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Bard College Catalogue 2023-24
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 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 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 adviser.
Recent Senior Projects in Film and Electronic Arts
- “‘Everything Is Being Recorded’: On Police Body Cameras”
- “‘I Love You 3000’: Marvel Studios, Fandom, and Their Symbiotic Relationship”
- “my very own black box”
- “Violence for a Cause: How Mainstream American Cinema Thrives on Its Spectacles of Violence”
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. 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 various workrooms. The program also has a media collection that consists of features, documentaries, experimental films, and past 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 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
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.
Introduction to Video
This introduction to video production emphasizes the fundamentals of moving image art. Coursework centers on several individual assignments and one final group project. To facilitate the final project, camera and editing assignments familiarize students with digital video technology while investigating various aesthetic and theoretical concepts. Class sessions consist of technology demonstrations, screenings, critiques, and discussion. Technology training includes cameras, Adobe Premiere, studio lighting and lighting for green screen, key effects, microphones, and more. Prerequisite: one film history course.
History of Cinema before 1945
The first of a two-part survey, this course offers an interdisciplinary look at the development and significance of the cinema during its first 50 years. The class considers the nature and function of film form through lectures, discussions, the reading of key texts, and close study of works by exemplary directors such as Griffith, Chaplin, Eisenstein, Vertov, Hitchcock, Dreyer, Lang, Murnau, Renoir, Ford, Welles, and Mizoguchi.
History of Cinema since 1945
This course, the second part of survey designed for first-year students, addresses the history of cinema since the end of World War II. In addition to studying major movements in postwar global cinema, the class considers the nature and function of film form through lectures, discussions, key texts, and close study of works by Rossellini, Resnais, Varda, Godard, Hitchcock, Tarkovsky, Ozu, Deren, and Brakhage. Also considered is film’s relationship to other arts.
Survey of Electronic Art
An introduction to the history and aesthetics of the moving image through an exploration of the ways in which audiovisual technologies have been used in both mass-produced entertainment and works of individual expression, with a special focus on how modes of commercial and artistic production have influenced and reacted to one another. Topics: experimental cinema, home movies, Hollywood, and the avant-garde; documentary; television, video art, music video, and early electronic arts; radio, sound art, and Net Art; video games, homebrew games, and game art. For first-year students.
CROSS-LISTED: EXPERIMENTAL HUMANITIES
Students create video- and web-based projects using digital animation and compositing programs (primarily Adobe Animate and After Effects). Coursework reveals techniques and aesthetics associated with digital animation that challenge conventions of storytelling, editing, figure/ground relationship, and portrayal of the human form. To this end, the class explores examples of animating and collage from film, music, writing, photography, and painting. Prerequisite: familiarity with a nonlinear video editing program.
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, Adobe Premiere, 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.
Found Footage and Appropriation
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.
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.
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.
An overview of North American avant-garde cinema from the post–World War II period to the early 1970s. Topics covered include European and American precedents, the history of distribution and exhibition, the underground explosion of the 1960s, expanded cinema and new technologies, structural and materialist filmmaking, the politics of counterculture and feminism, and the intersection of film production with other arts. Filmmakers considered include, among others, Anger, Baillie, Brakhage, Bute, Clarke, Conrad, De Hirsch, Deren, the Kuchars, Mekas, Menken, Ono, Schneemann, Snow, Warhol, and Wieland.
CROSS-LISTED: ART HISTORY
An intensive exploration of the manifestations and permutations of Romanticism in cinema from the silent era to the present. Topics include the development of Romantic thought, the relationship between film and the other arts, the impact of 19th-century aesthetic paradigms on 20th- and 21st-century film practices, and the changing meanings of Romantic tropes and iconography in different historical moments. Films by Murnau, Borzage, Vidor, Minnelli, Ray, Brakhage, Godard, Herzog, Tarkovsky, and Malick, among others.
Film Blackness and Black Aesthetics in Contemporary Cinema
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES
An exploration of 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
Through analysis of existing works, weekly readings, and their own creations, students develop a deeper understanding of the mutual influence of sound and picture. The course considers sound, not as accessory to image, but as fruitful site for making meaning within the context of film and video making. Topics include how filmic sounds are different from images and music, how sound design suggests modes of time and tense, human voices as sound makers, and the roles silence and music play in filmmaking.
This live-action production class investigates approaches to storytelling and the narrative form with the goal of identifying the subtext within given dialogue scenes. Students locate “the lie” in the spoken word and “the truth” through visual indicators. Reworking scenes over the course of a semester, students discover how their filmmaking choices either support, undermine, or contradict what their characters are saying. They also consider the impact of screenwriting, casting, improvisational rehearsal techniques, actor and camera movement, camera placement, and editing on building observational cadence and highlighting unspoken “truths.”
Writing the Film
CROSS-LISTED: WRITTEN ARTS
This introductory writing course looks at creative approaches to writing short films and dialogue scenes. Starting with personal histories, lineage, and identities, students learn the tools to write invigorating, character-driven short screenplays. With writing assignments and vigorous analysis establishing the bedrock, students develop and workshop a screenplay (maximum 10–15 pages). Open to sophomores and above.
Asian Cinematic Modernisms
CROSS-LISTED: ART HISTORY AND VISUAL CULTURE; ASIAN STUDIES
This seminar explores the 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. Special attention is paid to the way in which directors from different traditions use formal innovations to mediate on the dramatic changes taking place in their societies. Also considered are the ways in which the modernisms being discussed differ from Western paradigms and from each other.
Documentary Production Workshop
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.
Music has been a driving force in experimental video and avant-garde film from its inception—with artists, directors, and musicians working in collaboration, lifting and borrowing from each other, all while blurring the boundaries between art and popular culture. From early live action musical shorts with Cab Calloway to collaborations between Kenneth Anger and Mick Jagger, the course examines historical works as well as present-day examples of the form. Prerequisite: completion of one 200-level Film and Electronic Arts production course.
The Films of Andy Warhol
CROSS-LISTED: ART HISTORY AND VISUAL CULTURE, GSS
Between 1963 and 1969, Andy Warhol made more than a hundred 16mm films, many of them shot in and around his Manhattan studio, the Factory. This course studies selections from Warhol’s cinematic output, including his later forays into producing features by other directors, as well as his work in television and video art. Also addressed is the impact of Warhol’s filmmaking and how it intersected with his other activities in art, publishing, photography, and music.
Introduction to Film Theory and Criticism
A survey of how major thinkers have conceptualized and debated cinema since its inception. Readings of works by Walter Benjamin, Maya Deren, James Baldwin, Glauber Rocha, Stuart Hall, Susan Sontag, Gilles Deleuze, Trinh T. Minh-ha, bell hooks, and Bilal Qureshi, writers whose ideas continue to shape our understanding of moving images and their impact on society. A different theoretical concept is explored each week through a core set of texts and a central film. Throughout, the class engages with questions of realism, authorship, spectatorship, aesthetics, race and representation, and emerging technology.
Russian and Soviet Cinema
An overview of Russian and Soviet cinema, from the prerevolutionary period to the present day. Questions addressed include: What does it mean to create a “revolutionary” cinema—one aimed at educating the masses and “forging” the new Soviet person? How were individual filmmakers able to either work with, or push back against, this agenda to assert their own creativity? Works by Esfir Shub, Dziga Vertov, Sergei Eisenstein, Mikhail Kalatozov, Andrei Tarkovsky, Larisa Shepitko, Andrei Zvyagintsev, and Natalya Meshchaninova.
Narrative Production Workshop
Through weekly video exercises, students in the course explore visual storytelling strategies, shooting original assignments or excerpts from selected narrative films. They work both individually and on crews, where they act as a production team: planning, shooting, and editing. Crew members rotate positions so that everyone gets the chance to experience the various areas of filmmaking. Students also construct a sound design for each piece but must refrain from using music.
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.
CROSS-LISTED: WRITTEN ARTS
The last few years have seen a wave of narrative films structured around multiple points of view. Starting with Rashomon and ending with Syndromes and a Century, the course considers several films that use multiple protagonist structures to express complex ideas. The second part of the course functions as a workshop. Students break into groups to collaboratively create multiple protagonist scripts.
Film Production: Cinematography
This production workshop gives participants a more thorough understanding of techniques, vocabularies, and aesthetics unique to the language of digital cinema. Students develop abilities with, and deeper technical understandings of, several digital cameras, lighting techniques, and cinemagraphic strategies. To this end, each participant shoots a series of moving image works that help develop a unique filmmaker’s “eye.” Prerequisite: Film 111 or another film production course.
This course examines how critical and philosophical approaches to thinking about art’s relationship to the internet have evolved along with changes in 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.
Science Fiction Cinema
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.
An exploration of the challenges and possibilities of video installation, an evolving art form that extends video beyond conventional exhibition spaces into site-specific, physically immersive, and multiple-channel exhibition contexts. Workshops hone technical skills and introduce methods for the creative use of video projectors, monitors, sound equipment, surveillance cameras, multichannel synchronizers, digital software, and lightweight sculptural elements.
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.
An exploration of the aesthetics of color in cinema and related arts. Topics include the development and impact of color processes; the perceptual, cultural, and historical registers of color; changing theoretical approaches to color and light; the relationship between figuration and abstraction; the preservation, restoration, and degradation of filmic color; and the effects of digital technologies and methodologies. Priority to Upper College students.
Students learn to use 3D and 360 video cameras, 3D projection systems, VR headsets, and related technologies that exploit binocular and panoramic viewing. The class 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. Assignments challenge students to explore the expressive potential of the immersive frame, while developing new and experimental approaches to shooting and editing 3D images.
Contemporary Moving Image Practices
This course looks at diverse practices that comprise the contemporary moving image landscape, including documentary, avant-garde film, video and installation art, and experimental narrative cinema, with a focus on socially and politically engaged approaches. Each week features a different guest artist who presents (in person or virtually) their work; students have the opportunity to engage in close dialogues with these artists in a seminar setting. Readings and supplemental materials are assigned for each session and discussed in conjunction with the moving image work.
Students research and complete a short documentary film in the form of their choosing. Screenings, as well as cinematographic and editing instruction, are tailored to enable the exploration of the specific forms of student work. Prerequisite: at least one other 200-level Film and Electronic Arts production course or comparable videomaking experience and permission of the instructor.
Auteur Studies: Orson Welles
Orson Welles’s body of work was a paradigm for classic Hollywood, independent, and international art cinema. The course looks at the filmmaker’s relationship with American and European artistic, musical, and theatrical cultures; chains of transmission and influence across periods and regions; and the development of auteurial film style, with a focus on cinematic space, mobile camerawork, film sound, cinematic adaptation, and artistic representations of the human figure. In addition to Welles’s films, screenings include works by directors who shaped his approach and filmmakers he influenced.
Movement/Inciting Memory/Activating Character
With movement as the catalyst, this screenwriting workshop incites memory, activates character development, and clarifies story and plot through visual storytelling and found identities. The course culminates in writing assignments that form the bedrock for vigorous analysis as participants develop and workshop a short screenplay. No prior dance experience necessary.
A study in the history of television as an artists’ medium. Organized chronologically, the course begins with studio broadcast precursors like Ernie Kovacs and Stan Vanderbeek, continues through the birth of guerrilla television in the 60s after the release of the Sony Portapak, the first generation of video artists in the 70s, the rise of cable and satellite networks, the impact of VHS and other new technologies, and the 21st-century move to streaming platforms. Taught in collaboration with Manhattan-based nonprofit arts institution Electronic Arts Intermix.
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, Robert Frank, Yvonne Rainer, Charles Burnett, David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Susan Seidelman, and Jim Jarmusch.
Chronicle of a Season
Adapted from the title of Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch’s 1961 Paris documentary Chronicle of a Summer, this production course is taught simultaneously on several Bard campuses (Annandale, AUCA, Al-Quds) and OFF University in Istanbul with the goal of creating a cinematic chronicle of each locality. The theme of these synchronized chronicles is also derived from Morin and Rouch’s film; each project takes as its prompt the deceptively simple question, “Are you happy?” Ideally, the making of these films will reveal points of connection for course participants and provide opportunities to learn about the subtleties of contemporary life in each locality.
Sound and the Moving Image
This seminar explores the vibrant relationship between sound and the moving image arts. Topics include live musical accompaniment in early cinema, soundtrack design, sync sound in cinéma vérité, blockbuster aesthetics, audiovisual installations, experimental ethnography, and collaborations between the recording and film/TV industries. A core set of films, along with writings of major sound studies theorists, critics, and historians, animate class discussions. Points of intersection between the moving image arts and podcasting, musical performance, and AI-enabled synthetic media are also discussed.
What can cinema tell us about the evolution of human attitudes toward nature? And how is it increasingly working to reshape those attitudes? Finally, how is cinema itself enmeshed in global cycles of production, waste, and pollution? The course explores these questions through close readings of films ranging from the art cinema of figures like Andrei Tarkovsky to Hollywood blockbusters (The Day After Tomorrow), documentaries (Manufactured Landscapes), and animated films (Wall-E).
Media in the Age of AI
CROSS-LISTED: EXPERIMENTAL HUMANITIES
This course explores the vibrant intersection between different forms of media and artificial intelligence (AI). Topics include deepfakes and disinformation, gaming and the metaverse, social media and networked activism, installation and public art, experimental film and Hollywood blockbusters. Students learn how AI can be used for malicious purposes as well as to push aesthetic boundaries and serve the civic good. They are also introduced to new tools and platforms, and the opportunity to experiment with AI-enabled media.
Cinema and Dictatorship
CROSS-LISTED: HUMAN RIGHTS
The current strains on democratic governments make the subject of dictatorship more important than ever. This course shows how film has been used in 20th-century dictatorships for propaganda purposes and how dictatorships have been dramatized in film. The work of Leni Riefenstahl and Sergei Eisenstein are analyzed, as are wartime films from Japan. The second category includes films like Memories of Underdevelopment from Cuba, Man of Marble from Poland, and To Live and A Touch of Sin from China. Screenings also include Chaplin’s The Great Dictator.
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.