Learning Goal: I’m working on a film writing question and need a sample publish to help me learn.
Sequence Analysis Assignment
This 3-4 pp. project asks you to pick a short sequence (or one of our shorter films, since many of the earlier films we watched don’t contain more than one shot and thus can’t be called a “sequence”) for closer analysis. By “short” I mean about a minute, but there is a certain amount of flexibility in the length of the segment you choose (two minutes is about the upper limit).
You may choose any of the following 9 films as the source for your short sequence;
The Sprinkler Sprinkled (Lumière Bros., 1895, 1′) (OR the 1897 remake)
As Seen through a Telescope (Smith, 1900, 1′)
The Big Swallow (Williamson, 1901, 1′)
What is Seen Through a Keyhole (Pathé Frères, 1901, 2′)
A Trip to the Moon (Méliès, 1902, 15′)
The Mermaid (Méliès, 1904, 5′)
The Great Train Robbery (Porter, 1903, 11′)
That Fatal Sneeze (Hepworth, 1907, 6′)
The Lonely Villa (Griffith, 1909, 8′)
ALL FILMS CAN BE FOUND ON YOUTUBE
Once you have chosen your sequence (or short film), you have a four-part challenge:
Part One: Shot Analysis
(1) to look closely;
(2) to describe your clip precisely;
Part Two: Synthesis and Interpretation
(3) to think about your clip creatively; and
(4) to write up your ideas clearly.
The assignment has two parts. In Part One, you will provide a careful, shot-by-shot description of your chosen sequence. Number each shot [as we discussed in class, sometimes you may need to explain how you have decided what counts as a “shot”], and tell us how many seconds the shot lasts. Then consider the following questions (not every question will apply to every shot, of course):
a) How is the scene composed (what is the spatial relationship of the depicted scene and characters to each other and to the frame)?
b) At what shot scale is the scene filmed (extreme close-up/close-up/medium close-up/medium shot/medium long shot [=”three-quarter shot” or “plan américain”]/long shot/extreme long shot)? See definitions in the Glossary on bCourses. Is there variation between different shot scales, and if so, to what end?
c) Can you say something specific about the style(s) of acting used?
d) At what angle is the film shot?
e) If there is movement in the image, from where does it originate—from the depicted world itself, from a vehicular camera set-up, or from features of the camera itself?
f) If the film contains intertitles, what type are they, and how do they function?
g) Is there staging in depth (foreground/background) that is used in interesting ways to create tension, to point to things we see but that the character “doesn’t know,” or to juxtapose two types of action?
h) Does the light source allow for an image that shows a convincing dimensionality, or does it seem flat and foregrounded? What is the relationship between backdrop and physical props?
i) What forms of editing exist in the film? Does it use intercutting (for simultaneity of action in separate spaces), analytical editing (for visually subdividing a space or showing), or contiguity editing (to create implied relationships between spaces in the fictional world)?
The careful description of your chosen sequence (or short film) in Part One should be about 2 pp. long.
Then in Part Two (“Synthesis and Interpretation”) of this assignment, please write one to two pages in which you interpret your chosen sequence or short film in an interesting and illuminating way, using evidence drawn from Part One. (In Part Two, you do not need to use all the details you came up with in Part One, of course–just the most important details for your particular interpretation and your argument.)
Questions that may be helpful, as you brainstorm for ideas: What interesting observations come to mind when you look at your chosen sequence or short film as closely as you just did in Part One? What do you see that you did not see before? What broader questions do you find yourself asking? What is strange about the way this film or sequence has been constructed? Why do you think the person who made this film used the particular techniques and devices you described in Part One?
For this particular assignment, there is no need to consult outside sources, so you will not need to include a “Works Cited” page or a bibliography (although if you DO refer to an outside source, give us the citation).