Why Study Film

We watch movies. We watch TV shows. We watch Netflix. We watch videos on YouTube.
Watching is passive.

We select an episode and look at a screen for a finite period of time until the visual presentation ends.
Moving pictures capture our attention for a fleeting moment, then our thoughts quickly turn to something else.

Study involves a learning process.
It means actively viewing and absorbing and learning—whether you’re listening to a lecture,
reading about something in a book, or watching something on a screen.

Studying film, then, moves beyond just a passive viewing.
Studying film involves actively engaging with the film while you are viewing.
In order to learn a film it may take multiple screenings.
Films worthy of study often reveal new clues, details, meaning upon repeated viewings.

The films listed in this guide are films that many academics and critics have deemed worthy of study.
In the course syllabi below I have tried not to repeat films;
But that by no means precludes you from watching any of the titles multiple times.

As you watch films take notes.
Jot down questions you have.
Pause the film and make notes about shot composition, staging, actor dialogue, good things and bad.

Do research.
Read interviews with directors about films you found intriguing.

Find a script for the film if you can and read it; or the novel that may have inspired the film.
Make notes on where the film aligns with the book…and where it differs.
How does the world painted by the original author differ from the world portrayed in the movie?

Check history books to make sure facts are correct (especially in “based on a true story” films).
Make notes of where films align with fact…and where they stray.

Watch films with friends and discuss.
It’s OK to put off discussion for a day to two in order that ideas can stew for a bit.

Find directors you like and then explore their full catalogs.
Find film companies you like and explore their offerings: Criterion, Film Movement, IFC, Magnolia, Miramax.

Here’s your leap-off point.
Quick courses of study that will introduce you to some of the most significant films ever made.

Matthew Hundley

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