Stephan Flores/Engl 230.01 Introduction to Film Studies Fall 2015

Assignment: Shot Analysis Chart (due 10/22) and Sequence Analysis Essay (due 10/29)

Shot Analysis Chart and Sequence Analysis Essay (100 points)
For the linked parts of the combined assignment(s) of a Shot Analysis Chart and accompanying/subsequent Sequence Analysis Essay, you are to select a sequence of shots (the same sequence for both parts) that create a dramatic unit within a film—you may select from a film--preferably a film known for its overall distinction/significance in film history/excellence--that is cited in either The Film Experience text or a film from The Criterion Collection (via your Hulu subscription in HuluPlus) or film available on our course Bblearn site--that is, these sources provide a wide range of films that are recognized for some degree of distinction.The sequence should be between 30 seconds and two minutes in length—resist the urge to analyze a sequence longer than two minutes (that is, don’t exceed three minutes!), and for this assignment, choose a genuine sequence of shots, not just one or two shots. The tandem Shot Analysis Chart and Sequence Analysis of this assignment are intended to develop your competencies in producing a close, micro-analysis of a film’s cinematic language: your analysis will seek to explain how the mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and sound work—are constructed or can be construed to work—to produce meaning (significant or signifying effects) through the dramatic sequence in the context of the film. 

Shot Analysis Chart
Using the sequence you have selected, you will develop a shot analysis chart, a “map” that allows you to see the shot-by-shot construction of a sequence and consequently to better understand how it works (see “Steps” below and Shot Analysis Chart Template further below; also see simplified shot list charts in the Bblearn folder entitled “Excerpts from texts on film studies…”  that includes the shot analysis charts for Birth of a Nation and for City of God; in that folder also see/read the excerpt from Gocsik’s, Barsam’s, and Monahan’s Writing About Movies, pp.27-28 ). The Shot Analysis Chart is due in hard copy in class on October 22; also send a copy to me by email no later than 5pm, October 22. This due date is firm—if you do not submit a complete Shot Analysis Chart on October 22, you will fail the whole assignment—that is, I also will not then accept a Sequence Analysis Essay.

Step 1: Select a sequence of shots (a sequence that lasts typically between 30 seconds and two minutes long) that create a dramatic unit within a film scene. A discrete shot is defined as one uninterrupted run of the camera, i.e., an unedited strip of film consisting of those images that are recorded continuously from the time the camera starts to the time it stops. You may select a sequence from a film in the Criterion Collection (via your subscription to Hulu—including any of the films we have studied or selected from my suggestions in that collection) or a film that is cited in The Film Experience text, or a film available in our Bblearn course site. Do not, however, select a sequence that we have studied closely in class or which is analyzed in minute, close detail in one of our texts. I advise that you describe the shot sequence to me by email at least a week before the October 22 due date.

Step 2: Develop a shot-analysis chart for the chosen sequence, using the MS Word Shot Analysis Chart template provided by email attachment to you (also available in Bblearn). As described by Gocsik, Barsam and Monahan in Writing About Movies: “A shot-analysis chart, like the plot segmentation, is a map of sorts that allows you to see the shot-by-shot structure of a scene, and thus to understand better how the scene works” (p. 27). Note that the chart template includes the following six columns:
1. Shot #—In this column you note the shot number (begin with Shot #1 in your selected sequence!).
2. Mise-en-scène— In this column you describe significant aspects of lighting, costume, props, setting, character blocking, actors' performances, and notable color patterns.
3. Cinematography— In this column you describe the camera distance and angle, any camera movement, composition of the frame, depth of field— you can do much of this by using short-hand notation for the type of shot. You might also note when a shot is similar to a previous shot. For short-hand notation, see Chapter 12 of The Film Experience and see also the closing/appended short-hand notation the PDF excerpt from Writing About Movies.
4. Duration of the shot and its editing—In this column you describe the shot duration (e.g., :15, for 15 seconds), and notable transitional editing into and out of the shot, continuity or discontinuity, begin to note graphic relations, and rhythmic or associational connections.
5. Sound—In this column you describe the use of sound.  Consider dialogue, sound effects and music, if present, whether sounds are linked to camera cuts or movement; when and how onscreen and off-screen sounds are used; are sounds diegetic or non-diegetic?
6. Comments—In this column you analyze, ask questions, suggest interpretation, note oppositions or repetitions or similarities, trace the action/narrative plot and story… that is, you begin to do the work of writing your sequence essay analysis by noting things that stand out to you. You might also want to note/transcribe any dialogue or provide an excerpt selection of dialogue that you might be likely to use or draw upon later in your Sequence Analysis Essay.

Note on using the Shot Analysis Chart Template (MS Word document): If you open the Word document for the Shot Analysis Chart you should be able to use the "Tab" function to jump across the different columns. If you hit "Tab" again in the far right column, a new row will be created. You can keep doing this until you have enough rows for the number of shots in the sequence.  If that doesn't work for you, select Table from header menu, then select “Insert” then move/hold to select “Rows Below” which should enable you to add a row. If for some reason you need or want to create a new chart/table, click the word "Table" at the top of your screen, then "Insert," then "Table."  You'll be able to designate how many columns you need (6) and how many rows (the total number of shots + a header row).
Sequence Analysis Essay
Your assignment is to write a 1000 word essay (but no longer than 1250 words) that analyzes the selected sequence from your Shot Analysis Chart(essay is to be double-spaced, with one-inch margins, Times New Roman 12pt. font).

How do the mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing and sound design work together in the sequence to underscore its themes or aims and those of the film as a whole? That is, put a bit differently, what argument or hypothesis can you make about the rhetorical aims of the sequence and the film—what might the film as a work be arguably seeking to achieve or do, including any problems it identifies and wants to address or resolve or appeals that it seems to make to its audience, to us)? Put more directly and simply, why do you think this sequence is effective and what are its (various) effects? Moreover, how does this sequence make sense--have and create meaning--because of its relation to other significant parts of the film that come before and after this sequence? In other words, a sequence of shots can be analyzed closely but the significance/function/meaning(s) of that sequence are not autonomous--the sequence exists and situated within the overall film and its contexts.

Once you have compiled your shot list and have begun working through the Shot Analysis Chart, begin thinking about how the techniques you have documented function together in the sequence. Develop an argument about how these techniques reinforce the scene’s themes or modes of representing and working through problems/questions (both cinematic and cultural problems and questions), then select detailed, individual examples from the sequence. You do not need to describe the entire sequence, nor do you need to write about every shot. You don’t even need to write about every technique you’ve catalogued in your Shot Analysis Chart. Rather, use selective examples to analyze how particular techniques create specific effects in the overall design of the sequence.

Questions to Ask:
Mise-en-scène: How do props and costumes help convey characters and themes? Are particular colors dominant (or absent)? Is the setting significant? If so, how is it presented? How does the lighting help convey the setting and the action? How is character blocking and placement used? How are actors’ performative use of language, physical expression, and gesture deployed to bring a character to life and to communicate important dimensions of that character to the audience?
Cinematography: Where is the camera placed in relation to the action? Distance? Angle? How do particular compositions draw attention to elements of the settings, characters or themes? How does camera movement function in the sequence? Are different focal lengths or depths of field used? How does cinematography reinforce the mise-en-scène?
Editing: What kinds of transitions are there between shots? Are these always the same? Do they change? Does the editing have a particular rhythm, and is it consistent? Does it conform to rules of continuity, or does it seem disjunctive or discontinuous? What spatial and temporal relations are articulated through cutting? Graphic relations? Rhythmic relations? Associational connections?
Sound: What sounds are present? When does volume or pitch change? Is silence used? Are specific sounds linked to cuts or camera movement? When and how are onscreen and off-screen sound used? Are sounds diegetic or non-diegetic?
These questions are just to get you started—our text and related assigned Bblearn essays and video clips/essays offer more detailed analyses of film/cinematic language. You do not need to answer every question in your essay. Use the questions as a way to help select the techniques that will be the focus of your argument. This is only the beginning. There are many other questions you can ask as well. Look back through your study notes and your readings and also Bblearn materials (essays/excerpts/video clips etc.).

Avoid plot summary and extended visual description. Aim instead to analyze how specific cinematic techniques function to underscore the film’s themes and ideas. Organize your essay around key points in your argument, rather than a chronological examination of the sequence.
Avoid evaluative language. (“The costumes are beautiful.”) Aim instead to analyze the effects of the techniques used. (“Ada’s restrictive, layered clothing impedes her movement through the natural surroundings and symbolizes her oppression.”)
Use precise film terminology. (Is the camera movement a track, tilt, pan or zoom? Is it a high-angle shot or a low-angle shot?, etc.) When in doubt, consult our primary text The Film Experience and also Bblearn resources.
Avoid vague language. (“The use of lighting in this scene is very effective” or “Parallel editing helps to
create suspense,” etc.) Aim instead to analyze the specific effect of individual techniques. (“Closed
frame compositions emphasize Susan’s entrapment.”)
Make a strong argument about the sequence.
Ineffective thesis statement: In this essay I will analyze the use of sound in Blackmail’s “knife” sequence,  connecting it to larger thematic and visual patterns in the film as a whole.
Effective thesis statement: In Blackmail off-screen sound illustrates Alice’s powerlessness, while also encouraging viewers to identify with this position of victimization.
You are not required to do any additional research for this paper. Rely on the analytical skills that you have been learning in class.

Essay Format:
• Type and double-space your paper, using 1-inch margins and 12 pt Times New Roman font.
• Number the pages.
• Underline or italicize film titles. (CAPS or “quotation marks” are incorrect.)
• Give your paper a title that reflects your argument about the sequence.
• Put your name near the top left of the first page, followed by Engl 230.01 and the date on separate lines
• Spell check and proof read your paper.

Lateness Policy: Excerpt from Course Requirement #7: All required work is due at the beginning of class on the due date—work turned in late will be graded accordingly. [But note that the Shot Analysis Chart cannot be turned in late!, as described further above in the assignment.] Required graded written work will be downgraded one notch (for example, B+ to B, converted to points for each assignment) for each weekday late (not just days classes meet but counting just one day for a weekend). Work submitted more than a week late will not be accepted. I will grant short extensions for medical and family emergencies—but talk with me as soon as possible to request an extension. Always keep copies of your work.

Academic Misconduct: Any act of academic misconduct, including but not limited to cheating, fabrication, plagiarism or facilitating academic dishonesty, will result in failure of the assignment and given the 100 points available, likely failure of the course. Your case will be reported to the Dean of Students according to campus guidelines.
Reminder of Guidance and Advice:
• Consult Corrigan and White The Film Experience Chapter 12: Writing a  Film Essay; also see the PDF excerpt from Gocsik et al Writing About Movies, as well as other readings and video clips/essays we have studied. For example, the Sequence Analysis Essay shares features of the Formal Analysis that Gocsik, Barsam and Monahan describe as follows: a Formal Analysis “dissects the complex synthesis” (33) of elements that work together to express the meaning of a film. A Formal Analysis involves “dynamic, detailed, descriptive writing,” in which you show, rather than tell your readers (35) what happens in the film.  In other words, your analysis should evoke the film’s form and your experience of it. [See Writing About Movies (35 – 37) for a detailed example of this principle, using the open sequence of Vertigo as an illustration]. [For fuller guidance, see Writing About Movies (37 – 50) for a detailed discussion of how these elements relate to Formal Analysis].

• You are invited to meet with me – Office hours: W 2:30pm-4:00 p.m. & by appt./Office: Brink 125

Acknowledgments: The primary features of this shot analysis and sequence analysis assignment are key/fundamental to the repertoire of assignments and competencies in film studies; this assignment, for example, incorporates, adapts, and revises Shot Analysis and Sequence Analysis assignments from Dr. Anna Banks’s University of Idaho Engl 230 Introduction to Film Studies course (Fall 2014) and from the University of Southern California’s FILM 20A course (Fall 2013).