How to read a film: a brief beginners' guide to cinema
Time: 10:30 - 13:00
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HF088
Duration: 2 sessions (over 2 weeks)
What is the course about?
Have you ever sat in a darkened cinema to the end of the movie? I mean right to the end of the movie. Through the endless list of people who worked so hard to bring you two hours of entertainment – the best boy, the dolly grip, the animal wrangler, to name but a few. In the first session we will focus on some of the key members of the creative team including the cinematographer, editor, composer, production and costume design whilst we explore how they work together in the creation of the film’s look and sound – Film Form.
In the second session you will be introduced to the Auteur Theory, as we look in detail at two film directors who have a strong and identifiable visual style and recurring narrative or character tropes. Between them these two directors, Alfred Hitchcock and Ang Lee, span 100 years of filmmaking from 1920 to 2020.
Through these two ways of looking at film you will gain an understanding of how to read a film, and key film theories.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
A starting point for ‘reading a film’ is to consider all the essential decisions the director and key creative personnel use when planning the visual and aural elements of a film. These elements, known as Film Form, are cinematography, mise-en-scène, editing, sound and performance. By examining these in close detail, you will gain further insights into the characters, narrative structure, themes and messages that you may have missed when you first watched the film. These elements serve to create a mood and add to the overall aesthetic of the film.
Another way to study film is to look at the body of a work of a director. By doing this you will begin to see recurring visual styles and motifs; directors with a strong aesthetic have become known as Auteurs.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- evaluate stylistic choices available to filmmakers in the construction of mise-en-scène
- conduct a basic formal and thematic analysis of an individual film
- understand and accurately articulate specialist terms used in the language of film
- demonstrate skills in close textual analysis.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is beginner level course for anyone with an interest in learning more about how films are made and keen to make the transition from passive ‘viewer’ of a film to an active ‘reader’ of a film.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The format of the course will be PowerPoint illustrated talks with examples of films from the past 100+ years, and from around the world. There will be opportunities for discussion and questions around each example.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Please bring a pen and pad or a device for note taking. Links to online reading and viewing will be made available, including additional reading and viewing materials.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please see Film Studies courses on our website at www.citylit.ac.uk/History, Culture and Writing/Film Studies. You may find the Masters of Cinema classes particularly interesting as they focus on directors regarded as auteurs.
Ellen Cheshire is a freelance film writer and lecturer. She has written books on Ang Lee and Jane Campion for Supernova Books, and Bio-Pics for Wallflower Press, and Audrey Hepburn and The Coen Brothers for Oldcastle Books. She has contributed chapters to books on Charlie Chaplin, James Bond, War Movies, Fantasy Films, Counterculture, Silent Cinema and an A Level Film Text Book.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.