Filmmaking and Moving Image Arts

Sarah Lawrence College’s filmmaking and moving-image arts (FMIA) is a rigorous intellectual and creatively vibrant program where students are free to select classes without the confinement of majors. Through a wide range of classes, we offer students the opportunity to imagine themselves as a community of storytellers who are willing to take risks and break boundaries. With classes in screenwriting for film and television and hands-on production courses in narrative fiction, documentary/nonfiction, experimental, and animated film, students define and resolve artistic, historical, and analytical problems on their own while also learning to work in collaboration.

Working with departments throughout the College, students learn to consider film and the spatial arts within a variety of contexts. The program fosters open inquiry, community and social engagement, and enables students to think critically about form and the choices that filmmakers and screenwriters must face. With all of the richness of New York City at our fingertips and a host of opportunities for students to study abroad and travel to Los Angeles, FMIA at Sarah Lawrence offers a unique, experience-based learning environment for students at all levels. After graduation, our students go on to win prestigious awards for their work, attend competitive graduate programs around the world, and become professionals in a range of film, animation and screenwriting careers.

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, several teaching/editing labs, 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.

Filmmaking and Moving Image Arts 2024-2025 Courses

First-Year Studies: Image, Sound, and Time

FYS—Year | 10 credits

FILM 1003

This is a course in which you will conceive a short film from its very basis to the final completion. In the first half of the year, we will explore a creative and deep examination of the foundations and processes of writing with images and sounds. The course provides a path to a certain type of sensitivity that helps writers create not just the screenplay for the course but also all of their screenplays to follow. What are the fundamental skills you need for writing a film? What is the time of observation that we need to do in order to be able to translate it into words? The script is a descriptive representation of the images and sounds that the writer has created in his or her imagination—beginning with the construction of an image that nests a story and exploring its possible forms and shapes, imagining characters from the inside outward, and then situating them in the image to let them grow. In the second part of the year, we will be exploring all of the areas of staging and styles in order to digest all of the information that we can make out of the script—from the very first impression of our story, through the actual image, until the editing. Working with each other on projects in a constructive and meaningful way and exploring an audiovisual style, the course will provide interaction and exposure to a wide range of types of film styles— from small to large productions. Some of our guiding questions will be: How do we understand the core of our image? How do we see scripts from a directing point of view? How is the image able to transmit emotions and thoughts? How can we develop critical and well-formulated thoughts of a film idea and expand our personal visual research? This class will have weekly conferences at least for the first semester.

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First-Year Studies: Words to Pictures: Writing for the Screen

Open, FYS—Year | 10 credits

FILM 1327

This FYS course will give students the foundational tools needed to write for just about any screen. Starting with simple scenes and short-form screenplays, students will learn formatting and industry standards—all while cultivating their own personal style. Students will learn the basics of dramatic structure, character development, and visual storytelling through their own work and through the analysis of published screenplays. In the first semester, students will write several short scripts, which we will table-read and workshop in class. In the second semester, we will focus our work on outlining and writing feature-length screenplays. Students will have the opportunity to pitch their projects to the class and to create look books for their screenplays. Students will meet for conference weekly in the first semester and every two weeks in the second.

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Animation

Catching Emotion: Trauma and Struggle in Auteur Animation

Open, Small Lecture—Fall | 5 credits

FILM 2045

This course will take the form of a screening and discussion seminar designed to provide an overview of alternative and experimental animations derived from the creative practice of transforming stories of trauma and struggle into films of artistic merit. We will examine various forms of animated work produced between 1960 and the present, asking ourselves: Can animations about serious subjects lighten sad, macabre, depressing, and even horrific moments with a sense of playfulness and controlled distance? The class will survey a wide range of work from a diverse selection of artists operating in cinematic film forms alternative to commercial animation. These will include, but not be limited to, hand-drawn, cell-painted, cutout, stop-motion, pixilated, puppet, digital, and, more recently, CGI independents. In most cases, auteur artists working with stories of trauma, memory, language, and struggle—whether personal, social, or political—are attempting to put their subjects in perspective. Using the core of these sources to pose difficult and personal questions, artist-animators tackle tough issues that ultimately serve as a reflection and reframing of experience. In response to the films we watch, the class group will discuss how personal and cultural struggles have been used as resonating topics large enough to act as a central conflict for animated films. Through screenings, readings, panels of visitors, and discussions, we will investigate both the reasoning for and success of animation's ability to confront the problems that challenge us. Students in this class will be expected to participate in discussions during conference meetings. Animation production will not be taught; however a creative conference project in studio arts, writing, media, or performing arts will be required. In addition, students will be expected to complete weekly readings and entries in a research/creative practice notebook.

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3D Modeling and Soft Body Modeling

Open, Small seminar—Year | 10 credits

FILM 3245

At a time when digital, three-dimensional space has saturated our visual vocabulary in everything from design and entertainment to gaming, now more than ever it is important to explore the interface of this space and find methods for unlocking its potential. This is an introductory course for Maya (and, in the spring semester, Zbrush and Substance Painter), which are industry-standard software for 3D modeling and animation. Over two semesters, we will learn the fundamental approaches to environment building, 3D modeling, character creation, character rigging, and keyframe animation. This course will also provide a comprehensive understanding of the important process of rendering, using texturing, lighting, and staging. We will explore how all of these processes may culminate in narrative-based animations, alongside how 3D constructions can be exported into everything from film projects to physical media. Great emphasis will be placed on experimentation in navigating between digital and physical processes. Exercises and assignments will be contextualized through lectures and with readings of both historical and contemporary creators in the field.

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Character Design

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

FILM 3447

This course focuses on the concepts of character-design development as a preproduction stage to animation. Students will gain knowledge in drawing by learning 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 animatic projects, students will draw and conceptualize human, animal, mechanical, and hybrid figures. Students will research characters in their visual, environmental, psychological, and social aspects to establish a full understanding of characterization. Both hand-drawn materials and digital drawing will be used throughout the semester. Students may use their choice of drawing software, based on their own experience and skill level. Students new to digital drawing will work in Storyboard Pro software or Procreate software if they own an iPad. All students will have access to the animation rooms—which include a variety of software options, including Storyboard Pro, Harmony, Photoshop, Illustrator, and editing software Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premier. Assignments and projects will include character boards, model sheets, and animatics. There will be daily character drawing exercises, structural anatomy demonstrations, basic digital drawing concepts, and empirical perspective drawing discussions throughout the semester. This is a drawing course that requires a commitment to developing drawing skills and is labor intensive. Good drawing demands time, commitment, and intelligence. The final conference project for this course is a concept-based. fully-developed character animatic. Knowledge from this course can be used to create and enhance animations, to establish a character outline for an interactive media project, or to help in developing a cast of characters for game design, graphic novels, or narrative film.

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Introduction to 2D Digital Animation in Harmony

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

FILM 3489

In this course, students will develop animation and micro storytelling skills by focusing on the process of creating frame-by -frame digital drawings and keyframe movement for animation. This course is essentially an introduction to both the professional digital software, Harmony by Toon Boom, and the process of digital drawing and rotoscoping. Instruction will be based in the software, Toon Boom Harmony Premium, and will include line style, visualization, character development, continuity, timing, and compositing. All of the production steps required to develop simple 2D digital animations will be demonstrated and applied through exercises aimed at the production of a single animated scene. Participants will develop and refine their personal style through exercises in digital animation and assignments directed at increasing visual understanding. Digitally-drawn images (with the option to include live action and photographs) will be assembled in sync to sound. Compositing exercises will cover a wide range of motion graphics, including green screen, keyframing, timeline effects, 2D and 3D space, layering, and pose-by-pose movement. This one-semester class will provide students with a working knowledge of the emerging and highly efficient software Harmony, recently adopted by the film and TV animation industry. Conference projects involve each student’s production of a single, refined animated scene. Students interested in then continuing in 2D digital animation in the spring semester will be encouraged to take the subsequent Intermediate/Advanced 2D Animation course.

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Advanced Animation Studio

Advanced, Seminar—Fall | 10 credits

FILM 4191

Prerequisite: completion of at least three SLC courses in animation or the equivalent; an ability to work independently; knowledge of the software Harmony Premium or Dragonframe and After Effects

This advanced independent animation course is tailored for students to develop, prepare, and commence the creation of a fully-realized animated film. Students will work independently to progress through the preproduction phase of their concepts and eventually initiate the animation process. In the initial stages of the semester, students will conceptualize their ideas by focusing on character designs, storyboarding, and background images. As the semester unfolds, students will establish their scenes through image sequencing and begin animating various stages of their film. Throughout the semester, students will engage regularly with the professor in conference to evaluate their progress. Additionally, there will be several group sessions led by a team of filmmaking and moving-image arts faculty, allowing for collaborative feedback and support. Students will be encouraged to continue their journey and complete their films by enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced 2D Animation course in the spring semester.

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Postproduction

Recording and Editing Sound for Film and Media

Open, Large seminar—Fall | 2 credits

FILM 3108

This course introduces techniques for recording and editing sound for film and media. Through a hands-on approach using recording equipment and Pro Tools, students will explore creating and mixing sound design and effects, Foley, and dialogue/ADR for film and other media. Studio work will be supplemented with readings on fundamentals of acoustics and media theory, as well as recommended films.

Faculty

Music and Sound for Film

Open, Seminar—Spring | 3 credits

FILM 3107

This class will explore the ways in which 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. Working in one of these areas now implies an understanding of the other. This class will cover: spotting music/sound with a director; choosing musical themes that correspond to the dramatic needs of a film; using sound design to highlight facets of the world and its characters; conceptualizing the soundworld of a film; and designing the music and sound so that they occupy different, complementary spaces. The marriage of sound and music has deep roots in the history of cinema, and special attention will be paid to great works of the past. There will be weekly listening assignments to survey the history of film music and to explore current trends. Technical topics covered will include: 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, management, and workflow. Students will work on sound design and/or scoring concepts using video clips that I provide or, better yet, using works from their fellow students in the film department.

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Preproduction

The Real-World Producer: Creative Producing in Film and Television

Open, Large seminar—Fall | 5 credits

FILM 3470

They say, “Producing is like trying to build a house of cards in a wind tunnel when someone hands you a stick of crazy glue and turns the lights off.” In fact, the producer is the “visionary”—typically, the one to initiate, develop, nurture, and shepherd a project, step-by-step, from its inception to its completion. Bringing all of the project’s elements into existence while being the critical glue that holds everything together…the producer knows how to “turn the lights on.” Being a producer is a magical journey of discovery: learning what stories are important to you, discovering the best way to tell them, and defining why you must be the one to bring a story to life. These are the essential pillars of producing. This immersive course provides filmmakers, directors, screenwriters, actors, or any interested student a real-world look “under the hood” into the fundamentals of creative producing—providing a comprehensive understanding of the pivotal role that the creative producer plays in the dynamic and ever-changing world of film and television. Taught through the lens of what one (or a small army of producers) actually does, this course demystifies and explores the role of the producer on a feature or on a short film, documentary, television, animated, or digital project from the moment of creative inspiration through project delivery—defining what it means to “produce.” Working individually and in teams, students will “produce” semester group projects and engage in discussions, theoretical exploration, practical workshops, and exercises that simulate real-world producing scenarios, as they develop essential skills crucial for success in the producing field. Topics covered include development, preproduction, production, and postproduction; collaborating with writers, directors, actors, and crew; script breakdown, scheduling, budgeting, financing, distribution, script coverage; and best producing practices. This course offers students a chance to explore the role of the producer and learn invaluable creative perspectives and industry insights, as students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the multifaceted landscape of producing. Workshops and intimate conversations with working artists from both in front of and behind the camera allow students opportunities to engage with creatives active in the field. Course objectives include developing a holistic understanding and fundamental knowledge of the producing process; gaining a unique window into the importance of, and mechanics pertaining to, the producing discipline; and assembling an essential toolkit for creating and seeking opportunities in the filmmaking, television, and moving-image arts worlds.

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Concept Art: Exploring Preproduction for Media Arts Projects

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

FILM 3514

This course delves into the foundational aspects of preproduction and developmental concepts for media projects. Students will engage in “World Building” exercises, wherein they research and design thematic approaches for specific projects. Emphasis will be placed on character development, compositional illustration, object and prop design, and scene building. Through the exploration of prompt themes, students will craft fully-realized projects that embody visual style, consistent form and function, and unified meaning, leading to the creation of unique media concepts. Both hand-drawn techniques and digital drawing tools will be utilized throughout the semester, with various software employed for character design, background paintings, and concept presentations. This course demands a commitment to the further development of drawing skills and is labor intensive. While having basic drawing skills is advantageous, students will be challenged to expand their abilities throughout the course. Multiple preproduction projects will be created to deepen understanding of thematic concepts. The final project will involve the production of a fully-developed, multicharacter/environment concept presentation. The knowledge gained in this course can be applied to creating and enhancing a preproduction or art portfolio, establishing a concept outline for an interactive media project, or developing characters and environments for graphic novels or films.

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Production

Genre Filmmaking: From Script to Screen

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

FILM 3475

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. This course does not require previous filmmaking experience. The first semester will focus on screenwriting, and the students will write short scripts that they will then produce and direct in the second semester for their conference project. 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. These exercises will not only familiarize the students with the gear at their disposal but also introduce them to concepts of visual storytelling; i.e., 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. They will practice directing actors and finding a method for effective communication with their cast. And they will 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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Documentary Filmmaking and Music as Liberation I

Open, Large seminar—Fall | 5 credits

FILM 3116

This is an open course designed to enlighten our creative consciousness, using music and nonfiction filmmaking as tools for liberation. Music and other sonic experiences are intrinsically connected to how we witness, experience, and tell nonfiction stories. In this course, we will examine work where the score itself plays a character while also creating films of our own inspired by the soundtrack as a living piece of our form. Broken into groups, students collectively will create a five-minute film that invites the viewer into subjects that are engaging and new, while also challenging the binary and often Western notion of what storytelling can be. The role that music and sound can play as a form of protest, meditation, and transformation are at the heart of our visual experience. In the spirit of global movements toward a more just and sustainable world, this course infuses a cinematic quest for truth in storytelling with the undeniable power that music brings to our understanding of a moment in time, a scene, a relationship, and ourselves. From American Utopia to Amazing Grace and Gimme Shelter, students will screen, discuss, and be inspired to create work that challenges all of the senses.

Faculty

Working With Light and Shadow

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

FILM 3461

This introductory-level course will present students with the basics of cinematography and film production. They 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 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. Students 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 recreation of classic film scenes, with an emphasis on visual style. Students will discuss their work and give feedback that will be incorporated into the next project. For conference, students will be required to produce a second scene recreation, incorporating elements discussed throughout the term. Students will outline projects, draw floor plans, 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.

Faculty

Cinematography: Color, Composition, and Style

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

FILM 3463

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. In addition to the work completed during class times, students will be required to produce a short project, incorporating elements discussed throughout the semester, as part of conference work. 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.

Faculty

Opening Scene: Filmmaking for First-Timers

Open, Seminar—Fall | 3 credits

FILM 3026

Film has become one of the most dominant forms of visual media and creative expression. In this seminar/workshop for the budding director, we will first focus on the filmmaking fundamentals that every filmmaker needs to know in order to tell an effective story on screen: basic filmmaking terms, crew positions, camera operation, shot angles and composition, camera movement, basic lighting, sound recording, and editing. Students will also learn to how to create shot lists, floor plans, and other important tools necessary for a successful shoot. Initially, solo shooting assignments will be given, allowing students to begin to develop their own cinematic voice. Because collaboration is key in filmmaking, students will also be divided into small groups for several weekly assignments, giving them the opportunity to serve in various roles on the crew. The idea is for students to acquire the skills needed for creating compelling cinematic work both on their own and with others.

Faculty

Avant Doc: Experiments in Documentary Filmmaking

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

FILM 3502

In this course, we will examine experimental documentary form as political/social/personal discourse and practice. We take as a starting point avant-garde documentary production and explore this in the manner that theorist Renov defines as “the rigorous investigation of aesthetic forms, their composition, and function,” and the manner in which, “poetics confront the problematics of power...” Throughout the semester, students will produce a series of experimental film exercises while they simultaneously research and produce a single, short, experimental documentary film for conference work. This class will acquaint students with the basic theory and purpose of experimental film/video, as compared to narrative documentary formats, and to critical methodologies that will help establish aesthetic designs for their own work. In the class, we will survey a wide range of avant-garde documentary films from the 1920s to the present, with the central focus being student’s options for film production in the context of political and cultural concerns. The various practices of experimental documentary film speak to a range of possibilities for what a movie might be. Within these practices, issues such as whose voices are heard and who is represented become of crucial importance. No prior film experience is required, though some knowledge of film editing would be advantageous.

Faculty

Advanced Short-Film Projects I

Advanced, Large seminar—Fall | 5 credits

FILM 4100

Prerequisite: Preproduction, Screenwriting, or Production course in filmmaking

In this course, students will be required to have a short film project that they want to do, either a script or a clear and consistent idea for a short film of a maximum seven minutes. In Part I of the yearlong course, we will be tailoring the film idea into a project that is ready to shoot. Analyzing scenes, reading, and creatively putting together the mise-en-scène of the student’s original idea would be our aim. In order to build up a cinematic vocabulary for each project, we will be analyzing, in depth, the tone, style, concept, and proposal that the student is looking for—understanding the aesthetics by watching clips, shorts, and films in order to see how other authors have solved similar ideas on set. Participants will, therefore, have a profound and conceptually well-developed knowledge of each of their own shots and scenes for the projects. By the end of the semester, each student will have a project that is ready to shoot in Advanced Short-Film Projects, Part II. A jury or committee will choose about eight projects from the group to shoot in the spring semester (Advanced Short-Film Projects, Part II).

Faculty

Documentary Filmmaking and Music as Liberation II

Open, Large seminar—Spring | 5 credits

FILM 3226

This course is designed to enlighten our creative consciousness, using music and nonfiction filmmaking as tools for liberation. Music and other sonic experiences are intrinsically connected to how we witness, experience, and tell nonfiction stories. In this course, we will examine work where the score itself plays a character while creating films of our own inspired by the soundtrack as a living piece of our form. Broken into groups, students collectively create a five-minute film that invites the viewer into subjects that are engaging and new while challenging the binary and often Western notion of what storytelling can be. The role that music and sound can play as a form of protest, meditation, and transformation is at the heart of our visual experience. In the spirit of global movements toward a more just and sustainable world, this course infuses a cinematic quest for truth in storytelling with the undeniable power that music brings to our understanding of a moment in time a scene, a relationship, and ourselves. From American Utopia to Amazing Grace and Gimme Shelter, students will screen, discuss, and be inspired to create work that challenges all of the senses.

Faculty

Storytelling Through the Lens: Filmmaking Basics

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

FILM 3467

In these days of technological advancement, anyone can pick up an iPhone and call themselves a filmmaker—but how many of them are actually good? In this seminar/workshop for the nascent filmmaker, we will first focus on the filmmaking fundamentals that every director needs to learn for a career in film and television: basic filmmaking terms, crew positions, camera operation, shot angles and composition, camera movement, basic lighting, sound recording, and editing. Next, students will learn how to break down a screenplay into its essential elements for low-budget shooting. They will learn how to create shot lists, floor plans, look books, and other important tools necessary for a successful shoot. As a way of developing one’s own artistic eye and voice, several independent, short, shooting assignments will be given, then viewed and discussed in class. Because collaboration is key in filmmaking, students will also be divided into groups for several weekly assignments, giving them the opportunity to serve in various roles on the crew. The idea is for students to acquire the skills needed for creating compelling cinematic work both on their own and with others. For conference, students will write, develop, and prep a short film over the course of the semester.

Faculty

Working With Light and Shadow

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

FILM 3461

This introductory-level course will present students with the basics of cinematography and film production. They 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 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. Students 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 recreation of classic film scenes, with an emphasis on visual style. Students will discuss their work and give feedback that will be incorporated into the next project. For conference, students will be required to produce a second scene recreation, incorporating elements discussed throughout the term. Students will outline projects, draw floor plans, 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.

Faculty

Opening Scene: Filmmaking for First-Timers

Open, Seminar—Spring | 3 credits

FILM 3026

Film has become one of the most dominant forms of visual media and creative expression. In this seminar/workshop for the budding director, we will first focus on the filmmaking fundamentals that every filmmaker needs to know in order to tell an effective story on screen: basic filmmaking terms, crew positions, camera operation, shot angles and composition, camera movement, basic lighting, sound recording, and editing. Students will also learn to how to create shot lists, floor plans, and other important tools necessary for a successful shoot. Initially, solo shooting assignments will be given, allowing students to begin to develop their own cinematic voice. Because collaboration is key in filmmaking, students will also be divided into small groups for several weekly assignments, giving them the opportunity to serve in various roles on the crew. The idea is for students to acquire the skills needed for creating compelling cinematic work on their own and with others.

Faculty

Advanced Short Film Projects II

Advanced, Large seminar—Spring | 5 credits

FILM 4200

Prerequisite: completion of Advanced Short Film Projects, Part I, in the fall semester or permission of the instructor

This course is a continuation of Advanced Short Film Projects, Part I. Part II will be a practical course, in which students (collaborating in crews) are exposed to a broad range of filmmaking skills through hands-on production experience and class discussion. The course will explore craft, aesthetic, production, and storytelling issues—all while working toward the production of projects workshopped, developed, and selected in Part I. Composed of directors, writers, producers, and technically proficient students, the faculty-selected group of 20 students will collaborate on producing eight short films, not to exceed 8-12 minutes in length. The spring session will cover preproduction planning, budgeting, scheduling, script breakdowns, shot listing, casting, rehearsing with actors, crewing, location management, script revisions, permits, insurance requirements, production-related agreements, camera preparation, lighting plans, and postproduction.

Faculty

Screenwriting

Writing for TV: From Spec Script to Original TV Pilot

Intermediate, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

FILM 3313

Prerequisite: Any one of these classes, preferably more than one: Advanced Writing for the Screen Writing Movies Writing the Feature Length Screenplay Writing the Adapted Screenplay Narrative Podcasting and Production The Revolution Will Not Be Televised Creative Producing in Film and Television or The Art and Craft of Development and Pitching for Film and TV

Note: Please reach out in Spring 2024 to start the permission process: moshea@sarahlawrence.edu

In the first semester, we will practice the fundamental skill of successful television writers—the ability to craft entertaining and compelling stories for characters, worlds, and situations 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 way to best learn to write for television 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. The first semester workshop will introduce students to these fundamental skills by taking them, step-by-step, through writing of their own spec (sample) script for an ongoing scripted (fiction) television series, comedy or drama. The fall will take students 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 on deepening characters, understanding dramatic and comedic techniques, and developing additional components of their portfolios. Prospective students are expected to have an extensive working knowledge across many genres of TV shows that have aired during the past 25-30 years domestically and internationally and a commitment to developing work from concept through premise lines, beat sheets, and outlines—with multiple drafts of each—and with extensive peer collaboration before writing script pages. You will not be permitted to write pages until your outlines have been “green lit.” In the second semester, the class builds on fundamentals learned in the first semester, writing specs with the focus on creating new work: original TV pilots. Students will be expected to enter the class with a completed 8-12 page outline for their original show’s pilot story. That outline will be revised and turned into an original one-hour or half-hour show (no sitcoms). Focusing on engineering story machines, we power characters and situations with enough conflict to generate episodes over many years. Having taken both semesters—spec, pilot—students will have the beginnings of the components, in first-draft form, needed for a professional portfolio. In conference, students may wish to begin to develop character descriptions and pieces of a series pitch for their show or work on previously developed material. 

Faculty

Writing the Short Screenplay

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

FILM 3323

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 the work in progress, followed by critique and discussion of the work. The course will culminate in a full table-read of each screenplay, a process that allows the writer to hear his/her work read aloud by classmate/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 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.

Faculty

Screenwriting: Tools of the Trade

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

FILM 3421

The screenplay is the starting point for nearly every film, television, 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. Weekly writing prompts will be given, focusing on the highlighted fundamentals of the previous week. 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. For conference, students will work on an independent, short screenplay that they will outline, write, and revise throughout the semester.

Faculty

Writing From Imagination

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

FILM 3221

In a world filled with moving images, we are all highly capable spectators as well as screenwriters. In this course, we will deepen and complement our existing knowledge of the cinematic medium, challenge our assumptions, and experiment with new ways of conceiving and making cinema. This course explores a creative and deep examination of the foundations and processes of writing with images and sounds, unveiling the knowledge that the students already have and work from there. The course provides a path to a certain type of sensitivity that helps the writer to create not just the screenplay for the course but also all of their screenplays to follow. Understanding the capacity of the medium is the most important objective: to explore its own capacity of expressing emotions by the hand of narration—but not only by it; introducing a variety of ways film can be made and seen; investigating in a creative way the mise-en-scènes aspects that can be explored in the writing process; from contemporary to classical screenwriting sensitivities; from European to Latin American filmmaking. The idea is to expand the knowledge of the variety and range of films beyond the most mainstream productions. What are the fundamental skills you need for writing a film? What is the time of observation we need to do in order to be able to translate it into words? The script is a descriptive representation of the images and sounds that the writer has created in his/her imagination, beginning with the construction of an image that nests a story and exploring its possible forms and shapes, imagining characters from the inside outward, and then situating them in the image to let them grow. In other words, to be able to pack entire worlds of thought, feeling, and imagination into the writing of scenes.

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Writing the Adapted Screenplay

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

FILM 3329

Prerequisite: one college-level screenwriting class

Your favorite novel has never been made into a movie, a little-known historical figure is your personal role model, or a relative’s journey of survival fascinates you. These are some of the preexisting sources that inspire us to write movies. Working from novels, biographies, historical incident, true crime, etc., students will develop feature-length screenplays. From pitching ideas, detailed outlining, and creating mood boards in order to develop cinematic storytelling skills, this course will take the student through the process of distilling the preexisting material into a three-act narrative structure. We will explore elements of screenwriting that include story structure, character development, visual storytelling, and point of view in order to expand and deepen the writer’s craft. Students will develop their screenplays in an intimate workshop, where work will be shared and critiqued in a safe and constructive atmosphere. Conference work will include customized instruction, such as preparatory writing assignments, watching films, and assigned readings.

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Guest Artist Lab

Component—Fall and Spring

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 both emergent and established voices and a wide range of approaches to contemporary artistic practice.

Live Time-Based Art

Component—Fall and Spring

In this class, graduate and upperclass undergraduate students 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. The 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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Choreographing Light for the Stage

Component—Year

This course will examine the fundamentals of design and how to both think compositionally and work collaboratively as an artist. The medium of light will be used to explore the relationship of art, technology, and movement. Discussion and experimentation will reveal how light defines and shapes an environment. Students will learn a vocabulary to speak about light and to express their artistic ideas. Through hands-on experience, students will practice installing, programming, and operating lighting fixtures and consoles. The artistic and technical skills that they build will then be demonstrated together by creating original lighting designs for the works developed in the Live Time-Based Art course.

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Catching Emotion: Trauma and Struggle in Auteur Animation

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

This course will take the form of a screening and discussion seminar designed to provide an overview of alternative and experimental animations derived from the creative practice of transforming stories of trauma and struggle into films of artistic merit. We will examine various forms of animated work produced between 1960 and the present, asking ourselves: Can animations about serious subjects lighten sad, macabre, depressing, and even horrific moments with a sense of playfulness and controlled distance? The class will survey a wide range of work from a diverse selection of artists operating in cinematic film forms alternative to commercial animation. These will include, but not be limited to, hand-drawn, cell-painted, cutout, stop-motion, pixilated, puppet, digital, and, more recently, CGI independents. In most cases, auteur artists working with stories of trauma, memory, language, and struggle—whether personal, social, or political—are attempting to put their subjects in perspective. Using the core of these sources to pose difficult and personal questions, artist-animators tackle tough issues that ultimately serve as a reflection and reframing of experience. In response to the films we watch, the class group will discuss how personal and cultural struggles have been used as resonating topics large enough to act as a central conflict for animated films. Through screenings, readings, panels of visitors, and discussions, we will investigate both the reasoning for and success of animation's ability to confront the problems that challenge us. Students in this class will be expected to participate in discussions during conference meetings. Animation production will not be taught; however, a creative conference project in studio arts, writing, media, or performing arts will be required. In addition, students will be expected to complete weekly readings and entries in a research/creative practice notebook.

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Celebrity Studies

Open, Lecture—Spring

In his book, The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama wrote this about himself: “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all, of them.” In this rare moment of critical self-evaluation, Obama revealed a key to understanding celebrity culture—that our thoughts about celebrities have far less to do with the celebrity themselves and much more to do with how we project our own anxieties, joys, cultural condition, and economic position in society onto those we admire. In short, we often use celebrities to help us understand our own views on the world and how we’d prefer to move through that world. In examining the increasingly self-aware culture associated with celebrity, mass media, and Web 2.0, we will discuss the ways in which celebrity is conceived, constructed, performed, and discussed—as well as how it shapes notions of identity and has reconfigured concepts of work, class, consumption, intimacy, authenticity, and the “American dream.” A critical analysis of celebrity encompasses many aspects of culture, and we will draw connections between celebrity and a number of issues, including: scandals and yellow journalism; the erosion of privacy; aspirational fantasies of social mobility; notions of health, beauty, and success; celebrities as memes; how celebrities are used to advance political causes; and the ways in which individuals become commodities. With an emphasis on media’s relationship to celebrity, we cover a broad range of topics and modes of analysis. We will conduct a brief history of celebrity culture, from the heroes of the precinematic era and the cultivation of the larger-than-life Hollywood star to the intimate television personality and the even more personal social media microcelebrity. We will discuss the ways in which celebrity exceeds the boundaries of a given text; for example, how the viewer’s insights into a particular star may shape their interpretation or enjoyment of a text. We will analyze the ways in which social media such as X (formerly known as Twitter), YouTube, and Instagram foster new relationships between celebrities and fans and blur the boundaries between production and consumption. We will consider the social and cultural roles of gossip and scandal, as they often provide focal points around which cultures establish behavioral norms. Celebrity is also a “product” that is produced, regulated, and monetized; as such, we will address the ways in which people as images are owned and circulated in “the celebrity industry.”

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Exploitation and Trash Cinema

Intermediate, Large seminar—Fall

The history of American cinema is often framed around films of great aesthetic merit, like Citizen Kane, Sunset Boulevard, The Godfather, 12 Years a Slave. But what happens when we examine this history from the vantage point of its bottom rungs: the lowly, the disreputable, the trashy, the ephemeral, and the sleazy? What do these films—less important as works of art, perhaps, but equally important as windows into various moments of cultural history—tell us about American society? This course utilizes exploitation films and various cinematic “trash” genres to interrogate this and related questions, situating these often forgotten or dismissed films in terms of historical conflicts over race, class, gender, sexuality, and more. Along the way, we will also contemplate matters of aesthetics, analyzing why these films are considered “trash.” And perhaps most importantly, exploitation cinema offers a unique opportunity for marginalized writers, directors, and actors who were historically shunned by the Hollywood studios to create a voice of their own via filmmaking. Marginal films give voice to marginalized races, genders, and sexualities that were excluded during a Hayes Code-dominated Hollywood “golden” era and remain excluded within the advertiser-friendly Hollywood of today. The only way to gain a complete understanding of Hollywood’s politics is to analyze the type of cinema and filmmakers that were actively excluded from the studio system. This class aims to give both a historical and cultural analysis of the crucial role that exploitation cinema has played in giving voices to the voiceless. Among the marginalized genres we will discuss are the “white slave” films of the 1910s, drug-panic films, social hygiene films, “sexploitation,” kung fu, gay/trans storylines, “Blaxploitation,” horror, and action films.

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Character Design

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course focuses on the concepts of character-design development as a preproduction stage to animation. Students will gain knowledge in drawing by learning 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 animatic projects, students will draw and conceptualize human, animal, mechanical, and hybrid figures. Students will research characters in their visual, environmental, psychological, and social aspects to establish a full understanding of characterization. Both hand-drawn materials and digital drawing will be used throughout the semester. Students may use their choice of drawing software, based on their own experience and skill level. Students new to digital drawing will work in Storyboard Pro software or Procreate software if they own an iPad. All students will have access to the animation rooms—which include a variety of software options, including Storyboard Pro, Harmony, Photoshop, Illustrator, and editing software Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premier. Assignments and projects will include character boards, model sheets, and animatics. There will be daily character drawing exercises, structural anatomy demonstrations, basic digital drawing concepts, and empirical perspective drawing discussions throughout the semester. This is a drawing course that requires a commitment to developing drawing skills and is labor intensive. Good drawing demands time, commitment, and intelligence. The final conference project for this course is a concept-based. fully-developed character animatic. Knowledge from this course can be used to create and enhance animations, to establish a character outline for an interactive media project, or to help in developing a cast of characters for game design, graphic novels, or narrative film.

Faculty

Opening Scene: Filmmaking for First-Timers

Open, Seminar—Spring

Film has become one of the most dominant forms of visual media and creative expression. In this seminar/workshop for the budding director, we will first focus on the filmmaking fundamentals that every filmmaker needs to know in order to tell an effective story on screen: basic filmmaking terms, crew positions, camera operation, shot angles and composition, camera movement, basic lighting, sound recording, and editing. Students will also learn to how to create shot lists, floor plans, and other important tools necessary for a successful shoot. Initially, solo shooting assignments will be given, allowing students to begin to develop their own cinematic voice. Because collaboration is key in filmmaking, students will also be divided into small groups for several weekly assignments, giving them the opportunity to serve in various roles on the crew. The idea is for students to acquire the skills needed for creating compelling cinematic work on their own and with others.

Faculty

Opening Scene: Filmmaking for First-Timers

Open, Seminar—Fall

Film has become one of the most dominant forms of visual media and creative expression. In this seminar/workshop for the budding director, we will first focus on the filmmaking fundamentals that every filmmaker needs to know in order to tell an effective story on screen: basic filmmaking terms, crew positions, camera operation, shot angles and composition, camera movement, basic lighting, sound recording, and editing. Students will also learn to how to create shot lists, floor plans, and other important tools necessary for a successful shoot. Initially, solo shooting assignments will be given, allowing students to begin to develop their own cinematic voice. Because collaboration is key in filmmaking, students will also be divided into small groups for several weekly assignments, giving them the opportunity to serve in various roles on the crew. The idea is for students to acquire the skills needed for creating compelling cinematic work both on their own and with others.

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Psychology of Children’s Television

Open, Large Lecture—Fall

This course analyzes children’s media, specifically preschool media through middle school, using cognitive and developmental psychology theory and methods. We will examine specific educational television programs with regard to cognitive and social developmental issues related to family life, peer relationships, and education issues. Because media has an enormous impact on children’s behavior, this has increasingly become a subject of interest among researchers and the public. This course addresses that interest by applying cognitive and developmental psychological research and theories for the development and production of educational media. In addition, the course helps identify essential elements that determine the positive and negative qualities of media for children. Finally, the course examines and evaluates how psychological theories and frameworks can guide the successful production of children’s media (e.g., social cognitive theory). Projects and assignments will include weekly class discussions on peer-reviewed journal articles, watching television programs, group preschool television pitchbook preparation, child observations interacting with screens, and media artifact critiques as assigned.

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Performance Art Tactics

Open, Seminar—Fall

Experiment and explore contemporary performance art. Through surveying a range of important artworks and movements, we will review the histories, concepts, and practices of performance art. Born from anti-art, performance art challenges the boundaries of artistic expression through implementing, as material, the concepts of space, time, and the body. Examples of artists that we will review are John Cage, Joan Jonas, Adrian Piper, Bruce Nauman, Martha Rosler, Simone Forti, Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Pope.L, Laurie Anderson, Joseph Beuys, Janine Antoni, Suzanne Lacy, Aki Sasamoto, and Anna Halprin, to name a few. We will review dialogues and movements introducing performance art, such as art interventions, sculpture, installation art, institutional critique, protest art, social media, video art, happenings, dada, comedy, sound art, graphic notation, scores, collaboration, and dance/movement. Students will be able to relate the form and function of performance art through research, workshopping ideas, experimentation, and improvisation—thereby developing the ability to confidently implement any method of the performance art genre.

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Performance Art

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

Since the early 20th century, artists have explored performance art as a radical means of expression. In both form and function, performance pushes the boundaries of contemporary art. Artists use the medium for institutional critique, for social activism, and to address the personal politics of gender, sexuality, and race. This course approaches 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 learn about the legacy of performance art from the 1970s to the present and explore some of the concepts and aesthetic strategies used to create works of performance. Through texts, artists’ writings, video screenings, and slide lectures, students are introduced to a range of performance-based artists and art movements.

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Introduction to Rhino and Digital Fabrication

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course is a comprehensive introduction to Rhino7 for Mac OS X and additive digital fabrication. 3D software and digital fabrication have a variety of uses in contemporary art and the real world. The course covers basic model manipulation, rendering operations, and 3D printing; we will also explore ways of adapting more advanced 3D modeling techniques. In the first half of the semester, students will gain the technical knowledge needed for a rigorous exploration of 3D modeling in Rhino through a series of small projects. The second half of the course will focus on working toward the student’s approved project of their choosing. By course end, students will have the opportunity to output their work via 3D printing, 2D rendered visualization, and more. This multidisciplinary digital sculpture studio is open to interdisciplinary projects. Although not required, students are welcome to pursue the digital fabrication of the whole or part/s of their final projects.

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Push and Pull: SubD Modeling in Rhino

Open, Concept—Spring

This course suits students seeking to create organic forms in 3D modeling—for free-form jewelry, furniture, architecture, sculptural objects, and more. By the time the course ends, students will have the opportunity to output their work via 3D printing. If you enjoy pull-and-push components as in clay modeling, SubD is the method for your 3D modeling. It is a new geometry type that can create editable, highly accurate shapes. In this course, students will learn SubD basic commands through small modeling projects such as simple characters, jewelry, or other organic shapes (TBA). The second half of the course will focus on working toward the student’s approved project of their choosing. Ideally, you should have basic knowledge of Rhino NURBS modeling—but it is not required.

Faculty

Introduction to Rhino and 3D Fabrication

Open, Seminar—Spring

This course is a comprehensive introduction to Rhino7 for Mac OS X and additive digital fabrication. 3D software and digital fabrication have a variety of uses in contemporary art and the real world. The course covers basic model manipulation, rendering operations, and 3D printing; we will also explore ways of adapting more advanced 3D modeling techniques. In the first half of the semester, students will gain the technical knowledge needed for a rigorous exploration of 3D modeling in Rhino through a series of small projects. The second half of the course will focus on working toward the student’s approved project of their choosing. By course end, students will have the opportunity to output their work via 3D printing, 2D rendered visualization, and more. This multidisciplinary digital sculpture studio is open to interdisciplinary projects. Although not required, students are welcome to pursue the digital fabrication of the whole or part/s of their final projects.

Faculty

Words and Pictures

Open, Seminar—Fall

This is a course with writing at its center and other arts—mainly, but not exclusively, visual—around it. We will read all kinds of narratives, children’s books, folk tales, fairy tales, graphic novels...and try our hand at many of them. Class reading will include everything from ancient Egyptian love poems to contemporary Latin American literature. For conference work, students have created graphic novels, animations, quilts, a scientifically accurate fantasy involving bugs, rock operas, items of clothing with text attached, nonfiction narratives, and dystopian fictions with pictures. There will be weekly assignments that involve making something. This course is especially suited to students with an interest in another art or a body of knowledge that they’d like to make accessible to nonspecialists.

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