intro to film

Introduction to Film [Film 100]

Instructor: Mike Enright

Meeting Times
Saturday 12:30-3:10 PM
Tuesday 2-4:50 PM

Course Description

An introduction to the “language” of film, this course familiarizes students with the key elements of cinema: narrative, cinematography, mise-en-scene, editing, and sound. Focusing primarily on fictional narrative films, the course will explore the ways in which filmmakers employ the basic elements of cinema to reveal character, convey plot and theme, and create meaning. Both “classical” Hollywood style and alternative styles will be discussed. Students will learn to critically analyze films and effectively communicate their ideas in writing. In addition to a mid-term and a final exam, there will be several scene analysis papers.
Class Hours: 3

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, the student
will be able to:

Note: Outcomes 1 through 5 relate to a
SUNY Gen.Ed. outcome.

Course Requirements

You should be taking notes on all films shown in class. After each class screening, you should visit the Internet Movie Database ( to note down key cast and crew credits and add the information to your screening notes. Bring your screening notes to the following class to use in class discussions. In addition to the written work, there will be required reading for each unit of study. Students might be called upon to watch some films outside class. These films will be available at the WCC Library, at a local library, or on Netflix.

Please note that assignments turned in late will be marked down by a grade increment e.g. if your paper is graded as a B+ but it is late, then it will be brought down to a B. No work due in the first half of the semester will be accepted after mid-term. All assignments should be typed.

Students may be excused from an exam only for a valid reason such as illness or family emergency. A make-up exam must be scheduled within one week of the scheduled exam.


Scene Analysis (Kane) 15%
Scene Analysis (Waterfront) 15%
Scene Analysis (Graduate) 15%
Attendance/Participation 20%
Midterm Exam 15%
Final Exam 20%

Class participation is an important part of this course. Some of the material covered in class cannot be duplicated outside of the class. Students who miss class should let me know as soon as possible, preferably before the class is missed, and get instructions on how best to make up the missed work. It is the student’s responsibility to contact the instructor and make arrangements for all missed work.

Topic Outline

Week 1: Intro to class, narrative elements, screening notes, and a brief bio of Orson Welles. What are screening notes? Historical and cultural significance of Kane; first half shown.

Week 2: Second half of Citizen Kane, discussion of narrative elements in the film.

Week 3-4: Narrative elements continued: characters, rising action, climax, denouement, setting, genre.

Week 5-6: Intro to mise-en-scÚne, On the Waterfront. Historical and cultural significance of Waterfront, elements of mise-en- scÚne: sets, costumes, actors, makeup, figure position, facial expression.

Week 7: More mise-en-scÚne: props, lighting, framing and composition, movement and color in the frame.

Week 8-9: Intro to cinematography, showing of The Graduate. Historical and cultural significance of The Graduate, frames, shots, scenes, camera distance.

Week 10: More cinematography: camera distance continued; depth of field and lenses; shallow, deep, and soft-focus; wide-angle, telephoto, normal; camera angle; camera movement.

Week 11: Intro to editing. Historical evolution of edits, establishing shots, 180º rule, continuity editing, parallel action.

Week 12: More editing. Storyboards, slow disclosures, cut frequency, rule-breaking edits, dissolves, fades, wipes, Hollywood montage. Historical and cultural significance of Fargo.

Week 13: Intro to sound, Fargo continued. Sound effects, Foley work, ambient sound, fidelity and pitch, reverb, diegetic and non-diegetic sound, dialogue, voice-over, sound bridge, the bus technique.

Week 14: Review, exam prep. Title sequences, experimental film.

Class Text

Close Up: A Critical Introduction to Film
Craig Padawar, KendallHunt, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7575-8454-1

Paperback Amazon for about $50
Ebook publisher website for $53

Class Conduct

In the interest in establishing and maintaining an appropriate learning environment, maximizing the educational benefits to all students, maintaining an atmosphere of safety and comfort, and clarifying the faculty and students’ expectation of classroom conduct, the College has established the following:

More on Cell Phone Use and Texting in Class

As a courtesy to other students, all cellphones should be turned off or set to vibrate at the beginning of class.  Students should refrain from texting during class lectures and activities.  If you must send or receive a message during class, please leave the room quietly to minimize interference with class instruction. If you cause a distraction by texting in class, you will be asked to leave the room.

Academic Honesty

This class will be conducted in accordance with the college’s standards of academic honesty. Cheating, plagiarism, or any other form of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Students are encouraged to visit the college website for an excellent overview of plagiarism, and tips on how to avoid it.


Final Exam:

The Tuesday class should find Part 1 of the final exam up and available on Blackboard starting Tuesday, May 9 at 2 PM. The test will be available for 72 hours, ending on Friday, May 12 at 2 PM.

Part 2 (the last quiz, this one on Taxi Driver) will be administered in class on Tuesday, May 9, between 2 to 4 PM.

The Saturday class should find Part 1 of the final exam up and available on Blackboard starting Friday, May 12 at 12:30 PM. The test will be available for 72 hours, ending on Monday, May 15 at 12:30 PM.

Part 2 (the last quiz, this one on Taxi Driver) will be administered in class on Saturday, May 13, between 12:30 to 2:30 PM.

Lesson 15:

We will prep for the exam by reviewing the vocabulary of:

Scene Analysis from Taxi Driver by Craig Padawar

Final exams will appear in two parts, one in class and one on Blackboard. Blackboard exams will happen as follows:

for Tuesday class:
Test will appear on Tuesday, 5/09 at 2:00PM
Test will be removed on Friday 5/12 at 2:00PM

for Saturday class
Test will appear on Friday, 5/12 at 12:30PM
Test will be removed on Monday 5/15 at 12:30PM

The in-class part of the exam will happen during a two-hour session at the usual class time. I will also take any makeup work at that time.

After we're finished with exam prep, we will finally have our look at Technicolor, along with other clips that fell through the cracks during the semester. -

Lesson 14: Taxi Driver

Today we will look at a couple more examples of bravura editing before we begin our in-class showing of Martin Scorcese's masterpiece. Note that there will be a quiz on this film next week during our last class.

I will also announce in class a new policy regarding quizzes: if you want to improve a bad grade you've gotten on a quiz you can now write a one-to-two-page screen analysis that will be substituted for the quiz grade. The scene analysis must be from the same film as the quiz. I will take them right up to the day of the final exam (though any papers handed in on the last day will not be returned).

For help with a screen analysis, check the textbook on p. 129, "Analysis - How to Listen and Look for Meaning." Also helpful is the video found at the link below that shows a fine analysis of a scene from Taxi Driver.

Scene Analysis from Taxi Driver by Craig Padawar

Lesson 13: Editing / Night of the Hunter

Today will look at the expressionist aspects of Night of the Hunter and explore its relationship to the dark world of film noir. We'll also look at some examples of bravura editing, and some examples of both slow and fast-paced edits.

Afterwards we'll take a look at Technicolor, the technology that defined color in the movies for almost fifty years. We will show how Technicolor has resisted the fading found in later color formats and how it is now used in restoration work. We'll look at some prime examples of Technicolor films and conclude with a showing of Painting With Light, a short documentary about Jack Cardiff and his work on Black Narcissus.

The Art of Editing in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly a video essay by Max Tohline

Lesson 12: Editing / Night of the Hunter

There will be a detailed scene analysis of the climax of Casablanca, with particular attention to cuts, camera movement, and cinematography. We'll also look at some bravura editing in several well-known sequences

Finally, we'll watch from start to finish the only directorial effort of Charles Laughton, the 1955 classic The Night of the Hunter.

Lesson 11: Editing

First up will be a multiple-choice test on The Graduate.

Afterwards we will begin our discussion of film editing. Examples will include the edit-free films of the Lumière brothers, special effect edits in the films of Georges Méliès (The Magician), the birth of parallel editing (The Runaway Horse), the first classical continuity edits (The Great Train Robbery), and the birth of the modern edit with Eisenstein's Oddessa Steps sequence in Battleship Potemkin along with W.S. Van Dyke's version in MGM's San Francisco.

We'll watch clips illustrating classical continuity editing from various films, examples to illustrate 30° rule and the 180° rule, and the differences between classical continuity editing, montage, and the "smash edits" of James Whale in the early 30s.

Lesson 10: Review of The Graduate / Aspect Ratio / Technicolor

First thing on the list for today is a close look at the long-lens cinematography of The Graduate, with some discussion of how the technical aspects of the film help tell its story. We will also discuss elements of its mise-en-scène and narrative structure.

We will then return to the subject of aspect ratio and watch a number of important sequences in everthing from the Academy ratio to Ultra Panavision 70.

Lesson 9:

Our subject today will be the 1967 film The Graduate, a highly influential comic look at youth and society during this tumultuous period. The Graduate not only holds a mirror to 60s culture but also reflects technical and stylistic advances that changed Hollywood films forever. After an introduction we'll view the entire film.

Lesson 8: Cinematography and Hitch

We'll start off with a discussion of Psycho, the film we watched in class last week. I have briefly posted it here so anyone who missed it can catch up.

Afterwards we will look at the elements that make up cinematography, the art of the camera in filmmaking and the domain of the Director of Photography (the DP). We'll look at real-world setups from a variety of Hitchcock films and do a close reading of the cinematograpy and mise-en-scène. The shower scene will be closely examined.

At the end of class we will conclude with a discussion of the technical matter of aspect ratio with lots of example including two clips showing Cinemascope and 70mm Panavision.

Assignment: read the cinematography chapter in the textbook and go to Blackboard for a short mulitple-choice test on Psycho. You must finish the test by our next class.

Lesson 7: Hitch

Today we'll take a tangent into the career of Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense. As we go into more technical issues in the second half of the semester, we'll be seeing more and more examples drawn from Hitchcock's work. To conclude the lesson, we'll watch a complete Hitchcock classic from beginning to end. Wondering what it will be? Come and find out!

Lesson 6: Waterfront concluded / Brando 2 / Mise-en-scène continued

To start things off we'll discuss the conclusion of On the Waterfront in terms of narrative elements and mise-en-scène. We will conclude our discussion of Marlon Brando by briefly looking over his career after 1954. Finally we will continue our discussion of mise-en-scène with clips, clips, and more clips.

Lesson 5: Mise-en-scène and Waterfront Continued

We'll do three things in class today: first, we'll review the first half of On the Waterfront looking out for whatever narrative elements and mise-en-scène components can be discussed. Second, we'll continue our discussion of mise-en-scène overall and show more examples. Third, we'll watch the second half of the film. Make sure you've read Chapter 3 of the textbook to keep you up to date on mise-en-scène terminology.

Lesson 4: Mise-en-scène

Mise-en-scène is a catch-all term describing many aspects of films, everything from facial expressions on the actors, sets, camera framing, costumes, props: any aspect that tells the visual parts of the story.

Click here to see the list of terms we will discuss in class. Homework is to read Chapter 3 (Mise-en-scène) in the book.

Today we will also begin our second film in class with On the Waterfront from 1954; the original screenplay is by Budd Schulberg and the director is Elia Kazan. We will prep for the movie by taking a look at the career and impact of Marlon Brando.

I am testing the posting of the entire film; try it and let me know what happens. I need to know what happens in different browsers in different operating systems. Here is the link to the entire film.

Lesson 3: Citizen Kane 3 / Narrative Elements

Today we will discuss the narrative elements that make up Citizen Kane. This page includes a glossary of narrative terms that we will use in our discussion. I've put together an edit of Citizen Kane that shows all the major scenes in chronological order, with a clip from each. Click here to see it. There is also a second clip showing the actors as they appear in the end credits.

We will also discuss the second half of Welles' career, the Mercury Players, diegetic sound, long takes, more examples of deep focus, and further examples of matte or glass paintings in KIng Kong.

The first assignment, due next week, is a two-page paper (double-spaced, 14 points, full page) that does a scene analysis from any scene from Citizen Kane. For some assistance, check the textbook on p. 129, "Analysis - How to Listen and Look for Meaning." Also helpful might be the video found at the link below that shows a fine analysis of a scene from Taxi Driver.

Scene Analysis from Taxi Driver by Craig Padawar

Lesson 2: Citizen Kane 2

During this lesson we will review and analyze various aspects of the first half of Citizen Kane. Topics covered: narrative elements in Kane, deep focus, moving camera, economical filmmaking, and matte or glass paintings. Finally, we will watch the 2nd half of Kane.

Lesson 1: Citizen Kane 1 / Narrative Elements

Narrative elements: Star Wars

Narrative elements: definitions

Assignment: read chapter 1 of the text, and the Wikipedia entry on Orson Welles.

Film: Citizen Kane from 1941; 119 minutes

Orson Welles: producer, director, star, and (along with Herman J. Mankiewicz) author. With the Mercury Players.

Take notes during the film, and afterward on the IMdb. You're going to keep track of how the script tells the story, important scenes, notable shots or sequences of shots, use of sound, use of music, significant performances in the film, and anything else from the movie that makes an impression on you. Later these screening notes will be handed in, and will also become the basis for a critical paper on Kane.