Understanding Film: Course Description

Understanding Film has three goals:

  1. to expand students’ taste, so that they can become an audience for a wider range of films than the blockbusters at the local cineplex;
  2. to expand their awareness of what goes on in films, so that they can see more in what they watch; and
  3. to give them some experience in making films.

Typically Quarter 1 introduces the basics of editing and film vocabulary, using publically available footage, Quarter 2 introduces cameras and filming, using publically available audio, Quarter 3 introduces basics of sound recording, interviewing, and documentary filming, and Quarter 4 introduces Foley/sound replacement.
Students typically work individually to make 2 – 3 films each quarter. The first film of the year is intended to give hands-on experience with editing: usually, students re-cut a YouTube music video. Second quarter students make a montage, showing change over time, that might be a 2-3 minute segment of a larger film or an original music video. From there they move into a 3-10 minute narrative film without dialogue. Third quarter focuses on documentaries, and fourth quarter is genre study.
Instruction in the use of laptop editing other video programs is on an ad hoc basis: most students are comfortable figuring out the technology for themselves and receiving technical instruction on an as-needed basis. Critiques by the teacher and the students of works-in-progress and completed films help improve the quality of film-making in the class.

  • Students are expected to view all the films shown in the class, including those missed due to absence.
  • Students are expected to complete all assignments in a timely manner. For example, students who owe a film paper are often sent from class to finish it before they are allowed to watch the next film.
  • Students need parental approval to join film class, since some of the films we watch will be R-rated.
  • Students are expected to follow a code as outlined by the teacher for acceptable content in the films they make.
  • Students are expected to follow the School Laptop Guidelines and Acceptable Use Policies. 
  • Students are expected to master such computer programs as iMovie, Handbrake, MPEG-Streamclip, and other programs necessary for them to make films and/or to create clips from the films we view for the purpose of critical analysis.