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Bard College Catalogue, 2019–20
Film and Electronic Arts
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 and electronic arts. These include animation, narrative and non-narrative filmmaking, documentary, performance, and installation practices. Regardless of a student’s choice of specialization, the program’s emphasis leans toward neither fixed professional formulas nor mere technical exper-tise, 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 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. For Moderation, each prospective major presents a selection of work in film/electronic arts or a historical/critical essay of 10 pages. In the Upper College, students choose one of two tracks: production or film history and criticism. The junior year is devoted mainly to deepening and broadening the student’s creative and critical awareness; the senior year to a yearlong Senior Project, which can take the form of a creative work in film/electronic arts or an extended, in-depth historical or critical essay.
Students majoring in the program are expected to complete the following courses prior to Moderation: two film history courses and two 200-level film or electronic media production workshops. Upper College students must complete Film 208, Introduction to 16mm Film; a 300-level film or electronic media production workshop; a 300-level film history course; Film 405, Senior Seminar (no credit); and the Senior Project.
Students on the film history and criticism track are expected to complete the following courses prior to Moderation: three film courses and one 200-level film or electronic media production workshop. Upper College students must complete two 300-level film history courses; a course outside of the program related to proposed Senior Project work; the Senior Project; and additional coursework charted in consultation with the student’s adviser.
Recent Senior Projects in Film and Electronic Arts
- “Cryogen Children,” a stereoscopic 3D video installation about the offspring of sperm donors
- “it shines a certain way. to a certain place: The Works of Native Filmmakers”
- “Structural Mutations: The Films of Toshio Matsumoto and Takashi Ito”
- “Water’s Edge,” a 16mm film essay about finding hope in the face of grief
FacilitiesThe Jim Ottaway Jr. Film Center houses a 110-seat theater equipped with 16mm, 35mm, and 4K digital projection; performance space with digital projection capabilities; shooting studio with a control room; computer lab with current Adobe editing software; darkroom; two seminar/screening rooms; editing suites for sound and video; studios for seniors; and a film archive. Visiting artist talks, screenings, symposia, and other public 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 past 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 LGBTQ Archiving.
The descriptions below represent a sampling of courses from the past four years.
Introduction to the Documentary
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, Spheeris, Moore, and Morris are among the filmmakers studied.
Aesthetics of Film
Designed for first-year students, this course offers a broad, historically grounded survey of international film aesthetics. Key elements of film form are explored through close analysis of important works by Griffith, Eisenstein, Dreyer, Hitchcock, von Sternberg, Rossellini, Powell, Bresson, Brakhage, Godard, Tarkovsky, and Denis, among other directors. Readings include critical and theoretical texts, and discussions address central issues in the other arts.
History of Film: Silent Era
This survey course traces the medium of film as an art form from its origins to the end of the silent era, with an emphasis on the American silent comedy, German expressionism, and Soviet and European avant-gardes. Artists screened include the Lumière Brothers, Georges Méliès, D. W. Griffith, Lois Weber, Germaine Dulac, Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Yasujiro Ozu, Carl Dreyer, Fernand Léger, Luis Buñuel, Man Ray, Erich von Stroheim, F. W. Murnau, Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton. Readings consist primarily of classic aesthetic studies from the era.
History of Film: Global Sound to 1980
The second part of this survey course addresses the global history of cinema from the transition to synchronized sound in the 1930s to the late 1970s. Students learn how the advent of sound impacted the development of narrative film aesthetics in both popular and art cinema traditions. Classical Hollywood cinema, the “New Waves” of the 1960s, and the politically and aesthetically radical interventions of experimental and documentary filmmakers are explored. Readings include overviews of film history and theoretical texts by André Bazin, Laura Mulvey, James Baldwin, and Susan Sontag.
This 2-credit course, designed for first-year students intending to major in Film and Electronic Arts, covers the basics of video production: camera operation, lighting, sound recording, and editing. Participants produce a final project utilizing the techniques covered in class. Prerequisite: one film history course.
Survey of Electronic 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
CROSS-LISTED: EXPERIMENTAL HUMANITIES, THEATER AND PERFORMANCE
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”? Students in the course develop strategies for exploiting video’s most fundamental property: its ability to reproduce a stream of real-time synchronized images and sounds.
Gesture, Light, and Motion
This filmmaking workshop considers the narrative form through the qualities of gesture, light, and motion, rather than through dialogue and literary approaches to storytelling. Students explore visual storytelling techniques as well as solutions to practical and/or aesthetic problems.
Electronic Media Workshop
An introduction to various elements of video production, with an emphasis on video art and experimentation. Camera and editing assignments familiarize students with digital video technology while investigating various aesthetic and theoretical concepts. The course culminates with the completion of a single-channel video piece by each student. Technology training includes cameras, Final Cut Pro, studio lighting and lighting for green screen, key effects, microphones, and more.
Introduction to 16mm Film
An introduction to filmmaking with a strong emphasis on mastering the 16mm Bolex camera. Assignments are 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 Essay Film
Galvanized by the intersection of personal rumination, research, and the investigation of history, the essay film has been a major stylistic force in nonfiction film production since the 1950s. The form traditionally includes the “voice” of the maker and operates on multiple discursive levels of political argumentation, intellectual inquiry,social engagement, and artistic innovation. Makers discussed range from Alain Resnais and Agnès Varda to Éric Baudelaire and Laura Poitras.
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.
This course examines how critical and philosophical approaches to thinking about art’s relationship to the internet have evolved along with changesin networked technology since the advent of the World Wide Web. Topics considered: Does art made with, on, or about the internet require new evaluative models? Has the internet altered the relationship between the artist, the artwork, and the audience? How has internet art been curated and exhibited? The class also looks at examples of internet art in relation to literature, cinema, and performance.
Found Footage: Appropriation and Pranks
CROSS-LISTED: EXPERIMENTAL HUMANITIES
A survey of appropriation in experimental media, from the found footage, cut-up, and collage films of the '50s, 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, media and net politics, technology, copyright, and aesthetics are addressed. Students produce their own work in video, gaming, installation, collage, and/or audio through a series of assignments and a final project.
Graphic Film 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.
Ethnography in Image, Sound, and Text
Film 224 / Anthropology 224
CROSS-LISTED: EXPERIMENTAL HUMANITIES
The relationship between the self and others, the problems and pleasures of cross-cultural encounters, the sensory aspects of culture—all are themes found in a range of productions that might be called ethnographic in nature. This course, taught by an anthropologist and a filmmaker, uses the tools of anthropology (observation, interviews, immersion) to create ethnographies in different media, including film, video, audio, and experimental writing.
In this course, students are introduced to processes for creating moving image artworks using 3D animation software and its ancillary technologies. Topics include the basics of 3D modeling and animation, 3D scanning, and creative use of other technologies that allow artists to combine real and virtual spaces. Readings reflect on the psychological, cultural, and aesthetic impacts of computer-generated imagery in contemporary media. Students are not assumed to have any previous experience with 3D animation.
Character and Story
An introductory screenwriting course that focuses on character-driven short pieces. In addition to writing and research exercises, there are screenings, discussions, readings, and script critiques. The course covers story structure and story design in relationship to character development.
Film among the Arts
CROSS-LISTED: ART HISTORY
An 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 with other media. Directors studied include Antonioni, Bergman, Duras, Eisenstein, Godard, Hitchcock, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Kubrick, Marker, Pasolini, Resnais, Syberberg, and Watkins, among others.
A study of video installation as an evolving form that extends the conversation of video art beyond the frame and into live, hybrid media, site-specific, and multiple-channel environments. Presentations, screenings, and readings augment critical thinking about temporal and spatial relationships, narrative structure, viewer perception, and the challenges of presenting time-based work in a gallery or museum setting. Workshops hone technical skills and problem solving.
Film Blackness and Black Aesthetic in Contemporary Cinema
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES
The course examines the philosophy of black aesthetics in relation to the concept of film blackness. Screenings and discussions focus on films made between 1980 and 2017, with an emphasis on films made by members of the African diaspora. Directors studied include Cheryl Dunye, Barry Jenkins, Ava DuVernay, Steve McQueen, Kevin Jerome Everson, Abderrahmane Sissako, Jordan Peele, Raoul Peck, Barbara McCullough, and John Akomfrah. Writers studied include bell hooks, Toni Cade Bambara, and Michael Boyce Gillespie.
Sound and Picture
A look at the principles and practices of sound design in motion pictures, through analysis of existing works, discussion of weekly readings, and class creations. Sound is considered not as accessory to image, but as a unique, fruitful site for making meaning within the context of film- and videomaking. Also investigated: the complex relationship of sound to the real and imagined spaces it activates, how sound design suggests modes of time and tense, and the roles silence and music play in filmmaking.
International Film Noir
CROSS-LISTED: ART HISTORY
A look at key noir films made in America, Britain, France, Italy, and Japan during World War II and the postwar era, 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 and hard-boiled fiction, its changes over the course of the 1940s and 1950s, and its influence on subsequent filmmaking. Directors studied include Hitchcock, Welles, Ray, Wilder, Lang, and Clouzot.
War Crimes in Film
Film 252 / Human Rights 252
Subjects discussed include legal definitions, as applied in war crime trials; the political use of historical atrocities; how the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals changed the way we look at war crimes; and the question of genocide. Japanese, German, French, and American films are screened, including Judgment at Nuremberg and Battle of Algiers. Texts include Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men, Paul Aussaresses’s Battle of the Casbah, and Seymour Hersh’s My Lai 4.
Feminist Film and Media
The course engages the main questions and debates of feminist theory across cinema, television, and new media, with a focus on feminist film practice. Weekly screenings showcase the work of female-identified (and feminist-identified) filmmakers working across narrative, experimental, and documentary filmmaking traditions. Filmmakers and artists discussed include Chantal Akerman, Laura Mulvey, Yvonne Rainer, Yoko Ono, Sara Gómez, Julie Dash, Dorothy Arzner, Agnès Varda, Sally Potter, Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer, Peggy Ahwesh, Zeinabu irene Davis, Sadie Benning, Ngozi Onwurah, and Trinh T. Minh-Ha.
Writing the Film
Film 256 / Written Arts 256
This course 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 and realistic romantic dialogue.
Documentary in Residence
CROSS-LISTED: HUMAN RIGHTS
An introductory video production course for students interested in social issues, reportage, home movies, travelogues, and other forms of the nonfiction film.
The American Century
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES
It is a truism that our ideas of American society and history (or myth) have been greatly influenced by Hollywood. This course looks at the way movies, American as well as European and Asian, helped shape the image of the United States in the 20th century. Students are introduced to such iconic films as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dr. Strangelove, High Noon, and Apocalypse Now, as well as American movies made from a foreign perspective by non-American directors, including Milos Forman and Sergio Leone.
Documentary Production Workshop
A video production workshop for students interested in social issues, reportage, home movies, travelogues, and other forms of the 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, which is researched, shot, and edited during the second half of the semester, is required.
Advanced 16mm Workshop
Students explore special effects using a Bolex camera, and learn how to hand process film, shoot sync sound film with an Arriflex SRII camera, and optically print film. They also have the opportunity to shoot color film, work on collaborative projects, and participate in screenings and discussions that illustrate and exemplify the approaches taught in class. Prerequisites: Film 208 and one film history course.
Landscape and Media
The course compares a variety of landscape forms throughout the history of cinema and painting. Through discussion and visits to local sites, the class considers environmental issues, the social uses of land and parks, travel and tourism, and the politics of place. A broad range of tools and techniques are introduced, including panoramas, cartography, image archives, drones, creative geography, and 360-degree cams.
Postwar France and Italy
A survey of four concentrated historical moments of remarkably intense creative activity: the immediate postwar years in Italy, dominated by Rossellini, Visconti, and De Sica; the mid-1950s in France, when Tati and Bresson are most impressive as “classicists”; the late ’50s and early ’60s of the French New Wave, with Godard, Truffaut, Rivette, Varda, Rohmer, Chabrol; and the maturation of a number of key directors in Italy at roughly the same time, best represented by Fellini, Antonioni, Olmi, and Pasolini.
An intensive workshop designed for students who plan to make a film for Moderation or the Senior Project. Participants work on script analysis, staging, and rewrites, with the goal of developing a concise and polished script that serves as the basis for a short film. Prerequisite: Film 256 or the successful completion of a sophomore-level production class.
Students investigate conventions of narrative filmmaking related to shot composition, screen direction, the actor’s gaze, continuity, chronology, sound design, and more. They shoot and edit several scenes/sequences in which they alternately follow, bend, and break these rules to serve various storytelling ends. The goal is for students to become more fluent in the foundational vocabulary of the art form, while developing their own cinematic voice.
Film Production: Cinematography
CROSS-LISTED: EXPERIMENTAL HUMANITIES
A junior-level production workshop designed to give students a more thorough understanding of a wide range of cinematic vocabularies and aesthetics. Short in-class projects explore film stocks, shutter speeds, lighting techniques, and cinematographic strategies for different genres of filmmaking.
Harun Farocki: Inextinguishable Fire
The seminar considers the groundbreaking oeuvre of German filmmaker, teacher, and essayist Harun Farocki. Active from the mid-1960s to his death in 2014, Farocki explored the workings of contemporary image production and optical technologies in a critique of the apparatus of state and corporate power within the global economy.
Fictionalizing the Biopic
Students in this live-action course dramatize the life of a nonfictional person (or persons), concentrating on visual storytelling, sound design, the three-act formula, narrative tropes, and revealing an interior life through the framing and “blocking” of a scene. Working from the documentary Herb and Dorothy (about civil servants/art collectors Herb and Dorothy Vogel), each student selects a portion of the documentary to dramatize, and all students move through the various stages of production: research, storyboarding, casting, location scouting, costume design, set dressing, shooting, sound design, and editing.
Science Fiction Film
A critical examination of science fiction film from the silent era to today, with a special focus on the relationship between science fiction and the avant-garde. Topics include visualizing technology, alien and robot as human countertype, utopia and dystopia, Cold War and post–Cold War politics as seen through science fiction, camp and parody, counterfactuals and alternative history, and the poetics of science fiction language.
Script to Screen
A live-action film workshop that concentrates on the narrative form as a means of exploring visual storytelling strategies. Students produce a dramatic recreation of the 1929 Hitchcock film Blackmail. Each student produces, directs, and edits a sequence of the feature-length film.
A survey of the avant-garde pioneers of the 1940s (Deren, Peterson, Menken, Broughton); the mythopoeic artificers of the 1950s and early 1960s (Anger, Brakhage, Baillie); and the formalists of the late 1960s (Frampton, Snow, Gehr). Also considered: the strong graphic/collage cinema of artists like Cornell, Conner, Smith, and Breer; and the anarchic, comic improvisations of Jacobs, Kuchar, and MacLaine. The course ends in the mid-1970s by touching on the revitalization of storytelling through autobiography (Mekas) and feminist/critical narrative (Rainer).
A critical examination of how queer identity has been explored on screen, from the silent era to recent times. Topics include the representation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans characters in classic Hollywood and European cinema; theories of camp, gender subversion, and other forms of articulating queer sensibility within historically heteronormative frameworks; the pioneering work of openly queer 20th-century filmmakers; the role of cinema in activism around such issues as AIDS, feminism, and trans visibility; and the mainstreaming of queer images in the 21st century.
Cinematic Naturalism in the West and Its Literary Roots
This seminar for Upper College students surveys a number of highly influential films from the 1920s to the 1970s that bear a strong relationship to realism/naturalism, among them works by Griffith, Stroheim, Vidor, Renoir, Rossellini, Visconti, Olmi, Cassavetes, Loach, and Burnett. Also explored are complementary literary works such as Eliot’s Adam Bede, Zola’s Germinal, Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, Gorky’s The Lower Depths, and Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Students consider approaches to storytelling and the narrative form with the goal of identifying the subtext within given dialogue scenes. They locate “the lie” in the spoken word and “the truth” through visual indicators, and explore the impact of camera placement, blocking, use of narrative beats, and editing on a particular scene. They also discover how their filmmaking choices support, undermine, or contradict what their characters are saying.
Auteur Studies: Andrzej Wajda and the Cinemas of Central Europe
The primary subject of this seminar is Andrzej Wajda, a Polish filmmaker whose rich body of work has become a paradigm for international art cinema. Among other things, the class examines the histories of the major cinemas of Central Europe; their relationship to artistic, theatrical, and literary movements; and the links between major Central European auteurs and their influence on subsequent generations. Other directors studied: Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Zanussi, Miloš Forman, Vera Chytilová, Miklós Jancsó, and Béla Tarr.
Defining Black Cinema
What constitutes black cinema? Films made by filmmakers representative of the African diaspora or themed around issues related to the African diaspora? A film that features black actors, or a set of formal concerns and approaches that separate black cinema from dominant modes of production? This course explores these and related questions of historical representation, cultural identity, and stylistic innovation. Filmmakers covered include Oscar Micheaux, Spencer Williams, Ousmane Sembène, Melvin Van Peebles, Spike Lee, and Madeline Anderson, among others.
This course explores the process of forming a narrative film around personal experience. Charles Burnett’s films provide a touchstone for exploring a multitude of approaches: autobiography, observations of one’s social environment, and the use of a literary work as source material. Students write a short screenplay that grows out of their individual experiences, observations, or influences. In the second part of the course, students direct and edit short dramatic films and study the directing styles of several filmmakers, including Cassavetes, Dash, Jarmusch, Akerman, and Burnett.
American Innovative Narrative
An exploration of unconventional, usually low-budget narrative cinema that moves against the grain of standard populist work. Films studied are primarily from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, when there were a number of dynamic experiments in narrative, but the class also looks at relatively contemporary work. Filmmakers considered include Shirley Clarke, Michael Roemer, Adolfas Mekas, Curtis Harrington, Monte Hellman, Robert Frank, Yvonne Rainer, Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Susan Seidelman, and Jim Jarmusch.
The Vampire: Blood and Empire
The vampire as a cinematic trope is reinvented with each era as a means to address prevalent fears and desires, and as a marker of social change. A mutable in-between creature, the vampire offers specific lessons regarding genre, character, and style, as well as a critical analysis of feminism, race, spirituality, genetics, and otherness. In the first half of this production class, students compose short videos in response to assigned texts, locations, and film fragments; in the second half, they produce an ambitious final project.
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.