Filmmaking and Moving Image Arts

Sarah Lawrence College’s undergraduate filmmaking and moving image arts program (FMIA) offers a vibrant, dynamic, creative incubator to ignite the imagination of the next generation of media makers. The program seeks to help students navigate the intersection of art and technology, as they acquire the tools and skills of the discipline and develop their critical and creative voices.

Cognizant that not every student will graduate to be a writer, director, producer, or game developer, the program recognizes that—with the enduring power and influence of cinema, television, the web, and social media—students in all fields of study benefit from media literacy and theory and a deep understanding of the ways and means of media development and production. The FMIA program explores a broad scope of media making, including narrative fiction, documentary/nonfiction, experimental film, animation, cinematography, storyboarding, and directing actors, as well as editing, producing, screenwriting, writing for television, writing and producing for the web, writing for games, and game development.

Interdisciplinary work across the liberal arts is encouraged, and both formal and informal collaboration among the music, dance, theatre, writing, visual arts, and other disciplines continues to emerge and flourish.

Our program offers an intensive “semester-away” program—Cinema Sarah Lawrence—where students work on the development and production of a feature film shot on location in Nantucket, Massachusetts. We also offer exchange programs in animation with CalArts and study abroad opportunities in film in Paris, in Cuba, and at the world-famous FAMU film school in Prague, among others.

Sarah Lawrence College offers state-of-the-art facilities for the FMIA program, including the Donnelly Film Theatre that seats 185 people and has a 4K digital cinema projector, an intimate 35-person screening room, a teaching/editing lab, a 1,400-square-foot soundstage, an animation studio, and a sound and Foley recording booth. Our equipment room offers Sony, Canon, Blackmagic, RED, and ARRI cameras, along with sound, grip, and lighting packages.

Recent graduates routinely have their work represented at some of the world’s most prestigious film and media festivals, most recently at Cannes, Palm Springs, and Slamdance. Graduates who choose to pursue advanced degrees are finding traction at the top film schools in the United States and abroad.

Filmmaking and Moving Image Arts 2021-2022 Courses

First-Year Studies: Media Sketchbooks

Open, FYS—Year | 10 credits

In this course, students will develop work that aims to challenge audience perceptions of traditional filmmaking while retaining “audience reading” of a film’s message, intention, and meaning. This is a production and research class, where the development of experimental fiction and nonfiction film is covered from the conception of an idea to the finished product. Students will have the opportunity to experiment with nonconventional techniques for image creation, either individually or in collaboration with their peers. We will explore technical, conceptual, and aesthetic approaches to constructing art films with directed shots, cinéma vérité, animation, performance art, and free-media montage. Emphasis will be placed on producing innovative and creative films in the experimental genre. This is a solid introductory course for students who are interested in film and want to get their “feet wet” in film during their first year at the College. Students will participate in technical production modules and exercises in which an exploration of modes of experimental film and video will be covered. Focus will be on an exploration of structure and format, as well as film’s relationship to story, poetry, and experimental text. We will review the work of professional artists’ films and read theoretical texts as they apply to artist film production. The class will also function as an editing workshop with critique and feedback. Visiting experimental filmmaker labs will be an important part of this year’s class.

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Worldbuilding

Open, Large Lecture—Fall | 5 credits

A world is an artificial living thing, but a living thing nonetheless. —Ian Cheng (2018)

The concept of “worldbuilding” has been around for hundreds of years in the development of science fiction and is often used to describe art direction for commercial video game and film studios. Recently, this term has begun to be used by individual artists to describe a method for developing personal work presented online, in cinemas, and as museum installations. In this class, we will look at the history of this concept as it pertains to narrative art. While the focus of the course is on noncommercial moving-image work, we will also explore the history of worldbuilding in philosophy (Martin Heideggar), literature (Octavia Butler), and comics (Moebius). Additionally, we will discuss the role of “internal coherence,” style, and narrative structure as they pertain to dozens of artworks, including work by Ian Cheng, Jacolby Satterwhite, Mati Diop, and Porpentine.

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Animation

Fundamentals of 2D Character Animation

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

This course focuses on the fundamentals of animation through the development of 2D character design. The course will introduce students to traditional hand-drawn and digital techniques of frame-by-frame animation, where movement is created through successive, sequential character drawings. Students will learn the principles of animation through character design and visual development and will gain knowledge in drawing by engaging with formal spatial concepts in order to create fully realized characters, both visually and conceptually. Through the development of character boards, model sheets, beat boards, and character animation, students will draw and animate human, animal, mechanical, and hybrid figures. Students will learn about body mechanics and motion flow in the development of animated characters through techniques that include walk cycles, rotating forms, transformations, holds, squash and stretch, weight, and resistance. Additional instruction will include techniques in pencil-test animation and lip syncing. Students will research characters in their visual, environmental, psychological, and social aspects to establish a full understanding of characterization. Examples of animations illustrating frame-by-frame character movement will be screened regularly. The course will conclude with a final project, for which students will develop, conceptualize, and produce a fully animated character study. Information and skills established in this class can be used to improve basic drawing and animation proficiency, to establish fundamentals for digital animation production, to create and enhance an animation portfolio, and to develop tangible skills for producing graphic novels or a character outline for an interactive media project. Software used in this course: Storyboard Pro, Harmony, Photoshop, Procreate, and Final Cut Pro X.

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2D Animation: Environmental Stories

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

In this class, students develop animation and visual communication skills by focusing on the process of creating animated films based on visual explorations of environmental studies in the broadest sense. All of the production steps required to produce a short animated film are demonstrated and applied through technical animation exercises in the fall term, with instruction including: idea development, visualization, character development, continuity, timing, digital drawing, rotoscoping, and compositing. Spring semester will involve the production of a single, short animated film (1-2 minutes) by each student or team of students. Participants will develop and refine their personal style through exercises in animation production and assignments directed at translating ideas into moving images. Two-dimensional, digitally-drawn images (with the option to include live action and photographs) will be assembled in sync to sound. Compositing exercises cover a wide range of motion-graphic features, including: keyframing, timeline effects, 2D space, layering, and lighting. Films produced in the spring semester can approach environmental concerns from a number of directions: philosophical, poetic, scientific, political, or story form. The direction that each film will take depends upon the student’s own interests, research, and information that they bring to this class. No prior drawing experience is necessary, but participants should enter this class with an interest in creating a film that engages issues in society and the natural world in some manner. This course provides students with a working knowledge of the software Harmony by Toon Boon and AfterEffects by Adobe.

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Advanced Collective in Animation or Experimental Media

Intermediate/Advanced, Small seminar—Fall | 5 credits

This collective for advanced animation and experimental media is for students seeking to work on independent-study projects or to acquire credit for fieldwork in those disciplines. The group will first meet weekly to establish guidelines and schedules for projects; then, the class will serve as a gathering place to report on project development and/or the progress of an internship. Weekly meetings provide a framework for research, development, and collaborative assistance toward an advanced project that may take the shape of a short film or professional experience in an internship. Led by a team of filmmaking and moving-image arts faculty, students will be interviewed during registration to evaluate their proposed projects or research. The week-to-week structure of the collective will be tailored to meet the needs of individual projects/groups as the semester progresses. The collective is open to experienced animation and experimental media students; both individuals and group projects are invited to apply to the class. Interested students should come to the interview prepared to present a project proposal or an internship already secured.

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Postproduction

Editing for Film and TV

Open, Seminar—Fall | 3 credits

In this seminar, we will examine the art and craft of motion-picture editing, from both an aesthetic and a practical viewpoint. We will explore how the combination and order of shots manages to convey both information and emotion and how the art of editing works to enhance the story. We will ask if a cut works and, if it does, why it works. Just as importantly, we will ask why a cut does not work. We will explore the tools of digital editing and how they can be used to achieve the filmmaker’s desired artistic results. The primary work for this course will be weekly assignments that will range from editing a simple narrative scene with limited “coverage” to more complicated work editing scenes from feature films, television, and short films. Students will read books such as Walter Murch’s In the Blink of an Eye, Bobbie O’Steen’s The Invisible Cut, and Christopher Bowen’s Grammar of the Edit. Technical instruction will focus on media management, import and organization, utilization of keywords and smart collections, basic editing, split editing, sound editing, color correction and color grading, export and delivery. The class will balance time between step-by-step technical demonstrations and discussion of postproduction topics and techniques, virtual screening, and critique of student work. This is not a “conference” course and has no conference work or individual conference meeting time outside of class. There will be opportunities for individual attention during some class sessions. The class will maintain an online Discord server. This course is open to students of all levels and requires no previous editing experience. All footage will be provided. If students are concurrently enrolled in another filmmaking production course, it may be possible—with permission of both instructors—for students to edit their student film instead of a stock film for the final assignment; but this is not a guarantee and must be approved in advance. The class will use Adobe Premiere. Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions will be provided to students, and the software will be available for use in the Ziskin Digital Media Lab. The software is cross-platform and available for both Mac and PC.

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Music and Sound for Film

Open, Seminar—Spring | 3 credits

This class will explore how music and sound serve the dramatic intent of a film. As co-inhabitants of the aural spectrum, a film’s score and sound design are increasingly called upon to interact and work together. Working in one of those areas usually implies a working understanding of the other. The class will cover: working with a director on spotting both music and sound, choosing musical themes that correspond to the dramatic needs of a film, using sound design to highlight environmental and psychological facets of the world and its characters, conceptualizing the sonic space of a film, and designing the music and sound so they occupy different frequency areas and remain distinct. The marriage of sound and music has deep roots in the history of cinema, and special attention will be paid to the masters of sound in film such as Walter Murch/Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa (note: list is subject to change). Technical topics to be covered: intro to ProTools and an overview of basic mixing, concepts in music editing, use of effects such as compression, eq, reverb and filters, file organization, and management and workflow. While this course will be a historical overview of important work and concepts, time will also be given to developing student work with the hope that students gain experience through collaboration—both during class and independently.

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Preproduction

Storyboarding for Film and Animation

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

This course focuses on the art of storyboard construction as the preproduction stage and previsualization for graphics, film/video, and animation. Students will be introduced to storyboard strategies, exploring visual concepts such as shot types, continuity, pacing, transitions, and sequencing into visual communication. Both classical and experimental techniques for creating storyboards will be covered. Emphasis will be placed on production of storyboard drawings, both by hand and digitally, to negotiate sequential image development and establish shot-by-shot progression, staging, frame composition, editing, and continuity in film and other media. Instruction will concentrate primarily on drawing from thumbnail sketches through final presentation storyboards and animatics. The final project for this class will be the production by each student of a full presentation storyboard and a low-res animatic in a combined visual, audio, and text presentation format. Knowledge of storyboards and animatics from this class can be used for idea development and presentation of your project to collaborators, for pitching projects, for professional agencies, and, most importantly, for you, the maker. Software used in this course: Storyboard Pro and Final Cut Pro X.

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Creative Producing: The Role of the Producer in Film and Television

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits | Hybrid Remote/In-Person

This course explores the role of the creative producer and the process of producing a feature or short film, documentary, television, animation, or digital project from development through distribution. Taught through the lens of what one producer (or a small army of producers) actually does, this course explores the role of the producer from the moment of creative inspiration through development, preproduction, production, postproduction, and project delivery—defining and demystifying what it means to “produce.” Working in small groups, students develop and pitch project ideas to the class and work in groups throughout the semester to prepare fully-developed project presentations. Students will gain experience in breaking down scripts; crafting shooting schedules and budgets; writing loglines, synopses, and treatments; casting breakdowns; and identifying each project’s audience and platform. Course work consists of verbal and written assignments, film screenings, weekly readings, and industry guest workshops. Participation in software labs is required. This course provides real-world producing guidance, offering filmmakers, screenwriters, and directors a window into the importance of, and mechanics pertaining to, the producing discipline, as well as a practical skill set for creating and seeking opportunities in the filmmaking, television, and digital content worlds.

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Concept Art: Visual Development

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

This course will explore the preproduction aspects of animation concept development. Students will gain knowledge in character development, background environments, object and prop design, flora and fauna, scene building, color keys, aerial mapping, and techniques for digital painting. Through the development of scene paintings, model sheets, and animatics, students will draw and conceptualize spaces, characters, and props that are visually harmonious and consistent in form and function. Students will research and produce narrative outlines that include visual and environmental components to establish a full understanding of an animated project. Both hand-drawn materials and digital drawing will be used during the semester. Photoshop, Storyboard Pro, Procreate, and Final Cut Pro software will be utilized for character design, background paintings, and concept presentation animatics. The final project for this course will include a fully developed, multicharacter/environment animatic. Knowledge from this course can be used to create and enhance an animation portfolio, establish a concept outline for an interactive media project, and help in developing a cast of characters and environments for a graphic novel or an animated film. Software used throughout the course: Photoshop, Storyboard Pro, Harmony, Procreate, and Final Cut Pro X or Premier.

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The Art and Craft of Pitching for Film and Television

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits | Hybrid Remote/In-Person

The first step to getting any project made is having the goods—a screenplay, an original TV pilot script, episodes of a digital series, a short film script, a documentary treatment or proposal—and then developing a rock-solid pitch. By asking important questions—What is your story? To what kind of viewer will it appeal? Is it practical? Has it been done before? What makes your project unique? Why am I the right person to tell this story?—this course introduces students to the fundamentals and practicalities of development and pitching. Through a collaborative workshop process and by using their existing scripts and projects, students will engage in table reads, script analysis, and verbal and written pitch exercises and spend the semester learning about and creating the elements that will make their particular projects and stories resonate and become marketable. Through this process, students will learn how to develop a project into a pitch package and how to pitch that project and engage with the gatekeepers of the myriad platforms where audiences seek stories on screen. Course work is designed to guide students in how to evaluate the strengths and weakness of their ideas, scripts, treatments, and projects and to explore what platform(s) will best suit their project and why. Guest workshops with industry professionals include writer pitches and understanding talent representation in the entertainment industry. The semester’s work culminates in a final pitch presentation—an essential skill for all writers, filmmakers, directors, and producers. Whether pitching a colleague to collaborate on your project or pitching a studio or network to finance your project, students will learn how to ensure that a script or project is ready to pitch, how to understand studio and network needs, how to establish industry contacts, how to be a skilled communicator, how to understand and grapple with changing audience tastes, and, overall, how to sell an idea. Students must have a completed script or treatment for which they wish to develop a pitch.

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Production

Virtual Cinema

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

This course will focus on the development and deployment of adaptive cinema and live-rendered compositing in video production. The class will explore the production techniques in shows such as Westworld and The Mandalorian, as well as the burgeoning field of adaptive cinema used on online platforms such as Netflix and experimental film festivals. Topics covered in the course will be live-compositing computer graphics, user interface design, scene optimization, and multisequential narratives. The course will use Unreal Engine, an industry-standard software used on the above television shows. Utilizing these techniques, we will discuss different venues for deployment of this media, including virtual reality and online platforms.

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Media Lab: Youth Education and Community Engagement

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

This yearlong course is designed for students with a strong interest in community work and digital-media production. We’ll explore new forms of research creation and pedagogical, performative mode of engagement by considering the role of digital media in making new connections, building friendships, and forging communities. We’ll begin the year by examining the relation of aesthetics to politics and exploring the myriad ways in which theory and praxis can inform one another—with special attention to digital-media pedagogy. Students will engage in a series of short exercises that will equip them with the basic skills needed for digital-media production. Students will then have the opportunity to put those skills into practice, as we design a new kind of after-school program and host a digital-media workshop for youth in consultation with the College’s community partners in Westchester (schedules and groups TBD). This course asks students to play the role of teaching artists, integrating their art form, perspectives, and skills into the community setting. Students will team up to teach and support youth participants to create short audio (fall) and multimedia pieces (spring) through which they show and tell stories about themselves and their communities. All workshops will take place on campus for four Saturdays in the first semester (in October and November) and possibly more in the second semester. This format will allow us to cultivate emerging moments of coming together that vitalize creative making, as well as to find innovative ways to share what was learned from the teaching experience. This interdisciplinary and practice-based course invites students from all disciplines. No prior experience in teaching and/or media production is required.

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Script to Screen

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

This class will introduce students to all aspects of filmmaking, from conceiving a script through exhibition of the final work. The first semester will focus on screenwriting, and students will write short scripts that they will then produce and direct in the second semester. Simultaneously, students will learn to use the school’s filmmaking equipment and editing software and utilize those skills in a series of short, targeted video exercises. Those exercises will not only familiarize the students with the gear at their disposal but also will introduce the students to concepts of visual storytelling (e.g., where to put the camera to tell the story). The second semester will focus on preproduction and previsualization of the student’s conference film. Students will learn how to craft shot lists, floor plans, look books, and other tools to help them organize their film shoots. Students will also practice directing actors and finding a method for effective communication with their cast. They will also learn some basic production management skills, such as breaking down scripts for production and scheduling. After shooting their conference films, students will workshop their rough cuts in the classroom and fine-tune their edits in preparation for the final class: the screening!

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Working With Light and Shadow

Open, Seminar—Fall and Spring | 5 credits

This introductory-level course will present students with the basics of cinematography and film production. Students will explore cinematography as an art of visual storytelling. The cinematographer plays a critical role in shaping the light and composition of an image and in capturing that image for the screen. Students will investigate the theory and practice of this unique visual language and its power as a narrative element in cinema. In addition to covering camera operation, students will explore composition, visual style, and the overall operation of lighting and grip equipment. They will work together on scenes that are directed and produced in class and geared toward the training of set etiquette, production language, and workflow. Work will include the re-creation of classic film scenes, with an emphasis on visual style. Students will discuss their work and provide feedback that will be incorporated into the next project. For conference, students will be required to produce a second scene re-creation, incorporating elements discussed throughout the term. Students will outline projects, draw floor plans, and edit and screen the final project for the class. This is an intensive, hands-on workshop that immerses the student in all aspects of film production. By the end of the course, students should feel confident to approach a film production project with enough experience to take on introductory positions with the potential for growth.

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Visions of Social Justice

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

In this documentary course, students will collaborate with local nonprofit organizations and/or individual activists to produce a three-to-five minute film. The projects are a combination of advertising, research, and social justice, providing valuable content for underresourced efforts while centering the powerful work of people challenging destructive paradigms. The class members will work in teams to produce their films and, ultimately, deliver material to their partner organizations to be used online and beyond. When appropriate, limited local travel will be involved, along with an opportunity to collaborate with organizers, activists, and community partners. Students will be encouraged to create social-engagement strategies in partnership with the organization or subjects that elevate their mission and work. Given these unprecedented times—as we are presented with new opportunities to shift our understanding of self, community, and the roles that we can play in pursuing a just future—this course is for those who are committed to using filmmaking as a tool for change. This semester-long collaboration is equal parts media creation and an understanding of the power of artists in movements for justice.

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The Director Prepares

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

This course concentrates on acquiring skills that the writer-director needs in order to prepare to actualize a short screenplay that the student will develop in the class. Screenplay development will be accompanied by filmed exercises that focus on the director’s preparatory process along with developing an understanding of cinematic storytelling that includes the fundamentals of script, staging, camera, lenses, and editing.

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Ghouls, Cyborgs, and Elves: Making the Genre Film

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

This is a hands-on production course with a focus on producing genre films. Working within a genre can greatly assist the fledgling filmmaker by suggesting content and stylistic elements, thereby freeing the artist to focus on self-expression. While exploration of all genres is welcome, our class discussions and video exercises will explore various ideas present in the so-called “lesser genres” of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. Students will shoot several short video exercises, both individually and in groups, each with a certain directing and thematic prompt. Film viewings will demonstrate how genre films handle sexual politics and repression, societal and personal anxieties, naturalism as opposed to fantasy, as well as the smart use of special effects and other strategies for the low-budget, independent filmmaker. In addition to class exercises, students will each produce and direct a short video project for their conference work.

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Cinematography: Color, Composition, and Style

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

This course will explore the roles associated with film production, focusing on cinematography and lighting for the screen. In addition to covering camera operation and basic lighting techniques, students will explore composition, color palettes, and application of a visual style to enhance the story. The semester will revolve around weekly exercises, followed by creating and producing original work. Work will be discussed and notes incorporated into the next project. As part of conference work, students will be required to produce a short project in addition to the work completed during class times, incorporating elements discussed throughout the semester. Students will develop, write, shoot, edit, and screen a final project by the end of the term. This is an intensive, hands-on workshop that immerses the student in all aspects of film production. By the end of the course, students should feel confident enough to approach a film production project with the experience to take on introductory and assistant positions with the potential for growth.

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Filmmaking: Visualizing and Creating Moving Images for the Screen

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

This course will focus on the role of the cinematographer and the production process as it relates to lighting and developing a visual style of a film/video project, concluding with the production of a short film. The course will cover camera movement, composition, framing, and artistic lighting and will provide students with technical and aesthetic knowledge of lighting for the screen. Throughout the semester, we will work with production equipment and set up exercises geared toward achieving different cinematic styles. This class is intended for those who have a basic understanding of the principles of camera operation and cinematography and would like to put their knowledge into practice. Each student will work on creating a lighting plan for an original scene to be produced in class. Conference work will be the production of a short film project by the end of the semester.

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Visions of Social Justice II

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

In this intermediate documentary course, students will collaborate with local nonprofit organizations and/or individual activists to produce a three-to-five minute film. The projects are a combination of advertising, research, and social justice, providing valuable content for underresourced efforts while centering on the powerful work of people challenging destructive paradigms. The class will work in teams to produce their films and, ultimately, deliver material to their partner organizations to be used online and beyond. When appropriate, there will be limited local travel and an opportunity to collaborate with organizers, activists, and community partners. Students will be encouraged to create social engagement strategies in partnership with the organization or subjects that elevate their mission and work. Given these unprecedented times—as we are presented with new opportunities to shift our understanding of self, community, and the roles that we can play in pursuing a just future—this course is for those who are committed to using filmmaking as a tool for change. This semester-long collaboration is equal parts media creation and understanding of the power of artists in movements for justice.

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Advanced Collective for Filmmakers and Screenwriters

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

This independent-study collective will provide a framework for advanced screenwriting and filmmaking students to pursue material toward an advanced project that could take the shape of a short film and/or screenplay. Led by a team of filmmaking and moving-image arts faculty, students will be interviewed during registration to evaluate their proposed material and their role on the project. The week-to-week structure of the collective will be tailored to meet the needs of the individual projects/groups as the semester progresses. The collective will be open to screenwriting, documentary, and fiction filmmaking students. Both individual and group projects are invited to apply to the class. Interested students should come to the interview prepared to present a project proposal.

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Screenwriting

Screenwriting: Tools of the Trade

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits | Hybrid Remote/In-Person

The screenplay is the starting point for nearly every film, television show, or web series. The majority of our favorite films and television shows begin with a writer and an idea. Aimed at the beginning screenwriter, this course will focus on the fundamentals of visual storytelling—story, structure, style, character development, dialogue, outlining, and formatting. During the fall semester, weekly writing prompts will be given. Assignments will then be read and discussed in class, using a structured feedback paradigm. In addition, students will be given weekly viewing and reading assignments as a way to strengthen their script-analysis skills. During the spring semester, students will pitch, outline, and then write one or two original shorts or begin writing a feature-length screenplay. Overall, the course is designed to help the beginning screenwriter build a screenwriter’s toolkit, as well as to assist the writer in finding his/her/their own artistic voice.

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Writing for Television: From Spec Script to Original TV Pilot

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

The fundamental skill of successful television writers is the ability to craft entertaining and compelling stories for characters, worlds, and situations that have been created by others. Though dozens of writers may work on a show over the course of its run, the “voice” of the show is unified and singular. The best way to learn to write for television—and a mandatory component of your portfolio for agents, managers, showrunners, and producers—is to draft a sample episode of a preexisting show, known as a “spec script.” Developing, pitching, writing, and rewriting stories hundreds of times, extremely quickly, in collaboration, and on tight deadlines is what TV writers on staff do every day, fitting each episode seamlessly into the series as a whole in tone, concept, and execution. This workshop will introduce students to those fundamental skills by taking them, step-by-step, through the writing of their own spec (sample) script for an ongoing dramatic television series. The fall classes will take students through the spec-script process—from premise lines, through the outline/beat sheet, to writing a complete draft of a full teleplay for a currently airing show. No original pilots will be pursued in the fall. In conference, students will work, in depth, through additional drafts of their script pages. In this class, there will be very heavy TV viewing in the first third of the semester, as students “learn” the shows that are spec-ed in this class. In the spring, the class builds on fundamentals learned in the fall, with the focus on creating an original TV pilot. Students will hone concepts, develop characters, and generate beat sheets and pages to create and write an original one-hour or half-hour show (no multicamera sitcoms). Focusing on engineering story machines, we power characters and situations with enough conflict to generate episodes over many years. In conference, students may wish to further deepen their concept and revise pages, craft another spec script, begin to develop characters and a series pitch deck for their original show, or work on previously developed material. Prospective students are expected to have an extensive working knowledge across many genres of TV shows that have aired domestically during the past several decades.

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Writing the Short Screenplay

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

The goal of this class is to develop, write, and workshop a short screenplay—up to 15 pages. Students will pitch stories in an open, roundtable process that will provide an opportunity for them to understand the potential and feasibility of their ideas. The class will explore the elements of screenwriting—including story structure, character development through action (behavior) and dialogue, visual storytelling, and point of view—in order to expand and deepen the writer’s narrative craft. We will schedule readings of at least three screenplays each week, followed by critique and discussion of the work. The course will culminate in “table reads” of each screenplay, a process that allows the writer to hear his/her work read aloud by classmates/actors in each role, leading to a final production-ready draft. For conference, students may choose between developing another idea for a short script or a long-form screenplay. Those who need extra attention to make their in-class projects production-ready by the end of the semester may also receive that opportunity in conference.

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Research as Practice: Developing the Documentary

Open, Seminar—Fall | 3 credits

In this course, students will learn about the preproduction process for documentary filmmaking through exercises in idea generation, research, proposal writing, fundraising, impact campaigns, team building, and distribution. The broader goal is to develop each student’s unique voice while exploring issues of aesthetics, ethics and responsibility, experimentation, and the current sociocultural context of nonfiction film production. The majority of the semester will be spent on assignments to help each student conceptualize and develop a documentary idea. Over the past decade, documentary has experienced a creative explosion alongside an expansion of its potential for commercial success. Through readings, screenings, and class discussions, we will consider the limitless possibilities of nonfiction filmmaking in regard to style, structure, tone, and subject matter. In addition to in-class screenings and reading assignments, students will receive individual screening and reading lists tailored to their projects.

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Writing Movies

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

During the course of this seminar/workshop, students will learn how to write narrative screenplays with an eye toward completing a feature-length work. The course will cover basics of format and style, and there will be weekly assignments aimed at developing students’ screenwriting muscles. Students will “pitch” ideas, rigorously outline stories, and write and revise pages of their blueprint for a feature-length film. The class is designed to help the beginning screenwriter find his or her voice as a film artist, using the written language of visual storytelling.

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Writing the Feature Screenplay

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

From pitching ideas, developing detailed outlines, and creating mood boards in order to develop cinematic storytelling skills, this course will take the student through the process of writing a feature-length screenplay. The screenplay may be based on an original idea or preexisting source, including historical incident, biography, true crime, etc. In an intimate workshop setting, the writing will be shared and critiqued in a safe and constructive atmosphere as students develop their craft. By the end of the semester, each student will have completed a first-draft feature screenplay. Participation is essential to the process, and attendance is mandatory.

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Writing the Short Film Adaptation

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

Adaptation skills are a major plus for any screenwriter. Some of the world’s most popular films and television shows have been adapted from preexisting material. Novels, short stories, comics, plays, articles, bios, historical events, poems, and even paintings have been adapted for the screen. In this workshop/seminar, we will focus on screenplay adaptation for the short film. Students will learn how to break down a story/source material into its essential components for a compelling screenplay. We will read, view, and discuss various screenplays, shorts, features, and television series that are based on preexisting material. Students will learn an effective nuts-and-bolts process for screenplay adaptations. The first few weeks will be a review of basic screenwriting fundamentals (e.g., story structure, dialogue, character development, formatting), along with weekly writing exercises and viewing/reading assignments. Students will then find material to adapt. Students will pitch, outline, and write one short film adaptation (up to 15 pages) for class and one longer project (30 pages) for their conference project. Scripts will be read and discussed in class, using a structured feedback paradigm.

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First-Year Studies in Dance

Open, FYS—Year

Students will enroll in a selection of movement practice classes, as well as improvisation and an academic study of dance, that together will make up First-Year Studies in Dance. (Please refer to the course catalogue for the component class descriptions.) Students will be dancing in the studio every day. Throughout the fall semester, we’ll also meet weekly in the First-Year Studies in Dance Project to dig deeper into the work that we are doing in our dance classes. Some questions that we’ll examine include: What roles has dance played in various cultures and societies, both now and in the past? How has dance interacted with other art forms and other fields of study? What are the elements of dance? What can dance do, and what can we do with dance? We’ll examine these and other questions through reading and discussion, as well as through experiments in dancing and by making short dances. Students will also meet in individual conferences each week throughout the fall semester and in biweekly conferences in the spring semester to develop their own project based on their own particular interests and the material explored in class.

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Yoga

Component—Year

This yoga class is designed with the interests of dancers and theatre students in mind. Various categories of postures will be practiced, with attention to alignment, breath awareness, strength, and flexibility. The physical practice includes seated and standing poses, twists, forward bends and backbends, traditional yogic breathing practices, and short meditations. Emphasis is placed on mindfulness and presence. This approach allows the student to gain tools for reducing stress and addressing unsupportive habits to carry into other aspects of their lives. Attention will be given to the chakra system as a means and metaphor for postural, movement, and character choices. The instructor has a background in dance and object theatre, in addition to various somatically-based practices that she draws upon for designing the classes to meet the individual needs of the class members. Virtual attendance is a requirement.

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Guest Artist Lab

Component—Year

This course is an experimental laboratory that aims to expose students to a diverse set of current voices and approaches to contemporary dance making. Each guest artist will lead a module of three-to-seven class sessions. These mini-workshops will introduce students to that artist and his/her creative process. Guests will present emergent, as well as established, voices and a wide-range of approaches to contemporary artistic practice.

Live Time-Based Art

Component—Year

In this class, graduates and upper-class undergraduates with a special interest and experience in the creation of time-based artworks that include live performance will design and direct individual projects. Students and faculty will meet weekly to view works-in-progress and discuss relevant artistic and practical problems, both in class on Tuesday evenings and in conferences taking place on Thursday afternoons. Attributes of the work across multiple disciplines of artistic endeavor will be discussed as integral and interdependent elements in the work. Participation in mentored, critical-response feedback sessions with your peers is a key aspect of the course. The engagement with the medium of time in live performance, the constraints of presentation of the works both in works-in-progress and in a shared program of events, and the need to respect the classroom and presentation space of the dance studio will be the constraints imposed on the students’ artistic proposals. Students working within any number of live performance traditions are as welcome in this course as those seeking to transgress orthodox conventions. While all of the works will engage in some way with embodied action, student proposals need not fall neatly into a traditional notion of what constitutes dance. The cultivation of open discourse across traditional disciplinary artistic boundaries, both in the process of developing the works and in the context of presentation to the public, is a central goal of the course. The faculty members leading this course have roots in dance practice but also have practiced expansive definitions of dance within their own creative work. This course will culminate in performances of the works toward the end of the semester in a shared program with all enrolled students and within the context of winter and spring time-based art events. Performances of the works will take place in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Theatre or elsewhere on campus in the case of site-specific work.

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Lighting in Life and Art

Component—Year

Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that allows us to see. Light’s qualities and its interaction with space have profound effects on the affect of an experience. We all know that the feel of a midsummer afternoon is not the same as that of a cloudy, gray afternoon or a subway car or a sunset or a night with a full moon. What qualities of light generate these disparate feelings? The art and practice of crafting light is the subject of this component. We will examine the theoretical and practical aspects of light in multiple settings. This will begin with a practice of noticing what we might typically ignore. From there, we will approach learning how to craft the conditions of light primarily, though not exclusively, within a theatrical environment. Understanding the historical conventions of theatre—in particular, those of theatrical dance in the United States—will provide a point of departure to begin to think beyond those historical conventions. Emphasis will be on learning basic lighting skills, including those of stagecraft. Students will collaborate with, and create original lighting designs for, the Time-Based Art works when such needs are appropriate to the artistic proposal.

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Experimental Documentary

Open, Seminar—Fall

This seminar explores the intersection between documentary and experimental film. While these two practices may initially seem at odds, artists have long combined cinema’s ability to capture nonfiction footage with the capacity to retrain perception and present “reality” in visually and aurally inventive ways. In this course, “experimental documentary” suggests ways in which the documentary form has evolved over time and the different ways that we might reinterpret creative film traditions and movements through the lens of the “documentary impulse.” How does reading experimental films that make use of nonfictive footage cause us to rethink the experimental media and documentary genres and their histories? The course will explore this question by considering city symphonies, compilation films, educational films, essay films, nature films, and more. Screenings will include works by Santiago Alvarez, Stan Brakhage, Su Friedrich, Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab, Jonas Mekas, and Dziga Vertov, as well as many contemporary artists working today.

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Virtual Voyages: Travel Cinemas From Silent Film to Social Media

Open, Seminar—Spring

This course surveys the history of cinema as a mode of travel from the 1890s to the present. The movie camera, by its very nature, is a device that represents time and space. The exploration of the world through images (and later sound) has always been one of cinema’s primary features. While genres of early cinema, such as travelogues and scenics, were eclipsed in popularity by narrative features by 1910, travel cinema lives on in documentaries, ethnographic films, home movies, wildlife television shows, IMAX productions, and, more recently, social media feeds. As COVID-19 abruptly restricted global travel, the lure of viewing distant places on a screen from one’s home allows us to approach film anew as a surrogate for physical travel and the experiential economy. This course takes a broad view of travel film, studying both media texts and historical context. The course will examine an eclectic body of filmed content to analyze how filmmakers, companies, and other groups have used moving images to represent desirable destinations and impressions of spectacular and distant lands for artistic, commercial, and noncommercial purposes. We will also investigate the history of travel cinema by examining the colonial ideologies and other power relations embedded within a representational mode that reflects the worldview of those privileged enough to travel and record their experiences. All the while, we will also attend to the rise and evolution of travel films amidst historical developments in media technology, transportation, the tourism industry, leisure, and more. Screenings will span the classic and the contemporary, from documentaries Grass (1927) and Baraka (1992) to recent television shows Planet Earth and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, among many, many others.

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First-Year Studies: The Senses: Art and Science

Open, FYS—Year

The perceiving mind is an incarnated mind. —Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1964

Sensory perception is a vital component of the creation and experience of artistic works of all types. Investigation of sensory systems has been foundational for psychologists and neuroscientists developing understanding of brains, minds, and bodies. Recent work in brain science has moved us beyond the Aristotelian notion of five discrete senses to a view of the senses as more various and interconnected—with each other and with the fundamental psychological categories of perception, attention, emotion, memory, imagination, and judgment. What we call “taste” is a multisensory construction of “flavor” that relies heavily on smell, vision, and touch (mouth feel); “vision” refers to a set of semi-independent streams that specialize in the processing of color, object identity, or spatial layout and movement; “touch” encompasses a complex system of responses to different types of contact with the largest sensory organ—the skin; and “hearing” includes aspects of perception that are thought to be quintessentially human—music and language. Many other sensations are not covered by the standard five: for example, the senses of balance, of body position (proprioception) and ownership, feelings of pain arising from within the body, and feelings of heat or cold. Perceptual psychologists have suggested that the total count is closer to 17 than five. We will investigate all of these senses, their interactions with each other, and their intimate relationships with human emotion, memory, and imagination. Some of the questions that we will address are: Why are smells such potent memory triggers? What can visual art tell us about how the brain works and vice versa? Why is a caregiver’s touch so vital for psychological development? Why do foods that taste sublime to some people evoke feelings of disgust in others? Do humans have a poor sense of smell (and have the effects of COVID-19 changed our views of its importance)? Why does the word “feeling” refer to both bodily sensations and emotions? What makes a song “catchy” or “sticky”? Can humans learn to echolocate like bats? What is the role of body perception in mindfulness meditation? This is a good course for artists who like to think about science and for scientists with a feeling for art. This is a collaborative course, with small-group meetings held weekly in addition to the individual conference meetings held every other week. The main small-group, collaborative activity is a sensory lab where students will have the opportunity to explore their own sensory perceptions in a systematic way, investigating how they relate to language, memory, and emotion. Other group activities include mindful movement and other meditation practices for stress relief and emotional regulation, as well as occasional museum visits if these can be done safely.

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Art and Visual Perception

Open, Large seminar—Spring

Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. —John Berger

Psychologists and neuroscientists have long been interested in measuring and explaining the phenomena of visual perception. In this course, we will study how the visual brain encodes basic aspects of perception—such as color, form, depth, motion, shape, and space—and how they are organized into coherent percepts or gestalts. Our main goal will be to explore how the study of visual neuroscience and art can inform each other. One of our guides in these explorations will be the groundbreaking gestalt psychologist Rudolf Arnheim, who was a pioneer in the psychology of art. The more recent and equally innovative text by the neuroscientist Eric Kandel, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, will provide our entry into the subject of neuroaesthetics. Throughout our visual journey, we will seek connections between perceptual phenomena and what is known about brain processing of visual information. This is a course for people who enjoy reflecting on why we see things as we do. It should hold particular interest for students of the visual arts who are curious about scientific explanations of the phenomena that they explore in their art, as well as students of the brain who want to study an application of visual neuroscience. In this large seminar, you will meet weekly in small groups (five-to-seven students) to design a collaborative conference work that curates an in-depth perceptual museum tour. Individual conference meetings will be held only twice over the course of the semester.

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1,001 Drawings

Open, Seminar—Fall

This will be a highly rigorous drawing class that pushes young artists to develop a disciplined, sustainable, and experimental drawing practice with which to explore new ways of thinking, seeing, and making art. Each week, you will make 50 to 100 small works on paper, based on varied, open-ended, unpredictable prompts. These prompts are meant to destabilize your practice and encourage you to interrogate the relationship between a work’s subject and its material process. You will learn to work quickly and flexibly, continually experimenting with mediums and processes as you probe the many possible solutions to problems posed by each prompt. As you create these daily drawings, you will simultaneously work on one large, ambitious drawing that you revisit over the entire semester. This piece will evolve slowly, change incrementally, and reflect the passage of time in vastly different ways from your daily works. This dynamic exchange will allow you to develop different rhythms in your creative practice, bridging the space between an idea’s generation and its final aesthetic on paper. This course will challenge you to ambitiously redefine drawing and, in doing so, will dramatically transform your art-making practice.

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Digital Imaging Studio

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course focuses on contemporary techniques for digital image manipulation with an emphasis on Photoshop skills, including imaging, retouching, and compositing workflow. We will cover proper use of adjustment layers, layer masks, retouching, and even design and basic animation. The skills covered will build a solid basis for further exploration and interventions within the realm of photography, illustration, and more radical digital experiments. While proper technical processes are emphasized, we will equally explore expressive use of the software, creating original, personal work through independent projects. The broader class discussion will emphasize computer-generated and -manipulated imagery beyond the basics of Photoshop as a driving force in art and media that now informs all imagemaking and reflects and informs our culture in general. Students are encouraged to explore the potential of digital tools within this greater context and that of their individual work and interests—visual arts-related or otherwise—stressing open-ended visual possibilities, as well as technical and conceptual rigor.

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3D Modeling

Open, Seminar—Spring

This course introduces students to the process of constructing digital objects and environments within the virtual space of the computer. Emphasis will be on a strong grasp of form, space, and composition. Fundamentals of hard-edge and organic surface modeling will be thoroughly exercised, while further exploration of the digital tools will cover shading and texturing, lighting, and rendering with the virtual camera. Over the course of the semester, students will be challenged to create increasingly complex objects, environments, and imagery. Through intensive hands-on studio time, as well as through readings and discussion, students will also be encouraged to consider the conceptual ramifications of working in illusionistic digital space. Contemporary examples of computer-generated imagery in art, film, and media—juxtaposed with historical views on visual illusion from art and philosophy—will form a broader context in which to examine the medium.

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New Genres: Cultural HiJack

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

Is art talking about all the wrong things? In all the wrong ways? Are artists, gallerists, and curators missing the point? Do you see “an elephant in the room”? Would you like to turn things around? How would you do that? How have people done it before? This semester, Cultural HiJack looks at the ways in which the art world itself gets “hijacked”—by outsiders, insiders, upstarts, free thinkers, liberationists, subversives, anti-artists, and anyone else who intends to “open a window.” We will begin with a few small exercises, fast projects that get us thinking about ways in which the contemporary art world is “saying it wrong.” From there, students will move on to one longer, more substantial artwork—a new piece that proposes some fresh way of thinking, seeing, or acknowledging an idea. Along the way, we will consider the many strategies that artists themselves have used to “change the conversation,” including the attention grab of the New York School, the curatorial insight of Okwui Enzenor, the consumerist strategies of pop and street art, the paradigm break of the blockchain and crypto, and more. Artists studied include Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Banksy, Philip Guston, Dave Hammons, Coco Fusco, Jeremy Deller, and more. Students from all art disciplines are welcome. Interdisciplinary projects are encouraged.

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Performance Art

Open, Seminar—Spring

Since the early 20th century, artists have explored performance art as a radical means of expression. In both form and function, performance art pushes the boundaries of contemporary art. Through this form of expression, artists have produced powerful works about the body and the politics of gender, sexuality, and race. This course surveys performance art as a porous, transdisciplinary medium open to students from all disciplines, including painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, video, filmmaking, theatre, dance, music, creative writing, and digital art. Students will learn about the history of performance art and explore some of the concepts and aesthetic strategies used to create works of performance. Drawing on historical and critical texts, artists’ writings, video screenings, and slide lectures, students will use a series of simple prompts to help shape their own performances. Artists and art movements surveyed in this class include Dada, Happenings, Fluxus, Viennese Actionism, Gutai Group, Act-Up, Joseph Beuys, Judson Church, Ana Mendieta, Gina Pane, Helio Oiticica, Jack Smith, Leigh Bowery, Rachel Rosenthal, Jo Spence, Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, Bas Jan Ader, Terry Adkins and the Lone Wolf Recital Corps, Carolee Schneemann, Martha Wilson, Adrian Piper, Martha Rosler, Lorraine O’Grady, Joan Jonas, Karen Finley, Janine Antoni, Patty Chang, Papo Colo, Paul McCarthy, Matthew Barney, Ron Athey, Orlan, Guillermo Gomez Pena, Narcissister, Annie Sprinkle, Vaginal Davis, Kris Grey, Carlos Martiel, Autumn Knight, Amanda Alfieri, Hennessey Youngman, Savannah Knoop, Shaun Leonardo, Francis Alys, Andrea Fraser, Tania Bruguera, Zhang Huan, Regina Jose Galindo, Aki Sasamoto, Pope.L, and many more.

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Senior Interdisciplinary Studio

Advanced, Seminar—Year

This course is intended for seniors interested in pursuing their own art-making practice more deeply, for a prolonged period of time, and culminating in a solo exhibition during the spring semester. Students making work in and across painting, drawing, sculpture, video, photography, sound, new genres, performance, and more are supported. Students will maintain their own studio spaces and will be expected to work independently and creatively and to challenge themselves and their peers to explore new ways of thinking and making. Over the course of the year, students will focus exclusively on their own art-making practice and will be expected to develop a rigorous body of independent work to be presented in their spring semester exhibition, accompanied by a printed book that documents the exhibition. We will have regular critiques with visiting artists and faculty across our visual-arts program, along with readings, image discussions, and trips to galleries and artist’s studios. We will participate in the Visual Arts Lecture Series. Your art-making practice will be supplemented with other aspects of presenting your work—writing an artist statement, interviewing fellow artists, and documenting your art—along with a range of professional-practices workshops. This will be an immersive studio course meant for disciplined art students interested in making work in an interdisciplinary environment.

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Art and the Climate Crisis

Open, Concept—Spring

Artists throughout time have used nature as both inspiration and medium. This course will explore art about our human relationship to the environment through to the natural trajectory of art that engages with our current climate crisis. What role are artists and art institutions taking in helping raise public consciousness about issues like climate change? As cultural producers, what is the responsibility of artists to sustainability or to the environment? We will discuss the ramifications of these questions by examining some of the history of artists working in and with the environment and nature, through taking field trips to relevant art works and installations, through dialogue with practitioners in the field, and through some hands-on creative exercises in making art within these themes. Concurrently, individual research in a topic of interest will lead students to a final project where they will make/propose/analyze/curate an environmental art project of their own. No previous experience in studio arts classes is required but could be helpful.

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Photogrammetry

Open, Concept—Spring

Photogrammetry is the process by which, using specialized software, multiple photographic views of an object or space are analyzed and reconstructed into digital 3D models. These uncanny virtual recreations from the real world can then be used as digital props and environments in rendering, games, and animation projects. In this course, we will work with this exciting process, generating our own models and importing them into 3D software to edit, texture, and combine them into larger virtual scenes or export them as assets for games, visual effects, or other more experimental uses. We will work in both controlled studio environments as well as “en plein air,” with the ability to capture manmade as well as natural objects and spaces, subsequently generating their virtual doppelgangers in the computer and transforming their meaning as digital art objects.

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First-Year Studies: Two Lenses on Writing

Open, FYS—Year

The first semester of this FYS course will be focused on words and pictures, with its central lens on stories: how to find them, tell them, and make your listener, viewer, or reader come along with you. The course includes adding a visual element, photography, drawing, paste-ups, collage, animations, anime. We will read and then make a few of the following: a collective graphic novel, some children's books, adult books with pictures, illuminated manuscripts, comics. Your conference work will be a finished version of a project of your choice. The second semester of the course will be a class in episodes: pieces of a continuing story that follow a thread but may have different leading characters in each episode; or a frame, with many peoples' stories inside; or movement from one time, place, and set of characters to another. We will bring in and discuss episodes that we love in books, TV, podcasts. We will do exercises until we come upon something that engages us and then start our conference work, which will involve six episodes, more or less. In both semesters, we will have an extra meeting every other week to discuss whatever comes up: paper writing, social issues, food, procrastination. These sessions may be led by the professor, outside speakers, or a rotating group of students.

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Writing Our Moment

Open, Seminar—Fall

It would be safe to say that journalism and nonfiction writing are currently undergoing a transformation. Our most storied publications are in a state of crisis. Big-city newspapers are failing by the day. Magazines are imperiled. Book publishers face encroaching competition from handheld electronic devices and online search engines that do not recognize copyright laws. What is an ambitious, intuitive writer to do going forward? Quite simply, harness all of the strengths of the storytelling past to a new world of few space restrictions, more flexible tones, and the ready presence of video, audio, and animation—which can either enrich or encroach upon text—and comprehend the role of writer in such a way as to include and exploit new media. We will examine the relationship between literary nonfiction, which has always been cinematic in focus and flexible in tone, and the once and future practice of journalism. Masters of 20th-century nonfiction such as V. S. Naipaul, Truman Capote, Joseph Mitchell, and Roger Angell—steeped as they are in the journalistic practice of their time—can serve as guideposts to our uncertain future. We will examine, through reading and writing, the ways in which the formulas of journalism are transformed into literature. We will emphasize the importance of factuality and fact-checking and explore adapting modern storytelling to video, photography, and sound. As the semester progresses, literary nonfiction will be both discovered and reinvented to fit our new world.

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