Film

Requirements for Concentration in Film:

  1. 11 units required.
  2. Film 210, Film 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 major (including, but not limited to: Film 245, 320/321, 326/327, 345/346).
    2. Two of the above 6 units must be film department 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.
  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

175b. 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. Subjects are treated topically rather than historically. Mr. Meltzer, Mr. Steerman.

May not be used toward the Major requirements.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

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. Ms. Kozloff, Ms. Mask, Mr. Steerman.

Prerequisite: Film 175 strongly suggested by not required.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside 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. Ms. Kozloff, Ms. Mask, Mr. Meltzer.

Prerequisite: Film 210.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside 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 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 periods, plus outside screenings.

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’s2001, 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 film.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2007/08.

[216. 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, genre, and the star system. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2007/08.

[217. Chinese Film and Contemporary Fiction] (1)

(Same as Chinese 217) An introduction to Chinese film through its adaptations of contemporary stories. Focus is on internationally well-known films by the fifth and sixth generation of directors since the late 1980s. Early Chinese films from the 1930s to the 1970s are also included in the screenings. The format of the course is to read a series of stories in English translations and to view their respective cinematic versions. The discussions concentrate on cultural and social aspects as well as on comparison of themes and viewpoints in the two genres. The interrelations between texts and visual images are also explored. Mr. Du.

Prerequisite: one course in language, literature, culture, film, drama or Asian Studies course, or permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2007/08.

[218. 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. Ms. Mask.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2007/08.

219 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. 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 appeal, however, we discuss film noir’s antecedent in French poetic realism in the 1930s, its influence on New Wave (e.g. Truffaut’s 1960 Shoot the Piano Player, Melville’s 1967 The Samourai) and on Japanese cinema (Yositaro Nomura’s 1957 The Chase, Akira Kurosawa’s 1963 High and Low), as well as its later return as “neonoir” (Polanski’s 1974 Chinatown, Takeshi Kitano’s 1990 Boiling Point, 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 periods, plus outside screenings.

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

[230. Women in Film] (1)

(Same as Women’s Studies 230) This course both examines the representation of women in male-dominated cinema (such as the films of Hitchcock), and explores the work of key female filmmakers. Issues about Hollywood films that are addressed include: genre conventions (e.g. women as femmes fatales infilm noir), the power of stars (e.g. Mae West), and the use of the cinema to objectify female bodies. We then study women directors of feature films, such as Dorothy Arzner, Agnès Varda, Marleen Gorris, and Kathryn Bigelow; female directors of documentaries, such as Barbara Kopple and Connie Field, and women who have produced path-breaking avant-garde cinema, such as Maya Deren and Sally Potter. Ms. Kozloff.

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

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Not offered in 2007/08.

231a. Minorities in the Media (1)

This 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. Ms. Mask.

Prerequisite: 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

233a. 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 The House of 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 more contemporary films such as Good Night and Good Luck, have sought to frame our understanding of this era. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

[236b. African Cinema: A Continental Survey] (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 236) African national cinemas reflect the rich, complex history of the continent. These films from lands as diverse as Chad, Senegal, and South Africa reveal the various ways filmmakers have challenged the representation of Africa and Africans while simultaneously revising conventional cinematic syntax. This survey course examines the internal gaze of African-born auteurs like Ousmane Sembene (Le Nor de Z, Xala, Mandabi), Djbril Diop Mambety (Hyenes), Desire Ecare (Faces of Women), Manthia Diawara (Conakry Kas), and Mahmat-Saleh Haroun (Bye-Bye Africa). It places these films alongside the external gaze of practitioners Euzan Palcy (A Dry White Season), Jean-Jacques Annaud (Noir et Blancs en Couleur) and Raoul Peck (Lummba). The films of documentary filmmakers Anne Laure Folly, Ngozi Onwurah and Pratibah Parmaar are also examined. This course utilizes the post-colonial film theory and scholarship of Imruh Bakari, Mbye Chain, Nwachukwu Frank Ukadike and Manthia Diawara. Screenings, readings and papers required. Ms. Mask.

Two 75-minute periods plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2007/08.

[237. Non-Western Cinema] (1)

Although Americans are most familiar with Hollywood and European offerings, countries around the world have long and rich cinematic traditions. This course examines the history and aesthetics of a given international cinema, such as India, Iran, Hong Kong, and Brazil. Screenings showcase films not easy to see in the United States and readings address how the cinemas reflect their countries’ cultures and heritage. Instructor to be announced.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2007/08.

238 Music in Film (1)

(Same as Music 238) A study of music in sound cinema from the 1920s 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 include Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, Danny Elfman and others as well as film scores that rely upon a range of musical resources including classical, popular, and non-Western music. Specific topics to be considered this semester include music in film noir and the movie musical. Mr. Mann.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

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

240a. 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. Instructor to be announced.

Prerequisite: one unit in film.

One 2-hour period.

260 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, plus outside screenings.

280a. Video Journalism (1)

Students learn and practice the basic skills of the video journalist. Operating camera and recording their own sound, students explore the greater Vassar community in an effort to discover the unfamiliar or see the familiar in a new light. The skills taught include operating a digital video camera, sound recording, using radio microphones, and the fundamentals of non-fiction story telling-- how to identify character, consolidate action and capture a sense of location. The question at the core of the class is what makes something "real" in an age of "You Tube” and Reality TV? Screenings may include Close Up by Abbas Kiarostami,5 Obstructions”by Laars Von Triers, Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog, and Hong Kong Bus Uncle by anonymous. Mr. Gerber.

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)

An academic thesis in film history or theory, written under the supervision of a member of the department. Since writing a thesis during fall semester is preferable, film majors should talk to their advisers spring of junior year. In Film, a research thesis is recommended, especially for those students not writing a Screenplay Thesis or enrolled in Documentary workshop, but it is not required. The department.

Prerequisites: Film 210/211, two additional courses in film history and theory, 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 102 or Film 210 and permission of instructor.

Writing sample required two weeks before preregistration.

Open only to juniors and seniors.

One 2-hour period.

319b. 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 plus outside screenings.

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. Editing is in digital form. (Students must concurrently enroll in a 3-hour lab period each semester.) Mr. Meltzer, instructor to be announced.

Fees: see section on fees.

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

One 2-hour period, plus lab.

325a. Writing the Short Narrative Film (1)

Students learn the process of developing original ideas into fifteen to twenty 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 fifteen-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. Meltzer, Mr. Robinson.

B-semester: Student crews create short 16mm sync/sound narrative films from student scripts. Individual members of the crew are responsible for the major areas of production and post- production: directorial, camera, editorial, and sound. The projects are shot on film and edited on Avid. Mr. Robinson.

Open only to senior film majors who have produced work of distinction in Film 320/321 and Film 326.

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

380b. Directing for the Camera (1)

This course focuses on the art and practice of film directing. Students complete a series of short film and video projects, culminating in a final, dramatic video. The purpose of the course is twofold: to develop directing skills in the area of drama and performance as well those that are particular to the film medium (i.e. cinematography, mise-en-sc-ne, sound recording for dialogue, script continuity, script breakdown, production management, small-crew production and post-production workflow). Students are encouraged to experiment with and employ different cinematic styles and to develop innovative approaches to narrative filmmaking. Permission of Instructor required. Ms. Man.

389a. The Film Industry and the New Millennium (1)

This course examines different aspects of contemporary entertainment industry with specific focus on the film and television industry, the essential stages involved in the creation, development, production, and distribution of motion pictures and television programming. Half of the classes feature experienced guest speakers who are currently working in the industry. The other half of the classes are taught by the instructor. This seminar gives students the opportunity to analyze and question the behind-the-scenes creative process, in depth, for the first time, and is meant to complement their other course work in the major. The classes examine and discuss the film and television industry and the creative process, taking students behind what they see on the screen, and what they read in newspapers, trade journals, and on the internet. The seminar also challenges the students to examine their potential role within the industry as it might relate to different societal issues. Selected weekly readings and film viewings, active class participation, two essays, and a final paper are required. Mr. Levine.

One 2-hour period.

Special permission from the instructor. The class is limited to 12 students who are Senior Film Majors.

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 theoretical topic. Students contribute to the class through research projects and oral presentations. Their work culminates in lengthy research papers. Because topics change, students are permitted (encouraged) to take this course more than once. Preference is given to film majors who must take this class during their senior year; junior majors and others admitted if space permits.

Topic for 2007/08a: Violence, Sex and Censorship. Like all forms of mass culture, American movies have served as cultural flash points in terms of their representation of violence and sexuality. This seminar examines how the industry’s Production Code worked to forestall criticism and maximize profits, and then analyzes the effect of the fall of the Code in the 1960s. Films central to our discussion include Scarface (Hawks, 1932) and Scarface (De Palma, 1983), Wyler’s These Three (1936) and The Children’s Hour (1961), Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935) and Frenzy (1972), as well as films by Mae West and Sam Peckinpah. Readings concentrate on recent archival research into the actual workings of the Production Code Administration and the Catholic Legion of Decency, as well as the latest psychological and sociological studies of screen violence. Ms. Kozloff.

Additional topic for 2007/08a: American Landscapes: From Sea to Shining Sea. Landscapes are where we live. They nourish, shape, and challenge us. They are essential dimensions of our identity. In film, America has often been presented (and examined) through a specific landscape (Ford’s west, Scorsese’s mean streets), though there is no one landscape that is America. We examine a sampling of films, attending especially to the worlds built on and supported by America’s differing landscapes—contemporary, historical, imagined, dreamed—and the distinctive stories of America they shape. Many of these portraits are by foreigners and immigrants, and include Wim Wenders’s Alice in the Cities and Paris, Texas, Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven and Badlands, Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, Werner Herzov,’s Strozek, and John Boorman’s Deliverance, as well as films by Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise), Joel and Eihan Coen (Fargo), and Alfred Hitchcock (probably Saboteur). New York appears through Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (and Ralph Bakshi’s Coonskin) and Los Angeles in Richard Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. We conclude with Michael Cimino’s great American elegy,Heaven’s Gate. Mr. Kalin.

One 3-hour period plus separate film screenings.

Topic for 2007/08: The Films of Spike Lee. Spike Lee is one of Hollywood’s most influential, productive, and controversial filmmakers. As a screenwriter, director, actor, producer, and entrepreneur, Lee has cultivated new talent and developed opportunities for African Americans in fiction and documentary film. His movies are formally innovative, socio-political critiques that challenge assumptions about race, class, community and nation. Utilizing African American film theory, Black British Cultural Studies and Black feminist film theory, this seminar examines several Lee films including: Do the Right Thing, School Daze, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, Clockers, Get on the Bus, Girl 6, 4 Little Girls, Bamboozled, and Inside Man. Readings, papers, and screenings required.

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. Meltzer, Mr. Steerman.

Special application required.

Five 3-hour meetings per week plus film screenings.

Tuition/room/board-$3,600*. Tuition/room only-$2,900*

Tuition only-$2,600*.

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. Meltzer, Mr. Steerman.

Special application required.

Offered only in the event of sufficient demand.