Bard College Catalogue 2013-14
Film and Electronic Arts
Peggy Ahwesh (director), Ben Coonley, Glen Fogel, Jacqueline Goss, Ed Halter, Peter Hutton, So Yong Kim, John Pruitt, Kelly Reichardt, Richard Suchenski
OverviewCritical thinking and creative work go hand in hand in the Film and Electronic Arts Program, which integrates a wide variety of creative practices with the study of history and criticism of the medium. All production majors take required courses in film history while pursuing filmmaking. A student writing a Senior Project in the history of film or video will have taken one or two production workshops.
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 115-116, History of Cinema (or any other introductory-level film history course); two 200-level production courses in film and video; and an additional history course in the program. Upper College students must complete an upper-level history class; 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
- “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”
- “The Quiet Circus: The Colorful, Complicated, Slightly Schizophrenic History of Early Computer Art at Bell Labs”
- “Zayiat,” a narrative film about the loss of a father
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; 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 other events are regularly scheduled in the theater. For production classes, students take advantage of the resources of the equipment office and have access to the various workrooms. The program also has an in-house media collection that consists of features, documentaries, experimental films, and Senior Project.
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.
Introduction to the Aesthetics of Film
A survey course designed for first-year students, especially those considering film as a focus of their undergraduate studies. Central cinematic issues addressed, both in terms of the films viewed and the assigned theoretical readings, include narrative design, montage, realism, film and dreams, collage, and abstraction. Films by Chaplin, Keaton, Renoir, Rossellini, Hitchcock, Deren, Brakhage, Bresson, Godard, and others are studied. Authors read include Vertov, Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Münsterberg, Bazin, Brakhage, Deren, and Arnheim.
History of Cinema from the 19th Century to World War II
Designed for first-year students, this course (the first of a two-part survey) addresses the history of cinema during its first 50 years. In addition to offering an interdisciplinary look at the development and significance of cinema during this period, the class considers the nature and function of film form through lectures, the reading of key texts, and close study of works by exemplary directors such as Méliès, Griffith, Chaplin, Eisenstein, Vertov, Hitchcock, Dreyer, Lang, Murnau, Renoir, Ford, Welles, and Mizoguchi.
History of Cinema since 1945
This course addresses the history of cinema since the end of the Second World War. The nature and function of film form are investigated through lectures, readings, and screenings of works by Rossellini, Hitchcock, Brakhage, Bresson, Tati, Resnais, Godard, Bergman, Kurosawa, Tarkovsky, Kubrick, Fassbinder, and Jia. Special attention is paid to film’s relationship to other arts and to the larger history of culture.
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.
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 sound.
Gesture, Light, and Motion
This filmmaking workshop considers the narrative form through the qualities of gesture, light, and motion on screen, rather than through dialogue and literary approaches to storytelling. Various approaches to visual storytelling are explored, as are solutions to practical and/or 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, participants complete a single-channel video piece.
Introduction to 16mm 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.
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. Readings include film criticism and other critical works that help to define modernism in general.
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 Klahr, 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.
American Avant-Garde Film, 1942–1975
This course focuses on the pioneers of experimental film in the 1940s (Deren, Peterson, Menken, Broughton); the mythopoeic artificers of the 1950s and early 1960s (Anger, Brakhage, Baillie); and the formalists of the late ’60s (Frampton, Snow, Gehr). Attention is also paid to the graphic/collage cinema of artists like Cornell, Conner, Smith, and Breer, and to the anarchic improvisations of Jacobs, Kuchar, and Maclaine. The class concludes in the mid-1970s, touching on the revitalization of storytelling through autobiography (Mekas) and feminist/critical narrative (Rainer).
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.
Buñuel, Saura, Almodóvar: Spanish Auteurs
Film 234 / Spanish 234
See Spanish 234 for a full course description.
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.
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.
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.
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.
War in Film
War, propaganda, and antiwar films representing all continents are screened, revealing different political and national perspectives as well as the effects of the historical circumstances under which the films were made. The course looks at three major categories of war films: patriotic films, including propaganda; protest films; and film realism.
Postwar Italy and France in Film
A survey of two major cinematic schools in postwar Western Europe. Four 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.
Writing the Film
An introductory course that looks at creative approaches to writing short films and dialogue scenes. Writing and research exercises are supplemented with screenings, discussions, readings, and script critiques. The course focuses on researching and developing ideas and structure for stories; building characters; poetic strategies; and writing comedic, realistic, and awkward romantic dialogue.
The New Romanian Cinema
An introduction to the New Wave in contemporary Romanian cinema and its links to European cinema. This course focuses on narrative structure and cinematic language, and is designed to introduce students to concepts such as minimalism and realism in the cinema. Films discussed include 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days; The Way I Spent the End of the World; Aurora; Tuesday, After Christmas; and California Dreamin’.
Asian Cinematic Modernisms
cross-listed: asian studies
This seminar explores various permutations of modernism in and between the cinemas of East, Central, South, and Southeast Asia by looking closely at major films and the cultural configurations from which they emerged. Attention is paid to the ways in which directors from different traditions use formal innovations to mediate the dramatic changes taking place in their societies. The course is structured around 35mm retrospectives of two exemplary filmmakers: India’s Ritwik Ghatak and Japan’s Kenji Mizoguchi.
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.
Mass Media and Its Discontents
cross-listed: experimental humanities, sts
This course investigates how mass media has informed the ways we think about art, particularly the moving image. Topics include popular culture, folk culture, and mass culture; the aesthetic and political consequences of mechanical and electronic reproduction; the relationship of the avant-garde to kitsch, camp, and trash; fame and celebrity; and appropriation.
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.
Weekly screenings explore the styles and meanings of reenactment—remakes, homages, reinterpretations, sequels, conspiracy rants, and reruns. Themes discussed include fictionalizing historical events (Kiarostami, 9-11 docudramas); repetition in experimental media (Arnold, Jacobs); performance and playacting (Ra’ad, Dougherty); and memory and repression (Hitchcock). Issues regarding gender, identity, politics, history, technology, and copyright are also addressed.
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.
In the Archive
cross-listed: art history
Starting with readings from Derrida, Benjamin, Enwezor, and Sekula, the class considers the impulse to preserve, the politics of collections, collective memory, and issues of guardianship and access. Various preservation models are examined through visits to film archives, discussions with film preservationists, and screenings. As a group, the class establishes dossiers (interview, filmography, bibliography, catalogue of works) on a number of contemporary film/video makers, and begins to form an archive of significant experimental works and related materials.
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.
Stereoscopic 3D Video
The course examines moments in the evolution of 3D technology and historical attempts at what André Bazin called “total cinema,” considering the perceptual and ideological implications of apparatuses that attempt to intensify realistic reproductions of the physical world. Students attend weekly screenings of a broad range of 3D films and, through creative assignments, explore the expressive potential of the 3D frame while shooting and editing 3D images using stereo cameras and projection systems that exploit binocular vision.
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.
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.
cross-listed: experimental humanities
In this course, students create cinematic works using digital technologies that simulate the real world and replace/enhance live production environments. Topics include 3D modeling and animation, machinima, motion-capture, 2D to stereoscopic 3D postconversion, and other methods for compositing real and virtual sources. Readings reflect on the psychological and cultural impacts of the increasingly prevalent use of computer-generated imagery in contemporary media. Prerequisite: previous course work in video production or permission of the instructor.
This seminar explores the history, theory, and practical concerns of film curating, both in and out of the context of the art world. The course looks at precinematic technologies of the projected image; various models employed in the silent era; early alternatives to the Hollywood system, including cine-clubs, “small cinemas,” and road shows; cinematheques, film festivals, and microcinemas; expanded cinema and projection performance; different attempts to introduce film and video into spaces traditionally devoted to visual art; and the role of collections and archives.
Women in Japanese Cinema: Mothers and Courtesans
cross-listed: asian studies
Many Japanese film directors, from Kenji Mizoguchi to Shohei Imamura, have focused their work on women. The self-sacrificing heroine—wife, mother, courtesan—has been an essential part of popular drama in Japan for many centuries, perhaps going back to ancient fertility cults. Class discussions center not just on the cinematic aspects of the masterpieces screened, but also on the role of women in Japanese society and on changes in womens’ rights, sexual roles, and family relations over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.
This seminar, a requirement for all program majors, allows students working on Senior Projects to share 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.