intro to film

Introduction to Film [Film 100]

Instructor: Mike Enright

Meeting Times:
Tuesday 2-4:50 PM (section 11445)
Saturday 12:30-3:10 PM (section 11484)

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 Analyses (2) 20%
Quizes (3) 30%
Attendance/Participation 30%
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 Bonnie and Clyde.

Week 13: Intro to sound, Bonnie and Clyde 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.


Lesson 14: Review

The class will begin with a last quiz on Bonnie and Clyde. If you feel like you've done badly on the quiz (or if you miss today's lesson) remember that you can make up the quiz grade by substituting a two-page scene analysis from the film.

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

Scene Analysis from Taxi Driver by Craig Padawar

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

Lesson 13: Editing / Bonnie and Clyde

We will finish our discussion of aspect ratio and then view an example of an editor's showcase, a bravura car chase. Then we'll watch the second half of Bonnie and Clyde.

Lesson 12: More on Editing / Bonnie and Clyde

We'll continue our discussion of editing by focusing on eyeline match cuts in classical continuity editing. We'll also look at other examples of jump cuts, intercutting, montage sequencess, pace, and some bravura moments in late 20th century cutting.

This will be followed by a showing of the first half of Arthur Penn's genre-defying Bonnie and Clyde.

The class text, Close Up: A Critical Introduction to Film, has an excellent discussion of all the editing techniques we've been describing in Chapter 4.

Lesson 11: Editing

First up will be a multiple-choice quiz 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:

We'll finish The Graduate today and take a look at its stylistic innovations: the consistent use of long lenses, edits that play with audience expectations, sound that works against continuity editing, and other techniques first seen in French new wave and American avant-garde movies.

Next week's class will begin with a Graduate quiz; don't be late!

We will conclude by beginning a discussion of aspect ratio with lots of examples, including two clips showing Cinemascope and 70mm Panavision.

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 illustrates some of the technical and stylistic advances that were changing Hollywood films in this period. After an introduction we'll view the entire film.

Lesson 8: Psycho followup / Aspect ratio

Class will begin with a discussion of the source materials, history, and impact of Psycho and some elements of its mise-en-scène.

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.

Lesson 7: Waterfront concluded / Brando 2 / Mise-en-scène continued

To start things off there will be a short quiz on Psycho.

Afterwards 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 6: 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!

Assignment: two-page scene analysis from On the Waterfront. Remember, don't tell me the story; pick one scene from the movie and tell me about the shots, the angles, the lighting, the makeup, the actors, etc., and why these things were chosen. In other words, how do all these elements help tell the story. Due next week.

Lesson 5: Mise-en-scène and Waterfront continued

Today we'll review the first half of On the Waterfront looking out for whatever narrative elements and mise-en-scène components can be discussed.

We will also review the origins of the Red Menace hysteria of the 40s and 50s that was behind the House Un-American Activities Committee and its hearings of 1947. These hearings focused on Communism in Hollywood and helped initiate the infamous "blacklist," a list of filmmakers who would no longer be hired due to suspected Communist sympathies. Both Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg (the director and the writer of On the Waterfront) "named names" of associates in the business who they believed to be Communists.

Finally, we'll complete our viewing of On The Waterfront.

Lesson 4: Mise-en-scène

Mise-en-scène is a catch-all term describing many of the visual elements of films, everything from the facial expressions of the actors to sets, camera framing, costumes, or props.

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.

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 if you can (you probably won't have enought light), and afterward after you've read the IMdb entry. 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 become the basis for a scene analysis from Kane.