Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Film Studies Program
2014-2015


Fall 2014

ENG 230 | Introduction to Film | Professor Joshua Yumibe
ENG 233 | Documentary Technologies | Professor Swarnavel E. Pillai
ENG 330 | Classical Film and Media Theory | Professor Ellen McCallum
ENG 332 | History of Film to Mid-Century | Professor Joshua Yumibe
ENG 334 | Screenwriting | Professor Bill Vincent
ENG 335 | Film Directing | Professor Jeff Wray
ENG 432 | Seminar in the History of Film: Global Film Noir - Hard Boiled Modernity | Professor Justus Nieland
ENG 435A | Creating the Fiction Film I | Professors Jeff Wray and Bob Albers
ENG 490 | Film Collective: Misfits and Mavericks | Professor Bill Vincent
CHS 491 Section 02 | Film and Literature from Taiwan | Professor Tze-lan Sang

 

Spring 2015

Note: Beginning with the introduction of the Film Studies BA in Spring 2015, courses will transition to the new FLM course code. Students finishing the Film Studies Concentration in the English BA will have FLM courses count as their original ENG requirements. Students entering into the Film Studies BA who have previously taken ENG courses will be able to count them towards their FLM equivalents.

AL 491 | Cinema As Practice | Artist-in-residence Mike Hoolboom
FLM 200 | Film Collective | Professor Justus Nieland
FLM 230/ENG 230 | Introduction to Film | Professor Justus Nieland
FLM 260 | Introduction to Digital Film and Media | Professor Swarnavel Pillai
FLM 301/ENG 332  | History of Film from Mid-Century | Professor David Bering-Porter
FLM 334/ENG 334 | Screenwriting | Professor Swarnavel E. Pillai
FLM 350 | National and Transnational Cinemas: Italian and Italian American Cinema | Professor Juliet Guzzetta
FLM 355/ENG 333 | Studies in Film Genres: Melodrama and its Reinterpretations | Professor Ellen McCallum
FLM 381/ENG 331 | Contemporary Film and Media Theory | Professor David Bering-Porter
FLM 434/ENG 434 | Advanced Screenwriting | Professor Bill Vincent
FLM 450/ENG 431A | Studies in Ethnic Film: Black Cinema | Professor Jeff Wray
FLM 435B/ENG 435B | Creating the Fiction Film II | Professors Jeff Wray and Bob Albers
FLM 480/ENG 430 | Seminar in Film and Media Theory: Modernism and Modernity in Film | Professor Joshua Yumibe
FLM 491 Section 3/ENG 491 Section 1 | Hitchcock And/As Theory | Professor Bill Vincent

 


Fall 2014 | ENG 230 | Introduction to Film | Professor Joshua Yumibe
Monday 11:30-2:20, Wednesday 11:30-1:20, Friday 50 min. (variable)  

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. 
 
Note: this course will count as FLM 230 in the new Film Studies BA.
 
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Fall 2014 | ENG 233 | Documentary Technologies | Professor Swarnavel E. Pillai
Tuesday/Thursday 10:20-12:10

This course offers an exploration of the documentary film as a category on its own, with an implicit opposition between nonfiction and fiction films. Starting with the early silent films (actualities) we will study the opposition between “fiction” and “document.” Through the different theories of the documentary form, and by studying various forms of the documentary film, we will explore how a filmmaker mediates between the viewer and the subject as he tries to represent or reconstruct reality. We will analyze the different styles of the documentary films and their content to discuss the fundamental issues concerning the documentary form: What is the “voice” of documentary? Is it possible to film an event objectively? How does persuasion inflect a documentary? How does a documentary persuade its viewers? What is the role of narration in documentaries?

This course has an equally significant production component to it, and it will introduce the students to the basics of production like shooting with a camcorder or a DSLR still/video camera. The semester will be divided equally between learning history, theory, and production, and the students are encouraged to shoot with easily accessible technology like the cell phone or the DSLR cameras and edit their footage with the basic editing software installed in their computer or in our editing lab. The focus will be on informed narration and creativity.
 
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Fall 2014 | 
ENG 330 | Classical Film and Media Theory | Professor Ellen McCallum
Tuesday 3-5:50, Thursday 3-4:50
 
This course examines the rich tradition of classical film theory from the inception of cinema in the late nineteenth century to the 1960s. Over this period, two foundational questions often poised to the medium pertained to its nature and function: what is cinema, and relatedly what does it do? What makes something cinematic, and how might this relate to—and be distinguished from—the work of the other arts? Further, in what ways does cinema affect the spectator—sensually, psychologically, ideologically, and politically? In exploring these questions throughout the semester, we will also devote special attention to the emergence of related issues that continue to be of major importance today, such as the film/language analogy, notions of realism, varying approaches to montage, the modernism/mass culture debate, and the relationship between film history and film style. We will concentrate on the theoretical writings of Hugo Münsterberg, Rudolf Arnheim, Jean Epstein, Sergei Eisenstein, Siegfried Kracauer, Bela Balázs, André Bazin, as well as the theories of Walter Benjamin, Germaine Dulac, Maya Deren, Theodor Adorno, and others. A range of films, both historical and contemporary, will be used to test and challenge these various approaches.

Note: This course will count as FLM 380 in the new Film Studies B.A.
 
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Fall 2014 | ENG 332 | History of Film to Mid-Century | Professor Joshua Yumibe
Monday 3-5:50, Wednesday 3-4:50
 
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. 
 
Note: this section of ENG 332 will count as FLM 300 in the new Film Studies BA.
 
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Fall 2014 | ENG 334 | Screenwriting | Professor Bill Vincent
Monday/Wednesday 6-7:50 

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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Fall 2014 | ENG 335 | Film Directing | Professor Jeff Wray
Monday/Wednesday 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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Fall 2014 | ENG 432 | Seminar in the History of Film: Global Film Noir - Hard Boiled Modernity | Professor Justus Nieland
Tuesday 10:20-1:10, Thursday 10:20-12:10 

The term "film noir" still conjures images of a uniquely American malaise: hard-boiled detectives, fatal women, and the shadowy hells of urban life. But from its beginnings, film noir has been an international phenomenon, and its stylistic icons have migrated across the complex geo-political terrain of world cinema. This film history seminar traces film noir relationship to the conditions of a global, hard-boiled modernity more broadly. We will discuss noir’s emergent connection to European cinemas, its movement within a cosmopolitan culture of literary and cinematic translation, and its postwar consolidation in the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. We will consider how noir dramatizes local crimes and the crises of local spaces in the face of global phenomena like world-wide depression, war, nuclear catastrophe, political occupation and exile, economic and cultural modernization, decolonization, and migration. We will also explore how noir’s exaggerated coding of race, gender, and sexuality crosses national boundaries, and speaks differently to diverse international audiences.

Note: this section of ENG 432 will count as FLM 400 in the new Film Studies BA.
 
The class will also be offered to graduate students as ENG 819, and with a modified syllabus. Feel free to contact Professor Nieland with any questions. 
 
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Fall 2014 | ENG 435A | Creating the Fiction Film I | Professors Jeff Wray and Bob Albers
Tuesday/Thursday 3-4:50

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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Fall 2014 | ENG 490 | Film Collective: Misfits and Mavericks | Professor Bill Vincent

Thursday, 8p-10:30p 

This one-credit screening course is available to Film Studies students. Regular attendance and participation is required throughout the semester. For details and enrollment requests, contact Professor Vincent.
 
Note: This section will count for FLM 200 in the new Film Studies BA and Minor.
 
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Fall 2014 | CHS 491 Section 02 | Film and Literature from Taiwan | Professor Tze-lan Sang
Wednesday, 1:50-4:40p

This course will introduce students to the film and literature from Taiwan from the postwar era to the present, during which period the central cultural question that concerns the Taiwanese people in general and writers and filmmakers in particular is that of identity. A multiethnic and multilingual society due to successive waves of colonization and immigration over the last four centuries, Taiwan is, furthermore, unique in the Chinese-speaking world because of its high level of democratization since the late 1980s. Filmmakers and writers, along with other intellectuals, have been key players in the debate over the question of identity in Taiwan. This course will examine their explorations of the effects of colonialism and imperialism, the rise of a Taiwanese national consciousness, evolving cross-strait relations, and other issues such as gender, class, the environmental, modernization, and globalization. Materials will be provided in English, with supplementary materials and optional discussion in Chinese.

(This course may be taken for elective credit)

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Spring 2015 | AL 491 | Cinema As Practice | Artist-in-residence Mike Hoolboom
March 9-12, 12:40-4:30pm

With additional lectures and screening attendance required.

Renowned experimental filmmaker and artist Mike Hoolboom will lead students on an immersive Spring Break class on studying, analyzing, creating, and exhibiting new forms of film and media. In addition to the Spring Break meetings, Hoolboom will be delivering two public lectures and two screenings during his residency at MSU and a lecture at the Ann Arbor Film Festival on March 27th. Open to all ranges of technical proficiency.  Students will create their own experimental media pieces which will be publicly exhibited at the conclusion of the course.
 
Complete details on the visit and the course can be found here.
 
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Spring 2015 | FLM 200 | Film Collective | Professor Justus Nieland
Thursday, 8p-10:30p 

This one-credit screening course is available to Film Studies students. Regular attendance and participation is required throughout the semester. For details, contact Professor Nieland.
 
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Spring 2015 | FLM 230/ENG 230 | Introduction to Film | Professor Justus Nieland
Tuesday 11:30-2:20, Thursday 11:30-1:20, 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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Spring 2015 | FLM 260 | Introduction to Digital Film and Media | Professor Swarnavel Pillai
Tuesday/Thursday, 4:10-6:00 pm

This course is a hybrid course that integrates the critical study of film and media with basic, practical experience in digital filmmaking. It compliments FLM 230: Introduction to Film and will provide background knowledge useful for students entering into the Fiction Film and Documentary Studies tracks (e.g. ENG 355: Film Directing; ENG/TC 233: Documentary Technologies). It offers an integrated production component so that the students will develop their knowledge of film history and theory while creating digital film and media.
 
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Spring 2015 | FLM 301/ENG 332 | History of Film from Mid-Century | Professor David Bering-Porter
Monday 3-5:50, Wednesday 3-4:50
 
The dawn of the digital age has coincided with the “death” of cinema, leading to renewed interest in understanding what cinema really is within the convergent fields of technology, history, and culture. Recent approaches to the history of film have been comparative, looking at cinema in contrast with pre-cinematic technologies, radio, x- rays, television, video games, and digital media in order to better understand film as an evolving medium. This course engages with contemporary approaches to this history of film in comparison with other media, focusing on a ‘media archaeological’ approach to the history of film that emphasizes the formal characteristics of media in order to better understand how, and why, film and media change over time. Over the course of the semester, students will learn the story of how cinema became a digital technology by exploring and excavating this current medium through its past. Students will learn an historical approach that will intersect with ideas from software studies, film theory, histories of material culture, and the digital humanities. Current historical approaches to film teach us about contemporary media, but also how understanding media will provide new insights into the changing visual environments that surround us. 
 
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Spring 2015 | FLM 334/ENG 334 | Screenwriting | Professor Swarnavel E. Pillai
Tuesday/Thursday 10:20-12:10 

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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Spring 2015 | FLM 350 | National and Transnational Cinemas: Italian and Italian American Cinema | Professor Juliet Guzzetta
Tuesday/Thursday 12:40-2:30

Since the early days of cinema, Italy has greatly contributed to the medium’s development. While directors from the second half of the 20th century such as Fellini and Antonioni might still garner the most name recognition, the study of Italian cinema offers multiple highpoints including the institutionalization of feature-length film production in the early 1910s, renowned silent screen stars, and the postwar neorealist movement, as well as its many varieties of commedia on the one side and crime dramas (gialli) on the other. Across the Atlantic, Italian-American filmmakers have also played a vital role in some of the most famed movies in world cinema such as The Godfather and Rocky (recently crossing back to the Old World in 2012, to Germany, on the stage as Rocky: Das Musical and now on Broadway) and, later, in television shows from The Sopranos to Jersey Shore. Surveying Italian and Italian-American films from the silent era to the present, this course pursues questions regarding identity, translation, and globalization. Through issues related to gender, class, immigration and recurring stereotypes from the gangster to the diva, the aim of this class is to examine how film expresses and shapes national, and indeed transnational, cultures. Film will be screened in original language with subtitles as necessary, and required readings will be in English, with additional original-language materials available for language students.

 
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Spring 2015 | FLM 355/ENG 333 | Studies in Film Genres: Melodrama and its Reinterpretations | Professor Ellen McCallum
Monday 4:10-7, Wednesday 4:10-6

FLM 355 will examine melodrama and its recent reinterpretations. We start with a few films from the genre’s heyday in the 1940s and 50s studio productions (Gainsborough productions in UK, Douglas Sirk in Hollywood) before turning to focus on its more contemporary reworking in global and independent cinemas (Rainer Maria Fassbinder, Pedro Almadovar, Todd Haynes, Wong Kar Wai, Ann Hui). Melodrama is a particularly narrative-driven genre that takes full advantage of the emotional power of cinema, although those strengths also contribute to its critical disparagement as overly sentimental and unserious. Its appeal to women audiences, its essential focus on human relations and frequent emphasis the domestic sphere has made the genre indispensable to the development of feminist film scholarship. Some of the most important filmmakers working today innovate with this genre, whether by taking seriously the power of melodrama's character-driven intimacy or playing up the campy potential. We will be especially interested in how feminist and queer critical perspectives have reclaimed and reinterpreted this often maligned genre and what its expansion in a global context contributes to film studies. 

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Spring 2015 | FLM 381/ENG 331 | Contemporary Film and Media Theory | Professor David Bering-Porter
Monday/Wednesday 12:40-2:30
 
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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Spring 2015 | FLM 480/ENG 430 | Seminar in Film and Media Theory: Modernism and Modernity in Film | Professor Joshua Yumibe
Monday/Wednesday 10:20-12:30
 
This course examines the history and legacies of modernism and modernity in and around the cinema. Moving from the mid-nineteenth century to our contemporary media landscape, we will explore topics such as industrialization and mechanization, the formation of mass culture, commodity fetishism, ethnographic surrealism, modernist poetry, and the avant-garde. The relationship of these topics to film—ranging from slapstick comedies and musicals to experimental and postcolonial works—will be discussed throughout the semester. As a theoretical context, readings will focus on the writings of Walter Benjamin and his interlocutors, in particular Siegfried Kracauer and Theodor Adorno.
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Spring 2015 | FLM 450 /ENG 431A | Studies in Ethnic Film: Black Cinema | Professor Jeff Wray
Monday 12:40-3:30, Wednesday 12:40-2:30

This course examines the black presence in American film artistically, socially, culturally, and historically. Over the course of the semester the class will examine how the art and industry of American cinema mirrors and/or challenges the spaces Black Americans have occupied in greater American society just before and since the start of the cinema age. The course consists of screenings, readings, writing and discussion. The goal is to give you a broad history of black cinema and blacks in cinema in terms of triumphs and challenges, to expose you to little seen films and filmmakers as well as to challenge you with new and different ways of considering and seeing film.

 
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Spring 2015 | FLM 434/ENG 434 | Advanced Screenwriting | Professor Bill Vincent
Monday/Wednesday 6-7:50 

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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Spring 2015 | FLM 435B/ENG 435B | Creating the Fiction Film II | Professors Bob Albers and Jeff Wray
Tuesday/Thursday 3-4:50 

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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Spring 2015 | FLM 491 Section 3/ENG 491 Section 3 | Hitchcock and/as Theory | Professor Bill Vincent
Tuesday/Thursday 10:20-12:10 

No filmmaker has been subjected to more critical analysis than Alfred Hitchcock.  No director had a clearer theoretical understanding of how films work nor a stronger desire to put his theories to the test.   In this seminar we shall analyze some fifteen of Hitchcock’s films both as the objects  of numerous theoretical approaches and as manifestations of Hitchcock’s own  mastery of the art.
 
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