Curriculum Guideline

Introduction to Film Studies

Effective Date:
Course Code
PEFA 1116
Introduction to Film Studies
Performing & Fine Arts
Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
4 hours per week
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

The course will combine two basic formats: (1) lecture and discussion, often accompanied by video clips from films to illustrate points; and (2) screenings of feature films in their entirety. Class discussion will be incorporated wherever possible to encourage students to become actively involved in the process of viewing by giving them the means to articulate their thoughts. Students will be required to view full feature films outside of class time.

Course Description
This course is designed to facilitate a fundamental understanding of film history and the development of skills for analyzing films of all genres. These goals will be achieved by the study of the techniques with which film communicates to its audiences through cinematography, dialogue, performance, art direction, editing, music and sound design. The course will feature the screening and discussion of several feature films and excerpts from many others.
Course Content

As a stand-alone film analysis course, the purpose is to offer students basic tools for evaluating both popular and ‘art’ film. For this analysis, some familiarity with film history is necessary in order to put formal, technical, and thematic choices into some context.


The course will begin with the screening of a popular contemporary film. The subsequent lecture/discussion will analyze that film in terms of how it creates meaning through narrative, cinematography and other tools, and the messages contained within that meaning. In a subsequent class, an independent Canadian film will be screened and discussed critically.

Film History

A broad sketch of the historical development of film from Lumiere and Melies to the present will be broken down into four sections:

  • Silent film and pre-war sound film
  • American film since WWII
  • International film since WWII
  • Documentary and experimental film.

Classes will contain a mix of lecture and screening of short films or clips. Students will also be required to view full feature films outside of class time.

Cinematography and Lighting

  • Analysis of visual perception
  • The mechanisms of cinematography; intermittent motion; film chemistry; colour; shots and scenes
  • The frame: composition and design, moving vs. static camera, open vs. closed framing, deep vs. shallow fields
  • Lighting styles


  • Director, art director and cinematographer: coherent style
  • Staging actors for the camera
  • Territorial space: proxemic patterns
  • Symbolic use of imagery and colour


  • Historical overview: the revolutions of Griffith, Eisenstein and Godard
  • Formalism vs. realism
  • Manipulation of time
  • Montage vs. the long take
  • Continuity and jump cuts
  • Musical rhythm in sound and image


  • Historical overview: the silent film; early sound; technological developments
  • Musical scoring
  • Sound effects
  • Sound design in the work of Altman, Coppola, Welles


  • Film vs. theatre acting
  • Influence of the British academy
  • Method, pure and adapted
  • Anti-acting: Bresson and Egoyan
  • The star system
  • The actor and the screenplay

The Screenplay

  • Visual narrative
  • Story structure: conflict and resolution, setup and payoff
  • Character/dialogue
  • Theme/subtext
  • Exposition


A summary lecture in this section will be devoted to the study of genre: a definition and brief look at the parameters of several popular genres — romantic comedy, melodrama, film noir, thriller, etc. — identifying specific styles in terms of the cinematic tools outlined above.


Students will give brief presentations of their critique of a current film.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Trace the historical development of film through their familiarity with some of the major cinematic works and movements of the twentieth century, as well as the economic, social and historical factors at work in the filmmaking industry.
  2. Recognize and analyze the way in which film communicates meaning and ideological messages to its audiences through cinematography, dialogue, performance, art direction, editing, music and sound design.
  3. Demonstrate a basic understanding of the apparatus of film production and its relationship to form, style and genre.
Means of Assessment
Written film critique 10%
Film analysis #1 20%
Film analysis #2 25%
Mid-term exam on text and viewings 10%
Final exam on film history 25%
Class participation 10%


Textbook Materials

A list of recommended textbooks and materials is provided on the Instructor’s Course Outline, which is available to students at the beginning of each semester.

  • Giannetti, Louis. Understanding Movies (9th ed.) Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2002.


  • Phillips, William H. Film: An Introduction. Beford/St. Martin’s, 1999.


  • Bordwell, David & Thompson, Kristin. Film History: An Introduction. NY: McGraw-Hill, 1994.