St. Louis Community College at Meramec

Communications Department


MCM:134 FILMMMAKING        
Dr. Diane Carson                          
Office:   CS 112
Phone:  314-984-7532

Welcome to the study of a fascinating and demanding subject. The purpose of this course is to teach you to use the super-8 film medium effectively and creatively and for you to learn to shoot properly exposed and imaginatively composed images. If you work hard and apply yourself, you should learn to:

  1.      Understand and use the Kinoflex super-8 camera including correctly loading cartridges and using the camera’s features, including the zoom lens, single frame exposure, slow and fast motion capabilities.

  2.      Correctly load and use super-8 projectors.

 3.   Evaluate, choose wisely among and competently execute various camera moves from panning and tilting to tracking and zooming.

 4.  Understand the nature and use of both silent and wild sound super-8 films.

 5.  Storyboard, produce, direct, edit and exhibit silent and wild sound super-8 films.

 6.  Use a computer storyboard program.

 7.  Edit your footage as film and on the Avid Xpress DV (digital nonlinear editing).

 8.  Analyze and critique your own and other students’ films.

 This is an introductory course in filmmaking, so I will assume you have not previously shot super-8 film. You will discover this medium is demanding in terms of energy, time, thought and discipline. This class should be very enjoyable, but it is a college-level course. You must be conscientious in fulfilling all the requirements and completing each project on time in order to make satisfactory progress and receive a passing grade.

 EVALUATION CATEGORIES

 1. ATTENDANCE: You are expected to attend every class. Since this is a demonstration, discussion and production class, your attendance is extremely important. Your absences will affect your grade and your progress. If you miss more than two meetings, you are excessively absent and can not receive above a C for this course. If you miss more than three, you can not receive above a D. Your own and your fellow students’ progress depend upon your involvement in all our discussions and analysis.

Note: There are no excused absences. When you are not present for any reason, you are absent.  If you miss class, you are responsible for any changes in assignments. If you are absent, call or see me before our next class.

 Class begins promptly. Repeated lateness will count against you. 

  THE “W” GRADE:  A grade of “W” will be issued if you initiate and complete the course withdrawal procedure by November 15th.  If you do not withdraw, do not complete your assignments and attend class, you will fail for the semester.

 2. TEST AND QUIZZES: You will have one exam at mid-term (week 8). It will cover your text, handouts, lectures, in-class films and discussions.

You will have two quizzes. One quiz will be in class (week 3) on camera features and the exposure roll and one quiz on Blackboard on editing (week 7). These quizzes and the mid-term will count for 20% of your final grade.

PLAGIARISM: Plagiarism is a serious academic offense. A student who deliberately or unintentionally submits as his or her own work anything which is in any part taken from another person without proper acknowledgement (use of quotation marks, inclusion in the credits, etc.) is guilty of plagiarism. A student guilty of submitting plagiarized material for any course at Meramec may be dismissed from the course, given an F for the assignment, an F as the final course grade, and reported to the appropriate deans for disciplinary action. I will pursue all of these actions if you plagiarize or cheat.

 3.  CLASS PREPARATION AND PARTICIPATION: You are expected to complete the assigned film production materials (storyboards, post-production analysis, etc.) and video summaries by the dates listed. This entails considerable planning since you must factor in lab processing and mail delivery. In addition you must calculate your own editing time. Plan ahead. You will be evaluated on your ability to meet deadlines in this class as you will be in any future film work you may do.

Late films will lose one full grade.

Learning, like filmmaking, is a collaborative venture.  We will screen and analyze your films in class, so you have a serious responsibility to each other. You must be ready to be involved in discussions because you will learn a great deal from each other by providing your own unique insights. This is important enough for class participation and preparation to count for 10% of your final grade.

 4.  FILMMAKING PROJECTS:  The major portion (65%) of your final grade will be determined by your three film projects. These projects provide a series of learning experiences that should develop your ability as a filmmaker.  In the course of performing them, you will acquire a considerable degree of technical knowledge and mechanical expertise.  However, film that is perfectly exposed may be nothing more than a formal accomplishment.  What you must also master are the imaginative, creative aspects of filmmaking to challenge yourself. Then you can truly call yourself a successful filmmaker.

Course Materials:

Film Editing

Film Exposure Project

 EQUIPMENT:  Cameras and tripods, as well as all necessary editing and projecting equipment, are provided. You must buy your own film and pay for its processing.  We will go over check out procedures during class. You must be extremely conscientious about following the procedures and returning equipment on time. Other students’ shooting schedules depend on this. Failure to follow procedures will lower your course grade one full grade; this is that important.

PRODUCTION JOURNAL: A production journal should be kept of all your film work.  This journal includes storyboards, lighting diagrams, camera placement, light meter readings (if you use one), type of film, etc. Take very good notes--be precise about every detail so you can learn from your successes and mistakes. Hand in your production journals with each film.

 PROJECT I--CAMERA AND EXPOSURE TEST ROLL:   See Page 4 for the detailed directions and description. To prepare yourself, watch the Exposure Roll CD or log on to the Blackboard web site for explanation and demonstration of each of the following requirements. For Blackboard, directions will be handed out in class.

 PROJECT II--STORY OR THEME: Shoot a silent film of a simple action or theme under your control and direction. The film should be visually clear without verbal or written explanation. An understanding of movement and light are important. Originality in choice of subject matter and your treatment of it will count in your grade for this project. There is no required length. We’ll talk about this in class.

 Storyboard this film before shooting and shoot TITLES for it. The focus is on the shooting and editing of this film. You may choose to add wild sound as well, but that is not required. You may also use animation in this film.

 PROJECT III:  YOUR CHOICE: You may create a narrative or experimental, live action or animated movie. This film must be storyboarded, edited, and accompanied by wild sound. The focus is on improvement in composition, editing, and the addition of sound. There is no required length.

 If you have any questions about these projects at any time during the semester, please talk with me before you guess. You will probably save yourself time, aggravation and money if you clarify your work before exposing film. I also offer my help in solving any problems you encounter. Feel free to catch me any time during office hours, any time we can arrange, or any other time you find me on campus.

Good luck with all your shooting. Take your time and enjoy the filmmaking process.

PROJECT I--CAMERA AND EXPOSURE TEST ROLL: This exercise is designed to acquaint you with basic Kinoflex camera usage and exposure techniques. It is very important for you to keep an accurate record of your exposure roll in order to evaluate results once you have it developed. Slate (identify) every shot within the film itself. Hold up a card with a description of the shot and the f-stop clearly marked. Record each slate for approximately 2-3 seconds.

 1. EXPOSURE: Set up a shot on a tripod, indoors or outdoors. Try to include a broad range of tonal values or colors in your frame. Include a live subject, if possible. Expose a short (10 second) sequence at your automatic metered aperture. Record that f-stop.  Then “bracket” the exposure by stopping down (underexposing the shot) one f-stop and shoot another 10 seconds. Next open up (overexpose) the same shot one f-stop and shoot another 10 seconds. Note: be sure to keep very good notes on each of these shots as you proceed and “slate” every shot. Include the f-stop and identify the shot (for example, underexposure) on a card or sheet of paper. Write in thick magic marker. Ballpoint ink will not photograph clearly.

 2.  PERSPECTIVE COMPARISON: Shoot 10-15 seconds with a normal lens setting (the zoom lens in the middle position). Note carefully the boundaries of your scene through the viewfinder. Zoom to a wide-angle shot and hold this briefly, then zoom to a telephoto shot and hold this. Then begin with the same wide-angle setting and scene. This time, dolly in to your telephoto setting and stop there for a couple seconds.

3.  HAND-HELD CAMERA: Use a normal lens setting. Shoot a medium distance shot of one person walking toward you. Keep the camera as steady as you can and maintain a constant distance between the subject and camera throughout this shot. Now repeat the shot with the lens at a wide-angle setting. As always, slate the exposures.

 4. TRIPOD SHOT: PAN: From a medium distance, shoot 5-10 seconds panning (following your subject left to right or the reverse) with the camera mounted on a tripod.  Plan your shot so that you move your subject from a brightly lit area to a darker area or the reverse. Lead your subject and, as usual, slate the exposure.

 5. TRIPOD SHOT: TILT: Direct your talent to walk up a stairway or a hill. With the camera mounted on a tripod, tilt up to keep the subject in clear focus and view. Lead your talent, that is, keep the same amount of headroom as the subject moves. Next, reverse the shot and tilt down as the talent walks down the hill or stairs. Hint: If you shoot with a telephoto setting, the tilt is more dramatic.

 6. RACK FOCUS: Set up a scene with something in both foreground, midground and background. Use a normal lens setting. Rack focus (by turning your distance scale) from background to foreground or the reverse. This works best with a shallow depth of field, usually found in shaded or darker areas, and with a telephoto setting.

 If you have any film left, experiment.  Shoot anything, any way you want, but keep careful records of what you’ve tried.