FILM 194 | Words and the Moving Image

2020 Fall

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 in order to gather an audience differ from addressing a shared viewing experience after the fact?

The approach to teaching writing that will be used in this course will highlight generic awareness of the various modes of professional film writing, devoting sustained attention throughout to the problems of audience address, persuasion, and evaluating quality.

To that end, 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. Possible interactions with the Mill Valley Film Festival (which occurs every October) and the Pacific Film Archive may allow opportunities for students to practice writing in the mode of their published promotional materials.

The course will culminate in practicing the fine art of the proposal, which can either take the form of an academic research project proposal or another kind of grant proposal that requires preconceptualization, serious and substantial preliminary research, informed project design, and good persuasive skills. For Film majors, this 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, including applying for grant funding.