Monday, April 30, 2012

Citizen Kane: Part Deux

As you watch the film, please choose one character and watch how the camera portrays this character.

What shots are used for the character?
Where is the character often shot from during a scene?
What light effects are used in a scene to portray the character?
What kinds of transitions are used between scenes for this character?
What is the pacing like for the character in this scene?
What music or sound is used during the character's scene?
How does the actor move or talk that is distinct or unusual for this character?
How does costuming affect character?

As you watch the film, please note your observations on the index card and turn this in at the end of class for participation credit.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pitch #2

Today, take a few minutes in the beginning of class and complete the handout for an idea for a film pitch. You will be required to write a film script (and for this purpose may choose between various film pitch assignments). Wondering what idea to come up with? This may inspire you.
As you consider an idea, take a moment to view this video (at least the first part of it). Learn this simple rule about film making (and also writing...)

Your pitch should be anywhere from 1-3 pages in length and include details about your film idea, character names, and have a beginning, middle, and end. See previous posts for advice on pitch writing.

NOTE: This is an individual assignment. Since the goal here is writing a script, not making it (at least not yet), please work alone. It is hard to enhance your script-writing abilities if you only work collaboratively.

Please read this article by Mickey Grant about making a film.

Pitch #2 is due by Friday.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Citizen Kane (day one)

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

Orson Welles as Auteur:
Welles directed, wrote (partial), and starred in this film (even though it was thought he wasn't old enough to portray Kane). While Welles had direct control over the film and its look, there were other people who contributed artistically. Some of the invention and creativity of film making includes:

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.

  • Isolation
  • Materialism/Capitalism
  • Old Age
  • The Snowglobe
  • Sleds
  • Statues
Note: The handout given to you on Citizen Kane will be helpful to you as will the script. Please read and refer to these articles.

Here is some information about who is responsible for this film. You may find it useful for your forum post.
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.

Friday, April 20, 2012

MCC Guests & Film Pitch

Your film pitch is due today. Please print it out and turn it in.

We will spend some time today with our guest speakers from MCC. Time and place TBA.

HOMEWORK: Please read Citizen Kane (find script link in the post below).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Student Film

Another student film (Silent Film Project):

Citizen Kane: Script Reading

For TUESDAY of next week, please read the script for Citizen Kane. You should read at least to the Thatcher Memorial Library scene in the event you do not complete the script by Tuesday. Please take careful note of the structure of a play script. You should be familiar with the way it is formatted.

HOMEWORK: Please read Citizen Kane for Tuesday, April 24.

1930's Film Quiz, Film Pitch, 1940's Film Notes

After our quiz on 1930's film, please complete your 1940's film notes from the article in the post below (see last class), and complete your film pitch. Turn in your notes at the end of class. If you finish your film pitch, please turn this in as well. The film pitch is DUE FRIDAY. But it is due at the beginning of class (not during or at the end!)

HOMEWORK: Complete and turn in any assignment you did not complete today, but your work will be considered late (notes). The pitch is due at the BEGINNING of class Friday.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

1930's Quiz: Wednesday

Three things to do today:

1. Please review for your exam:
Film trends in the 1930's
Sound in film 
The Jazz Singer
Joseph P. Maxfield 
RKO studios
Walt Disney Studios: Flowers & Trees, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The 3 Little Pigs, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck films from the 1930's, other Disney animation
The Wizard of Oz & Judy Garland
Gone With the Wind & Clark Gable
It Happened One Night
Becky Sharp 
The 1930's Star System 
Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy
Boris Karloff & Bela Legosi
Cary Grant
The Marx Brothers
Greta Garbo & Marlene Dietrich
Jean Harlow, and Johnny Weissmuller
Joan Crawford & Bette Davis
Shirley Temple & Mickey Rooney
Spenser Tracy & Katherine Hepburn
Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers
Popeye the Sailor
Hal Roach & The Little Rascals
David Selznick & Samuel Goldwyn
Irving Thalberg & Erich Von Stroheim
Joseph Von Sternberg & Fritz Lang
Frank Capra & George Cukor 
Peter Lorre, Fritz Lang & M
Gene Autry & John Wayne (& Westerns)
1930's Musicals
1930's Literary Films
1930's Horror Films
1930's Screwball comedies
1930's Gangster Films
2. Read the article on 1940's film and begin answering questions (to be completed in class Wednesday).
3. Write a 1-2 page film pitch for a talking film (to be completed either Wednesday or Friday this week in class, depending on class participation). Choose a genre popular in the 1930's or 1940's for ideas. Select one and consider characters, settings, and plot elements that might be found in your selected genre. Design a story.
What is a Film Treatment, as opposed to a Film Pitch?
A pitch is used to convince a film company to produce your film. The pitch is usually a one page summary of the main action, characters, and setting of the film. Essentially it deals with the idea.

The film treatment is usually a 3-20 page document that tells the whole story focusing on the highlights. It is more detailed than a pitch. It can include a scene by scene breakdown of a script. It is used BEFORE writing the real script so the author can plan his/her project.

How To Write a Pitch
The pitch, like a treatment, should read like a short story and be written in the present tense. It should present the entire story including the ending, and use some key scenes and dialogue from the screenplay it is based on. Usually a pitch also suggests similarities to other films and actors.
 What Should Be in the Pitch?
1. A Working title
2. The writer's name
3. Introduction to key characters
4. Who, what, when, why and where.
5. Act 1 in one to three paragraphs. Set the scene, dramatize the main conflicts.
6. Act 2 in two to six paragraphs. Should dramatize how the conflicts introduced in Act 1 lead to a crisis.
7. Act 3 in one to three paragraphs. Dramatize the final conflict and resolution.
HOMEWORK: Please read the article on Orson Welles and study for the quiz on 1930's films.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Disney Animation & Last of the Presentations

After our few presentations and discussion of Technicolor, please edit and complete your silent film projects.

During the break, please view the list of 1930's on-line films (or rent or watch any 1930's film) to gain extra credit. Forum response required.

Also, for a treat, take a look at some of these Disney shorts:

The Three Little Pigs (1933)
The Grasshopper and the Ants (1934)
The Flying Mouse (1934)
Peculiar Penguins (1934)
Mickey's Fire Brigade (1935)
Mickey's Clock Cleaners (1937)
Ferdinand the Bull (1938)
Farmyard Symphony (1938)

HOMEWORK: If you did not complete and edit your film you will be late, but complete this major project over break.

WANT TO GET AHEAD?: Brainstorm an idea for a talkie film. Create characters, setting, theme, plot, etc. for a short talking film project.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Possible Extra Credit 1930's Films Online

Here are a sample of online 1930's films you may watch this marking period for extra credit. Each movie you watch and critique on the forum will garner you extra participation credit in this class.

Animal Crackers (Marx Brothers) (1930)
Monkey Business (Marx Brothers) (1931)
Dracula (1931)
Frankenstein (1931)
M (Fritz Lang) (1931)
A Farewell to Arms (1932)
White Zombie (1932)
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
The 13th Guest (Ginger Rogers) (1932)
Duck Soup (Marx Brothers) (1933)
A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes) (1933)
Oliver Twist (1933)
The Ghoul (1933)
The Invisible Man (1933)
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang) (1933)
The Scarlet Letter (1934)
West of the Divide (John Wayne) (1934)
Becky Sharp (1935)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935)
Revolt of the Zombies (1936)
The Big Show (Gene Autry) (1937)
Reefer Madness (1938)
Pygmalion (1938)
Mr. Wong Detective (Boris Karloff) (1938)
Gulliver's Travels (animated) (1939)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
The Little Princess (Shirley Temple) (1939)
The Flying Deuces (Laurel & Hardy) (1939)


Color tends to be a subconscious element in film. It has an emotional appeal which often suggests mood of the film or characters in it. At its most effective, complimentary characters are dressed in complimentary colors--antagonists are dressed in contrasting colors to their protagonists. Characters can match or contrast their settings and a whole host of other useful symbols can be created with color.

The first Technicolor film was THE GULF BETWEEN (U.S., 1917), a five-reeler made by Technicolor Motion Picture Corp. in Florida mainly for trade showings in eastern cities, to create interest in color movies among producers and exhibitors. It did not receive nationwide distribution. A lost film today, only a few frames survive.

The first two strip Technicolor feature made in Hollywood, and the first to receive nationwide distribution, was the costume drama THE TOLL OF THE SEA (1922).
Another silent movie filmed entirely in two strip Technicolor was the swashbuckler THE BLACK PIRATE (U.S., 1926), produced by and starring Douglas Fairbanks.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (Cecil B. DeMille's epic, 1923) THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) BEN-HUR (1925) and KING OF KINGS (Cecil B. DeMille, 1926) used color as a gimmick or in parts.

The first all-talking Technicolor feature was the Warner Bros. musical ON WITH THE SHOW (1929).

All of the color films up to this point were two-color processes, which could capture only two of the three primary colors of light.

In 1932, Technicolor perfected a three-color motion picture process (also known as three-strip Technicolor, because three negatives were employed in the camera, one for each primary color of light -- red, green, and blue).

It was introduced with the Walt Disney cartoon FLOWERS AND TREES (1932), which won the first Academy Award for Animation. Walt Disney kept a monopoly on 3-color technicolor from 1932-1935.

The first feature-length movie in three-strip Technicolor was the costume comedy-drama BECKY SHARP (U.S., 1935)

Technicolor used a three color system: red, blue, green (these colors therefore are most vivid)

Early color was used as an expression (expressionism) of the director’s or cinematographer’s story, and so early films with color tend to be ones that are formalistic, artificial, or exotic. Color was often not used for “realistic” movies.

Warm colors: red, yellow, orange (brown)
Cool colors: Blue, green, violet (white)

Technicolor fragments.
Phantom of the Opera Masquerade Scene
During the 1930's, technicolor was still expensive. It was still being used as a movie gimmick as seen here. The Women (1939); here's the trailer.

Gone With the Wind (1939)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Monday, April 2, 2012

1930's Film Presentations/Film Projects

Today please take notes on the last of our 1930's presentations. When the presentations are completed, please finish uploading and editing your silent films. Silent films are due Thursday, April 5.

For those of you who complete your work before the end of class today (and for the rest of you to complete as homework): here are a few clips from films from the 1930's. For extra credit this marking period, you may watch any 1930 film and post a critical "review" on the forum. See forum for details.

Laurel and Hardy
The Music Box (1932) Winner of the Academy Awards for Best Short Subject
The Flying Deuces (1939) Full Film

The Little Rascals (various clips/films):
Let Me Call You Sweetheart
We Want Cake
Whatever Happened to the Little Rascals (information, although a bit grim)

Shirley Temple: Little Miss Marker (1934)

Fritz Lang: M (1931) Full Film
Marx Brothers: Duck Soup (1933) Full Film

Ginger Rogers & Fred Astair: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes 

Walt Disney:
Snow White (1937)
Snow White (clip)
Snow White (another clip)
Flowers and Trees (1932)
Mickey Mouse: The Moving Day (1936)
Donald Duck: Donald's Nephews (1938)

HOMEWORK: Please read the article on Walt Disney.

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...