story-telling, or narrative, the cinematic elements privilege the story, ensuring the viewer is fully immersed in the plot. Using the handout, we will watch Stagecoach carefully for examples of the Hollywood style of film-making.


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