We will conclude our viewing of the summer blockbuster smash hit: Jaws
(1975) directed by Steven Spielberg this morning.
While you are out (Feb. break) choose one of the options below for your film journal paper:
Each essay should have a beginning (intro), body, and conclusion.
1. View a film--any film--of your choice. Then, single out a particular scene. A scene is one setting or location, usually shot for no more than one minute. Make a detailed list of the particular labors required to produce this scene. You may wish to divide your list into the following categories: Set design, costume, special effects, lighting, acting, camera, sound, etc. Of course, you ought to notice labors needed to produce the images and sounds that viewers actually experience, but dig deeper. What sorts of invisible laborers were required before the scene could be realized? For example: who put the props on the set and who was responsible for buying or making the props in the first place? Did caterers make sure that people on the set were fed? And who called the caterers? Once the scene was shot, what sorts of labors made it possible for you to witness what was filmed? You may wish to view the end credits of the film as well to help you get an idea who was involved. From your list, make an observation in 1-2 pages (double-spaced) about the amount of work (and who may be involved) in the short scene that you studied. Write an essay in which you discuss your list and what you came to understand about the particular scene shot.
What observations did you make and how has this changed (or not changed) your appreciation of the film?
2. View a film of your choice and write a short essay in which you speculate on possible answers to this question: Who is conceivably the author of this film? Who deserves the title? Again, speculate. How does film--like other electronic media (like, say, a music CD or a video game)--reveal authorship to be an “outdated” concept, and a concept that has, in our age of electronics, become problematic? How does this change or alter the way in which you view film authorship? What does it mean to you as a potential writer of film?
3. To show us exposition or to describe a character, the camera often shows us a room or personal belongings of a character in a movie as a way of communicating to the audience. For example, in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
, to give us information about the film's main character, even before we see him, the camera pans and tracks, showing us Ferris' bedroom. We see all kinds of stuff, and this stuff is arranged in telling ways. There's a similar shot in Silence of the Lambs
, when Clarice Starling (Jody Foster) inspects items in the bedroom of a murdered girl.
The point: We notice character (or a character’s personality) is constructed through elements of the mise en scene
: in this case, out of the collage or mix of stuff that the set designer arranged for the camera. As viewers we project a personality onto the screen based on what we see (and also by what we do not see). If you call this process of generalization "stereotyping," you are right. The fact is, without culturally shared stereotypes, films probably wouldn't make sense to us. Such stereotyping is a lot more subtle than assuming that if a cowboy is wearing a white hat, he must be the good guy. There are students in school who can and do size up people in seconds based on a person’s hairstyle or by the style of clothes the person wears.
Part A. Examine a film character and watch them in their opening scene or a scene which “develops” them. What information about the character is given through mise-en-scene? What foreshadowing or clues does the camera provide for us as viewers? Finally, do we stereotype correctly – or is the director manipulating us by putting us in that position?
Part B. In this assignment as a way to experiment with mise en scene, choose a character, any character. He or she can be "real" or "invented." S/he could be a student (of any age), a business person (any job), a criminal (any sort), an alien (any nationality or species), etc. And then, I want you to try out the role of set designer. Your task is to create a very detailed description of this character's bedroom. You can do this in the form of a list, an inventory of the stuff you'd bring onto the set and arrange for the camera. But your goal is simple. We in the film crew have to be able to shoot this room using your instructions, your list. And we have to be certain that the film audience will have a certain sense of the inhabitant's personality. In effect, it's your job to construct a personality for the film's character through staging.
In your journal entry, give readers a complete inventory or an in-depth description of a bedroom--list or paragraphs, your choice. Do not tell us anything about the character that inhabits this room! For example, don't say, "This is the room of a kindergarten student, a girl, living in a town somewhere in central Pennsylvania. Her mother is a real estate agent; her father is a civil engineer." I would like for your classmates to guess the character you've invented based on what you give us. In other words, I want you to approach the work of your classmates inductively--like detectives, scientists, and FBI agents. Show us the character and his/her personality through a description of the character’s room.
4. View a documentary film of any sort. In a paragraph or two summarize the documentary – what is the main focus or theme of the film? Next, describe the structure of this film. Is the movie told in a straight forward narrative? Is it a series of interviews, or short clips which slowly reveal the main point? Finally, can you tell what the director/writer want to make the audience feel about the subject? How has the director/writer presented the documentary according to his/her own point of view? How does the documentary artist choose particular parts of the story to present his or her interpretation? How may the artist be biased and how is this bias shown to us through the parts of the film the director chooses to show us? Do you think the film is mostly subjective or objective? Are you being manipulated by the director/writer? How can you tell?
5. Read an article from a newspaper or from a magazine of your choosing (you may also choose to use a short story). Imagine writing a screen play on the news story or article. Briefly summarize the article or attach the clipping to your paper. Then, answer any of the following questions in a journal entry (1-2 pages):
--Whose story would you tell? Around whose basic point-of-view would you build the screen play? Why would you choose this “character”?
--How about depth? Are you going to stick to a primarily objective (just the facts, no opinion) approach? Will you grant viewers access to the subjective (personal opinion) states of any of the film's characters?
--Who do you plan to make this film for? Who is your audience? How might you change the real story to better affect your audience?
--Stories are created in the minds of viewers; they're our response to plot cues. This is especially evident in films that are told out of chronological order--where viewers have to straighten out scenes and mentally order them--in effect, completing or assembling stories. Are you going to tell your version of the story in a straightforward fashion or use flashback or other unusual narrative techniques to get the story across?
6. Watch a narrative film. Create a chart that illustrates the conflicting goals of the characters and values of the director/writer/audience that drive a narrative film of your choice. How does one conflict lead to another? How do these conflicts build upon one another in the film (usually leading to a climax)? How does this film resolve the conflicts that it sets in motion? Finally, does the film keep your interest and if so, is this largely because of the conflict of the main character(s)?
7. Choose a film and watch the main protagonist of the film closely. How does the director portray this character in a positive way so that the audience identifies with him/her? Use specific examples from the film. What effect is the director having on you as an audience member in showing or depicting the protagonist in this way? Is the director successful or unsuccessful and why? Alternatively, you may choose the main antagonist or villain and answer the same question.
8. View an animated movie or short of your choice. What qualities of the film work better as animation as opposed to representation of live characters or actors? Why do you think the film was made as animation instead of being filmed live? What is added or removed in making the film an animated feature? Using your speculative hypothesis (your answer), what evidence in the film is there of the director choosing to make this film an animated one?
9. Watch a film you absolutely hated the first time viewing it. Try to describe what it is about the film that you do not like (this can be technical (how the film was put together physically) or creative (how the film was written as a story), but do not simply state that you didn’t like the film because you didn’t like the film. Try to identify the flaws in the film: if technical, did the director’s choice of film techniques fail? If creative, is the main character not interesting or is there not enough conflict in the story, etc.? Finally, recast and redesign the film to fit your own tastes. Explain what changes would you make if you were the director?
10. Choose a foreign film and watch it. How is watching a foreign film challenging apart from the language barrier and the use of subtitles? In other words, what other challenges or problems might you face as an audience member of a different culture than the one the film was originally intended for? Next, analyze the director’s style. How is the director’s style different from mainstream Hollywood films with your own culture in mind? Finally, is there anything new you learned about a different culture or country by watching this film?
11. Watch three films from the same time period in the same genre. (For example 1970's horror films, or 3 animated Disney films, or 3 John Wayne western films). What similarities and differences do you detect as you watch the film? Take note of special effects, use of screen shots, theme, acting or camera style. Write a paper on how these movies reflect a). The director b). The culture of the time period c). The tradition of film history
12. Go to the Dryden theatre and watch a film there. You should also compare this experience with a viewing at a standard first-run theatre (Regal, Tinseltown, etc.) and a viewing at a second-run theatre or independent art cinema (The Cinema, The Little Theatre). How does your experience differ from cinema to cinema? How might a specific kind of audience affect your enjoyment of a film? What is unique about each film audience “culture”? Write a reflection or “memoir” of your experience in each cinema. If you can, express an epiphany about film experience.
EXTRA CREDIT: On Feb. 26, the 2017 Academy Awards will occur. Watch it (or as much as you can). Be prepared to react to the winners/losers and nominated films.
HOMEWORK: Please watch film clips and take notes on clips from previous posts. If you missed anything or have fallen behind, please catch up.
Please read the article on the Academy Awards. Watch the Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 26.