Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Film Studies Program
Course Descriptions
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Fall 2017

FLM 200 | Film Collective | Professor Kaveh Askari 
FLM 211 | Documentary History and Theory | Professor John Valadez
FLM 230 | Introduction to Film | Professor Kaveh Askari 
FLM 255 | Stars and Directors | Professor Bill Vincent
FLM 260 | 001 | Introduction to Digital Film and Media | Professor Ling Hsu
FLM 260 | 002 | Introduction to Digital Film and Media | Professor Pete Johnston
FLM 300 | History of Film to Midcentury | Professor Justus Nieland
FLM 334 | Screenwriting | Professor Bill Vincent
FLM 335 | Film Directing | Professor Jeff Wray
FLM 355 | Studies in Film Genres: Digital Domains: History and Aesthetics of Computer Animation and Visual Effects | Dr Mihaela Mihailova
FLM 380 | Classical Film & Media Theory | Professor Kaveh Askari
FLM 400 | Interwar Modernism in Film and Media | Professor Joshua Yumibe
FLM 435A | Creating the Fiction Film I | Professor Jeff Wray
FLM 452 | Studies in Film, Gender, and Sexuality: Cyborg Women in Film & Media | Dr Mihaela Mihailova

Spring 2018

FLM 200 | Film Collective | Professor Bill Vincent
FLM 230 | Introduction to Film | Dr Mihaela Mihailova
FLM 260 | Introduction to Digital Film and Media | Pete Johnston 
FLM 301 | History of Film after Mid-Century | Professor Kaveh Askari
FLM 311 | Introduction to Documentary Production | Professor John Valadez
FLM 334 | 002 | Intro to Screenwriting | Professor Jeff Wray
FLM 350 | Asian Cinema | Professor Sheng-Mei Ma
FLM 381 | Contemporary Film and Media Theory | Professor Ellen McCallum
FLM 411 | Documentary Design and Production | Professor John Valadez
FLM 434 | Advanced Screenwriting | Professor Bill Vincent
FLM 435B | Creating the Fiction Film II | Professor Jeff Wray
FLM 451 | Cinemas of the Middle East and North Africa | Professor Kaveh Askari
FLM 455 | Experimental Film and Media | Professor Lyn Goeringer

FALL 2017

FLM 200 | MSU Film Collective | Professor Ellen McCallum 
Thursday, 7:00pm, B122 Wells

This one-credit screening course is available to Film Studies students. Regular attendance and participation is required throughout the semester.

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FLM 211 | Documentary History and Theory | Professor John Valadez
Tuesday 9:10–12:00; Thursday 9:10–11:00

From early cinema actualities to contemporary television and film, documentary film structure has had a deep influence on both cinema and on culture. This class explores documentary as a formal structure of societal critique and question, one that allows the viewer a glimpse into the lives and situations that we live in. We will look at the the historical trajectory of the genre, considering along the way the methods of distribution and reception of the films studied. Along the way, we will consider the relationship between the directors and the subject, as this is an often troubled and complex relationship that is often set aside when reviewed for public distribution. Coursework will include written analysis of films, weekly screenings, and in class discussion.

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FLM 230 | Introduction to Film | Professor Kaveh Askari 
Tuesday 9:10-12:00, Thursday 9:10-11:00, Friday 50 min. (varies by section)  

This course introduces core concepts of film analysis, which are discussed through examples from different national cinemas, genres, and directorial œuvres. The coursework covers a wide range of styles and historical periods in order to assess the multitude of possible film techniques (camera techniques, editing, shot selection, etc.) and principles of narrative structuring. Along with questions of film technique and style, we consider the notion of the cinema as an institution that comprises an industrial system of production, social and aesthetic norms and codes, and particular modes of reception. Success in the course demands rigorous attention to both the films and the readings and requires students to watch, analyze, and write about film in new ways. Throughout the semester, students will learn different methods of viewing, analysis, exposition, and criticism and will have the opportunity to write extensively about the films seen in class. Films discussed include works by Brakhage, Burnett, Deren, Griffith, Eisenstein, Hitchcock, Sembene, Sternberg, and Welles.

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FLM 255 | Stars and Directors | Professor Bill Vincent 
Monday 4:10–7:00, Wednesday 4:10–6:00   

TBA

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FLM 260.001 | Introduction to Digital Film and Media | Professor Carleen L. Hsu 
Tuesday, Thursday 4:10–6:00

Cameras do not make films: filmmakers make films…The most important equipment is yourself, your mobile body, your imaginative mind and your freedom to use both. — Maya Daren

Filmmaking is the most powerful form of communication ever invented by humankind. With a focused eye and a keen understanding of storytelling, filmmakers can inform, influence, entertain, and even inspire. This introductory hybrid course is intended to launch students on a journey of exploration into the world of the independent filmmaker and in the process begin the odyssey of becoming one. Students will learn basic technical skills and produce original short visual projects, which will be written, photographed, and edited themselves. Together we will also screen a variety of narrative, non-fiction, and experimental works. And we will engage in robust discussion and critical analysis in an effort to understand how film affects the audience and why.

Professor of Practice Carleen L. Hsu is a two-time Peabody Award winning filmmaker who has produced documentaries for HBO and the PBS series FRONTLINE.

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FLM 260.002 | Introduction to Digital Film and Media | Pete Johnston 
Tuesday, Thursday 10:20–12:10

What's changed in filmmaking technology in the past 20 years, and what impact does that have on the stories we tell? Have digital image-making tools, editing software, and distribution channels fundamentally changed the types of stories being told and the types of artists telling them? In this hybrid course we introduce students to a variety of emerging filmmaking technologies and give them a grounding in technical skills necessary to then move on to higher order concerns of storytelling. We screen, analyze and discuss new works and look over the evolution of filmmaking technology and how it relates to this historical moment. And students produce a variety of work in documentary, fiction, and experimental forms, focusing on iteration and repetition to hone filmmaking skills. 

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FLM 300 | History of Film to Midcentury | Professor Justus Nieland
Monday 9:10–12:00, Wednesday 9:10–11:00

This course surveys the history of cinema from the end of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century. Moving chronologically, we will track a variety of national schools and international trends of filmmaking in order to analyze the global development of film exhibition practices, the emergence of film audiences, and more broadly cinema’s role within the public sphere. We will examine the formal, industrial, and cultural changes of the medium from cinema’s emergence through the conversion to sound in the late 1920s. We will also explore the variety of national and international movements form the 1930s to the 1940s—including German and French cinemas, classical Hollywood cinema, and Japanese studio productions pre- and postwar. Through taking a broad and comparative approach to the history of cinema, we will gain critical perspective on the forces that shape the medium’s profoundly transnational character. To assist in this process, we will engage with a variety of primary and secondary textual sources in order to assess and cultivate theoretical methods for researching and writing film history.

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FLM 334 | Screenwriting | Professor Bill Vincent
Monday, Wednesday 7:00–8:50

Screenwriting. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Well, it can be, but mostly it’s learning proper formatting, plot structure, characterization, good dialogue. Weekly workshops, ten to fifteen pages per week. Yes, hard work. But by December you will have a full-length script and you will know that you can do it.

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FLM 335 | Film Directing | Professor Jeff Wray
Tuesday 12:40–3:30, Thursday 12:40–2:30

Part of the Fiction Film Specialization, Film Directing immerses students in the job of the director through a combination of film screenings and production projects. By studying the works of great directors, and working through a series of filmmaking projects which culminates in the creation of a 3-minute short, students learn first hand the challenges and triumphs of Film Directing. See examples of previous student work.

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FLM 355 | Studies in Film Genres: Digital Domains: History and Aesthetics of Computer Animation and Visual Effects | Dr Mihaela Mihailova 
Monday, 12:40-3:30, Wednesday 12:40-2:30

This course provides an overview of the artistic and cultural significance of contemporary computer animation and visual effects in the context of global media (animated films, live-action cinema, television, and video games). Students are introduced to the historical, aesthetic, and technological developments in the field of digital imagery over the past quarter century, placing emphasis on situating computer animation within larger debates in film and media studies. The course explores topics relevant to film and media theory, industry and production studies, and cultural studies, such as digital realism, changing definitions of acting in a digital environment, digital production and labor politics, digital media convergence, and animation viewership and fan communities. Students will be encouraged to engage historical, theoretical, and cultural perspectives in order to examine and question the ways in which computer-generated imagery articulates and provokes contemporary technological dreams and anxieties, shapes the aesthetic landscape of visual media, and constitutes new forms of production and viewership.

Course Flyer.

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FLM 380 | Classical Film and Media Theory | Professor Kaveh Askari 
Tuesday, 12:40-3:30, Thursday 12:40-2:30

Film theory examines how cinema uses all the means at its disposal—including images, sound, words, and narrative—to engage us emotionally and phenomenologically. Film theory takes up fundamental questions about representation in cinema, including what film is, how it represents, how it innovates aesthetically and evolves different styles. Film theory is concerned with individual films as well as how the cinema works as a system that has social, political, and cultural significance. Film theory also considers how movies fit into a broader context of media, art, and storytelling. As a mode of intellectual inquiry, this course in film theory builds upon the skills for analyzing film that you learned in English 230, but pushes you to refine and complicate how you watch films, even as some of the texts we will consider push the limits of filmmaking or of thinking about film. This course draws on the work of key film theorists from the first part of the twentieth century; our primary focus will be on film, although the role of other media—particularly theatre and photography—will come into play. 

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FLM 400 | Seminar in Film History: Interwar Modernism in Film and Media | Professor Joshua Yumibe 
Tuesday 9:10–12:00, Thursday 9:10–11:00

Between the two world wars, modern culture flourished globally, and we will look at the repercussions and reactions of cultural, aesthetic, and political change on the cinema of the interwar period of the 1920s and 1930s. We will track closely the emergence of various modernist and avant-garde movements in Europe and North America that engaged with the new mass medium of cinema, including Expressionism and Absolut Film in Germany, cinéma pur and impressionism in France, Soviet montage culture, and pictorialist art cinema in Hollywood. We will also pay particular attention to how modernist film styles circulated globally and were adapted and transformed by filmmakers in Japan, China, New Zealand, and elsewhere.

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FLM 435A | Creating the Fiction Film I | Professor Jeff Wray
Monday, Wednesday 12:40-2:30

The capstone class of the Fiction Film Specialization tasks students with writing, producing, finishing and distributing a short film over two semesters. In the first semester, students must form a production team, create and polish a short script, and move through the processes of pre-production and principle photography--no small feat. The professors are there to act as guidance and councel, but make no mistake: students are truly thrust into the independent filmmaking world. Past productions have gone on to screen and win awards at film festivals in Michigan and beyond.

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FLM 452 | Film, Gender and Sexuality: Cyborg Women in Film & Media | Dr Mihaela Mihailova 
Monday 4:10-7:00, Wednesday 4:10-6:00

Ever since the nineteenth century when the Romantic imagination gave birth to the dangerously alluring female automaton, the posthuman female has remained a central figure in cultural narratives about the possibilities and implications of transcending the biological limitations of the human mind and body. This course will trace a genealogy of the robot woman in film and media, from Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) to Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015) and Janelle Monáe's Afrofuturist music videos. This persistent gendering of the posthuman condition will be examined in relation to key debates on feminist theory, intersectional feminism, embodiment in digital media, virtual subjectivity, the history and future of artificial intelligence, and gender, race, and sexuality in the digital age. Students will analyze female cyborgs, clones, and hybrids in order to tease out how and why the non-organic female body has endured as a site for negotiating changing gender roles and technological progress.The goal of this course is to cultivate an understanding of the cultural, social, and political meanings of the posthuman female and the social, historical, and technological contexts that have shaped them.

Course flyer.

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SPRING 2018

FLM 200 | Film Collective | Professor Bill Vincent
Thursday, 7:00pm 

This one-credit screening course is available to Film Studies students. Regular attendance and participation is required throughout the semester.

Back to top.


FLM 230 | Introduction to Film | Dr Mihaela Mihailova 
Monday 9:10–12:00, Wednesday 9:10–11:00, Friday 50 min. (varies by section)

This course introduces core concepts of film analysis, which are discussed through examples from different national cinemas, genres, and directorial œuvres. The coursework covers a wide range of styles and historical periods in order to assess the multitude of possible film techniques (camera techniques, editing, shot selection, etc.) and principles of narrative structuring. Along with questions of film technique and style, we consider the notion of the cinema as an institution that comprises an industrial system of production, social and aesthetic norms and codes, and particular modes of reception. Success in the course demands rigorous attention to both the films and the readings and requires students to watch, analyze, and write about film in new ways. Throughout the semester, students will learn different methods of viewing, analysis, exposition, and criticism and will have the opportunity to write extensively about the films seen in class. Films discussed include works by Brakhage, Burnett, Deren, Griffith, Eisenstein, Hitchcock, Sembene, Sternberg, and Welles. 

Back to top.


FLM 260 | Introduction to Digital Film and Media | Pete Johnston
Tuesday, Thursday 10:20–12:10

What's changed in filmmaking technology in the past 20 years, and what impact does that have on the stories we tell? Have digital image-making tools, editing software, and distribution channels fundamentally changed the types of stories being told and the types of artists telling them? In this hybrid course we introduce students to a variety of emerging filmmaking technologies and give them a grounding in technical skills necessary to then move on to higher order concerns of storytelling. We screen, analyze and discuss new works and look over the evolution of filmmaking technology and how it relates to this historical moment. And students produce a variety of work in documentary, fiction, and experimental forms, focusing on iteration and repetition to hone filmmaking skills. 

Back to top


FLM 301 | History of Film after Mid-Century | Professor Kaveh Askari 
Monday 12:40-3:30, Wednesday 12:40-2:30

This course surveys the history of cinema from the middle of the twentieth century to the present. Moving chronologically, we will track a variety of national schools and international trends of filmmaking in order to analyze the global development of film exhibition practices, production cycles and trends, and the changing landscape of distribution. We will examine the formal, industrial, and cultural changes of the medium from neorealism and film noir to the blockbuster franchise cinema of Michael Bay. Putting Hollywood in dialogue with its various “others,” we will engage a variety of national and international film movements:  global new waves, auteur and art cinemas, Third Cinema, experimental film, exploitation cinema, contemporary “slow cinema,” and more. We will also discuss key moments in the transformations of Hollywood since 1948: its postwar boom, the blacklist, the decline of the studio system, the rise of independent production, the demise of the production code, the New Hollywood of the 1970s, and the film industry’s gradual conglomeration. The course’s final weeks will be devoted to exploring the so-called “death” of film in the digital domain, from the rise of computer animation and digital 3-D to revolutionary changes in the distribution and consumption of cinema. This broad and comparative approach to the history of cinema will engage with a variety of primary and secondary textual sources in order to assess and cultivate theoretical methods for researching and writing film history. 

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FLM/MI 311 | Intro to Documentary Production | Professor John Valadez 
Tuesday, Thursday, 12:40-2:30

This course surveys the history of cinema from the middle of the twentieth century to the present. Moving chronologically, we will track a variety of national schools and international trends of filmmaking in order to analyze the global development of film exhibition practices, production cycles and trends, and the changing landscape of distribution. We will examine the formal, industrial, and cultural changes of the medium from neorealism and film noir to the blockbuster franchise cinema of Michael Bay. Putting Hollywood in dialogue with its various “others,” we will engage a variety of national and international film movements:  global new waves, auteur and art cinemas, Third Cinema, experimental film, exploitation cinema, contemporary “slow cinema,” and more. We will also discuss key moments in the transformations of Hollywood since 1948: its postwar boom, the blacklist, the decline of the studio system, the rise of independent production, the demise of the production code, the New Hollywood of the 1970s, and the film industry’s gradual conglomeration. The course’s final weeks will be devoted to exploring the so-called “death” of film in the digital domain, from the rise of computer animation and digital 3-D to revolutionary changes in the distribution and consumption of cinema. This broad and comparative approach to the history of cinema will engage with a variety of primary and secondary textual sources in order to assess and cultivate theoretical methods for researching and writing film history. 

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FLM 334.002 | Intro to Screenwriting | Professor Jeff Wray
Monday, Wednesday 12:40-2:30 

This course introduces students to significant discourses surrounding ‘acts’ in a screenplay. Starting with the foundational “three-act” screenplay, it interrogates the strengths and weaknesses of formulating rigid structures. Students in this class will learn conventional as well as alternative ways of thinking about the structure of screenplay through analysis of mainstream, art as well as independent categories of films. The aim is to enable students to look critically at the screenplay of seminal and significant films so that they can work out a structure for the story they want to tell. The students in this course are expected to engage with the creative process of writing a screenplay by watching, analyzing, and discussing films, while at the same time pitch their ideas, and observe the transformation these ideas undergo as they work toward the final goal of writing 1/3rd of their story in a chosen screenplay format—in the conventional sense it could be the act-1 and the beginning of act-2, or the end of act-2, and the act-3, but one could opt for an episodic, or a short film, or other unconventional format as well.

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FLM 350 | National/Transnational Cinemas: Asian Cinema | Professor Sheng-Mei Ma 
Monday, 9:10-12:00, Wednesday 9:10-11:00

This course on Asian cinema covers Japanese auteur and anime, Chinese Fifth- and Sixth-Generation, New Taiwan Cinema, the Korean Wave, Asian Horror, action and kung fu thrillers, indigenous filmmaking, and Hollywood remakes. Some weeks are structured along national lines, others along generic distinctions or thematic interest.  In addition to analyzing films as art and cultural products, we also draw from film theory and cultural studies readings.  Filmmakers to be discussed include Kurosawa, Ozu, Oshii, Zhang Yimou, Jia Zhangke, Edward Yang, Ang Lee, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tsai Mingliang, and Park Chan-wook.

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FLM 381 | Contemporary Film and Media Theory | Professor Ellen McCallum 
Monday 4:10-7:00, Wednesday 4:10-6:00

Film theory addresses fundamental questions about the possibilities and limitations of the medium of film, and about the nature of representation, technology, aesthetics, subjectivity, politics, and culture that have gone into film as a cultural phenomena as well as the way that film itself has made contributions to these aspects of our lives. Starting from the late 1960s, contemporary film and media theory explores the development of thinking in and around the cinema and its related arts into the present-day. We will be following the development of film theory chronologically, looking at technological, aesthetic, and political changes in film as it moves from an analog medium into the digital age. We will also move thematically, looking at major trends of thinking in and around film including (but not limited to) psychoanalysis, Marxism, feminism, postmodernism, postcolonialism, and other relevant schools of thought. The purpose of this course is to give you a working understanding of how film theory has developed over the course of the twentieth century, leading to questions of film and its status as a technology, medium, and cultural form today. The central approach of this class is that both films and readings illustrate important conceptual and theoretical problems of the medium of cinema and, thus, both films and readings will be treated with equal importance. This course relies upon your active participation in readings, screenings, and class discussion and so it is vital that you come to class prepared with questions and concerns from the theoretical texts as well as specific formal details from the films.

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FLM 411 | Documentary Design and Production | Professor John Valadez 
Monday, Wednesday 8:00-9:50am

Design and development of documentaries in a team setting using video and audio, still photography, web design, and print media. Participation in a production cycle including idea generation, research, design, production, and distribution. Capstone course for the Documentary Production Minor.

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FLM 434 | Advanced Screenwriting | Professor Bill Vincent
Monday, Wednesday 7:00-8:50

Okay, you’ve written a script, now what? Revision, tightening, polishing. Workshopping. Another full- length script, better than the first one. Pitching. Treatments. Log lines. Tag lines. After all, you want to know how to sell it. 

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FLM 435B | Creating the Fiction Film II | Professor Jeff Wray
Tuesday, Thursday 12:40-2:30 

The capstone class of the Fiction Film Specialization tasks students with writing, producing, finishing and distributing a short film over two semesters. In the second semester, students pick up right where they left off by moving the film into post-production and distribution. Over the course of 16 weeks they must form a post-production team and complete picture editing, sound sweetening, visual FX and color grading, then take the film into distribution and organize and execute premiere and additional screenings. Past productions have gone on to sell-out screenings at Celebration Cinemas's Studio C and win awards at film festivals in Michigan and beyond.

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FLM 451 | Studies in Postcolonial Cinema: Cinemas of the Middle East and North Africa | Professor Kaveh Askari 
Tuesday 4:10–7:00, Thursday 4:10–6:00

The goal of this course is to address some of the major trends and issues in cinema from the MENA region, including the contexts of their production and audiences. We will discuss how we can integrate postcolonial theory relevant to the Middle East and North Africa with the weekly screenings of works of moving-image art produced in cities throughout the region from the 1950s to the present day. The course gives primary attention to cinema, but it will also include topics ranging from photography in colonies and royal courts, to video installation in galleries. We will learn how to analyze these images, and how to situate them within a historical context that pays particular attention to the intersections of art and politics. Potential films to be discussed include Cairo Station, Close-Up, Waltz with Bashir, Divine Intervention, and Women without Men.  

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FLM 455 | Experimental Film & Media: Moving Pixels: Video Art, Histories and Practice | Professor Lyn Goeringer 
Tuesday 9:10–12:00, Thursday 9:10–11:00

From the opening sequence of Dexter to the music videos of Oneohtrix Point Never to endless gifs online, we engage with video art in our daily life. But what is video art, where did it come from, and how did it become the medium it is today? This class explores video as an experimental medium, beginning with analog and television video experiments through to contemporary digital video. A seminar + production class, we will begin by looking at the early history of video and video technologies following the progression of video as a medium for television, to the invention of the portable video camera, and beyond into computer based video and video art for mobile media. This class will include site visits to the Broad Gallery to explore video art in a gallery setting, and screenings, where we will then work together to evaluate and understand the work presented through discussion and writing. The class allows for both theoretical exploration of the topic and hands on practice in experimental video production and synthesis methods. No experience with production is necessary for this course. Course work will focus on theoretical papers and a willingness to explore digital video production.

 

Goals:

Learn the history of video art through screenings and visits to the Broad Gallery.

Understand the theoretical implications of video as a medium.

Work with video and video manipulation in a hands on way, for both production skill development and to help facilitate an understanding of what video is, and what it can be.

 

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