An analysis of technique and NOT a summary of the film. The paper is neither a
movie review nor an analysis of themes. In essay format, analyze how techniques are used in your film, showing comprehension of issues/terms we have discussed in class. (There should be no bulleting or subheadings for an essay of this length.) The realist-formalist continuum is a means to structuring your essay, including your thesis. It should not be merely a listing of techniques; it should be clear what the effect and/or importance of the techniques are to making meaning in the movie. Discuss the film’s relevant techniques overall and then discuss particular examples in more depth. See sample essays on SacCT. Additionally, do not write your essay on a film discussed in class or one covered in a sample essay. If you watch a DVD commentary on your film, you must cite it every time you use ideas from it (parenthetical citation and Works Cited). If you use any other sources beyond your film, you must cite them each time they are used. However, since the purpose of this essay is to illustrate YOUR knowledge, I discourage the use of outside sources; if you use them, the paper as a whole should illustrate your knowledge sufficiently. If your essay is full of the ideas of other people and not your own, you will not do well on it because you will not have shown that YOU understand the material.
Elements that must be included in this paper are listed below. Terminology should be used as appropriate (ex. terms for different proxemic distances, key lighting). You’ll probably find that the cinematographic elements are used in support of the narrative of the film. For each technique, you must 1. use correct terminology, 2. define/describe the term (or illustrate understanding through your use of it), and 3. discuss the effect of said technique. Your demonstrated proficiency in writing will be taken into account in the grading of your papers. There may be a *brief discussion of narrative as well; a brief (1 paragraph) synopsis of the film may be included after the introductory paragraph. NB: discussing technique by chronologically going through the story generally doesn’t work.
Check-Off List: The best essays will discuss a variety of uses of each technique and tie them in to the thesis. Your thesis will be a statement about your chosen film’s position on the RFC, and you will support your thesis with evidence from the film. How does your film use the techniques below? How do these techniques create meaning in your film?
1. Angles (high, low, eye level, bird’s eye view, oblique/Dutch tilt)
2. Lighting (low key, high key, high contrast, natural, available)
3. Proxemics (intimate, personal, social, public). Discuss the physical proximity of characters, or you will not receive credit. Do not confuse with shot length. The two are analogous, not synonymous.
4. Framing (position in frame, tight and loose framing, open and closed form)
5. Realist-formalist continuum (RFC): how does each technique listed here relate to the RFC as it’s used in your film?
6. Editing (cutting to continuity, jump cuts, parallel editing, etc.; dissolves, wipes). Pacing (the length of takes) might be discussed as well. How are shots joined? How does this create meaning?
7. Shot lengths (extreme close, close, medium, long, extreme long/establishing)
Additionally, essays will be judged upon:
Quality of grammar, mechanics, sentence structure, spelling, paragraphing (1 idea per paragraph)
Basic parameters for grading:** (see bottom of next page)
A: Excellent. Paper should be well written, with clear prose and a clear sense of purpose and unity. Will demonstrate clear knowledge and understanding of cinematography without error and be able to tie this knowledge into a discussion of the film itself. Will consider each of the cinematographic elements listed above, as well as their roles in the film, using examples from the film as support. Different types of each technique will be discussed (ex. high, low, and natural lighting), illustrating depth of knowledge. Will use correct terminology and definitions without error. At least 3 different examples of variations on each technique will be discussed accurately.
B: Above average. Paper will be generally a bit less successful than the above, with perhaps less comprehensive discussion, clarity, accuracy or thoroughness. The paper still will be well written with clear prose and a clear sense of purpose and unity. Will demonstrate clear and more than basic knowledge and understanding of cinematography and be able to tie this knowledge into a discussion of the film itself. Discusses all required elements in a way that illustrates above average understanding. At least 2 different examples of variations on each technique will be discussed accurately.
C: Satisfactory. Will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of cinematography and be able to tie this knowledge into a discussion of the film itself. Will consider most of the cinematographic elements listed above, their function, and use examples from the film to support the thesis. Will show satisfactory understanding of cinematography. At least 1 example of each technique will be discussed accurately.
D: Less than satisfactory. Will likely demonstrate a bit of knowledge (i.e. less than basic) about cinematography. May have too much plot summary, incorrect understanding of cinematographic elements, missing elements, and/or too little analysis. Writing also may lack clarity.
F: Fail. Does not show understanding of cinematography. Fails to use key concepts to discuss film. Incomprehensible prose will earn this grade.
0: Plagiarized or not turned in.
A few pet peeves: 1. Keep it real. Avoid talking about how this class has changed your perception of film. 2. When talking about the character, use the character’s name (not that of the actor). The actor is playing a character. Keanu Reeves did not do the things Neo did in The Matrix. 3. You should know and use the names of characters and of the director. 4. Film titles should be italicized.