Tuesday, January 31, 2012

100 Best Movies Response & The Birth of Film

Last class, you spent some time reviewing the top 100 movies of all time. Please read Tim Dirk's information on the AMC Film History website. Last class you took a look through the list, and noted the following:
1. Which films on this list have you personally seen? (jot down a few titles in your journal)
2. Which films on this list have you heard about, but never had the chance to see? (jot down a few titles)
3. If a movie looks interesting to you, please jot down its title in your journal.
After reading through your list, make some personal observations.

How "literate" are you when it comes to "best" or top films of all time? Does there seem to be a pattern or genre bias in this list? How does our own culture, socio-economic status, gender, or age affect the way we approach films? Were you surprised to see these films on this list? If you were to write this list, what movies would you put on it that were not included (feel free to indicate your top ten favorites of all time)?

After answering the questions above, write a response to the forum during period one.

After your post, please take a look at these websites (during period one):
  • IMDB.com (this is the international movie data base, and can be very helpful to you in this course).
  • Metacritic (a website where you can find all sorts of film reviews for models regarding how to write a film review--and for your own enjoyment)
  • The Internet Script database. This site publishes many contemporary film scripts. It will be important to check your film script formatting and go here to read scripts.
  • Youtube.com Many of the clips we will be watching in this class come from sites like youtube.com.
Period 2: The Birth of Film:

Early film was little more than the thrill of capturing "real life." Finally, through technology, photographers were able to depict reality in a way never before possible. This had many uses. For one, it allowed people to witness strange or exotic locations, cultures, or people. Now someone who lived in New York City didn't have to spend a month on a steamer boat to visit far-away-lands. Presidents could be seen without having to campaign in your home town. Life could be seen as it really was. These slices of life are documentaries in the strictest sense. These "actualities" are little more than moving snapshots. Note there is no plot or character development--just real life.

Watch these films from the late 1890's and early 1900's. As you watch, take notes about the director(s) and the titles and content of the film. Summarize in a few words or a sentence or two what each film is about. At the end of the collection, answer the following: what do you notice about the films? What subject matter do they deal with? What do you notice about the shots and camera work in these films?

The oldest surviving film in existence at this point is Louis Le Prince's Roundhay Garden Scene (1888). This sequence was recorded on an 1885 Eastman Kodak paper base photographic film through Le Prince's single-lens combi-camera-projector. It moved at 12 frames per second.

Edison Kinetoscope films: (1894-1896)
The Kiss, Serpentine Dances, Sandow the Strong Man, Comic Boxing, Cock Fighting, The Barber Shop, Feeding the Chickens, Seminary Girls 

The Lumiere Bros. (Documentary)
Other Kinetoscope films:
Please take a look at this film as a model for your own project (details to follow next class): The History of Early Film.

Homework: Please complete your viewing of these films and read the article "The Beginning of Film." Take notes of what you found interesting/important or confusing. Put ?, comment, etc. on index card to hand in Friday, Feb. 3.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Welcome to Film Studies!

This course is designed to provide you with a wide foundation of Film History and Film Studies, while also giving you experience writing film scripts and film reviews/critiques (as such found in the field of Journalism). By its end, you will understand the art of film hopefully more than you do now, and will gain a better appreciation for the art of filmmaking. Some of you may like this course of study so much you will take film courses in college, major in film studies, or become professional filmmakers. Others will at least benefit from knowing (and appreciating) the art of film.

This course (as Playwriting) will mostly be found online. Deadlines and assignments (with instructions) will be posted on the blog as needed. Please check the blog daily (even when absent) so you do not fall behind.

To start, please complete the following task(s):

Film Studies Commentary by David Bordwell
#1. Essential question: What's the difference between the way a film reviewer (journalist), a film historian, a film scholar, and a film fan evaluate a film?
#2. List your top 10 favorite films of all time.
#3. Name your favorite genres of film. (i,e. what do you prefer to watch?) Why?
Please read the article above, and answer the questions just above in complete sentences by the end of class (required - due today). We will then have a discussion about film.

After our discussion in your JOURNAL/NOTEBOOK for film studies:

The BEST 100 Films of All Time - A Personal Response by YOU! (part one)

Please go to the link (on the left side of this article): Film History.

For our class, this website by film historian Tim Dirks, will provide you with a lot of excellent information. We will be using the link throughout our course as a reliable source of information.

Today, I'd like you to spend some time reviewing the top 100 movies of all time. Please read Dirk's information, take a look through the list and note the following (perhaps in 3 columns):
A. Which films on this list have you personally seen? (jot down a few titles in your journal)
B. Which films on this list have you heard about, but never had the chance to see? (jot down a few titles)
C. If a movie looks interesting to you, please jot down its title in your journal.


#4. Finally, please enter the following film terms in your notebook/journal before next class.
Using the glossary below, look up the following key film terms and enter them into your required JOURNAL/NOTEBOOK. Call this Vocabulary Entry #1 (Story):
Narrative form
Viewing Time
Film Glossary

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Last Days for Plays

We are performing and watching your plays today on the Main Stage.

A few announcements concerning upcoming contests:

The Geva 10-minute Play Contest is coming up: Deadline Feb. 10 (to us).
SOKOL (electronic submissions): January 27.
Gannon (poems): January 30 (to us).
Lelia Tupper: January 30 (to us).

Extra credit will be given to any student who submits work to these contests.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Final Exam/Quiz & Final Rehearsal

Please study for your final quiz/exam. After you finish your exam, please retire to the Ensemble Theater to work with your actors. This is your last day to "rehearse" so please keep track of time.

Any new/revised scripts, please make sure you print these.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


We will be using the lab this morning to rewrite our scripts and prepare (print) copies for our actors (you do not need copies for your fellow writers).

Some advice:

1. You are the writer. Therefore you have complete control over your written script. If you disagree with an actor's ideas or complaints about your script, that's fine. Focus on the material you need or want to change rather than the bickering of non-professionals. Everybody's a critic when it comes to movies and stage plays.
2. Your actor/other writers are your fresh eyes. They may have some good advice about what is not working in the script. You need to be open-minded and trust the revision process. Change those things in your script that you feel will STRENGTHEN your play.
3. Just because something isn't working right now in the script may not be reason enough to change it. A skilled director or actor can find and pull out wonderful things in your script. On the other hand, if the talent isn't there--the talent isn't there. If it's not working with this cast or director, get rid of it.
4. Revise grammar and syntax to make lines comfortable and easy for the actor. Not sure what's wrong? Check with a partner, ask a teacher, or do it yourself (you'll ultimately be responsible for your own writing ability after graduating from high school). Here's a website that may help with grammar problems. You can find thousands of these helpful sites on the web, there are grammar books in the library, you have been taught enough grammar in ELA classes over the years. If you don't know something by now, look it up and learn it! You have the power!
5. Plays utilize realistic speech, but lines of dialogue are NOT real speech. Improve the beauty of your lines by being specific, adding imagery (metaphor, simile, personification, sound imagery with alliteration, assonance, consonance, figurative language), and strong active verbs. Review your diction before making people perform your play. Language is YOUR art, not the actors--they interpret and present the words through body, voice, and movement.
6. Trust your instincts. If you're bored watching your play, rest assured others will be too.
7. Rearrange and combine or cut plot, scenes, characters, lines. Don't be afraid to revise. Save your work (BEFORE) you revise so that if you want to add that scene or character back in the play later, you can. Word processing programs are cool like that.

Use your time in the lab to complete your rewrites. If you don't finish today, please prepare and finish (print as well) for next class as homework.

Oh, by the way, we have a quiz for the course coming up Friday (this is your course's "final exam"--stop complaining). Please be familiar with the following terms/vocabulary/concepts:

Play Vocabulary:
  • Premise: a deeply held belief by the playwright which shapes a script.
  • From handout: chp. 3 'Structure, Part One: story and plot': 
  • Aristotle's six elements of plays: plot, character, diction (dialogue), thought (theme), spectacle, song/music
  • Conflict
    Structural Unity: all parts of the plot (exposition, rising action, turning point, climax, resolution, etc.) should work and fit together.
    Inciting Incident: the point of attack, the inciting incident forces the protagonist into the action of the play's plot.
    Major Dramatic Question (MDQ): the hook that keeps an audience interested in a play; a dramatic question that a reader/viewer wants answered.
    Major decision: A decision a character makes in the plot that creates the turning point for their character.
    The three C's: Conflict, crisis, complication: obstacles characters must face for an interesting and dramatic plot.
    Rising action
    The dark moment/crisis: the lowest moment of a character's struggle--when all the world seems lost, the fight unbeatable, the "darkest hour before dawn" -- a stunning reversal of fortune and sense of failure.
    Deus ex machina: a contrived ending. Often one in which the characters did not have a hand in solving. (It is more interesting to see a character deal with their own problems rather than an outside force solving it for them.) literally, a "god from a machine"
    Enlightenment: When the protagonist understands how to defeat the antagonist. A revelation that begins the movement toward a climax.
  • Ten minute play format
  • One act plays
  • Full length plays (2, 3, 4, or 5 act)
  • Monologues/Soliloquies
  • Cross-dressing and theatrical tradition (blog)
  • Generating ideas for plays (from handout & blog)
  • Absurdism & Beckett (blog)
  • Commedia dell'Arte (blog)
  • Farce
  • From Handout: 'Structure, Part two: creativity, scenario, & writing'
  • The Event: a uniquely significant moment in the character's lives
  • Time lock: setting up a time limit or specific deadline characters have to meet in order to spur them into action (for example having a script project due...)
  • Place & setting
  • Theme
  • Scenario: an outline for a writer to identify major/minor characters, plot, and setting used BEFORE writing a script
  • Catalyst: the event in the play that causes a character to take action
  • Positive Motivation
  • Character flaw
  • need vs. desire
  • Creating credible characters
  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Subtext: what is not said in a character's line. The subtext are the subtle details or clues used by the actor to develop their character.
  • Beat: a short exchange of dialogue
  • Backstory
  • A Confidant: a character the protagonist or antagonist can talk with to reveal necessary backstory
  • Verisimilitude: the semblance of truth in characters and setting. "a king should act like a king, not a foul-mouthed beggar."

Monday, January 9, 2012

Still Workshopping: Blocking

Today you will have the opportunity to roughly block your play scripts with the actors. It is helpful when writing a play to see how actions and stage business fit together--whether the scene is too slow or too fast, whether what you have written is working, etc.

As you watch the rehearsal, please take note of what is working and what is not working. Is the scene too static (nothing going on) or too frenzied with activity (too much going on)? What might the actors bring to the script that you haven't considered? Where are the weaknesses of your script? What is working well? Pay attention to these things so that when you return to the lab for a rewrite, you will know what to fix in your script.

HOMEWORK: The forum post for Beckett is due today.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Workshopping Your Play

Today, after the announcements, we will be returning to the black box theater to workshop our plays. Each actor/playwright will be given a form to fill out for the play group he/she is in. Please complete these sheets and turn them in to Mr. Craddock or Mr. Fellows.

1. Once all the play scripts have been read, discuss with the actors/writers in your group about how you can improve or strengthen your play.
2. If you have specific questions please ask them.
3. After you have received feedback from the actors and writers in your group, please begin "directing" each show.
4. Choose a director (an actor who is not in the current play or a writer) and direct the actor(s) in the scene. Use the black box and ensemble space to rehearse.
5. We will continue rehearsing next class. Eventually we will be watching each other's plays as a class.

HOMEWORK: Please watch and post a response on the forum to one of Beckett's plays. See posts below for further details. Your post response is due January 9 (Monday).

Monday, January 2, 2012

Workshopping Plays

Most college and professional programs that people interested in stage writing take as part of their education involve a chance to workshop an original script. While this is ultimately an impossible task for every work you have written, a staged reading or performance is a necessary step in preparing your script for public viewing.

Your task during period 1: choose one of the scripts you have completed this year (the monologue play, one of the 10-minute plays, the adaptation, the one-act play, etc.) and prepare it (see below).

NOTE: please pick the work you are most interested in revising and which you feel might have a chance to be performed in public. If you care little about this, pick the piece of which you are most proud. The point of this exercise is to learn to revise your previous written work.
1. Correct the format if you're still wrong or misformatting the play script. Actors and directors expect a professionally ready script to be in the proper format. It's just the way it is, so instead of complaining, just format your script properly. You can find the proper format for a stage play on the link page, throughout this blog, and by google-ing "professional play format." This is not rocket-science.
2. Remove any bad lines and filler. Remove all your "Ums" & "Wells" & "Hmms" & "So's"--if it doesn't advance the plot, we don't want to hear it. Let your actors emote where and when they feel like it.
3. Remove stage directions that are A). too obvious or B). too wordy and controlling. Your job as a playwright is to write beautiful, effective dialogue--not annoy the director or actor by taking on their role.
4. Reduce long complex sentences into short declarative ones. Fragments are okay. Run-ons are only used for a specific reason to create a specific effect. Don't use them if you don't know what I mean.
5. Proofread. No actor wants to think you're stupid. No director or producer will ever produce your work if it's not well written. Check your spelling and grammar. If you need help, ask. If you don't ask and are still making elementary mistakes in spelling and grammar--you're on your own to learn this. As a writer you need to know what you're doing if you want to be taken seriously. If you don't want to be taken seriously, that's your own problem. You could have saved yourself the trouble by enrolling in a different program or school.
Finally, 6. Please print enough copies of your play for as many actors as you will need (including you). I will be dividing you into groups to work with our actors.

More instructions will be forthcoming during class. Please pay attention to get the most out of this exercise.

HOMEWORK: Please review and note the Becket homework from December's last post. Watch at least one of Beckett's plays and respond to his work on the forum by January 9.

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...