Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Film Noir Script Project

You (and a partner) will write a short film noir style script. Please write a short film (4-7 pages) in correct film script format that includes the following:

1. A protagonist that is cynical or detached
2. A femme fatale who leads the protagonist astray
3. A mystery, crime, or use of suspense
4. A naive scapegoat to take the rap of some "crime"
5. Goons (hired criminals who give the protagonist a hard time)
6. Razor sharp dialogue
7. Reference and description of low key lighting


--Normally a mystery plot would be a lot longer.
Your "mystery" or "crime" needs to be developed quickly, so try to limit the complexity of the plot. (Think Scooby-Do)

--Please check the format for film scripts. Review Maltese Falcon or Duck Soup to see that dialogue is not formatted like play scripts. It is indented 4 tabs or about 2". Character names are capitalized and set up 3". Description of the set, characters, what the camera shows is set in camera directions that are left justified. Each scene is separated by INT or EXT (to show inside or outside lighting), the LOCATION, and time of day.
Refer to your homework handouts to help you format the film script correctly!

Friday, after viewing the rest of Maltese Falcon, please work on writing your script. Again, you may work with a partner.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

1940's Film: Film Noir, HUAC, and TV

Please read the handout on Film Noir. You should be able to explain what film noir is, understand a bit of its history, and be able to identify film noir characteristics.

You should also be familiar with HUAC and how this affected film in the 1940's and its movement into the 1950's.

Finally, please read the chapter on television and how this invention impacted Hollywood and film.

I have included the script for John Huston's adaptation of Dashielle Hammet's Maltese Falcon on the link page. Please view a few pages (or read the entire script, if you'd like).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

1940's Film

Please complete the question sheet for the 1940's decade. You will find this information on Tim Dirk's website (under Film History by Decade, 1940). The research sheet will be due on Thursday, April 16.

Also: Your journal paper on Citizen Kane is due at the end of class today. Please make sure you complete this assignment and turn it in. During spring break, I'd suggest you complete your second required journal paper so that at the end of the marking period you have little to do except study for our exam.

Please remember to read the handout on Aesthetics and Narration given to you last class. Take note of how one analyzes film.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Citizen Kane Cast Information

Here is information about who is responsible for this film. You may find it useful for your journal paper.

Director: Orson Welles
Writers: Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles (screenplay)
Cinematography by Gregg Toland

Orson Welles ... Charles Foster Kane
Joseph Cotten ... Jedediah Leland
Dorothy Comingore ... Susan Alexander Kane
Agnes Moorehead ... Mary Kane
Ruth Warrick ... Emily Monroe Norton Kane
Ray Collins ... James W. Gettys
Erskine Sanford ... Herbert Carter
Everett Sloane ... Mr. Bernstein
William Alland ... Jerry Thompson
Paul Stewart ... Raymond
George Coulouris ... Walter Parks Thatcher
Fortunio Bonanova ... Signor Matiste
Gus Schilling ... The Headwaiter
Philip Van Zandt ... Mr. Rawlston
Georgia Backus ... Bertha Anderson
Harry Shannon ... Kane's Father

Produced by Orson Welles and George Schaefer .... executive producer
Original Music by Bernard Herrmann
Film Editing by Robert Wise
Casting by Rufus Le Maire & Robert Palmer
Art Direction by Van Nest Polglase
Set Decoration by Darrell Silvera
Costume Design by Edward Stevenson
Makeup by Maurice Seiderman

You may wish to check the TRIVIA section on for Citizen Kane. There are quite a few interesting tidbits of trivia for trivia fans.

Citizen Kane - Journal Paper (Required)

As one of your journal papers, please write a 2-3 page, double-spaced essay on any one of the following:

1. Examine the aesthetics of Citizen Kane. How is, for example, mise-en-scene and the mise-en-shot used, how is the camera used, dialogue, etc. to create a formalistic or realistic film? Can a film be both realistic and formalistic? How does editing and montage work in the film to symbolize or bring focus to important elements in the film? Remember to examine motifs and recurring objects and what thier significance is for the film.

2. Examine the film's narration and narrative structure. Examine Welles' artistic choice to tell the story this way. How does the film benefit (or suffer) from this choice? Also, examine how Kane's "fictional" story reveals the psychological state of the film's auteur. How is this also a film about Welles? Who's story is this? Explain.

Due: Tuesday, April 13

Note: The handout given to you on Thursday will be very helpful. Please read it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Citizen Kane (1941)

As we view Citizen Kane, there are a series of important elements that can enrich our understanding of this film.

Orson Welles as Autuer:
Welles directed, wrote (partial), and starred in this film (even though he wasn't old enough it was thought to portray Kane). While Welles had direct control over the film and its look, there were other people who contributed artistically. We don't remember them. Just kidding.

Camera Work:
The Deep Focus shot!
Low angle shots revealing ceilings!
Moving shots used as wipes!
Overlapping dialogue! (not original to Welles, but a trend in Screwball Comedies)
Long uninterrupted shots!
Expressionist lighting and photography!

Narrative/Special techniques:
Multiple perspective!

motifs and themes:
The American Dream: For all of Kane's "success", he is not happy. He dies lonely, with only his "possessions" around him. Is all our striving to succeed in America an illusion?

The differing perspectives on Kane's life, especially in the absence of Kane's own point of view, force us to question what was truly important in Kane's life (and by extension what constitutes a life in general.) Judging by Kane's last muttered word: Rosebud, the most important pieces of his life were not the things that made him newsworthy, such as his newspaper successes and political ambitions, nor his friendships and associations. As Thompson interviews different people about Kane, we are given different perspectives on the man (some are unreliable). Odd, though, that we do not see Kane from Kane's POV.

Old Age


Friday, April 3, 2009

Screenwriting Tips

1. Most of writing a screenplay (about 65% is done in planning and prewriting.)
2. Writing a screenplay is a succession of breakdowns: moving from the general to the specific.
3. Don't write a script for a movie you yourself wouldn't go see.
4. Remember the goal of every writer is to get an "emotional" response from your audience. Scripts that are too bland or boring or cliche, only anger an audience (and don't usually get made in the first place).

Writers think in different ways:
1. Inductively: from specific to the universal
2. Deductively: from the universal to the specific
3. Logically: How one thing causes another thing to happen
4. Non-logically: Absurdity or mere coincidence (Will's writing, for example)
5. Creatively: discovering hidden connections or relationships between two unrelated things (i.e. metaphorically)

It's okay to think in any of these ways. No one way is the right way. You, of course, can also combine these ways of thinking too.

Get ideas from:
1. Experience (personal or from those around you)
2. What you overhear (conversation)
3. News/Advertising
4. Photographs, paintings, visual art
5. Mind-mapping on a specific subject
6. Speculative brainstorming: asking: What if...?
7. Dreams and/or visualization
8. Free association
9. Adaptation (novels, short stories, poems, memoirs, etc.)
10. Intertexuality (stealing similar ideas from other sources)

After coming up with an idea, test its strength by asking:
1. Who, what, where, when, how, why?
2. Does it have "legs" - is it dramatic and interesting?
3. What's at stake for your character/protagonist?
4. Is the situation understandable or filmable?
5. Is the story too personal or vague?

Always play the devil's advocate when considering the validity of your writing/story/characters/plot, etc. What weaknesses are in your script? Try to fix them.

Screwball Comedy Script Project

Please make sure you have read the chapter on screenwriting. It gives you a plethora of information about how to write a screenplay, the format a screenplay needs to include, and advice about collaboration and getting started.

Today, alone or with your partner, write your script.


Screwball Comedy includes:

1. Mistaken identities or misunderstandings
2. Secrets
3. Male characters cross-dressing, further contributing to the misunderstandings
4. A romantic story, usually in which the couple seem mismatched and even hostile to each other at first. (Often this mismatch comes about because the man is much further down the economic scale than the woman--but yours can include two unlikely people from different majors/teen groups/etc.

Before you write, brainstorm (alone or together) ideas for a scenario. Your film will be simplistic, in that it is meant to be a short, short film (approx. 5 pages or so).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Screwball Comedy

Screwball Comedy gained prominence in 1934 with It Happened One Night, and, although many film scholars would agree that its classic period ended sometime in the early 1940s, elements of the genre have persisted, or have been paid homage to, in contemporary film.

Like farce, screwball comedies often involve mistaken identities or other circumstances in which a character or characters try to keep some important fact a secret. Sometimes screwball comedies feature male characters cross-dressing, further contributing to the misunderstandings (Bringing Up Baby, I Was a Male War Bride, Some Like It Hot). They also involve a central romantic story, usually in which the couple seem mismatched and even hostile to each other at first, and "meet cute" in some way. Often this mismatch comes about because the man is much further down the economic scale than the woman (Bringing Up Baby, Holiday). The final marriage is often planned by the woman from the beginning, while the man doesn’t know at all. In Bringing Up Baby we find a rare statement on that, when the leading woman says, once speaking to someone else than to her future husband: "He’s the man I’m going to marry, he doesn’t know it, but I am"

Class issues are a strong component of screwball comedies: the upper class tend to be shown as idle and pampered, and have difficulty getting around in the real world. The most famous example is It Happened One Night; some critics believe that this portrayal of the upper class was brought about by the Great Depression, and the poor moviegoing public's desire to see the rich upper class brought down a peg. By contrast, when lower-class people attempt to pass themselves off as upper-class, they are able to do so with relative ease (The Lady Eve, My Man Godfrey).

Another common element is fast-talking, witty repartee (You Can't Take it With You, His Girl Friday). This stylistic device did not originate in the screwballs (although it may be argued to have reached its zenith there): it can also be found in many of the old Hollywood cycles including the gangster film, romantic comedies, and others.

Screwball comedies also tend to contain ridiculous, farcical situations, such as in Bringing Up Baby, in which a couple must take care of a pet leopard during much of the film. Slapstick elements are also frequently present (such as the numerous pratfalls Henry Fonda takes in The Lady Eve).

One subgenre of screwball is known as the comedy of remarriage, in which characters divorce and then remarry one another (The Awful Truth, The Philadelphia Story). Some scholars point to this frequent device as evidence of the shift in the American moral code as it showed freer attitudes about divorce (though the divorce always turns out to have been a mistake).

It Happened One Night (1934)Clark Gable & Claudette Colbert (Frank Capra director)

The Thin Man (1934) Myrna Loy & William Powell

Cary Grant & Katherine Hepburn
Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell
His Girl Friday (1940)

Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, & Katherine Hepburn
The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Abbott & Costello (1946/1948)

Okay, it's not a screwball comedy, but:

Frank Capra was an important director of the 1930's. Here's one of his "best" films with Jimmy Stewart.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

After watching these and examining the screwball format from your Marx Brothers' experience, write a 3-5 page film script in the style of Screwball Comedy or romantic comedy (your option).

The Murky Middle (Even More Advice)

Aristotle wrote that stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. Middles can be difficult. You might have a smashing opening to a stor...