Film

Requirements for Concentration in Film:

  1. 11 units required.
  2. Film 210/211, Film 392 required.
  3. Six (6) additional courses in Film at the 200- or 300-level, with the restrictions below:
    1. No more than 4 units in film, video, or digital production may be counted toward the concentration (Film 245, 320/321, 326/327, 328/329, 345/346).
    2. Two of the above 6 units must be our courses in film history/theory. These 2 units must be completed prior to enrollment in Film 392, which must be taken in the senior year.
    3. Only 1 thesis option may be elected (300 or 301).
  4. Two additional elective units at the 200- or 300-level selected from the following categories:
    1. Courses offered by the Department of Film, including fieldwork and independent study.
    2. Courses offered by the Department of Drama
    3. Specifically film-related courses offered by other Vassar departments appearing on the Film Department’s Approved Elective List, or, with pre-approval, similar courses taken on Study Away or Exchange Programs.
  5. Senior Year Requirement: Film 392.

Related Links

I. Introductory

175a or b. The Art of Film (1)

An introductory exploration of central features of film and film study, including the relation of film and literature, film genre, silent film, formal and stylistic elements (color, lighting, widescreen, etc.), abstract and nonnarrative film, and film theory. Subjects are treated topically rather than historically. Enrollment limited to freshmen and sophomores who have not previously taken Film 210. The department.

II. Intermediate

210a. World Cinema to 1945 (1)

An international history of film from its invention through the silent era and the coming of sound to mid-century. The course focuses on major directors, technological change, industrial organization, and the contributions of various national movements. In addition to the historical survey, this course teaches the terminology and concepts of film aesthetics, and introduces students to the major issues of classical film theory. The department.

Prerequisite: 4 units in the humanities or social sciences.

Two 75-minute periods plus film screenings.

211b. World Cinema After 1945 (1)

An international history of film from mid-century to the present day. The course focuses on major directors, technological changes, industrial organization, and the contributions of various national movements. In addition to the historical survey, this course explores the major schools of contemporary film theory, e.g., semiology, Marxist theory, feminism. The department.

Prerequisite: Film 210.

Two 75-minute periods plus film screenings.

[212b. Genre: The Musical] (1)

Examines the development of American film musicals from The Jazz Singer to the present day. The course looks at the role of major stars such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, and Judy Garland, and the contributions of directors such as Vincente Minnelli and Bob Fosse. Students examine the interrelationships between Broadway and Hollywood, the influence of the rise and fall of the Production Code, the shaping hand of different studios, the tensions between narrative and spectacle, sincerity and camp. Reading assignments expose students to a wide range of literature about film, from production histories to feminist theory. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute classes a week, plus outside screening.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2004/05.

214b. Genre: The War Film (1)

An examination of how American films have represented World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. Films chosen include both those made while the conflicts raged (Bataan, 1942), and those made many years later (Saving Private Ryan, 1998). This class focuses on such issues as: propaganda and patriotism, pacifism and sensationalism, the reliance on genre conventions and the role of changing film technologies. For comparison, we look also at documentaries, at films focusing on the sacrifices made on the “home front,” and at war-time poetry, posters, and music. Reading assignments cover topics such as the government’s Office of War Information, the influence of John Wayne, and the racism of the Vietnam films. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute classes a week, plus outside screening.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

[215. Genre: Science Fiction] (1)

The course surveys the history of science fiction film from its beginnings in the silent period (culminating in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and The Woman in the Moon) to the advent of digital technologies. The “golden age” of the 50s, the emergence of a new kind of science-fiction film at the end of the 60s (Kubrick’s 2001, and the “resurgence/revival” of science-fiction film in the late 70s-early 80s (Star Wars, Blade Runner, Alien, The Terminator) are given special attention. Topics include subgenres (end of the world, time travel, space exploration/the “new” frontier, technology/robots/atomic energy), the relation of science-fiction films to their social context and their function in popular culture, the place of science in science-fiction, film’s relation to science-fiction literature (and issues of adaptation), the role of women and feminist criticism, and remakes. In addition to film history and criticism, a small amount of science fiction literature is read. While passing mention will be made to television science-fiction, the course focuses on science fiction film.

Two 75-minute classes a week, plus outside screening.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2004/05.

[216b. Genre: Romantic Comedy] (1)

This class studies the genre of romantic comedy in American film from the “screwball comedies” of the 1930s (It Happened One Night, Bringing Up Baby) to the resurgence of the genre in the 1990s (You’ve Got Mail). The course focuses on the work of major stars such as Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Meg Ryan, as well as the contribution of such directors as Ernst Lubitsch, George Cukor, Preston Sturges, Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, or Nora Ephron. We place these films in the context of other representations of romance, such as Shakespeare’s comedies, and in the context of the changes in American culture, particularly in the role of women. Readings lead students to a deeper understanding of the history of American film, of genre, and of the star system. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute classes a week, plus outside screening.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2004/05, offered in 2005/06.

[218a. Genre: The Western] (1)

A historical and cultural exploration of the Western film genre, with emphasis on the relationship between the Western and the central myths of American experience and such themes as masculinity, violence and the role of women. Specifically, the course examines Westerns directed by filmmakers D. W. Griffith, Tom Mix, William S. Hart, John Ford, Howard Hawks, George Stevens, John Huston, Anthony Mann, Fred Zinnemann, Sam Peckinpah, and Clint Eastwood among others. Instructor to be announced.

Two 75-minute periods, plus evening film screening.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2004/05.

219b. Genre: Film Noir (1)

The term “film noir” was coined by French critics at the end of WWII to describe Hollywood adaptations of hard-boiled crime fiction (Cain, Hammett, Chandler). In this course we first consider “film noir” as an American genre, defined historically (from Huston’s 1941 The Maltese Falcon to Welles’ 1958 Touch of Evil) and stylistically (hard­ edged chiaroscuro, flashbacks, voice-over). In order to account for its broad and lasting impact, however, we then follow film noir’s influence on the French New Wave (e.g. Godard’s 1960 Breathless, Truffaut’s 1950 Shoot the Piano Player) and its later return as “new noir” in American and French cinema (Polanski’s 1974 Chinatown, Scorcese’s 1990 The Grifters, Claire Denis’ 1997 I Can’t Sleep). We observe the transformation of recurrent themes, such as urban violence, corruption, the blurring of moral and social distinctions, the pathology of the divided self, and the femme fatale. Readings in film history and theory, including feminist theory. Ms. Arlyck.

Two 75-minute classes a week, plus outside screening.

Prerequisite: Film 210 or French 244, 252, or 262 and permission of the instructor.

230b. Women in Film (1)

(Same as Women’s Studies 230) Women filmmakers have successfully directed, scripted, and edited commercial, independent, and avant-garde films. The class emphasizes the diversity (aesthetic, ideological, racial, and cultural) among women filmmakers. Class reading assignments delve into a broad range of theoretical perspectives. Ms. Arlyck.

Prerequisite: One unit in Film or Women’s Studies.

Two 75-minute periods, plus evening screenings.

231. Minorities in the Media (1)

This course teaches students to develop a critical understanding of mediated culture through discourse analysis. It examines various texts (i.e., film, video, television, and advertising) in which the dynamics of race, gender, class, and sexuality are expressed and intersect in America. Course literature addresses the identity categories “minority” and “majority” as they have been constructed and deployed in mainstream society. Readings also examine the media’s role in reinforcing socially constructed ideas about difference and the ways visible versus invisible minorities are represented. Black British cultural theory, feminist theory, African American studies and whiteness studies are employed. Screenings may include La Haine, Our Song, Hide & Seek, Traffic and Requiem for a Dream. Mr. Mask.

Prerequisite: 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute classes a week, plus evening screenings.

[232. African American Cinema] (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 232) This course provides a survey of the history and theory of African American cinema. It begins with the silent films of Oscar Micheaux, and examines the early all black cast westerns and musicals of the twenties, thirties, and forties. The political debates circulating around stars like Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt and Harry Belafonte are the focus for discussing the racial climate of the fifties. Special consideration is given to Blaxploitation cinema of the late sixties and seventies, in an attempt to understand the historical contexts for contemporary filmmaking. The new wave of late 80’s and early 90’s black romantic comedies, including The Wood, The Best Man and Coming to America, are also addressed. Ms. Mask.

Two 75-minute periods plus evening screening.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2004/05.

[233. The McCarthy Era and Film] (1)

This class focuses both on the history of anti-communist involvement with the American film industry and on the reflection of this troubled era in post-war films. We trace the factors that led to House un-American Activities Committee’s investigation of communist influence in Hollywood, the case of the Hollywood Ten, the operation of the blacklist and its final demise at the end of the 1950s. We look at films overtly taking sides in this ideological conflict, such as the anti-Communist I Was a Communist for the FBI and the pro-labor Salt of the Earth, as well as the indirect allegories in film noirs and science fiction. Reading assignments are drawn from a wide range of sources, including HUAC transcripts, government documents, production histories, and genre studies. The course concludes with a look at how later films such as The Front sought to frame our understanding of this era. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute classes a week, plus outside screening.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2004/05.

234a. Film and “The Sixties” (1)

The era from Bonnie and Clyde (1967) to Chinatown (1974) can be thought of as a distinct period in the history of American film in terms of the demise of the studio system, the transformation of traditional genres, the influence of the French New Wave, the emergence of new auteurs, and the relaxation of censorship, leading to more explicit sex and violence. This course focuses on directors such as Cassavetes, Altman, Kubrick, Peckinpah, Penn, and Scorsese, as well as films, such as Easy Rider, Shaft, or Diary of a Mad Housewife, which reflect topical subjects. Emphasis is placed on the changes in filmmaking techniques (wide-screen, jump cuts, the zoom lens, improvisational acting), the role of film critics and theorists of the time, the changes in industry economics and demographics, the influence of television and popular music, and the ways in which social change is reflected by the cinema. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute classes a week, plus outside screening.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

[238. Music in Film] (1)

(Same as Music 238) A study of music in the cinema from 1895 to the present. The course focuses on the expressive, formal, and semiotic functions that film music serves, either as sound experienced by the protagonists, or as another layer of commentary to be heard only by the viewer, or some mixture of the two. Composers studied range from Prokofiev, Copland, and Walton-known best for their non-film scores-to Tiomkin, Rozsa, Steiner, and Herrmann, specialists in the field. Contemporary figures like John Williams and Danny Elfman are considered. Mr. Pisani.

Two 75-minute classes a week, plus outside screening.

Prerequisite: one course in music (not performance) or film.

Not offered in 2004/05.

240b. Experiments in Video (1)

This course explores the ultra-short video form. During the first half of the semester, students concentrate on in-camera video exercises and projects, while during the second half they also learn video editing procedures. In addition, the course examines and discusses the work of a number of distinguished video artists who concentrate on producing videos in the ultra-short form. Open only to sophomores who are not concentrating in film. Mr. Roques.

Prerequisite: one unit in film.

One 2-hour period.

260b. Documentary: History and Aesthetics (1)

Beginning with an exploration of film pioneers such as Robert Flaherty and Margaret Mead, the course also examines the impact of John Grierson on documentary production in both Great Britain and Canada. In addition, the development of cinema verité and direct cinema is traced through the work of such filmmakers as Jean Rouch, Richard Leacock, Robert Drew, D. A. Pennebaker, Frederick Wiseman, and the Maysles Brothers. Other topics might include propaganda films, the lyrical documentary, and the personal essay film. Ms. Mask.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods a week, plus external screenings.

284a. Iranian Cinema (1)

An examination of the rich intellectual and aesthetic traditions of Iranian cinema, from the 1960's to the recent wave of internationally-acclaimed films by established and new Iranian directors. Attention is given to filmic structure, composition and aesthetics, choices of subject and character, symbolism and visual iconography. The course maintains a central focus on concepts of "Third Cinema" and the relationship of Iranian cinema to other national cinemas of the developing world. Reading assignments focus upon the location of the films within their historical, social, ideological, political and cultural contexts. The course includes the works of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Abbas Kiarostami, Amir Naderi, and two female directors; Rassul Sadr-Ameli and Ziba Mir-Hosseini. Ms. Davis.

Prerequisite: Film 210 or permission of instructor

290a. or b. Field Work ( 1/2 or 1)

To be elected in consultation with the adviser and the Office of Field Work.

298a. or b. Independent Work ( 1/2 or 1)

To be elected in consultation with the adviser.

III. Advanced

300a. or b. Film Research Thesis (1)

Research leading to a thesis in film history or theory. Open only to students electing the concentration in film. Senior status required. The department.

Prerequisites: Film 210/211 and permission of the instructor.

301a or b. Film Screenplay Thesis (1)

The creation of a feature-length original screenplay. Open only to students electing the concentration in film. Senior status required. Students wishing to write a screenplay instead of a research thesis must have produced work of distinction in Film 317 (Dramatic Writing) and Film 319 (Screenwriting). Mr. Steerman.

Prerequisites: Film 210/211, Film 317 or Drama 317, Film 319, and permission of instructor.

317a or b. Dramatic Writing (1)

(Same as Drama 317a or b.) Studies of dramatic construction, analysis of, and practice in writing stage plays and/or screenplays. Mr. Steerman.

Prerequisites: Drama 100 or Film 210 and permission of instructor.

Writing sample required two weeks before preregistration.

Open only to juniors and seniors.

One 2-hour period.

319. Screenwriting (1)

An exploration of the screenplay as a dramatic form. Students study the work of major American and international screenwriters and are required to complete a feature-length screenplay as their final project in the course. Open only to students who have produced work of distinction in Drama or Film 317. Mr. Steerman.

One 2 hour period.

Prerequisites: Film 210/211, Drama or Film 317, and permission of the instructor.

320a/321b. Filmmaking (1)

A-semester: The course concentrates on a theoretical and practical examination of the art of visual communication in 16 mm film. Individual projects emphasize developing, visualizing and editing narratives from original ideas.

B-semester: Further exploration of a variety of narrative structures from original ideas. Includes working in a partnership with divided responsibilities to develop, visualize and execute films. Emphasis is placed on writing and production planning, as well as how lighting and sound contribute to the overall meaning of films. (Students must concurrently enroll in a 3-hour lab period each semester.) Mr. Meltzer, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Roques.

Fees: see section on fees.

Prerequisites: Film 210/211 and permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period, plus lab.

325a. Writing the Short Narrative Film ( 1/2)

Students learn the process of developing original ideas into ten to twelve minute narrative screenplays. Scripts produced in Film 327 are selected from those created in Film 325. Must be taken concurrently with Film 326. Mr. Robinson.

Prerequisites: Film 320-321 and permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period.

326a/327b. Documentary Workshop/Narrative Workshop (1)

A semester: This course addresses the aesthetic, ethical and theoretical issues specific to the documentary genre as students explore a variety of documentary styles. Student crews make eight-minute documentary videos about a person, place, event, or an issue. Students learn advanced video and sound-recording techniques, using professional grade digital cameras, field lights, microphones and tripods. Post-production is done on digital non-linear editing systems. Mr. Robinson.

B-semester: Student crews create short 16mm sync/sound narrative films from original student scripts. Individual members of the crew are responsible for the major areas of production and post- production: directorial, camera, editorial, and sound. The final release is composited in digital form. Mr. Robinson.

Open only to senior film majors who have produced work of distinction in Film 320/321.

Prerequisites: Film 320/321 and permission of the instructor.

328. Interactive Multimedia Production (1)

The theory and production of interactive multimedia. The final project of this class is the production of an interactive multimedia environment which exists on both a website and as a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM.

Students develop essays concerning their personal experience of a topic chosen by the professor. Over the course of the semester each student designs five interactive miniprojects related to the essay’s theme. Projects are incremental in complexity and introduce students to various aspects of interactive multimedia. The final project consists of putting the pieces together into a larger multimedia interactive environment.

Open only to juniors and seniors. Enrollment limited.

Prerequisites: 2 units at the 200-level in film and permission of instructor.

One 3-hour period plus lab.

permission of instructor.

389a. Advanced Workshop ( 1/2)

This senior level seminar examines different aspects of contemporary filmmaking, focusing on some of the essential stages involved in the creation, development, production and distribution of motion pictures, at both the studio and independent level. Each week's class features a guest speaker with a specific area of filmmaking expertise. This seminar allows students to begin to analyze, and question, the behind- the -scenes creative process in depth for the first time. the seminar examines and discusses filmmaking, and the creative and decision-making process, taking students beyond what they see on the screen, and what they read in newspapers, trade journals, and on the internet. The seminar also challenges the student to examine the role of the artist in the media and society. Mr. Levine.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.

Two 2-hour periods plus screenings.

10 week course.

392a or b. Research Seminar in Film History and Theory (1)

This course is designed as an in-depth exploration of either a given author or a major theoretical topic. Students contribute to the class through research projects and oral presentations. Their work culminates in lengthy research papers. May be repeated if the topic has changed.

Topic for 2004/05a: Filmmakers with a Social Conscience: This seminar studies three American directors who have consistently used their art to focus on social problems and advocate for change, William Wyler, Sidney Lumet, and John Sayles. We look at such films as Dead End (1936), Best Years of Our Lives (1946), The Big Country (1958), Twelve Angry Men (1957), Fail-Safe (1964), Running On Empty (1988), Matewan (1987), and Lone Star (1996). Readings focus on the genre of the social problem film, on the process of adaptation novel or play, on the efficacy and mixed reception of films that try to “send a message.” Ms. Kozloff.

Topic for 2004/05b: Film at its Edges. If the feature films of Hollywood and Europe constitute the center of cinema, what are its edges and borders? What other different forms of film are there, and what are their virtues and limitations? How far can these borders be pushed and cinema still remain? What new alternatives are being explored? We look at what is often called the “experimental film,” both past and present, as well as other kinds of approaches, both narrative and non-narrative. The range of filmmakers is diverse and includes Stan Brakhaqe, Peter Watkins, David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Lars von Trier, Godfrey Reggio, Guy Madden, Zbigniew Rybcynski, Susan Pitt and Bill Morrison. Mr. Kalin.

Topic for 2004/05b: Fright Night: The Ethics of Horror. Horror films have undergone significant changes throughout the past one hundred years but one thing has remained constant: the survival of the horror genre. From The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) to the current resurgence of campy sequential horror blockbusters like the Scream trilogy, the genre continues to be recycled and reformulated. This course traces the evolution of horror from its origins in mythology and pagan literature to its cinematic beginnings in the silent era and concludes with contemporary films. Historically, monsters have symbolized social intolerance, xenophobia, McCarthyism, menarche, and public health issues resulting in disease and death. Vampirism has long been a metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases. Screenings may include Frankenstein, Dracula, Invasion of The Body Snatchers, Friday the 13th, La Jetée, and 28 Days Later. Readings are by Carol Clover, Barbara Creed, Mary Douglas, Vera Dika, Barry Grant and Julia Kristeva. Ms. Mask.

One 3-hour period plus film screenings.

Prerequisite: film 210/211, two additional units in film history and theory, and permission of instructor.

399a, b. Senior Independent Work ( 1/2 or 1)

To be elected in consultation with the adviser.

Summer Study

245-246. Workshop in Screenwriting and 16mm Film Production (2)

The summer workshop offers an integrated study of both the conceptual (screenwriting) and practical aspects of 16mm film production. The program concentrates on the techniques needed to create effective narrative films. Students develop their original ideas into screenplay form and produce these scripts in 16mm film. Mr. Robinson, Mr. Geisler.

Special application required.

Five 3-hour meetings per week plus film screenings.

Tuition/room/board-$3,100. Tuition/room only-$2,500

Tuition only-$2,200.

345-346. Advanced Workshop (2)

An advanced workshop concentrating on the writing and production of short synchronous sound films or videos. See Film 245-246 for general summer workshop detail. Mr. Robinson, Mr. Geisler.

Special application required.

Offered only in case of sufficient demand.