The University of Massachusetts Amherst
Academics

Online Courses

FALL 2019

FILM-ST 397SW SCREENWRITING – Short Films, Web Series (Category: V)
3 credits

ONLINE
Instructor: Tom Benedek

Learn screenwriting by writing short films scripts. Develop your short film script using written lectures, script readings,streamed/recorded video lectures, strategic writing assignments and online class discussion. Learn the art, craft and creative fundamentals of short script and web series development. Using structured sets of questions/writing prompts, class members will brainstorm characters, plot, images, back stories to build their film idea. Instructor Tom Benedek will provide individual feedback on all writing project assignments. This course provides a thorough grounding in short film and webisode development and structure. Study character creation, scene structure, thematic impact. Workshop your film idea and web series concept into a structured script outline.


WINTER 2020

FILM-ST 297M (3 credits) - MAKING SHORT FILMS (Category: V)
 

ONLINE
Instructor: David Casals-Roma

Making short films is a step by step introductory course that goes through the basic aspects you need to know in order to make a film. We will start with the preproduction process and how to find engaging stories. You will learn how to break-down scripts, cast actors, find crew, scout locations, prepare budgets, shooting plans, call sheets and other important paperwork. For the production process the course will focus on shooting, blocking, lighting, directing actors, cinematography, sound and other important aspects to be aware of when you are on set. In the postproduction process you will learn the basics of editing images, sound design, music, effects and color correction. Finally, we will analyze the film market and the possibilities that new filmmakers have in the industry. (Important: There will be some practical exercises appointed by the professor. As film equipment is not provided for the class, you will need to have access to a camera)

 


SPRING 2020

FILM ST 497ST– SCREENWRITING – TV – WRITING THE ORIGINAL PILOT - (Certificate Category: IV, V)
3 credits

ONLINE
Instructor: Tom Benedek

Develop your TV/small screen idea into a detailed outline of the pilot episode. Learn to create a family of characters with long-term and short term story arcs for season and series bibles. Write the first ten to fifteen pages of your script. Using written lectures, script readings, streamed/recorded video lectures, writing assignments and online class discussion, learn foundation principles of TV series development. Instructor Tom Benedek will provide individual feedback on all writing project assignments. This course provides the foundational principles of television writing. Workshop your idea or story concept into a structured original TV pilot script. Using sets of questions/writing prompts, class members will brainstorm characters, plot, images, back stories to build their TV show idea.

FILM-ST 497MD (3 credits) - Short Documentary Filmmaking (Certificate Category IV, V)
3 credits

ONLINE
Instructor: David Casals-Roma

In the same way that fiction films are the mirror of our imagination, documentaries are the mirror of our surrounding reality. But making a documentary requires a creative point of view by the director and the knowledge of some filmmaking techniques. In this course you will learn how to develop your ideas for documentary, how to write a script, how to plan de production, how to shoot interviews and how to structure your movie in the editing room. Moreover, you will write, shoot and edit a 5-minute documentary during the course. It is important that you can have access to a camera, a computer and an editing software to edit your documentary.

FILM-ST  470 Film Theory (Certificate Category: II, IV)
(3 credits)

MULTIMODAL (students can choose to take this class either  ON CAMPUS  or ONLINE)
Instructor: Barry Spence

This course provides an in-depth overview of key theoretical approaches to the study of cinema by examining historically significant ways of analyzing film form and its social and cultural functions and effects. The course seeks to equip students with a command of the diverse history of theoretical frameworks for understanding the medium and experience of cinema, from early concerns over film’s relation to other arts to the way the movie as a cultural form has been reconceptualized within the contemporary explosion of new media. The pressing relevance of film theory becomes clear once we stop to consider—taking just one small example—the many implications of a society-wide movement away from the collective experience of movies in a public theater to private viewing with earbuds on the tiny screen of a cell phone or tablet. We will explore a wide range of questions (concerning the nature of the cinematic medium and its apparatus, aspects of the spectator’s experience of film, and the aesthetic and ideological dimensions of film genre, to name just a few) as a way of putting ourselves in dialogue with various film theoreticians. And we will ground our examination by looking at cinematic practice in relation to theory. This will be done through regular film screenings throughout the semester.


Online Course Catalogue

Courses we regularly offer online.

FILM-ST 297C (3 credits) - INTRODUCTION TO CINEMA STUDIES (Category: I)

Instructor: Barry Spence

This is an introduction to cinema studies and to the analysis of film. The course explores the complex nature and cultural function of cinema by focusing on the interrelationship between film form and the full range of stylistic elements (mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, sound). Each week we will watch a groundbreaking movie from the diverse cultural history of global cinema and use it as a basis for analyzing the various component parts of the filmmaking process as manifested in the finished film. Among these concerns, we will consider film as both a storytelling act (with unique time-based resources) and as a technological medium that forms cultural meaning. For it is within the interplay of these dimensions that film finds its unique and culturally preeminent voice.

FILM-ST 297M (3 credits) - MAKING SHORT FILMS (Category: V)

Instructor: David Casals-Roma

Making short films is a step by step course that goes through the basic aspects you need to know in order to make a film. We will start with the preproduction process and how to find engaging stories. You will learn how to break-down scripts, cast actors, find crew, scout locations, prepare budgets, shooting plans, call sheets and other important paperwork. For the production process the course will focus on shooting, blocking, lighting, directing actors, cinematography, sound and other important aspects to be aware of when you are on set. In the postproduction process you will learn the basics of editing images, sound design, music, effects and color correction. Finally, we will analyze the film market and the possibilities that new filmmakers have in the industry. (Important: There will be some practical exercises appointed by the professor. As film equipment is not provided for the class, you will need to have access to a camera)

FILM-ST 297S (3 credits) - SCREENWRITING - Idea to Outline (Category: V)

Instructor: Tom Benedek

Develop your film idea into a well-structured outline and write the first ten pages of your script. Using written lectures, script readings, streamed/recorded video lectures, writing assignments and online class discussion, learn the art, craft and creative fundamentals of screenwriting. Instructor Tom Benedek will provide individual feedback on all writing project assignments. Weeks 1 and 2: Total immersion in the foundational principles of screenwriting: Dramatic structure, script form, character, story/plot, subplot, theme, genre, scene structures, dialogue and creative brainstorming methods for developing ideas into finished scripts. Weeks 3 and 4: Workshop your idea or story concept into a structured script outline and write the first ten pages of your script. Using a series of structured sets of questions/writing prompts, class members will brainstorm characters, plot, images, back stories to build their film idea.

FILM-ST 397L (3 credits) - CINEMA OF DAVID LYNCH (Category: III, V)

Instructor: Kevin Anderson

Cinema has no boundaries. There are no prescribed formulas for telling stories or for entertaining, nor for how films can challenge viewer expectations as to what defines motion pictures. The films and television work of director David Lynch, while influenced and inspired by predecessors, have boldly and artfully pushed the boundaries of these media, and in doing so, have challenged and delighted audiences and forged new conceptions of the potential and style of cinema. In this course we examine several of Lynch's films, with a focus on consistencies in themes - such as parallel realities, metaphysics, dreams, and unfixed identities - and craft. We also examine Lynch's influence on other filmmakers. The course also offers up several documentaries on Lynch and his art work in order to better appreciate his truly unique approach to cinema and television.

FILM-ST 397PT: (3 credits) -Psycho Thrillers (Category: III, V)

Instructor: Daniel Pope

Thrillers compel audiences even as they repel with their narratives of dark secrets and cryptic menace. How can we understand the appeal of thriller movies? Is it their suspense, which lures us with its promise of mysteries that might be revealed? Is it their tales of transgression and violence, which horrify, tantalize, or spur catharsis? This class explores the psychological thriller in international cinema, the roots and characteristics of the genre as well as the ways these films offer critical portraits of hidden truths of the mind, of history, and of the inner workings of the social worlds around us. We will examine intersections between the psychological thriller and other thriller subgenres (political, erotic, action, supernatural, social, legal) as well as with such genres as horror and film noir. Films by Alfred Hitchcock, Mary Harron, Michael Haneke, David Lynch, Sally Potter, Christian Petzold, Asghar Farhadi, Lynne Ramsay, Akira Kurosawa, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jordon Peele, Alejandro Amenábar, Michelangelo Antonioni, and others.

FILM-ST 397W: The Western in Transnational Cinema (Category: III, V)

Instructor: Barry Spence

The Western is one of the oldest of film genres. Usually considered the first Western movie, The Great Train Robbery, released in 1903, is arguably the film that established cinema as a commercial industry of formidable potential. From its earliest instances the Western has been a key cultural expression of the American mythos and has played an integral role in the formation of American identity. We can look at the Western as a cultural form rich in themes concerning: the construction of gender identity; racial politics; the establishment of social order in conflict with the lure of frontier self-determination; the romance of the outlaw; narratives of redemption; vigilante retribution versus the rule of law; human resiliency in and conquest of the natural world; the subjugation (or extermination) of indigenous peoples—and this is to name only an obvious few. But the Western has also been a pivotal form in the history of storytelling media in a very diverse range of nations and cultural contexts, from Japan to India to Italy to Germany to Australia to South Africa to Brazil to Mexico. This course will, on the one hand, examine the cultural history and legacy of the Western genre in the cinema of the United States. We will study iconic and revisionist examples, looking at both formal and thematic aspects of this cinema as well as its historical relationship to American identity and its social policies and politics. On the other hand, a large part of this course will focus on the Western in relation to a highly diverse range of cinema cultures throughout the world. In particular, we will study the genre’s impact on, but also its inheritance from, the cinema traditions of Italy, Japan, China, India, South Korea, and nations of the Global South. This course is designed to challenge conventional understanding of the Western genre by exposing students to interdisciplinary theories oriented toward comprehending the diverse cultural, social, and political perspectives embodied by the transnational engagement with the Western.

FILM-ST 497A (3 credits) - ALIEN ENCOUNTERS (Category: III IV V)

Instructor: Daniel Pope

Could there be extraterrestrial life in the cosmos? Scientists say yes, possibly on billions of planets in our galaxy alone, according to recent discoveries. What would happen in an encounter between humans and alien beings? In this class, we will examine cinematic engagements with themes of alien encounters and ask how the cinema envisions and constructs the alien other, as well as how it both reflects and shapes our experience of the alien. Since the beginning of cinema, the figure of the alien has visited the big screen with its promise of otherworldly wonders and its threat of unthinkable perils. Why do we find alien movies so alluring? How do we understand themes of alien encounters in relation to the realities of our human world? This course will also explore how alien encounters reflect the haunting of historical realities (such as European voyages of discovery, conquest, and colonization) as well as contemporary issues, such as international conflict (war or global migration), questions of identity (race, gender, sexuality), and the power and perils of emerging technologies (nuclear weapons, artificial intelligence, space travel). Imagining encounters with intelligent beings beyond our own cultural and ideological sphere provides powerful new perspectives on what we think we know about the world, about ourselves, and about others.

FILM-ST 497W (3 credits) - WOMEN'S CINEMA (Category: II, IV, V)

Instructor: Barbara Zecchi

A close examination of films directed by women from around the globe through the viewpoint of gender and film theories. This class will engage several of the most recurrent topics that shape women’s films in comparison with how these same themes surface, if they do, in mainstream Hollywood and in national male-authored productions. By tackling the so-called gender-genre debate, it will address how women use (or subvert) different male-dominated cinematic forms (i.e. if there is a female version of the comedy, a women’s road movie, film noir, etc.). Finally, it will address whether and how these films reflect a female idiosyncrasy, a woman’s language, a female gaze. Class will include recent films by women filmmakers such as Chantal Akerman (Belgium), Isabel Coixet (Catalonia), Lucia Puenzo (Argentina), Claire Denis (France), Alankrita Shrivastava (India), Deniz Gamze Ergüven (Turkey), Nadine Labaki (Lebanon), among others.

FILM-ST 397MW (3 credits): Short-Form Media: Film Shorts, Music Videos, Webisodes, and Experimental Films (Category: II, V)

ONLINE
Instructor: Kevin Anderson

In this course students will apply a critical analysis to a variety of short-form media: ranging from narrative shorts, instructional videos, music videos, webisodes, and experimental media projects. This class not only examines digital filmmaking shorts but also presents strategies for distribution and exhibition of such projects -- a key step in reaching audiences. Students will write critical responses to the short films shown in class as well as have the opportunity to create their own short-form videos as demonstration of their understanding of the key concepts related to the creation and communicative power of non-feature length films.

 

FILM-ST 497AW (3 credits) Women of African Descent and the Moving Image (Category: III, IV, V)

ONLINE
Instructor: Demetria Shabazz

This course subverts the hierarchical canons of screen studies by centering women of African descent in the motion picture industry. Movie-making since the early part of the 20th century, black women are currently producing film, video, web and television programs like never before. In examining the creative work on screen of African women around the globe, you will sharpen your film and cultural criticism skills using postcolonial, feminist/womanist, and Africana Studies approaches.

FILM- ST 397SW SCREENWRITING – Short Films, Web Series (Category: V)

ONLINE
Instructor: Tom Benedek

Learn screenwriting by writing short films scripts. Develop your short film script using written lectures, script readings,streamed/recorded video lectures, strategic writing assignments and online class discussion. Learn the art, craft and creative fundamentals of short script and web series development. Using structured sets of questions/writing prompts, class members will brainstorm characters, plot, images, back stories to build their film idea. Instructor Tom Benedek will provide individual feedback on all writing project assignments. This course provides a thorough grounding in short film and webisode development and structure. Study character creation, scene structure, thematic impact. Workshop your film idea and web series concept into a structured script outline.

FILM-ST 397PT: (3 credits) -PSYCHO THRILLERS (Film Studies Certificate Category: III, V)

ONLINE
Instructor: Daniel Pope

HitchockThrillers compel audiences even as they repel with their narratives of dark secrets and cryptic menace. How can we understand the appeal of thriller movies? Is it their suspense, which lures us with its promise of mysteries that might be revealed? Is it their tales of transgression and violence, which horrify, tantalize, or spur catharsis? This class explores the psychological thriller in international cinema, the roots and characteristics of the genre as well as the ways these films offer critical portraits of hidden truths of the mind, of history, and of the inner workings of the social worlds around us. We will examine intersections between the psychological thriller and other thriller subgenres (political, erotic, action, supernatural, social, legal) as well as with such genres as horror and film noir. Films by Alfred Hitchcock, Mary Harron, Michael Haneke, David Lynch, Sally Potter, Christian Petzold, Asghar Farhadi, Lynne Ramsay, Akira Kurosawa, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jordon Peele, Alejandro Amenábar, Michelangelo Antonioni, and others. FILM-ST

497M (3 credits): ADVANCED FILMMAKING (Category: IV, V)

ONLINE
Instructor: David Casals-Roma

clapperboard
Advanced Filmmaking

In this advanced course we will be looking at different filmmaking techniques and putting them into practice with a set of creative exercises. We will analyze how the cinematographic language works and how you can create an emotion just by using moving images and sound. During this course you will write a short film and plan its production using the tips and recommendations of the professor and other fellow students. We will also be looking at advanced directing techniques and how to make the most of your resources to get professional-looking footage. For this course you will be required to have a basic knowledge on filmmaking and screenwriting. As the course is mostly practical, you will need a camera, a computer and basic editing software to edit footage.

FILM-ST 397L (3 credits) - CINEMA OF DAVID LYNCH (Category: III, V)

ONLINE
Instructor: Kevin Anderson

David Lynch
David Lynch

Cinema has no boundaries. There are no prescribed formulas for telling stories or for entertaining, nor for how films can challenge viewer expectations as to what defines motion pictures. The films and television work of director David Lynch, while influenced and inspired by predecessors, have boldly and artfully pushed the boundaries of these media, and in doing so, have challenged and delighted audiences and forged new conceptions of the potential and style of cinema. In this course we examine several of Lynch's films, with a focus on consistencies in themes - such as parallel realities, metaphysics, dreams, and unfixed identities - and craft. We also examine Lynch's influence on other filmmakers. The course also offers up several documentaries on Lynch and his art work in order to better appreciate his truly unique approach to cinema and television.

FILM-ST 387: The Western in Transnational Cinema (Category: III, V)

GenEd: DG and AT
ONLINE
Instructor: Barry Spence

WesternsThe Western is one of the oldest of film genres. Usually considered the first Western movie, The Great Train Robbery, released in 1903, is arguably the film that established cinema as a commercial industry of formidable potential. From its earliest instances the Western has been a key cultural expression of the American mythos and has played an integral role in the formation of American identity. We can look at the Western as a cultural form rich in themes concerning: the construction of gender identity; racial politics; the establishment of social order in conflict with the lure of frontier self-determination; the romance of the outlaw; narratives of redemption; vigilante retribution versus the rule of law; human resiliency in and conquest of the natural world; the subjugation (or extermination) of indigenous peoples—and this is to name only an obvious few. But the Western has also been a pivotal form in the history of storytelling media in a very diverse range of nations and cultural contexts, from Japan to India to Italy to Germany to Australia to South Africa to Brazil to Mexico. This course will, on the one hand, examine the cultural history and legacy of the Western genre in the cinema of the United States. We will study iconic and revisionist examples, looking at both formal and thematic aspects of this cinema as well as its historical relationship to American identity and its social policies and politics. On the other hand, a large part of this course will focus on the Western in relation to a highly diverse range of cinema cultures throughout the world. In particular, we will study the genre’s impact on, but also its inheritance from, the cinema traditions of Italy, Japan, China, India, South Korea, and nations of the Global South. This course is designed to challenge conventional understanding of the Western genre by exposing students to interdisciplinary theories oriented toward comprehending the diverse cultural, social, and political perspectives embodied by the transnational engagement with the Western.

FILM-ST 297S (3 credits): SCREENWRITING - Idea to Outline (Category: V)

ONLINE
Instructor: Tom Benedek

ScreenwritingDevelop your film idea into a well-structured outline and write the first ten pages of your script. Using written lectures, script readings, streamed/recorded video lectures, writing assignments and online class discussion, learn the art, craft and creative fundamentals of screenwriting. Instructor Tom Benedek will provide individual feedback
on all writing project assignments. Weeks 1 and 2: Total immersion in the foundational principles of screenwriting: Dramatic structure, script form, character, story/plot, subplot, theme, genre, scene structures, dialogue and creative brainstorming methods for developing ideas into finished scripts. Weeks 3 and 4: Workshop your idea or story concept into a structured script outline and write the first ten pages of your script. Using a series of structured sets of questions/writing prompts, class members will brainstorm characters, plot, images, back stories to build their film idea.

FILM-ST 497W Women's Cinema (Category: II, IV, V)

ONLINE
Instructor: Barbara Zecchi

A close examination of films directed by women from around the globe through the viewpoint of gender and film theories. This class will engage several of the most recurrent topics that shape women’s films in comparison with how these same themes surface, if they do, in mainstream Hollywood and in national male-authored productions. By tackling the so-called gender-genre debate, it will address how women use (or subvert) different male-dominated cinematic forms (i.e. if there is a female version of the comedy, a women’s road movie, film noir, etc.). Finally, it will address whether and how these films reflect a female idiosyncrasy, a woman’s language, a female gaze. Class will include recent films by women filmmakers such as Chantal Akerman (Belgium), Isabel Coixet (Catalonia), Lucia Puenzo (Argentina), Claire Denis (France), Alankrita Shrivastava (India), Deniz Gamze Ergüven (Turkey), Nadine Labaki (Lebanon), among others.

FILM-ST 397AA Analyzing Almodóvar: Queering the Binary (3 credits) - (Category: III, V)

ONLINE
Instructor: Christina Beaubien

Analyzing Almodóvar is a course dedicated to an in-depth analysis of the films of Pedro Almodóvar from both a national and global perspective. Pedro Almodóvar is often lauded as the filmic icon of a "new" Spain that was praised for being more open and inclusive during the Spanish Transition from dictatorship to democracy. His body of work spans decades of political and social change and has been both vehemently praised and critiqued for his controversial material and unique point of view. This course will analyze a selection of his work paired with readings that thematize trends within Almodóvar's corpus. Although this course is content-based, the ultimate goal is to gain a better understanding of theoretical film analysis as seen through the context of both contemporary Spain as well as the intersectional realities of gender and community. By analyzing Almodóvar's films within its temporal context, students will gain valuable references in contemporary Peninsular Studies. Conversely, an out of context analysis will permit more interdisciplinary approaches to the subject matter; helping students to think critically about philosophical and theoretical debates they face in their daily lives. Students will learn to critically analyze film as a medium of cultural production and/or replication as well. Special focus will be given to the following themes: violence, gender, and the male gaze.

FILM-ST 297C: (3 credits) - Film Studies: Core Concepts (Category I, V)

ONLINE
Instructor: Barry Spence

This course is an intensive introduction to film and cinema studies. It includes a primary focus on film style (mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, and sound) and form (both narrative and non-narrative), but will also look at the importance of the interplay between style, form, and the conventions of genre, and will examine such processes as conceptualization and composition, distribution, and exhibition. This course intends to both deepen and broaden student appreciation for and understanding of the medium of film and to consider the power of cinema as art, entertainment, cultural expression, and economic commodity within the global context. We will stream a wide range of movies in order to illustrate the concepts, principles, and theories studied and to practice and hone our analytical and interpretative skills. This course is the principal online introduction to film studies in the Program in Film Studies.