Bard College Catalogue 2012-13
Film and Electronic Arts
Peggy Ahwesh (director), Ben Coonley, Benj Gerdes, Jacqueline Susan Goss, Ed Halter, Peter Hutton, So Yong Kim, John Pruitt*, Kelly Reichardt, Richard Suchenski* on sabbatical, fall 2012
OverviewCritical thinking and creative work go hand in hand in the Film and Electronic Arts Program, which integrates various creative practices with the study of theory and criticism. For example, all filmmaking majors take courses in film history and video production, and a student writing a Senior Project in the history of film and electronic arts will have taken some kind of creative production workshop.
Areas of StudyThe program encourages interest in a wide range of expressive modes in film, video, and the expanding field of computer-based art. These include screenwriting, animation, narrative and non-narrative filmmaking, documentary, and interactive video. Regardless of a student’s choice of specialization, the program’s emphasis leans toward neither fixed professional formulas nor mere technical expertise, but rather toward imaginative engagement and the cultivation of an individual voice that has command over the entire creative process. For example, a student interested in narrative filmmaking would be expected to write an original script, shoot it, and then edit the film into its final form. Students are also expected to take advantage of Bard’s liberal arts curriculum by studying subjects that relate to their specialties. A documentarian might take courses in anthropology, an animator in painting, a screenwriter in literature, and a film critic in art history.
A student’s first year is devoted primarily to acquiring a historical and critical background. The focus in the sophomore year is on learning the fundamentals of production and working toward Moderation. Before Moderation each prospective major presents to the review board a completed 16mm film and videotape, a full-length script, or a 10-page historical/critical essay. In the Upper College, students choose one of two tracks: production (including screenwriting) or film history and criticism. The junior year is devoted mainly to deepening and broadening the student’s creative and critical awareness, and the senior year to a yearlong Senior Project, which can take the form of a creative work in film or video, a full-length screenplay, or an extended, in-depth historical or critical essay.
Students majoring in the program are expected to complete the following courses prior to Moderation: Film 113-114, History of Cinema (or any other introductory-level film history course); two 200-level production courses in film and video; a history course within the program; and one course in the division but outside the program. Upper College students are required to complete a Major Conference; a course outside the program related to proposed Senior Project work; Physics 118, Light and Color (or another related laboratory or social science course); and the Senior Seminar (noncredit)..
Recent Senior Projects in Film
- “Decoy,” a feature-length script about a young American caught between rural tradition and an urbancentric social landscape
- “The Enigmatic Films of Nicholas Roeg”
- “The Inherent Possibility of Achieving a State of Balance with Nature: An Analysis of Terrence Malick’s The New World”
- “Persistance of Vision,” the untold story of the greatest animated film never made
FacilitiesThe Jim Ottaway Jr. Film Center houses a 110-seat theater equipped with 16mm and 35mm film and video projection; performance space; shooting studio with control room; analog editing suite; computer lab; two seminar/ screening rooms; darkroom; editing suites for sound and video; studios for seniors; and a film archive. Visiting artist talks, screenings, symposia, and cosponsored events are regularly scheduled in the Film Center theater. For production classes, students take advantage of the resources of maintenance and equipment offices. The program also has a video study collection that consists of hundreds of titles, including features, documentaries, experimental and avant-garde films, and Senior Projects.
CoursesIn addition to regularly scheduled academic and production courses, the program offers advanced study on a one-to-one basis with a professor. Recent tutorials include Film Sound; Buñuel, Almodóvar, and the Catholic Church; and The Archive and Its (Dis)contents.
Introduction to Documentary Media
An introductory survey of the documentary, from the silent era to the digital age. Topics addressed include the origins of the documentary concept, direct cinema and cinema verité, propaganda, ethnographic media, the essay film, experimental documentary forms, media activism, fiction and documentary, and the role of technology. Vertov, Riefenstahl, Rouch, Flaherty, Pennebaker, Maysles, Wiseman, Marker, Spheeris, Moore, and Morris are among the filmmakers studied.
Photography for Filmmakers
Film 109 / Photography 109
This course is designed to instruct film students in the importance of the camera in the construction of all photographic images, both moving and still. Weekly assignments are prompted by a thematic lecture from the history of photography. Emphasis is placed on the role of form and on the pressures, both conceptual and practical, in building a body of work. Students are expected to have their own digital cameras, even if only point-and-shoots.
History of Cinema
This one-year sequence is designed to give the student a broad introduction to the history and aesthetics of film from a roughly chronological perspective. There are weekly screenings of films widely acknowledged as central to the evolution of the medium as well as reading assignments that provide both a narrative history and a strong encounter with the leading critical and theoretical issues of cinema.
Survey of Media Art
An introduction to the history of moving-image art made with electronic media, with a focus on avant-garde traditions. Topics include video art, guerrilla television, expanded cinema, feminist media, Net art, music video, microcinema, digital feature filmmaking, and video games.
Modernism in East Asia
cross-listed: asian studies
An exploration of the various permutations of modernism in the cinemas of East Asia from the 1920s to the present. Special attention is paid to the way directors from different traditions use formal innovations to meditate on the dramatic changes taking place in their societies and how the meaning of these strategies shifts over time. Prior course work in film, art history, and/or Asian studies preferred.
Introduction to the Moving Image
This two-semester course introduces the basic elements (technical and theoretical) of film production. It is designed to be taken in the sophomore year, leading to a spring Moderation project. Prerequisite: a 100- or 200-level course in film history.
Performance and Video
How does video technology mediate between on-screen performer and audience? How can artists interested in creating critical and self-reflexive media respond to video’s immediacy and “liveness”? How can performance artists use video playback devices, displays, projectors, and interactive elements to shape and enhance live art? Participants develop ways of using video’s most fundamental property, its ability to reproduce a stream of real-time synchronized images and sounds.
Narrative Film Workshop
This workshop considers various approaches to visual storytelling and narrative strategies as well as solutions for practical and aesthetic problems as they are encountered in the making of a film.
Introduction to Video Production
An introduction to various elements of video production, with an emphasis on video art and experimentation. In addition to camera and editing assignments designed to familiarize students with digital video technology and various aesthetic and theoretical concepts, students complete a single-channel video piece.
Introduction to Film
An introduction to filmmaking with a strong emphasis on mastering the 16mm Bolex camera. Students shoot six different assignments designed to address basic experimental, documentary, and narrative techniques. A wide range of technical and aesthetic issues is explored in conjunction with editing, lighting, and sound recording techniques
Sound Design Workshop
Two parts postproduction (hands-on demonstrations, individual and collaborative sound projects, and critique) and one part theory (close analysis of audio and visual texts, discussions, and readings), this course examines the mutual influence of sound and picture in audiovisual perception. Students explore the process of building tracks on digital nonlinear editing systems, and in so doing investigate the technical, aesthetic, and sonic relationships between sound and image in the production of cinematic, electronic, and digital works.
The scriptwriting process is studied from idea through plot and outline to finished script, including character development and dramatic/ cinematic structure. Student work is analyzed throughout the course. Open to students with a demonstrable background in film or writing and a willingness to share their work.
Special Topics in the History of Cinema
This seminar offers an in-depth examination of a particular period, style, filmmaker, or national school of filmmaking. Weekly screenings of acknowledged and influential masterpieces and related lectures make up the bulk of the course, with supplementary reading.
Film and Modernism
An exploration of the relationship between a cinematic achievement labeled avant-garde and the major tenets of modernist art, both visual and literary. Many of the films studied were made by artists who worked in other media or whose work manifests a direct relationship with various artistic movements, such as surrealism, futurism, and constructivism. Certain films are related to parallel achievements in photography, poetry, and music. Assigned readings include film criticism and other critical works that help to define modernism in general.
A History of American Independent Film
cross-listed: american studies
American independent cinema emerged as an avenue for innovative approaches to storytelling, generally dictated by low budgets and propelled by an alternative, critical view of American society. It has also been a more favorable arena for women directors and filmmakers of color. This course examines a wide range of cinematic voices and styles, from John Cassavetes and Melvin Van Peebles to Spike Lee, Shirley Clarke, and Kelly Reichardt.
Found Footage, Appropriation, and Pranks
A survey of the history of appropriation in experimental media from the found footage, cut-up, and collage films of the 1950s, through the Lettrists and situationists, and up to current artistic and activist production efforts such as culture jamming, game hacking, sampling, hoaxing, resistance, interference, and tactical media intervention. Issues regarding gender, identity, media and Internet politics, technology, copyright, and aesthetics are addressed. Students produce their own work in video, gaming, installation, collage, and/or audio through assignments and a final project.
American Graphic Film: Abstraction, Animation, and Collage
Most of the films under discussion in this survey course eschew dramatic narrative for imagery that provides an “adventure of visual perception.” Topics include the intention behind the drive toward visual abstraction and the inherent tension within a photographic medium between the so-called real and the imagined. Filmmakers considered: Joseph Cornell, Harry Smith, John and James Whitney, Robert Breer, Pat O'Neill, Paul Sharits, Stan Brakhage, Jennifer Reeves, Mark Street, Eve Heller, Lewis Sklar, and others.
Graphic Cinema Workshop
This course explores the materials and processes available for production of graphic film or graphic film sequences. It consists of instruction in animation, rephotography, rotoscoping, and drawing on film. Films screened are primarily concerned with the visual.
Film among the Arts
Film 230 / Art History 230
An intensive exploration of the ways in which cinema has been informed and enriched by developments in other arts. Attention is paid not only to the presence of other arts within the films, but also to new ways of looking at and thinking about cinema through its relationships to other media. Directors studied include Antonioni, Bergman, Duras, Eisenstein, Godard, Hitchcock, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Kubrick, Marker, Pasolini, Resnais, Syberberg, and Watkins.
Documentary Film Workshop
A video production workshop for students interested in social issues, reportage, home movies, travelogues, and other forms of nonfiction film. Working in small crews and individually, students travel locally to a variety of locations to cover particular events, people, and natural phenomena. A final project is researched, shot, and edited during the second half of the semester.
Art and the Internet
This seminar examines the electronic networks of contemporary digital culture and its recent past by exploring a variety of information systems, virtual communities, and online art projects. These various worlds are examined critically in readings from cultural theory, policy, history, and aesthetics. Students tackle several technologies as they apply to activities on the Internet, and design and mount an online project.
Since the beginning of video, artists have experimented with installation. Wolf Vostell and Nam June Paik used multiple monitors in the 1960s, Joan Jonas incorporated video with live performance, and Juan Downey and Steina Vasulka experimented with interactive laser discs. Through readings and screenings, the class examines these diffuse practices. Students are encouraged to explore high- and low-tech solutions to their audiovisual desires. Prerequisite: Film 201-202.
Survey of Japanese Cinema
cross-listed: asian studies
A survey of Japanese cinema from silent films, with their extraordinary benshi performances, to recent Japanese cinema as seen at international film festivals. Particular attention is paid to the golden age of Japanese cinema in the 1950s. Topics include the relationship of cinema to cultural traditions, modernization, and questions of nation and postmodernity.
Script to Screen
In this production workshop, students are given a script from which to work, with the goal of developing a comprehensive methodology for transforming the text to screen. Emphasis is placed on blocking the actors and on the use of the camera as narrator. Students explore the dramatic and narrative elements of film, consider motivation for both character and camera, and learn to make physical on film what is internal in the given text.
The Artist’s Joke and Practice
cross-listed: asian studies
Dada, surrealism, situationism, and Fluxus all held humor central to their cultural practice. Since its beginning in the 1960s, video art has been a repository for these humorous or not-so-humorous interventions, forming a free-ranging rhizomatic archive of perceptual games, tricks of signification, performances, actions, interventions, and appropriations. This video production course investigates these past uses of humor with an eye toward the production of video work that resonates in today’s economy.
This production course investigates ways of approaching dialogue scenes. Students consider the impact of casting, camera movement, camera placement, and editing on a particular scene. Reworking a single scene over the course of a semester, students discover how their filmmaking choices support, undermine, or contradict what their characters are saying. Students should come to the first class with a short story scene that involves dialogue. Familiarity with Final Cut Pro is a prerequisite.
An advanced production course centered on the basic aesthetic, theoretical, and technical issues of electronic media production. The course consists of technical instruction, readings, in-class screenings, and critiques of student projects.
Framing the Election
cross-listed: american studies
Fiction and documentary works like Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool, TVTV’s Four More Years, Robert Altman’s Tanner ’88 and Nashville, and D. A. Pennebaker’s The War Room capture the complex narratives and legacies of election years over the last four decades. In this course, students process, frame, and produce some aspect of presidential politics in terms of their own personal experience.
International Film Noir
Film 249 / Art History 249
cross-listed: art history
Students look intensively at a number of key noir films, with a focus on visual style and the way in which these atmospheric, morally ambiguous crime dramas are related to, and comment upon, developments in the larger culture. Attention is paid to the roots of film noir in the visual arts (especially photography) and hard-boiled fiction, its changes over the course of the 1940s and 1950s, and its influence on subsequent filmmaking.
Postwar Italy and France in Film
A survey of two major cinematic schools in postwar Western Europe. Four concentrated moments of intense creative activity are considered: (1) the immediate postwar years in Italy, dominated by neorealists de Sica, Visconti, and Rossellini; (2) the mid-50s in France, when Tati and Bresson were most impressive as “classicists”; (3) the late ’50s and early ’60s of the French New Wave, with Godard, Truffaut, Varda, and others; and (4) the maturation of a number of key directors in Italy at roughly the same time, including Antonioni, Fellini, Olmi, and Pasolini.
Experimental Cinema since 1975
Topics in this survey course include the influence and legacy of the ‘60s avant-garde; late structuralism and materialist film; the role of feminism and identity politics; the rethinking of avant-garde film’s relationship to narrative; punk, No Wave, and Cinema of Transgression; film, video, new media, and the convergence of technologies; live cinema and performance; appropriation and the remake; experimental forms of documentary; and possible futures for the experimental cinema.
Landscape and Media
Designed for junior film and video majors, the course compares film and painted representations of the American landscape to those of television and video. Students are required to complete a short film or video referencing these issues.
This seminar investigates a select group of prominent narrative filmmakers who are still active and whose reputation has emerged within the last 25 years or so. Screenings include works by Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, Abbas Kiarostami, Aleksandr Sokurov, Peggy Ahwesh, Claire Denis, Guy Maddin, Michael Haneke, Lars von Trier, Chantal Akerman, Peter Greenaway, and others.
An intensive writing workshop in which students create a long-form screenplay that reflects a complex original idea. Weekly writing assignments and class critiques are at the core of the workshop, although issues such as adaptation, production-imposed practicalities, and the role of the marketplace are also discussed.
Production Workshop: Cinematography
This junior-level production workshop gives students working in film a more thorough understanding of a wide range of cinematic vocabularies and aesthetics unique to the language of film. Students finish short films that explore the qualities of film through extensive in-class exploration of film stocks, lighting techniques, and cinemagraphic strategies. The class visits a New York motion picture lab to better understand the photo/chemical implications of film in the age of digital imaging.
Film as Art: The Classical Theories
A survey devoted to the major theories of film from the so-called “classical period” (largely the first half of the 20th century), when critics and writer-filmmakers were trying to establish a groundwork for how to think of the relatively new medium of cinema as an expressive form worthy of serious consideration among its more established sister arts. Select film screenings support the written texts.
Film Aesthetics Seminar
Special film-related topics, both theoretical and practical, are studied in depth. The seminar is designed for students who have already taken a film course or who, through personal experience, have acquired some knowledge of the medium. Weekly screenings are held and a strong emphasis is placed on supplementary reading. Recent seminars include Avante-Garde Film and the American Poet, Theater and Film, and Women’s Experimental Film.
Aesthetics of New Media
This course examines critical and philosophical approaches to thinking about what constitutes new media art. Students consider historical and contemporary examples of art made with new media, and work from related movements such as futurism, expanded cinema, and process art. Concepts include interactivity, appropriation, simulation, generative art, identity in networked culture, technological determinism, medium specificity, and relational aesthetics. Prerequisite: Upper College status, with prior course work in film or art history, or permission of the instructor.
Aesthetics of Gaming
An analysis of computer gaming through philosophy, history, cultural theory, and art. Topics addressed include the nature of games and their function in society; the qualities of human- computer interaction; aesthetic theories of game design; “serious games,” game worlds, and virtual reality; and video game modification, machinima, and artist-made video games. Prerequisite: previous course work in film and electronic arts, art history, or philosophy.
Is adaptation translation or response? This workshop takes on all kinds of inspirational forms—music, science, painting, literature, dance, philosophy, etc.—and uses them as the basis for cinematic adaptation. Through a series of exercises, students engage an outside work and translate it to film.
Interactive, Nonlinear Narrative: A Writing Workshop for Film, Video, and New Media
This workshop investigates various interactive strategies and then uses them to provoke linear narratives. Students create short interactive scripts using multiple lines of unique narrative inquiry and resolution. For the final project, students work in teams to create complex interactive worlds, the success of which is determined by the complexity of questions raised by the multimodal paths. Priority is given to film majors; a screenwriting course is strongly recommended as a prerequisite.
American Film Comedy, 1920–45
An in-depth study of a remarkable period when American cinema produced a number of enduring comic films, many of which still serve as models for contemporary practitioners. Students view works that bridge the medium’s transition from silence to sound. Recurrent themes present a theoretical investigation into the nature of comedy itself, as well as the powerful role that classic theatrical form plays in shaping a cinematic counterpart.
Notes of the Cinematographer
“Provoke the unexpected. Expect it.” “Make the objects look as if they want to be there.” “Build your film on white, on silence, and on stillness.” Robert Bresson’s Notes on the Cinematographer contains 25 years of the French director’s memos, observations, and critiques of his own filmmaking. Using Notes as a guide, students produce short film or video works in response to specific “directives” chosen from Bresson’s book. Prerequisite: Film 201-202 or comparable experience shooting and editing film or video.
This workshop investigates the making of video art using the recently abandoned technologies of analog video. Students focus on the video signal as a carrier of luminance and chrominance that can be manipulated and degraded through a reexamination of closed-circuit performance and real-time processing and mixing. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.
Sound and Picture Editing
This course explores the principles and practices of sound design in motion pictures. Through analysis of existing narrative sound works and through the student’s own sound creations, the class examines the mutual influence of sound and picture. Over the semester, students have the opportunity to thoroughly explore the editing process and discover how sound comes into play when making a cut.
New Waves, New Visions I: European Cinema in the 1960s
The 1960s was a decade of political upheaval, fast-paced social change, cultural ferment, and extraordinary creativity in cinema. This course, the first of a two-part series, presents the work of European directors who made their cinematic debuts in (or on the cusp of) the 1960s. Special emphasis is given to Italian filmmakers such as Pasolini, Bertolucci, Leone, and Ferreri; the French New Wave (Godard, Truffaut, Resnais, Varda, Chabrol); and the British Free Cinema movement (Richardson, Lester, Anderson). A basic knowledge of European film history is highly desirable.
Narrative Film Workshop
Students explore visual storytelling strategies through weekly video exercises. They work both individually and on crews, rotating positions on a class production team, including planning, shooting, and editing. Students also construct a sound design for each piece, without the use of music.
Propaganda in Film
This course explores the nature of propaganda in film, how it differs in various political systems and periods, how it relates to literature, and how our perceptions change over time.
Students undertake a comparative study of major directors, with the focus and theme changing each time the course is offered. Priority is given to moderated film students.
This seminar, a requirement for all program majors, is an opportunity for students working on Senior Projects to share working methods, knowledge, skills, and resources. The course includes sessions with visiting film- and videomakers, who discuss their processes and techniques; a life-after-Bard skills workshop; a review of grant opportunities; and critiques of works in progress.