Final paper – Due Dec. 15

Requirements:

  • 3-5 pages
  • answer the questions for a minimum of three categories in Part 01
  • sum up the paper by answering the questions in part 02.  

Outline and Suggested Topics

Part 01: Choose one of your favorite films or television program episodes (preferably something you’ve seen many, many times). Everyone must answer the last question in Part 02, but you are free to choose a minimum of three of the following topics to discuss about this film or TV episode. 

  1. Plot and Narrative Structure
    • Summarize the plot of the film, touching on the main characters, the significance of the title, the story’s credibility, and the dramatic structure.
    • Discuss the conflict(s) in the film. 
    • Discuss the use of symbols, metaphors, and irony.
    • In what ways, if any, were the film’s characters introduced in a memorable and purposeful way? How did their introduction relate to their unique character attributes and motivations. 
  2. Themes and Thematic Elements
    • What was the unifying, central concern of this film?
    • Discuss the special focus that united this film together. Was it the plot, the emotional effect or mood, the characters, the style/texture/visual presentation, or a concept or idea that was given the most focus? How so?
    • Discuss which overarching theme this film had and why you think so:
      1. Morality or moral implications
      2. Universal Statements about Human nature
      3. Social Ills
      4. The struggle for human dignity
      5. Complexity of human relationships
      6. Coming of age/loss of innocence
      7. Moral/philosophical riddle
  3. Visual Design and Production Design
    • Discuss your immediate thoughts about the visual qualities of this film. How did the setting and set design lend towards the believability and realism of the film?
    • How did the setting and set design enhance or distract from the story? The costuming, the make-up, the lighting design, the special effects?  
    • How did the production design compliment or impede the proposed time period the film was taking place in?
    • Be sure to focus on the quality of light in the film you are watching, and how it aids or distracts from the story-telling. A sign of good lighting design is that we don’t notice it, but comment on what you thought about the lighting in the film.  
    • How would you have designed the production differently?
  4. Cinematography
    • How was this film cinematic? In other words, discuss how the use of camera movement, camera angle, and lighting not only helped tell the story, but enhanced the story. If you saw an animated film, in what ways did the animators strive to make their film cinematic, or ‘like a film?’
    • How is the cinematography consistent or inconsistent throughout?
    • How did the framing and angles of the camera bring you in – or perhaps distance you – from the action. Did you feel like you were in the room with the action, or just a passive observer, or somewhere in between?
    • How did the filmmaker succeed or fail in keeping the scenes visually interesting? 
    • How was the cinematography memorable?
    • Comment on the use of special effects: how were they useful in telling the story? How subtle or overt were they? Etc. 
  5. Editing
    • How did this film’s editing help to shape the story in your mind, enhance your emotional response to the scene, and maintain continuity between different angles?
    • Describe the nature of the editing: was it disruptive, choppy, chaotic, or was it smooth, unobtrusive, almost unnoticeable?
    • Were there any specific editing choices that jumped out as you as particularly memorable?
    • How did the rhythm of the editing relate to the pace of the film?
    • Describe any portions of the film that seemed to perhaps hold too long on a particular scene before cutting to another. Was it effective, or did it feel odd and unnecessary?
  6. Color
    • Describe how color is used to express the emotions and motivations of the characters.
    • How are certain trademark colors used in set, prop, and/or costume design to convey certain character attributes?         
    • How is color used in an obvious way to transition between scenes?
    • How is color used to draw emphasis to particular characters, objects, set pieces, etc? 
    • Discuss the use of atmospheric color, or the overall color and tone of the film.    
  7. Sound
    • Discuss the ways in which sound is used to make the overall story larger than the bounds of the screen. How does it help build the unseen universe the characters inhabit.
    • How is sound used as plot devices, and to drive the story along?
    • Which sound effects contribute to the film’s realism?
    • Where is sound used to represent a character’s state of mind, rather than the environment she inhabits?
    • Where is unusual emphasis placed on sound? Does it strengthen the narrative, or draw attention away from it?
    • If a voice-over or narration is employed, imagine the film without it: would it be a better or worse film without the voice-over?  
  8. Music
    • Most films use some type of music. Discuss in general the qualities of the music in your film.
    • How did the music in your film or television episode enhance the narrative? Was it necessary to punctuate particular scenes? Did it create an appropriate emotional atmosphere. Did it compliment other elements such as production design, color, editing, cinematography? Or was it merely distracting? Explain.
    • How conscious of the music were you during the piece you were watching? Was it obvious, subversive, or perhaps a mixture of the two?
  9. Acting
    • Effective acting should, first and foremost, make you believe the story is real. What qualities of the acting made you believe in the story?
    • Why did you care about the actors? What qualities did you yourself identify with?
    • If there were unconvincing performances, what made them unconvincing? What would you have liked to see instead?
    • If you have seen these actors in previous roles, how do you think their performances in this movie stacked up?
    • How much did his or her performance in this film or television episode demonstrate a particular actor’s range? How deep do you think this actor had to go to convincingly portray the character? 
  10. Style
    • For this line of questions, you would really need to have watched other work by the director of this film or tv episode:
    • What commonalities in style do you notice? What comparisons can you draw between atmosphere, acting, visual story telling, pacing, etc?
    • If you had to sum up this director’s style in two words, what would those two words be?  
    • Which themes do you see reoccurring across this director’s body of work?
    • How does this director deal with communicating space and time?
    • Leaving aside other work, how does the director of your piece use narrative structure, sound, music editing, lighting and camera work, special effects, and acting in a unique way to tell this story? 

Part 02: Final Thoughts

After answering a minimum of three of the above series of questions, sum up your written document by answering the followings:  

  1. What made you choose the film? What makes you watch it again and again?
  2. Share with us any final thought you have about the film in general, or it narrative, thematic structure, symbolism and metaphor, production design, cinematography, or editing qualities.