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Film/ Video Studies

Jay Craven

Other faculty members who teach courses pertinent to film/video studies:
Dana Howell (Cultural History)
Paul Nelsen (Theater)
John Sheehy (Writing)

Students planning to study film/video generally develop and pursue specific interests in (1) screenwriting, (2) film history/theory/criticism or (3) production in documentary, narrative and/or experimental film. Some students combine these interests while others pursue one of them, sometimes to complement interdisciplinary study in another field. Regardless of the direction taken, all film students are advised to pursue a rounded liberal arts curriculum in other disciplines to complement their film work.

Screenwriting classes emphasize narrative structure and character development. Screenwriting is offered one semester each year or through group tutorials. Film history/theory/criticism classes include screenings, discussions, associated readings and weekly writing. These classes are offered twice each year. Beginning production classes focus on hands-on personal filmmaking (documentary, experimental or narrative) aimed at developing a visual vocabulary and practice. More advanced classes and tutorials encourage collaboration in production. Plan students are advised to truly challenge themselves—to dig deeply into their areas of interest, to pursue new lines of interdisciplinary inquiry and to see their two-year guided journey as an opportunity for transformative experience.

Students interested in narrative and documentary production work begin by developing a film treatment that outlines an approach to his or her story or subject. A full production plan is developed from the treatment and includes a script breakdown, shooting schedule and list of crew members and their responsibilities. One recent collaborative student film production: Marble Hill, a web-based comedy series that follows an eclectic group of college students through a series of misadventures at their small rural liberal arts college. Completed films are screened during a marathon student film festival that draws a full-house audience at the end of each semester.

Film festival field trips are organized on a regular basis. Recent trips include the Sundance Film Festival, South by Southwest, the Lake Placid Film Festival and the IVY Film Festival, a showcase of college student films at Brown University.

Video equipment: Students use video equipment in order to streamline logistics and minimize production costs. Some students also choose to develop special projects using 16mm, super 16, and super 8 film, at their own expense. Marlboro College’s growing inventory of equipment includes HD (SONY HVR-V1U HDV 1080i/24p, JVC GY-HM100 HD) and 3-chip cameras (e.g. SONY VX-2000, CANON XL-1 and Panasonic AG-DVX100 24p), Final Cut Pro nonlinear editing systems and a full complement of professional lighting and sound-recording gear. Cinematic effects can be explored through inventive lighting strategies, wide-screen formatting and post-production embellishments.

Internships: Internships in all aspects of film production are available for interested film students through Jay Craven’s productions, when they occur and an ongoing variety of internships with professional filmmakers in or outside of the area. One student recently worked with a local professional documentary filmmaker and landed a summer internship with New York Direct Cinema pioneer Al Maysles. She also took on the production of a sponsored film about the local Estey Organ Museum. Current documentary students are developing independent projects focusing 1) Relief efforts for children in Zimbabwe; 2) eco-tourism in Borneo; and 3) A Montana rehabilitation center working to help adopted Russian children suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. During the spring of 2005, eight film students (and seven recent alumni) spent an off-campus semester working on the production of Jay Craven’s most recent feature film, Disappearances, starring Kris Kristofferson, Genevieve Bujold, Gary Farmer and Luis Guzman. During 2007, students and recent Marlboro alumni performed most of the production work on Bess O’Brien’s award-winning teen musical, Shout It Out. New productions are planned for 2011 and beyond.

Film Intensive Semester: Beginning in January 2012, film studies professor Jay Craven will work with a crew of college students and professionals to mount the production of a professional feature film aimed at national distribution. This film intensive semester will provide opportunities for Marlboro College students to collaborate with eight film professionals and students from other colleges in the production of Northern Borders, based on Howard Frank Mosher’s novel that tells an unconventional “north country” coming-of-age story. Students who would like to receive more information should contact Jay Craven (

Areas of Interest for Plan-level Work:

  • Film/video production (narrative, documentary or experimental)
  • Screenwriting
  • Film history, theory or criticism
  • Specific filmmakers, genres or film movements
  • Applied film practice (cinematography, editing, music composition)
  • Interdisciplinary studies linking film with other disciplines, including history, American studies, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, visual art, literature, photography or, indeed, any area of the curriculum.

Starting Points (Basic and Introductory Courses)

In different but related ways, film directors Luis Bunel and Federico Fellini helped to shape a new cinematic language during the last half of the 20th century. Bunuel’s surrealist cinema subverted social conventions and blazed new ground, growing out of artistic currents rooted in Lorca, Dali, Fritz Lang, Dada, the neo-realists and others. Fellini helped expand on the social concerns of the Italian neo-realists, adding psychological dimension to his characters in La Strada and exploring Jungian ideas about dreams and the unconscious in films like 8 1/2. Both filmmakers specialized in dreamy plots and wandering narratives. This class will screen films by these directors along with several pictures by filmmakers influenced by them, including David Lynch, Bob Fosse, Emir Kusturica, Aleandro Jordorwsky and Lina Wertmuller. Prerequisite: None     Introductory | Credits: 4

Comic trailblazer Charlie Chaplin appeared on movie screens within 10 years of the medium’s birth and before film was even considered an art form. But Chaplin broke new ground on many fronts, rendered unique and poignant moments in American history, and achieved global popularity as the first “world figure,” recognized in all continents for his trademark, the Little Tramp. The former music hall comedian also survived the advent of sound movies, because he owned his own studio and produced some of his most enduring cinema when other silent film actors were out of work. This class will include screenings of The Unknown Chaplin (1983), which explores the filmmaker’s working methods, and the major Chaplin shorts, including Easy Street (1917), Shoulder Arms (1918), The Pilgrim (1923) and The Immigrant (1917). Also, the Chaplin features: The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925), The Circus (1928), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Limelight (1952) and A King in New York (1957). The class is open to all interested students, with an enrollment cap of 12. Prerequisite: None     Introductory | Credits: 4

This course will combine theory, history and practice. Screenings will include a range of documentary genre from the classic to the modern. Examples from Robert Flaherty to Errol Morris will show the extraordinary power of the documentary to capture the ever-shifting nature of reality on film. Students will develop critical viewing skills regarding voice, point of view and truth. Students will also work individually and in groups to create their own short video projects. Prerequisite: None     Introductory | Credits: 4

This course explores the full range of non-fiction possibilities including ethnographic films, personal cinema, cinema verité and even mockumentaries through screenings and video projects. Beginning with a group project and advancing to individual work, we will take a hands-on approach to documentary production: from interview techniques and verité shooting to character development and collage editing.
Films by Jean Rouch, Barbara Kopple, the Maysles Brothers, Ross McElwee, and Agnès Varda, among others will be screened and discussed. Assignments will include readings and video projects. Prerequisite: None     Introductory | Credits: 4

Filmmaker Robert Altman broke stylistic ground and provided unique social commentary with his naturalistic, circular and multi-layered narratives of fringe characters pursuing off-beat articulations of the American dream. Viewed as controversial, outspoken and irreverent, Altman was nevertheless loved by actors for the freedom he gave them. And a devoted legion of critics and fans applauded his unconventional cinema style and open-ended explorations of society and culture. Pictures slated for screening include MASH (1970), 3 Women (1977), McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), The Player (1992), Nashville (1975), Short Cuts (1993), The Long Goodbye (1973), Secret Honor (1984), Vincent and Theo (1990), Gosford Park (2001), California Split (1974), A Wedding (1978) and The Gingerbread Man (1998). Prerequisite: None     Introductory | Credits: 4

This class is inspired by the work of distinguished French filmmakers who address gender issues in their work. Filmmakers include Agnès Varda, Catherine Breillat, Claude Chabrol, Patrice Laconte, Eric Rohmer, Jean Luc Godard, Robert Bresson, and Leos Carax. Film titles will include Chabrol’s Violette, and Story of Women, LeConte’s Girl on the Bridge, Varda’s Chloe from 5 to 7, Vagabond, and Le Bonheur, Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, Breillat’s Brief Crossing and The Last Mistress, Robmer’s My Night at Maud’s, Godard’s Vivra Sa Vie, Bresson’s Mouchette and Carax’s Lovers on the Bridge. Students will be asked to write critiques and interpretive essays related to the series themes. A special field trip to Boston will be arranged in early March to attend a rare U.S. appearance by pioneering French New Wave director, Agnès Varda. Prerequisite: None     Intermediate | Credits: 4

The 1960’s American film movement combined independent sensibilities with studio distribution that made possible the most creative period in Hollywood history. Influenced by the French New Wave and other European filmmakers, the new Hollywood included John Cassevetes, Martin Scorcese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, Brian DePalma, Dennis Hopper, Woody Allen, George Lucas, Arthur Penn, Paul Schrader, Terrence Mallick and others. The films scheduled for screening include Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Graduate (1967), Easy Rider (1969), Chinatown (1974), Annie Hall (1977), Five Easy Pieces (1970), Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), American Graffitti (1973), The Conversation (1974), Badlands (1973), The Last Picture Show (1971), Woman Under the Influence (1974), Blue Collar (1978) and Sisters (1973). Students will be expected to write weekly film critiques that engage the picture and develop a personal response that enlarges our thinking. The class is open to all interested students, with an enrollment cap of 12. Prerequisite: None     Multi-Level | Credits: 4

This class will screen films inspired by Vermont’s commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first European exploration (by Samuel de Champlain) of what is now called Lake Champlain, the body of water on Vermont’s western flank. We’ll screen Canadian films and pictures related to themes and metaphors of “first encounters” and “border crossings.” Film titles will include Bruce Beresford’s Black Robe, Jan Troell’s The Emigrants and The New Land, Terrence Mallick’s The New World, Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, Gilo Pontecorvo’s Burn, Denys Arcand’s Decline of the American Empire, Jonathan Wacks’ Pow Wow Highway, Michel Brault’s Paper Wedding, Francis Mankiewicz’s Les Bons Debarras, Patricia Rozema’s, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, Sara Polley’s Away From Here, David Croneberg’s Dead Zone, Ferral Mitchener’s Fubar, Michael Dowse’s It’s All Gone Pete Tong and Mark Evan’s Snowcake. Students will be asked to write critiques and interpretive essays related to the series themes. Prerequisite: None     Intermediate | Credits: 4

Through practice, discussion, and script and film review, students will explore all phases of the screenwriting process. Students who wish to take this class should have a background in film or writing and should be willing to share their work with others. Prerequisite: None     Intermediate | Credits: 4

Pursuing Interests (Intermediate and Thematic Courses)

Filmmakers Robert Bresson and Krystoff Kieslowski stand in the forefront of poetic narrative filmmakers. Both use visual imagery and aural landscapes that deeply probe themes of human fallibility and transcendence. Among the films that will be explored: Bresson’s Pickpocket, A Man Escaped, Une Femme Douce, L’Argent and Au Hazard Balthazar; and Kieslowski’s Three Colors Trilogy (Blue, White, Red), The Double Life of Veronique, episodes from The Decalogue and Tom Twyker’s Heaven, produced from Kieslowski’s final screenplay. Students will be expected to read supporting materials, write weekly film critiques and participate in discussion. Prerequisite: None     Intermediate | Credits: 4

This group tutorial will focus on the theory and practice of cinematography for narrative, documentary or experimental applications—using the motion picture camera to capture imaginative, expressive and affecting images. Weekly activities will include shooting assignments, in-class critiques, readings, screenings and discussion. Students who plan to work as cinematographers for the Marble Hill web TV series are strongly encouraged to enroll. Assigned text: Blain Brown’s Cinematography: Theory and Practice. Image Making for Cinematographers, Directors, and Videographers. Prerequisite: None     Multi-Level | Credits: 4

Students will make short experimental videos where they explore visual and sound constructions, employing various aspects of film theory and practice. Projects will include 1) reconstruction of found footage; 2) single-shot films; 3) diary films; 4) animation; 5) closed-eye films and others. Students will each work with camera, sound and editing. Prerequisite: None     Multi-Level | Credits: 4

Students will work to produce a series of ten-minute episodes for a web-based TV comedy series, Marble Hill. Actors, directors, cinematographers, sound recordists, music composers and others are encouraged to enroll so that students can work in groups where they collaborate and draw on each other’s interests and abilities. The goal of this class is to advance production skills development and facilitate the students’ acquisition of the means to achieve more disciplined expression in narrative film. This will involve focused work in film acting, directing, script development, camera coverage, lighting, sound recording, design and editing. Student production teams will participate in pre-productions planning, location scouting, shot listing, casting, rehearsal, production and post-production. The class will include screenings of outside material and exercises intended to sharpen students’ imaginative capacities and intuitive instincts. Completed episodes that meet rigorous technical and creative standards will be posted online through YouTube and other outlets. Pre-requisite: Previous film and/or acting study or experience, or by permission of the instructor.     Intermediate | Credits: 4

Students will work to continue development and production of the Marble Hill series of ten-minute comedy episodes for a web-based series. Writers, directors, actors, cinematographers, editors, sound recordists are encouraged to enroll so that students can work in groups where they collaborate and draw on each other’s interests and abilities. The goal of this class is to advance production skills development and facilitate the students’ acquisition of the means to achieve more disciplined expression in narrative film. This will involve focused work in script development, film acting, directing, camera coverage, lighting, sound
 recording, design and editing. Student production teams will develop scripts, plan production, scout locations, shot list, cast, rehearse, produce and post-produce the episodes. Students interested in participating should e-mail Jay Craven at     Intermediate | Credits: 4

A survey of a dozen or so works that were conceived for the stage then later adapted in film. Studies will include a couple of examples of films that later became stage productions.     Intermediate | Credits: 4

Students will study the theory and practice of various kinds of comedy writing, including monologues, sketches, essays, short stories, screenplays, stand-up and radio drama. Workshops will include critique sessions, writing exercises and the sampling of recorded material. Each student must be willing to read and share their material. Weekly writing assignments will be required. Prerequisite: Student must have previous writing and/or performance experience     Intermediate | Credits: 2

Direct cinema is a kind of documentary filmmaking that records spontaneous observation of naturally occurring events. It challenges the filmmaker to engage the audience without resorting to formal interview, voice over, or pre-conceived structure that shapes documentaries to resemble narrative films, with rising and falling action. In this class, students will be expected to each make three short direct cinema documentaries on subjects of their choosing. We’ll also watch and discuss examples of direct cinema by the Al and David Maysles (Salesman, Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens), Frederick Wiseman (High School, Welfare, Belfast, Maine), D.A. Pennebaker (Don’t Look Back, The War Room), Barbara Kopple (American Dream, Harlan County, U.S.A.) and others. Prerequisite: Previous film study or permission of instructor     Intermediate | Credits: 4

This workshop will provide students with hands-on opportunities to edit episodes of the Marble Hill comedy series and, by so doing, enhance their skills and theoretical background. Students will be given weekly assignments that focus on particular aspects of cutting narrative material. Emphasis will be given to the idea of orienting the viewer fully in the scene through the establishment of mood and place, timing narrative articulation and pacing and character development. Outside films will also be screened to illustrate editing technique. Students who wish may also work on their own projects and bring them into class for review and critique. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor     Intermediate | Credits: Variable

This class will continue work started last spring, for any interested writing students, whether or not they participated in that class. Our plan will be to develop characters and dramatic/comedic incidents set on the campus of the small fictional New England liberal arts college, Marble Hill. Completed material that meets rigorous standards for shaping and revision will be considered for production through the on-campus productions class running concurrently—and for possible TV, cable, and radio production. Classroom sessions will include brainstorming, critique and study of effective screenwriting technique—aimed at the development of scripted scenes and sequences that shape character, theme, tone and incident to dramatic and comedic effect. Outside scripts and produced episodes will also be studied and discussed. Students may enroll in this workshop for 2 or 4 credits, depending on the amount of work they are prepared to undertake and complete. Pre-requisite: Submission of a writing sample.     Intermediate | Credits: 4

This class will mount an exploration and dialogue into the theory and practice of documentary filmmaking, with particular attention to films that work to influence and mobilize opinion. We will use screenings, critiques and production assignments to review and shape effective films that employ techniques of cinema verite, direct cinema, reflexive documentary, mock documentary and experimental/poetic documentary. We’ll also explore various visual strategies aimed at effectively communicating theme, tone and characterization. Through readings and discussions, we’ll study various aspects of social, ethical and philosophical issues surrounding nonfiction film and video—questions of documentary truth; power relations between filmmaker and subject; effective interviewing; and the role of film in constructing and defining cultural history and memory. Students will be expected to complete a series of readings, writings, screenings and documentary production assignments. Prerequisite: Previous study in film, anthropology, cultural studies or sociology, or permission of instructor     Intermediate | Credits: 4

This production course will challenge students to take on more ambitious and more finely crafted projects. We will use screenings and production assignments to advance critical and theoretical dialogues and to produce effective multi-layered videos using more focused applications of camera, light, sound, acting, writing and design. Group projects will be included to foster collaboration and provide opportunities for students to work more deeply in the respective areas of film craft. Students will be expected to view and critique each other’s work and to mobilize collaborating case and crew, as needed. Prerequisite: Previous intermediate film or acting study or permission of instructor     Advanced | Credits: 4

Good Foundation for Plan

Film/video students are challenged to develop rigorous practice, a personal aesthetic and a critical eye. Students working in narrative filmmaking, especially, are encouraged to work with others in order to learn the value of collaboration, expand their technical knowledge and maximize the potential of their Plan. Each student is advised to study across the curriculum, into areas that complement their particular interest. Students interested in screenwriting, for example, are urged to also study creative writing, literature and psychology. Documentary film students are urged to examine anthropology, cultural studies and sociology. Experimental film students are advised to also investigate poetry, visual art and dance.

Sample Tutorial Topics

  • Comedy Writing & Production
  • Screenwriting & Film Study
  • Development of an Original Screenplay
  • Jung and Film
  • The Hollywood Re-Make
  • The Carnivalesque Sensibility in Cinema
  • The Films of Brian DePalma
  • Documentary production
  • Italian Neo-Realism and the French New Wave
  • Artificial Intelligence on Film
  • Poetic Cinema
  • Alfred Hitchcock as Film Auteur
  • Poetic Narrative Dance Film
  • The Heroes’ Journey on Film
  • Martial Arts Films: Shared Influences Between U.S. and Asian Films
  • Two-Fisted American Directors: Robert Aldrich and Sam Fuller
  • Film Satire