FILM 194 | Advanced Film Writing: Words and the Moving Image

2021 Fall | Mon, Weds 12:30 pm–2 pm | COURSE #25973 | UNITS: 4

Mark Sandberg & Lisa Jacobson

How might one go about evaluating an audiovisual text solely using words? What issues arise in such an undertaking? Different forms of film and television writing serve a variety of professional functions, engaging different audiences to different ends.

This course alerts students to the conventions and standards of different forms of evaluative criticism, with special attention to the specific forms of film and television writing required in journalism, film festivals, film archives, and universities. What are the various professional purposes of such evaluation, and which audiences are being addressed in each case? When writing in different modes, how does one balance elements of narrative description and analysis, or aesthetic appreciation and critical evaluation? How does writing to gather an audience differ from addressing a shared viewing experience after the fact?

The approach to teaching writing used in this course highlights generic awareness of the various modes of professional film writing, devoting sustained attention throughout to the problems of audience address, persuasion, and quality. There is also substantial attention devoted to the revision process, to the interactions between writers and editors, and to giving and receiving peer feedback.

To those ends, each unit covered will include a visitor from a film/media writing professional with experience in that area; joint class analysis of accomplished examples within that genre; a group screening or other encounter with a “prompt” piece or experience; and student attempts to work within that mode. There will also be opportunities for interactions with the Mill Valley Film Festival (which occurs every October) and the Pacific Film Archive.

The course culminates in learning and practicing the fine art of the research proposal, which requires preconceptualization, serious and substantial preliminary research, informed project design, and good persuasive skills.

For Film majors, the proposal process could serve the function of advance planning for an honor’s thesis or other substantial capstone project in the following spring semester; for non-majors (who are equally welcome in the course), the proposal project will serve individualized purposes pertaining to the student’s area of study and interests.

Prerequisites: no specific courses are required to prepare for this course, but students should understand that this is intended as an advanced writing course and we will not be able to address more basic writing concerns in this class (students interested in working on their academic writing in that way are encouraged to enroll in a new course in Spring Semester 2022 called Film 193: Intermediate Film Writing).

Consent of instructor required. The class is open to juniors and seniors only.

Interested students should fill out an application form. An upload of a 3–7 page writing sample is required (either an academic essay, a creative piece such as short story, or a piece of film or TV criticism). The deadline to apply is Friday, July 30th. Students considered for enrollment may be contacted by the instructors for a short Zoom interview. Students will be notified of enrollment decisions by August 10th.

*While it is not necessary to enroll to the waitlist of this course to apply for admittance, you are still welcome to for your own scheduling or financial aid purposes.