Fall 2020

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

Professor Swarnavel Pillai 
Thursday, 7:00pm, B122 Wells

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.

Professor Swarnavel Pillai
Monday 9:10–12:00, Wednesday 9:10–11:00, C133 Holden

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.

TBA
Tuesday 9:10-12:00, Thursday 9:10-11:00, Friday 50 min. (varies by section), B122 Wells

Kubrick and His Contemporaries

Professor Rick Blackwood 
Monday 4:10–7:00, Wednesday 4:10–6:00, B122 Wells

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. 

Professor Ling Hsu
Tuesday, Thursday 12:40–2:30

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. 

Professor Lyn Goerginger
Tuesday 9:10–12:00, Thursday 9:10–11:00, EBH 307

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.

Professor Joshua Yumibe
Tuesday 12:40-3:30, Thursday 12:40-2:30, B122 Wells

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.

Professor Bill Vincent 
Monday, Wednesday 7:00–8:50

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.

Peter Johnston 
Tuesday 12:40–3:30, Thursday 12:40–2:30, 307 Bessey

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. 

Professor Kaveh Askari 
Monday, Wednesday, 10:20-12:10

TBA

Professor Swarnavel Pillai
Thursday 4:10-6:00, C640 Wells
Thursday 7:00–10:00, B122 Wells

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.

Cross listed with MI411. Enroll in MI411.

Professor John Valadez 
Monday, Wednesday, 10:20–12:10, 239 ComArts

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. 

Professor Rick Blackwood 
Monday 9:10–12:00, Wednesday 9:10–11:00, EBH 307

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.

Professor Jeff Wray
Monday, Wednesday 12:40-2:30

Films rarely disappear after they leave the theater. They are continually reissued, rediscovered, and remade. This course tracks films with particularly rich and interesting afterlives in the Global South. We will examine three primary ways that film history is reprocessed and remade. First, we will explore how documentary and experimental filmmakers have established an important tradition of critical filmmaking by directly borrowing and reediting found footage. Second, we will consider how the widespread global practice of remaking celebrated films creates another important site where a film’s meaning can be recontextualized. Third, we will follow formations of archival and curatorial practice in different regional contexts as archivist-curators have preserved and presented technological transformations in the history of moving images and have altered the canon of world cinema. Each of these dimensions of recycled cinema have shaped the way that film history has been written, and students will use the case studies in the course to reflect on their own practice of writing cinema and media history.

Professor Kaveh Askari 
Monday 4:10-7:00, Wednesday 4:10-6:00, 307 Bessey

Spring 2021

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

Professor Bill Vincent
Thursday, 7:00pm 

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. 

Professor Kaveh Askari 
Monday 9:10–12:00, Wednesday 9:10–11:00, Friday 50 min. (varies by section)

TBA

Professor John Valadez

Tuesday 4:10–7:00; Thursday 4:10–6:00, B122 Wells

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. 

Pete Johnston
Tuesday 12:40-3:30, Thursday 12:40-2:30

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. 

Pete Johnston
Tuesday 12:40–3:30, 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. 

Professor Kaveh Askari 
Monday 12:40–3:30, Wednesday 12:40–2:30, B122 Wells

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.

This is an interdepartmental course that is required for the Minor in Documentary Production. Students should register for MI 311.

Professor Alexandra Hidalgo
Monday, Wednesday 3:00–4:20, 202 UPLA

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.

Professor Swarnavel Pillai
Monday, Wednesday 4:10–6:00, 307 EBH

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.

Professor Rick Blackwood
Monday, Wednesday 12:40-2:30,  307 EBH

TBA

Professor Rick Blackwood
Monday 9:10–12:00, Tuesday 9:10–11:00, EBH 307

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.

Professor Ellen McCallum 
Monday 4:10-7:00, Wednesday 4:10-6:00, B122 Wells

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.

Cross listed with MI411. Enroll in MI411.

Professor John Valadez 
Time TBA

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. 

Professor Bill Vincent 
Monday, Wednesday 7:00-8:50

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.

Professor Jeff Wray
Tuesday, Thursday 12:40-2:30, 307 EBH 

TBA

TBA 

Tuesday 12:40–3:30, Thursday 12:40–2:30, 307 Bessey

In 1898, Boleslas Matuszewski, a Polish cameraman working for the Lumière Brothers, published one of the earliest proposals for a film archive in the French newspaper Le Figaro: “It would suffice to assign to cinematographic prints that have a historical character a section of the museum, a shelf in the library, a cabinet in the ar­chives.” His intention was to make films available for scholarly inquiry: “animated photography will thus become an agreeable method for studying the past.” Taking a pointer from Matuszewski, we will explore in this class film’s archival relationship to the past, both in terms of what it represents and also in terms of the material history that is etched into films themselves. Scratches, fading colors, and decomposing emulsion attest to the provenance of the medium, how time itself leaves its material traces on filmic objects as they circulate through many hands around the world. If film is a medium beholden to time, we will also explore the institutional ways in which film archives have developed over the last century to preserve the material legacies and as well as nurture the cultural heritage of the cinematic artifact.

Potential topics:

  • Archival theories and practices, as developed by Paolo Cherchi Usai, Giovanna Fossati, and Catherine Russell
  • Institutional histories: the British Film Institute; the Cinémathèque française, the Museum of Modern Art’s cinema collections (Haidee Wasson), EYE-Film, Amsterdam (Bregt Lameris), early ethnographic film at the American Museum of Natural History (Alison Griffiths), experimental cinema and Anthology Film Archives
  • Gaps in the archive, e.g. Allyson Nadia Field’s work on the “nonextant” and early African American cinema, filmic reconstructions (e.g. Something Good—Negro KissBezhin Meadow, Greed)
  • Case studies: the Library of Congress’s paper print collection, The Davide Turconi and Josef Joye Collections, the Desmet Collection, found footage and recycled cinema (e.g. A Movie, Eureka, Film Ist, Decasia, and Lyrical Nitrate), MSU Special Collections
  • Film archiving in the digital age (They Shall Not Grow Old)

Professor Joshua Yumibe 
Tuesday 9:10–12:00, Thursday 9:10–11:00, 307 Bessey

TBA

Professor Bill Vincent 
Thursday 4:10–6:00, C640 Wells
Thursday 7:00–10:00, B122 Wells

TBA

TBA 
Tuesday 4:10–7:00, Thursday 4:10–6:00, 307 Bessey