Screening Room


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Assignment #1: Peer Interview Film (1-2 minutes, done in-class)

Students will design and film a brief interview of one of their classmates. This will be done in pairs, so that Student A interviews Student B, and vice versa. The aim of this interview is to introduce the classmate to the class, so we will need to establish together a standard interview format. You will not edit this film, so you should plan to shoot one continuous interview.

Audience: your classmates, who have not met the subject but will want to know about him or her

Assignment #2: Transcript and Reflection Essay (posted to blog)
Compile a transcript of the interview you created for the first film. You should type exactly all of the words that you and your subject said in the film, including any pauses, “ums,” or descriptions of important gestures. Accompanying your complete transcript, write three reflection paragraphs that describe your feelings while being interviewed versus your feelings while doing the interview. Your transcript should be objective, while your reflection should be subjective.

Assignment #3: Observational Documentary Film (3 minutes)

For your second film, select an interesting work of public art or architecture located on the campus of Queens College. You should pick something permanent (i.e.–not an art student’s work or a temporary exhibit), but it can be a photograph, sculpture, painting, building, or any other public object. Your task is to make a short “observational documentary,” that describes this work of art. Your job is just to observe and describe the object (and not comment, reflect, or argue about it). You should use editing for this film: in addition to showing the art from different angles, your observation might include showing the context of the artwork, how it “works” if there are moving parts, how it is “used” if it is interactive, and close-ups of any important “parts” that you think should be emphasized. Lastly, since your task is to observe your object without comment or analysis, your film should not use sound–although you can film text or insert intertitles if those are crucial.

Audience: A person interested in art but who has never visited the Queens College campus

Assignment #4: Persuasive Epistolary Essay (4-5 pages)

After showing your observational documentary about public art on the Queens College campus, you are chagrined to learn that due to state budget cuts your chosen artwork might be destroyed and be replaced by a vending machine or moped parking lot. Your task for this essay is to write a persuasive letter (an “epistolary essay”) to the President of Queens College, persuading him that the work of art you chose deserves to be saved. Your letter should quickly describe the artwork, and then spend time making a persuasive argument that offers three specific reasons for why this artwork deserves to be preserved. You do not need secondary sources; your argument should be based on your own observation. Be sure to include all of the elements of a standard formal letter.

Audience: The President of Queens College

Assignment #5: Community Interview Film (~3 minutes)

Your letter to the President was a qualified success; he agreed to hold off on destroying the artwork, but he wants to hear more about what role your artwork plays in the Queens College community. Your task now is to prepare and conduct an interview of three different members of the Queens College community. The interviewees might include students, faculty, staff, administrators, or guests, but they should each occupy a different role at the College (so–not just three students). The goal of your interviews is to elicit from your subject his or her feelings about the artwork you have chosen, perhaps including such things as how the interviewees experience the art, what they think the art means or does, and why they like or dislike the art. One of the three interviewees must take a position against the work, so that not all three are just praising it. You will edit these three interviews together to create a short film that shows a sampling of the community’s thoughts about the artwork you chose.

Audience: Queens College administrators studying the importance of art on campus

Assignment #6: Annotated Bibliography (4-5 pages)

As preparation for a longer film project investigating your chosen art, you will create an annotated bibliography of relevant research. This research might examine the specific history behind your artwork, the larger history of Queens College, particular theories of the value of public art in general or on college campuses in particular, or any other interdisciplinary topic that relates to the context of your artwork. You will use the library’s resources to find five secondary sources that directly relate to your investigation. Using MLA style, create a Works Cited page for these five items. These sources should be scholarly, academic ones such as journal articles, book chapters, or scholarly interviews. Do not use Internet search engines or popular magazines and newspapers. Instead, use a variety of electronic databases like JSTOR, EBSCOHost, and the CUNY+ catalog. Also, one of your five sources must be in print form, such as a book or print journal. Remember before you begin to research to take into consideration the methodology or discipline that you are researching so that you can limit your search to appropriate materials. Since everyone will have picked different art, each student’s research method will be different; for example, you might use a historical approach to research the college’s past as a boys’ reformatory, use sociology to research how urban universities differ from rural campuses, or use economics to discover how public art is paid for and what monetary gain it might provide.

After identifying and preparing citations for five sources, select the three strongest ones and provide one-paragraph annotations for each. These annotations, or “evaluative summaries,” should begin with a 2-3 sentence overview of the article, continue with 2-3 sentences that cite and contextualize key quotations or terms, and conclude with 2-3 sentences that discuss how this source will be useful to your project.

Audience: An English professor not familiar with the interdisciplinary research you uncover

Assignment #7: Mock Debate-Interview Transcript (3-4 pp.)

For this assignment, students will imagine what some of the filmmakers and writers they have studied would say about the role and responsibility that film and other art has in the community. You are going to select two figures we studied this semester to interview for your very own television talk show on the topic “Does Film Tell the Truth?” At least one of these figures should be someone you discovered in your research bibliography. After deciding upon two figures, your task is to prepare the transcript of an imagined, mock debate-interview between them. You should position yourself as the talk-show interviewer between two figures, and do these things: (1) pose a problem or question, (2) elicit responses and dialogue, and (3) analyze and respond to the claims your figures make. You should especially find out how and why these figures might disagree on an issue. It is acceptable to use one or two quotations, but for the most part you will need to imagine what these figures might say to the issues you raise.

Audience: A TV audience deciding whether or not film can have an impact on the community

Assignment #8: “Kino-Pravda” Film Essay (7-9 minutes)

Thinking back to Dziga Vertov’s practice of kino-pravda or “Film Truth,” your final film project is to make a documentary film essay that synthesizes all of your research and thinking about how your chosen artwork functions in the community, making an argument about the significance of this art. Your film essay might include such things as: a discussion of the history of work, its cultural significance, a technical description of how it works or how it was made, an aesthetic description of its qualities, a cultural description of how it is perceived. You should incorporate your early footage from the “Observational Documentary” and the “Community Interview,” but also add about 5 minutes of contextual and argumentative information described above.

Audience: The Queens College community

Assignment #9: Film Festival Program Notes (4-5 pages)

After showing your Film Essay to the Queens College community, there has been enough interest that it has been selected to headline a film festival devoted to community issues in Queens College. Your last task is to write the program notes for your film essay. These program notes should contextualize the work, and offer a reading or analysis of the film.

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