2015-2016 Visual Arts Courses
Filmmaking, Screenwriting and Media Arts
First-Year Studies: Through The Lens: An Introduction to Cinematography—Visualizing and Creating Images for the Screen
Behind every artistic vision in filmmaking is an understanding of how to use technology to realize the story on a screen. A skillful cinematographer brings a new dimension to a director’s vision by creating images that enhance the narrative of the film. By studying select examples of visual styles, tones, and continuity from classic films, students will learn key elements to consider when using a camera and lights to further enhance the story. The images that appear on the screen arise from the artistic vision, imagination, and skill of the cinematographer as he/she works in a collaborative relationship with fellow artists. This class will provide students with the opportunity to explore this art form and learn how to capture visuals that will support the narrative of a story using available resources in a creative way. Students will work, hands on, with film production equipment and will explore the theoretical and aesthetic aspects of the craft. Course discussions will include framing, composition, color, and light to create compelling images. Students will learn fundamental on-set production skills as they develop and shoot exercises on a weekly basis. In the first semester, students will work on recreating scenes from classic films; these exercises will focus primarily on visual style. The second semester will focus on original work that will incorporate the lessons learned during the first semester. We will cover operation of HD cameras, structure and job responsibilities of the production crew, principles of lenses, lighting, and scene composition. All students will produce weekly exercises focused on building skill sets that will prepare them for work beyond the course. Reading assignments and film screenings will be integral to the learning process of the class.
First-Year Studies: Filmwright: The Voice of the Contemporary Filmmaker in Cine•Media
“To me, the great hope is that now, with these little video recorders…some people who normally wouldn’t make movies are going to be making them. And suddenly, some little [girl] in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart and make a beautiful film with her [parent’s] camcorder and for once the ‘professionalism’ of movies will be destroyed forever and it will really become an art form.” —Francis Ford Coppola, 1980s
More than three decades ago, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola presaged the advent of the “democratization of filmmaking” and of media ubiquities such as YouTube Vimeo, and other delivery platforms. With the artistically utopian dream of “the means of production and distribution in the hands of the masses,” does this result in better art? For better entertainment? Is the alleged Internet-driven attention deficit of the masses creating a fleeting, disengaged audience? Are the tenets of narrative storytelling on screen passé? If every voice can now be that of a filmmaker, what then is the nature and role of the “filmmaker’s voice”? With more people making movies on their own terms (and even on their own phones), can we expect an increase in the depth and quality of truly “moving pictures”…or not? We are all natural storytellers, dramatizing events in our lives to communicate their significance in our day-to-day existence. Playwright, screenwriter, and filmmaker David Mamet tells us that drama is how we make sense of our lives, of who we are and who we hope to be. As storytelling seems to be imprinted in our DNA, this underpins the seemingly universal interest in storytelling in “cinema.” But to what “cinema” are we now referring? The cinema in the movie palaces of old? The cinema on your 60-inch flat-screen in your den? The cinema on your iPhone or smart device that you might watch after you’ve tweeted your most recent tweet? Yes, yes, and yes. While some seem to wish to categorize “film” and “media” as different forms of expression, in this class we explore the concept of Cine•Media. Indeed, most all of the media with which we engage has some root connection to the conventions and tenants of cinema as it emerged some 120 years ago. With the creation of, and engagement with, Cine•Media literally in the palm of your hand, it’s crucial that we explore the question: What is a creative “voice” in filmmaking (TV, Web work, games, Cine•Media)? How is it expressed? What is the creative process of migrating from an initial idea to a finished piece, be it 3 seconds or 3 hours, 30 minutes or 30 weeks? Enter “the filmwright.” Merriam Webster tells us that a filmwright is one who writes the script for a motion picture. While this is akin to a playwright, who naturally writes plays, indeed the filmwright must be so much more. While a play is to be interpreted, the screenplay is actually meant to be the most advanced iteration of the film to date, albeit at this “paper stage.” To make the film exist on paper, one must understand filmmaking and all that goes into that process. Through readings of source materials, research, and viewings of feature films, Web series, short films, Web links, and media clips, as well as pursuing analytic and creative writing, exploring idea development, the writing of screenplays, class discussions, and exchanges with visiting filmmakers/media makers, the course investigates the nature of Cine•Media and the filmwright’s creative process. While not a production course, per se, in the fall we will learn to think like filmmakers and create “films on paper” in the outline and then in the Bullet Proof™ screenplay form. In the spring, there will be the opportunity to team in groups and produce short collaborative scene work on video. In the course of study, we will also examine topics that include representation in Cine•Media, ethics, and the responsibility of the filmmaker, as well as the spectator’s media literacy and acuity in processing and interpreting material on whatever screen with which one might engage. Finally, throughout the process, we will explore the journey of finding the filmwright's creative voice and the filmwright's expression in film, on the Web, on TV…i.e., in Cine•Media.
Sustainable Content: Like This, Share This, Follow Me!
This course is designed for students who wish to create fiction films, nonfiction films, and media exclusively for a Web audience. The course largely centers on gaining practical film/media production experience; however, students are encouraged to produce material that builds community and engages its audience beyond a single view. Through storytelling, students will explore ways to best utilize democratized and participatory spaces online. Projects may include unique approaches to scripted material, socially relevant short-form documentary, music-inspired visual storytelling, and the like. Students are encouraged to be innovative, provocative, and responsible in their online film and media making. Broken into three teams of five, students will work within their crews to produce pieces of content during the semester. Several small exercises accompany the larger projects, with components that include research, pitching, and technical proficiency. The final presentation is an opportunity for students to screen their work and present how they plan to reach their target audience(s) and why their chosen platform is the appropriate home in which their media should live. Open to all with passion and drive for Web media creation.
Filmmaking: Frame by Frame—New Visions
This course is for intermediate and advanced students who wish to “think cinematically.” It will be an intensive, hands-on course in filmmaking. Students will explore the structure and aesthetics of films from around the world, while gaining practical experience transforming their own ideas into action. They will work individually and in groups through several exercises and then produce a preconceived, thesis-quality, short film/media project during the semester. A limited group of students with a strong passion for filmmaking are encouraged to join us for a course designed to help transition SLC's inspiring creative freedom into the next steps and practical application. We will spend considerable time not only producing films but also developing the skills and language to distribute our ideas to a larger audience—including, but not limited to, film festivals and social media platforms. Previous film experience is required, along with permission of the instructor.
Storyboarding for Film and Animation
This course focuses on the art of storyboard construction as the preproduction stage for film and animation. Students will be introduced to storyboard strategies, exploring visual concepts such as shot types, continuity, pacing, transitions, and sequencing. Both classical and experimental techniques for creating storyboards will be covered. Emphasis will be placed on the production of storyboard drawings, both by hand and digitally, to negotiate sequential image development and to establish shot-by-shot progression, staging, frame composition, editing, and continuity. 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 hi-res animatic in a combined visual, audio, and text presentation format. Knowledge of storyboards and animatics from this class can be used later for idea development and presentation of your project to collaborators, for pitching projects to professional agencies, and, most importantly, for you, the maker. Photoshop, Storyboard Pro, and Final Cut Pro X software will be used throughout this course. Two sections of this course will be offered.
Drawing for Animation: Motion and Character Design
This course focuses on the concepts of animated motion and character design development as a preproduction stage to animation. Students 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 walk-cycle animatics, 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 tablets will be used throughout the semester. Photoshop, Storyboard Pro, and Final Cut Pro software will be utilized for character boards, model sheets, and walk-cycle animatics. The final project for this course will include a concept-based, fully developed, multi-character animatic. Knowledge from this course can be used to create and enhance animations, establish a character outline for an interactive media project, or help in developing a cast of characters for a graphic novel or narrative film. Two sections of this course will be offered.
Writing the Independent Feature
This course is for the emerging screenwriter seeking to explore the writing of a long-form screenwriting project. A review of screenwriting fundamentals during the first few weeks, as well as a discussion of the state of each project, will be followed by a rigorous screenwriting workshop experience. Students are expected to enter the course with a strong idea and should be able to “talk out” the basics of the story. Optimally, the course will work toward the creation of an outline or narrative roadmap of the project. Published screenplays, several useful texts, and clips of films will form a body of examples to help concretize aspects of the craft. The aim is for students to complete a tight outline, finish a first draft of a long-form project, and potentially complete a series of rewrites.
Filmmaking: The Director Prepares
From screenplay up until the actual shooting of a film, what does a director do to prepare? This class will explore, in depth, some of the many processes that a director may use in order to develop and actualize her or his vision, including: screenplay revision, interpretation and breakdown, character development, how to access and communicate visual ideas for the look of the film, the study of camera styles and movement in order to decide how best to visually realize your story through your shot selection, staging, and casting. Each student will pursue a series of exercises, culminating in the directing, shooting, and editing of two exercises—one scene (a private moment) to develop character through cinematic storytelling, and one scene, with dialogue, from the screenplay—in order to experiment with all of the ideas developed throughout the class.
Performance for Film
This course will focus on both the organic and technical aspects of camera performance. The student will learn through hands-on experience how to create three-dimensional characters constructed with a deeply detailed, emotional inner life that is supported through analytical comprehension of text. The performance work will emphasize spontaneity, substitution, conflict, consequence, obstacles, and character journey. The class will work on published scenes, group exercises, short writing prompts for the camera, original monologues, improvisation, re-evaluating awareness of the physical and emotional senses, and how to read, decipher, and support emotional and physical subtext. This course of study is equally valuable to the emerging performer, director, and screenwriter seeking to understand the alchemy of performance for the camera. The students will practice comprehension of master, two-shot, and close-up performance, as well as working off camera, camera blocking, and comprehension of specific camera angles. They will also learn how to maintain and match continuity while using props and physicality. Students will investigate how much one should do for the master shot in terms of movement and emotion and how to control the physical and focus the emotional for close-up work. Voice-over and ADR skills will also be explored.
Acting for Screenwriters and Directors: Less is More—Learning to Talk the Talk
One of the biggest challenges for evolving directors and screenwriters is the ability to achieve the performance envisioned on the page or on the set. Instead, it is lost in translation. Performers are emotional, volatile, highly creative beings. To create the performance that you desire as a screenwriter and/or director, you need to develop a succinct shorthand language that is not confusing, condescending, or incomprehensible. The student will learn, through hands-on experience, how to recognize the truth of the moment and tap into and support the performer by recognizing his/her mercurial emotions and subtle physical indicators. How does a screenwriter write clear, concise, actable action and dialogue that can be transformed from the page to the performance? How does a director create trust with performers and find a language with which to communicate among a variety of actors, acting styles, and temperaments? By exploring basic acting skills, you will better understand the world of the performer. Beginning with a series of rigorous physical, sensory, and emotional exercises, students will develop a better understanding of the emotional palate. Students will be assigned contemporary film scripts to read and discuss. In addition to the texts, students will explore the historical and political underpinnings of the scripts and films. Particular scenes will then be extracted, memorized, and put up on camera. In the second half of the semester, students will have the opportunity to direct peers in scenes facilitating the skills learned. This is not a production class but, rather, a step to improve and apply your experience to your future film. Students will be required to keep a weekly journal of the journey, as well as to deliver a final conference project.
Script to Screen
This workshop will introduce students to the basics of filmmaking through HD video production. From the initial concept through editing, students will get a taste of all phases of production. Students will shoot exercises focusing on cinesthetic elements such as slow disclosure, parallel action, multiangularity, and the master shot discipline. Students will watch and analyze each other’s exercises, learning how to become active film viewers and give useful critical feedback. For their conference work, students will be required to produce a short film. They will write the screenplay, cast and direct actors, draw floorplans and shot lists, edit the video on Final Cut Pro and screen the final production for the class. This class is not a history or theory class but, rather, a practical, hands-on workshop that puts theory into practice and immerses students in all aspects of filmmaking development, writing, directing, and production through to a finished project.
Do-It-Yourself Filmmaking: No-Budget Strategies for Getting It Done
Has there ever been a better time to be a no-budget filmmaker? Recent technological advancements in camera and editing equipment have made it possible for just about anyone to create slick, high-resolution images for very little money. As films get easier to produce, however, good films become harder to find. So, how does the nascent filmmaker distinguish his/her work from crowd? With a great script, sure-footed direction, and a smart allocation of his/her available resources. In this immersive filmmaking workshop, students will develop and shoot a project over the course of the semester. First, we’ll discuss scripts not only in terms of their story, but also in terms of their scope and their producability. Then we’ll practice our directing skills with a series of weekly shooting assignments that target specific directorial challenges. Next, we’ll break down our scripts for production, figuring out low-cost ways to achieve various cinematic effects. Our next step will be to previsualize the film by making shot lists, floor plans, and look books. Students will then go out and shoot their films and bring back the footage for editing. We’ll review basic postproduction procedures and introduce software effects that can add polish to a project without adding cost. The goal of the course is to push the student creatively without multiplying costs beyond what is necessary. With the school’s equipment and other resources at your disposal, the only limitation to you as a filmmaker is your imagination and resourcefulness.
Screenwriting: Writing the Long-Form and Mid-Length Film
With more than 400 cable and online channels available for viewing filmed content, screenwriters have a tremendous opportunity to redefine the classic parameters of a screenplay. While the feature-length film is still generally 90 to 120 minutes, which translates to roughly 90-120 pages of text, seemingly limitless formats are emerging on both the Web and cable television. This screenwriting workshop is for students who are interested in writing feature-length or mid-length films. Using the three-act narrative paradigm as our foundation, this course will accommodate writers looking to write traditional long-form movies, as well as writers whose stories don’t fall neatly into either short- or feature-length categories. Students will learn outlining methods that will help them develop a solid framework for their screenplay. After the outlining process, students will, on a weekly basis, bring pages into the workshop for feedback. Using the students’ work and published screenplays as the takeoff points for discussion, the course will cover skills such as building a satisfying narrative arc, developing characters, writing a description that transports the reader, and creating dialogue that sounds natural and specific to each character.
Once you have your first draft, that’s when the writing begins! Revision is a process that differs from writer to writer. Some people may have to rewrite their screenplays from scratch. Others may find that they have plot holes that need fixing. Still others may find that their work is lacking excitement on the page. Plot, character, dialogue, action—so many different things go into completing a first draft that they are seldom all done well. Good cinematic writing is often sacrificed on the altar of just-getting-it-done. This course seeks to help writers take their work to the next level of polish. This small workshop is for writers who have previously written or are halfway through their feature-length screenplays. The workshop will focus on giving and receiving critical feedback to help the writer improve his/her screenplay in terms of its style, format, and structure. Students will review each other’s work—and also the work of produced screenwriters to see how the pros do it.
Working With Light and Shadows
This course will introduce students to the basics of cinematography and film production. 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 short project on HD Video (3-5 minutes in length), incorporating elements discussed throughout the term. Students will outline the project, draw floor plans and shot lists, 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.
Cinematography: Color, Composition, and Style
This intermediate course will continue the training in cinematography and film production that began in Working With Light and Shadow. In addition to covering camera operation and basic lighting, students will explore composition, color palettes, and application of a visual style to enhance the story. The course will revolve around developing original work and shooting scenes on a weekly basis. Work will be discussed and notes incorporated into the next project. Students will be required to produce a short project on HD Video (3-5 minutes in length), incorporating elements discussed throughout the semester, as part of conference work. Students will develop, write, draw floor plans, 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.
The Poetics of Documentary: La Vérité en Noir et Blanc et en Couleur
An introduction to documentary/nonfiction storytelling for the screen, this course investigates the palette of documentary production styles illustrated in the works of influential directors—Luis Buñuel, Su Friedrich, Barbara Kopple, Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, Sam Pollard, the Newsreel Collective, and others. The course uniquely provides an opportunity for students in other disciplines who have interest in film and video to eventually adapt conference work from other fields to the video medium. Synthesizing theory and practice, students explore the intersection of other popular movements and trends—surrealism, feminism, and reenactment—in the documentary discourse. Each student is encouraged to experience theory as a means of discovering his or her own creative voice. Students develop skills in shooting and editing in specialized technical labs and in their work on preliminary exercises and assignments. Students develop, research, conceptualize, write treatments for, produce, direct, and edit individual productions or co-productions developed in pairs. This workshop provides students with the perfect opportunity to create the short documentary that they’ve always imagined, including explorations of social issues documentaries, autobiographical shorts, experimental documentaries, road movies, anecdotal portrayals, and city symphonies. No prior experience necessary.
Digital Animation: Short Narratives
In this course, students will develop animation and short-storytelling skills by focusing on the process of creating animated shorts. Instruction will include story development, visualization, character development, continuity, timing, digital drawing, and compositing. All of the production steps required to complete a short animated film will be demonstrated and applied through exercises aimed at the production of a final short, full-color animated film, PSA, or music video by each student or team of students. Participants will develop and refine a personal style through exercises in story design and assignments directed at translating these into moving images. 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 features, including: green screen, keyframing, timeline effects, 2D and 3D space, layering, and lighting. Exercises will enable students with a working knowledge of the software Harmony by Toon Boon. Harmony is a creative, efficient software used in the film and TV animation industry.
Experimental Film: Stop-Frame Animation
Whether dealing with abstraction or narrative sequence, experimental films reflect the unique vision of their makers. While most forms of animation serve the particular needs of commercial media, discoveries made by experimental animators have the ability to deconstruct an idea or movement and reassemble it in a new way. This course introduces the concepts and practical study of stop-frame film production as it relates to both sequential and nonsequential narration, movement, space, and time. In a series of short, independent, and collaborative projects, students will learn the techniques and materials necessary to explore a variety of hand-animation practices. The central focus of this course will be on concept development and material exploration for the completion of several short films. Students will work in a variety of frame-by-frame animation techniques in under-the-camera destructive and constructive animation, including: object animation, paper cutout animation, abstract drawing for animation, paint on glass, sand animation, and puppetry. Through technical instruction, readings, discussion, screenings, and experimentation, we will seek to refresh, extend, and redefine traditional modes of animation production. The aim of the course is to explore freely with materials in order to trailblaze fresh narrative and aesthetic possibilities. Final projects may be executed as animated films or animations for video projection. Two sections of this small seminar will be offered. No prior experience necessary.
Secondary Currents: Experimental Video Art
This video production seminar explores, in depth, the rich world of film/video making as artistic expression. Students will participate by completing a series of assignments and through lecture, discussion, and screenings (artist interviews, documentaries, and artist work). We will explore moving-image forms and styles that blur the boundaries of narrative, documentary, and abstract filmmaking. There is, by definition, no formula for this kind of work. Rather, this course introduces the language and techniques of film production, alongside strategies for the use of film and audio design as creative expression. In this one semester course, we will direct our concerns to an exploration of our relationship to the aesthetics, politics, and language of place in its broadest context. We will look at and analyze the pioneering work of many experimental film/video artists, including Tacita Dean, Doug Aiken, Pipolotti Rist, Michael Snow, Bill Fontana, Nigel Ayers, Young Hae Chang, and others. Readings will include selections from several texts, including: MM Yvette’s Figuring the Landscape: Experimental Film and the Ecological Movement, On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art and Place” by Lucy Lippard, “Identity and Place in Contemporary Art” by Don Krug, and others. Labs are designed to introduce the tools and techniques for each project.
Screenwriting: The Art and Craft of Film-Telling
How do you write a screenplay? One word at a time, articulating the action (the doing) of the characters and thereby revealing the emotional moments of recognition in the characters’ journey. Pursuing the fundamentals of developing and writing narrative fiction motion-picture screenplays, the course starts with a focus on the short-form screenplay. We’ll explore the nature of writing screen stories for film, the Web, and television. The approach views screenwriting as having less of a connection to literature and playwriting and more of a connection to the oral tradition of storytelling. We will dissect the nature and construct of the screenplay to reveal that the document—the script—is actually the process of “telling your film” (or movie, or Web series, or TV show, et al). In Film-Telling, the emerging screenwriter will be encouraged to think and approach the work as a director—because until someone else emerges to take the reins (if it is not the screenwriter), the writer is the director—if only on the page. With the class structured as a combination of seminar and workshop-style exchanges, students will read selected texts and produced screenplays, write detailed script analyses, view films and clips, and, naturally, write short narrative fiction screenplays. While students will be writing scripts starting in the first class, they will also be introduced to the concept of “talking their stories,” as well, in order to explore character and plot while gaining a solid foundation in screen storytelling, visual writing, and screenplay evolution. We will migrate from initial idea through research techniques, character development, story generation, outlining, the rough draft, and rewrites to a series of finished short-form screenplays. The fundamentals of character, story, universe and setting, dramatic action, tension, conflict, sequence structure, acts, and style will be explored, with students completing a series of short scripts and a final written project. In-class analysis of peer work within the context of a safe environment will help students have a critical eye and develop skills to apply to the troubleshooting of one’s own work. Overall, the student builds a screenwriter’s tool kit for use as various projects emerge in the future. In conference, students can research and develop a long-form screenplay or teleplays, develop a TV series concept and “bible,” initiate and develop a Web series concept, craft a series of short screenplays for production courses or independent production, rewrite a previously written script, adapt original material from another form, and so forth. Research and screen storytelling skills developed through the course can be applied to other writing forms.
Writing the Film: Scripts for Screen-Based Media
This course is for the emerging screenwriter seeking to write for creative, screen-based, media projects. Students may be initiating a new screenplay/project, adapting original material into the screenplay form, creating a Web series or television project, rewriting a screenplay, or finishing a screenplay-in-progress. A review of screenwriting fundamentals during the first few weeks, as well as a discussion of the state of each project, will be followed by an intense screenwriting workshop experience. Students are expected to enter the course with an existent screenplay, a strong idea, an outline or narrative roadmap of their project, and the capability of “talking out” the concept and journey. The expectation is for students to finish a first-draft project. Published screenplays, several useful texts, and clips of films and media will form a body of examples to help concretize aspects of the art and craft.
Producing for Filmmakers, Screenwriters, and Directors
Producers are credited on every film, television, and media project made. Producers are crucial—even seminal—to each and every production, no matter how big or small. Yet, even as a pivotal position in the creative and practical process of making a film, TV show, or media project, the title “Producer” is perhaps the least understood of all of the collaborators involved. What is a producer? This course answers and demystifies this question, examining what a producer actually does in the creation of screen-based media and the many hats that one—or a small army of producers—may wear at any given time. Students will explore the role of the producer in the filmmaking, television, and video process from the moment of creative inspiration through project delivery. A practical course in the ways and means of producing, the class will consider the current state of producing through nuts-and-bolts production software and exercises, verbal and written assignments, and industry guests currently working in film and television. Students will gain hands-on experience in developing projects, breaking them down into production elements, and crafting schedules and budgets. Course work includes logline, synopsis and treatment writing, script breakdown, budgeting and scheduling, pitching, and final project presentation of film, TV, or digital video projects. Conference projects may include producing a film or media project by a student in another filmmaking production class at SLC, case studies, development and preproduction of a proposed future film or video project, and the like. Designed to provide real-world producing guidance, the course offers filmmakers, screenwriters, and directors a window into the importance of, and the mechanics pertaining to, the producing discipline and a practical skill set for creating and seeking work in the filmmaking and media-making world after SLC.
The Business of Film and Television
Building on Producing for Filmmakers, Screenwriters, and Directors, students expand their knowledge of the role of the producer in the realm of filmmaking, television, and digital video, especially as it relates to the ongoing creative process and the “show business” of producing. Diving deeper into the real-world application of the producer’s role and applying learned knowledge and skills, course work includes script coverage, optioning material, entertainment law, music licensing, best producing practices, traditional and innovative financing models, domestic and foreign film and television markets, daily industry trends, sizzle reel and trailer analysis, fine-tuning pitching skills, film marketing and publicity, examining the distribution process and release strategies, navigating the festival circuit, understanding the roles of lawyers, agents, managers, and sales agents, traversing relationships with directors and writers, producing dos and don’ts, and deciphering the intersection of art and commerce as it relates to both the business and the artistic elements of producing. Course work includes written and oral assignments, in-class presentations, assignments based on invited industry guests, and in-class final presentations. Conference work ranges from in-depth case studies to producing other students’ work. Upon completing the course, students will have an extensive understanding of the business of film and television, as well as a further understanding of the producer's role from creative development to final delivery.
First-Year Studies: The Interactive City: Media Design for Public Spaces
Games played on the sides of buildings, animated media walls, interactive display tables...these are all examples of a new type of playable media called “public interactives.” This class teaches the basics of designing, programming, building, and installing civil spectacles. We will visit and analyze contemporary public interactives like those found in Times Square, art museums, theme parks, and digital memorials. Then, working individually and in groups, we’ll design and build small-scale spectacles of our own. The class will also survey the theories of public art, pervasive computing, and interaction design that describe the cultural implications of urban screens and digitally-mediated communication with large audiences.
First-Year Studies: The Photograph Now
For its first 100 years, photography was black-and-white—an abstraction of human sightedness. Newly born photography shook (and was shaken by) painting, as it pushed into the world as an engine of modern consciousness. When color photography came along, it didn’t hesitate to present new pleasures and new problems to thoughtful practitioners of, and adherents to, the medium. The recent arrival of digital photography has created an image culture that is changing by the day—and changing the world by the day. Through black-and-white, color, and digital darkroom work and a broad range of readings, students will grow familiar with photographic practices and theories as they respond to the pull of the student's individual aesthetic.
Our Nine Senses: Advanced Interdisciplinary Studio
This course is intended for experienced visual-arts students interested in more rigorously pursuing their own methods of art making. Students will maintain individual studio spaces; they will be expected to work independently and creatively and to challenge themselves and their peers to explore new ways of thinking and making. During the fall semester, students will be given open-ended prompts based on nine human senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, balance, temperature, proprioception, pain) from which they will be asked to experiment with materials and ideas. In the spring semester, students will focus exclusively on their own interests and will be expected to develop a sophisticated, cohesive body of independent work. We will have regular critiques, readings, slide discussions, professional visiting artists, and trips to artist’s studios. This will be an immersive studio course for serious, disciplined art students. Open to juniors and seniors with prior visual art experience.
Drawing on Sight
Drawing is an exciting art form that encourages experimentation and embraces mistakes; it’s a record, on paper, of how we see and think. This will be a highly creative, rigorous course that will challenge you to think about the medium of drawing in new and transformative ways. In class, you will learn the fundamental techniques and materials of observational drawing and will then apply them to subjects off campus. We’ll alternate in-class drawing lessons with trips to different locations to draw “on site.” We’ll work in nature at various locations along the Hudson River and in architectural spaces such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History, the Cloisters, New York City galleries, and others. You’ll be asked to consider your point of view as something fluid, organic, and personal. Ultimately, your drawings will reflect how YOU see the world. Studio practice will be reinforced through discussion, written work, readings, and slide lectures. Visiting artists and studio visits with artists in New York City will be scheduled. This course is suitable for all levels.
Definitely Not Floccinaucinihilipilification: Painting and Words
The relationship between art and language has been explored in dynamic ways throughout art history and in contemporary painting. From ancient cave paintings and Egyptian hieroglyphs to Cy Twombly’s scrawled relief paintings and Alfred Jensen’s impasto diagrams, the fusion of language into paint has long been at the core of visual expression. How does the way a word looks—its shape, color, and size—relate to what it says? How many ways can you read a work of art? In this painting course, students will probe the dynamic between the formal qualities of language and its content. Via the prism of text, we will paint color and space through diverse processes (observational, invented, historical, abstract). Primarily an oil painting class, we will also experiment with watercolor, acrylic, encaustic, and other nontraditional painting mediums. In this class, you will be asked to explore the exciting dynamics of the painted word. Studio practice will be reinforced through discussion, written work, readings, and slide lectures. Visiting artists and studio visits with artists in New York City will be scheduled. Open to students who have had painting courses in college or advanced high-school level.
New Media Lab: Playable Buildings
Projection mapping is a playable media technique that turns almost any surface into a dynamic display. Mapping is currently being applied in all areas, from architectural media and music festivals to dance clubs, performance, sculpture, gaming, machinima, and museum exhibits. This class provides a framework for exploring and creating these new media artworks. We’ll begin with the graphics techniques used to create and display digital imagery on 3D objects, then add interactivity with a bit of coding and plug-and-play sensor devices like LEAP and Kinect. Students will be encouraged to work individually and in groups to create both small-scale studio installations and architectural projections in a variety of styles and media. Artists surveyed include Light Surgeons, NuFormers, Klip Collective, Seeper, and Urbanscreen.
Game Studio: Radical Game Design
From Hopscotch to MolleIndustria, artists have used games and play as means of subverting power and systems. Games are small and viral. They emerge and disappear. They grip the online world obsessively or blend seamlessly into the underground. Above all, games are easily dismissed by authority, making them an ideal means of starting and spreading social and political dissonance. This class surveys radical game design as practiced by artists such as MoilleIndustria, Anne Marie Schleiner, Natalie Bookchin, Donna Leishman, Eddo Stern, Ian MacLarty, Rock Herms, and others. We will also consider the historical roots of radical design, which finds its beginnings in Dada, Surrealist, Fluxus, and Situationist games, and play methods explored by artists such as George Brecht, John Cage, and William Burroughs. The class provides a framework for exploring and creating these new media artworks. We’ll begin with the graphics techniques used to create and display digital imagery on 3D objects, then add interactivity with a bit of coding and plug-and-play sensor devices like LEAP and Kinect. Students will be encouraged to work individually and in groups to create both small-scale studio installations and architectural projections in a variety of styles and media. Artists surveyed include Light Surgeons, NuFormers, Klip Collective, Seeper, and Urbanscreen.
Beginning Painting: From Observation to Invention
This course is an introduction to the materials and techniques of oil painting. There will be an examination of various painting strategies that fluctuate between specific in-class assignments and individual conference projects. The primary focus will be an elaboration on rudimentary concepts such as color, tonal structure, spatial construction, painting surfaces, and composition. The fall semester focuses on the subject of still life and landscape. These subjects will be the starting point for experimentation with spatial structures ranging from direct observation to composite constructions. We will also explore narrative possibilities that landscape and still-life paintings can imply, and we will examine the role of these subjects in the history of painting and other visual media. The course will culminate in an individual project that will be researched by the student and discussed during conferences and course critiques and will include a large-scale painting. In-class assignments will be supplemented with PowerPoint presentations, reading material, film clips and video screenings, group critiques, and homework projects. Students are required to work in the studio outside the class time in order to develop the work. The goal of the course is to gain confidence with technical aspects of painting and to begin to establish an individual studio practice.
Beginning Painting: From Observation to Narrative
In this course, students will be introduced to the materials and techniques of oil painting. There will be an examination of various strategies that fluctuate between specific in-class assignments and individual studio work. Drawing, color theory, and color mixing will be an integral part of the course. We will focus primarily on portraiture and figure, as well as historical, psychological, and narrative implications of using a human form as a subject. There will be an exploration of studio-based strategies that will include working from observation and using mediated imagery such as film stills, photography, and art history. The course will culminate in an individual project that will be researched by the student and discussed during conferences and course critiques and will include a large-scale painting. In-class assignments will be supplemented with PowerPoint presentations, reading material, film clips and video screenings, group critiques, and homework projects. Students are required to work in the studio outside the class time in order to develop the work. The goal of the course is to gain confidence with technical aspects of painting and to begin to establish an individual studio practice.
Post-Analog: Painting in a Digital Age
The gradual shift from analog to digital media has been one of the most significant transformations of our time, one that permeates every aspect of our visual culture and profoundly informs the ways by which we produce, distribute, and consume images. How does painting function in this vastly altered landscape of information? What kind of tools and insights does it possess that might allow it to thrive as a discipline and mode of inquiry and expression in the 21st century? Through rigorous studio-based experimentation, discussions, readings, presentations, and field trips, we will attempt to grapple with some of these questions over the semester. Projects will focus on the impact and relevance of digital technology on the form, content, and modes of production of contemporary painting. We will work with both traditional and nontraditional media, and studio work will be supplemented with independent research into the complex multiple histories of painting. Prior college-level painting experience is required. Students are encouraged to bring examples or images of relevant past work to the interview.
Experiments in Drawing
In this class, we seek to undertake an immersive exploration of the multiple roles that drawing can play within contemporary artistic practice. Students will be introduced to and challenged by a series of studio and research-based projects that attempt to expand upon conventional understandings of drawing’s place as a method of observational notetaking or as a preparatory study for a primary practice. Assignments will vary from conceptual or thematically driven projects to creative explorations of experimental and nonconventional materials and processes. Readings, presentations, and field trips will help provide context to drawing’s history as an autonomous mode of expression. Conference projects will provide opportunities to pursue individual and self-directed interests. Prior college-level drawing experience is required. Students are encouraged to bring examples or images of relevant past work to the interview.
Basic Analog Black-and-White Photography
This is an analog, film-based course that introduces the fundamentals of black-and-white photography: acquisition of photographic technique, development of personal vision and artistic expression, and discussion of photographic history and contemporary practice. Reviews are designed to strengthen the understanding of the creative process, while assignments will stress photographic aesthetics and formal concerns. Conference work entails research into historical movements and individual artists' working methods. Throughout the semester, students are encouraged to make frequent visits to gallery and museum exhibitions and share their impressions with the class. The relationship of photography to liberal arts also will be emphasized. Students will develop and complete their own bodies of work as culmination of their study. This is not a digital photography course. Students need to have at least a 35mm film camera and be able to purchase film and gelatin silver paper throughout the term.
This course will explore aesthetic, historical, and conceptual concerns of photography. Students may use analog (film) or digital capture to make either black-and-white or color photographs. Lectures, readings, gallery/museum visits, and the class blog will present a historical framework and theoretical structure that will form the foundation for class discussions and critiques. Use of the medium to express a personal aesthetic vision will be stressed. The focus of the class will be on developing and refining a body of work. Students will build upon their technical knowledge and will be challenged to acquire new skills. Students will learn and become fluent in the vernacular of looking at images by examining composition, interpreting symbolism, and deciphering the artist’s intentions. Taking into consideration the rise of the Internet as the primary platform for reading and disseminating photographs, students will also engage in a weekly online exchange with each other exclusively through their images. Critical discussions about the resulting picture conversations will follow. The class’s interactive blog will serve as a means of learning about one’s own process and tendencies as a picture maker through a creative exchange with one’s classmates.
This is a rigorous studio course in which students will produce a body of work while studying the relevant artistic and photographic precedents. A working knowledge of photographic history and contemporary practice is a prerequisite, as is previous art or photographic work that indicates readiness for the advanced questions presented by this course.
Digital Photography, or the Assisted Camera
This course will focus on mastering methods, techniques, and conceptual frameworks in order to make more of the possibilities inherent in our contemporary picture-making environment. We will tackle questions around what photography has become, how digital technology has complicated the medium’s dominant metaphors, and ways in which both the computer and the camera might be reimagined as useful tools in a world glutted with images. The course will be part technical skill development, part making/critique, and part theoretical investigation.
This course introduces the student to the basic fundamentals and concepts of printmaking in an environment that practices newly developed, nontoxic, printmaking methodologies. Participants will learn how to develop an image on a particular surface, how to transfer the image to paper, edition printing, and presentation. Students will utilize tools, materials, and equipment required to produce a print in a variety of media, including intaglio, silkscreen, and relief prints. The techniques involved in each of these processes are numerous and complex. Emphasis is placed on finding those techniques best suited to the development of each class member’s aesthetic concerns.
This course offers an opportunity for an in-depth study of advanced printmaking techniques. Students will be encouraged to master traditional skills and techniques so that familiarity with the process will lead to the development of a personal and meaningful body of work. The course will also cover all aspects of letterpress printing, enabling participants to incorporate text into their conference work, if so desired.
In the past, the book was used solely as a container for the written word. In the past 30 years, however, the book has emerged as a popular format for visual expression. Students will begin this course by learning to make historical book forms from various cultures (Coptic, codex, accordion, and Japanese-bound) so that they will be able to see the book with which we are familiar in a new and wider context. From there, students will apply newly-learned techniques to the production of nontraditional artist books. The course will also cover all aspects of letterpress printing, including setting type, using the press, and making and printing with polymer plates. Whether text, images, or a combination of the two is employed, emphasis will be placed on the creation of books as visual objects. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have previously taken a visual arts course.
See the complete description in the fall offering of Artist Books, above.
Sculpture and the Meaning of Making
In this first semester course, we will explore an expansive notion of sculpture and work to develop the critical and practical tools necessary to approach artmaking from various directions. As gallery and museum press releases declare works as “blurring the boundaries” between art and other disciplines (such as design, display, film, furniture, architecture, and theatre), students in this class are invited to investigate the practices involved in those distinct worlds and to consider how they might be incorporated into their own sculpture. Studio process will be emphasized so that students come away with a significant understanding of how things are made. We will learn about established sculptural materials and techniques, as well as those used in less traditional fabrication industries. Fieldwork and hands-on experimentation will be critical to create a personal body of work in dialogue with the contemporary art environment and the world at large. Beyond the making of objects, projects may include ephemeral and interdisciplinary practices: actions and their documentation, collaborative work, living strategies, installation, etc. Students will be encouraged to consider the place and context of their projects and to ask questions about whom they want to reach as working artists. Through studio demonstrations, individual projects, in-class presentations, related readings, and field trips to galleries and studios, we will investigate issues surrounding the creation of new, relevant, and vital work. Each project will be discussed in a group critique, with the aim of helping the artist express a vision in the most focused and most dynamic way possible. Previous experience in sculpture is helpful but not necessary. Please bring images of any pertinent past work to the interview.
Close Encounters: Sculpture and Disrupted Space
Ad Reinhardt once said, "Sculpture is something you bump into when you back up to look at a painting." Watch out, it sounds like a space-inhabiting interloper has upset the artist’s pleasurable viewing experience. Is the painter’s remark a slight on the medium’s extraneous nature? Or is it praise of sculpture’s stubborn in-the-way-ness as another body to be contended with? This second-semester course will explore the haptic and psychological presence of sculpture, with particular attention paid to the ways that context and situation can at once create and destabilize a meaningful art experience. Questions that we will address are: How should a sculpture behave? What does the conceptual space that a work occupies have to do with how it sits in a room or meets the world? When does it become an intervention? Can awkward and uncomfortable proximity create friction and/or value? Did Sarah Lucas change everything? In this course, students are invited to work experimentally to explore the possibilities of sculpture in an experiential continuum and to build on the critical and practical tools necessary to make and contextualize challenging work. Studio process will be emphasized so that students gain a significant understanding of how things are made—so that students may develop the confidence to embrace a risk-taking approach to art making. We will delve into more advanced applications of the processes explored in the first semester course, Sculpture and the Meaning of Making. Through studio demonstrations, individual projects, in-class presentations, related readings, and field trips to galleries and studios, we will investigate issues surrounding the creation of new, relevant, vital work and its context. Each project will be discussed in a group critique, with the aim of helping the artist express a vision in the most focussed and dynamic way possible. Open to students with previous experience in art, preferably in sculpture. Please bring images of pertinent past work to the interview.
Urban Design Studio: Infrastructural and Ecological Systems
The Urban Design Studio examines the contemporary city to reveal its hidden layers of social and spatial networks. Our goal is to develop strategies in which urban design can inspire a keener sensibility toward social and environmental responsibilities of the city for interaction. We will look at existing infrastructural systems in the city—highways, railways, water and sewage systems, and data—and also examine newer modes of infrastructural transportation, such as bike networks, and new energy to see how they may key into existing systems. Students will investigate how nature and underlying ecological systems can transcend preconceived social and political boundaries to link neighborhoods and create new systems of engagement. Using New York City and its immediate environs as a case study, students will envision new connections and opportunities for urban design forged along the city’s industrial corridors. Class will balance collective design work and individual exploration. Students will use mapping, physical model building and 3D digital modeling to document findings and create design proposals. Emphasis will be made on how to couple formal invention at a neighborhood scale, with an exacting conceptual framework amid heterogeneous collaboration. A Rhino workshop will be offered with this course to give students a basic knowledge of 3D computer modeling.
Architectural Design: Material Construct and Intervention
This studio will investigate design at the scale of the architectural construction. We will examine how materials, both traditional and digitally generated ones, can affect and determine spatial structures. We will then determine how these constructs can, in turn, animate the urban environment both socially and ecologically through strategical intervention. The semester will build upon a series of progressively more complex exercises, increasing in both scale and scope, with students presenting a final project that brings together concept, program, formal material invention, and performative experience. The project site and program will relate loosely to challenges identified in the Urban Design Studio (though enrollment in Urban Design Studio is not a prerequisite), with scales complementing each other to inspire discovery. Students will use diagramming, physical model building and 3D digital modeling, rendering, and animation to create design proposals. Projects will be supported by readings, discussion, and case studies. A second Rhino workshop will be offered concurrently with this course to give students knowledge of 3D modeling and rendering.
Color is primordial. It is life itself, and a world without color would appear dead and barren to us. Nothing affects our entire being more dramatically than color. The children of light, colors reveal and add meaning, richness, and fullness to all that surrounds us. Color soothes us and excites us. It changes how we see, how we dream, and what we desire. Using a variety of methods and materials, this course will focus on an exploration of color, its agents, and their effects. Not a painting course, this class will explore relationships between the theory, perception, and physiology of color and how it is used. Clearly-defined problems and exercises will concentrate on understanding and controlling the principles and strategies common to the visual vocabulary of color (hue, value, saturation, form, context, texture, pattern, space, continuity, repetition, rhythm, gestalt, and unity), as well as their personal, psychological, symbolic, expressive, and emotional consequences.
Location and Place
Whether it is John Ford’s vision of the Western frontier, Yoda’s swamp-infested Dagobah, a tree in an empty field painted by Courbet, this campus seen from space via Google Earth, Yosemite photographed by Carleton Watkins, or the backyard of your childhood home, the landscape—vast and at times incomprehensible—has symbolically embodied a sense of place, as well as our ability to conceive of worlds and horizons beyond. Harmony or lack of harmony with the environment can perhaps be understood best through the chiseling of human intervention. Even before written language, recording a sense of place—marking where one was, here in relation to someone or something there—was important in defining oneself. Historically, the landscape has been a way to understand both location and position in relation to the world around us. A mixture of the external and the internal—using memory, instinct, and learned behavior—we navigate, in body and in mind, a landscape that is partly real and partly invented. At times an escape from the turmoil of earthly confinement, the landscape is representative of our desire for freedom, as well as of our need for order. How you choose to compare here to there, now to then, us to them, and from which perspective or location one departs in recording an excursion (e.g., observation, memory, or history) changes the meaning, purpose, and understanding of the journey. Using a variety of visual means, materials, and media, this course will explore concepts of landscape, journeying, mapping, documentation, location, and one’s perceived place in the world.
In a world where almost any and every object one could desire is easily accessible and readily available, the still life—precisely because its subject matter is the complex, emblematic narrative between objects—is a genre uniquely poised between the actual and virtual worlds. Evoking the cyclic and symbiotic interconnective structure of nature, time, and the fragility of all existence, the still life gives a permanence and visibility to the evanescent. Fleeting illusions or something real and concrete, objects in a still life can be connected through fact, presence, or memory, as well as a combination of those and many other factors. A still life may be about the here and now or a projection of something desired and/or wished. The terms that describe, contemplate, and capture this process of building and understanding the connection between objects—still life, stilleben, stilleven, nature morte, natura morta, naturaleza muerta—are all very vague and do not exactly evoke or mean the same thing. Is a painting of a young woman next to a window, with a bowl of fruit and in front of an antique map, a still life? Is the collection of random photographs stored in your smart phone a still life? Or the memory of your favorite childhood toys, whether they actually remain or not? Each could or could not be examples of still life, but how and under what circumstances? This course will explore the idea of visually gathering, collecting, curating, documenting, and bringing objects together with purpose and meaning. Students will be encouraged to work with a variety of methods, media, sources, and combinations of materials to examine the meaningful exchange and interaction between objects both personal and cultural, natural and manmade, actual or virtual.
Interactive Objects: War Machine
This course focuses on war, conflict, and destruction as resources for creative perspectives and practices. War has been a part of human activity across history and constantly changes our world. The violent and destructive power of the war machine is manifested not only in war but also in daily human relationships. It protects the utopia in which we live; however, it is intended to be hidden outside of the social apparatus. In this course, we will inspect different types of war machines in metaphorical or nonmetaphorical forms, investigate how this irresistible mechanism and system generate power, and how that power impacts us. Students will design and build their own “machines” as artistic expressions on related topics of their choosing, with their own expertise, and in any form. On a practical side, we will learn how to use motors and sensors to create interactive objects and installations. Technical training on programming and Arduino prototyping will be included. Prior experience is not required, but an interest in new media art, technology, and politics is recommended.
Interactive Objects: Extensions of the Body
This course will explore the technical and conceptual fundamentals of interactivity in the broader context of a sustained studio practice. In addition to teaching basic use of motors and sensors, along with programming skills from the ground up, the course will focus on the social and political implications of interactions and behaviors of art objects and how their relations with audience may be extended as a further critique of our media culture, daily communication, identity, and hidden social issues. We will examine both work and theory in fields of art, design, technology, and philosophy. Students will be expected in their studio work to engage with physical computing and related technologies either conceptually or technically. The course will consist of introductory workshops on electronics and computer programming, discussions of critical theories and works by artists and designers from related fields, hands-on prototyping, and projects that push the boundaries of interactivity. Artists surveyed include Krzysztof Wodiczko, Rebecca Horn, U-ram Choe, and Nick Cave. No prior programming experience is required.
The Role of Technology in Trauma Care
This course will use group problem solving to answer the question: How can technology help us improve trauma assessment, counseling, and care? The technologies to be examined include voice recognition, audio analysis, data visualization, and tablet and smartphone applications. The course will focus on real clinical and advocacy problems faced by a New York-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to assisting survivors of torture. The course is primarily about improving the services provided by this organization, not about technology per se. As a result, we will critically analyze the role of technology in the clinical context and examine both technological and nontechnological solutions to the care and advocacy problems that we will be studying. The course is comprised of three units of four weeks each. In the first unit, we will examine ways in which technology can and cannot be used to improve the process for interviewing clients who have suffered trauma. Intake interviews are a significant part of their assessment and care. The second unit will address the same problem but from a research, rather than a clinical, perspective. The final unit will focus on documenting and publishing the results using multiple media, including text, video, audio, and interactive graphics. Academically, the class will feature concurrent streams related to five different disciplines: clinical psychology, software application development, data visualization, user-experience design, and communications. Although students will be exposed to all of these disciplines, they will not be expected to master them all. The class will have individual, group, and collective components. Individually, students will be responsible for one in-class presentation, relevant both to the general goals of the class and the individual learning goals of the student. Students may choose from a list provided by the instructor or focus on another relevant topic. Each presentation will have an audio-visual and written component and will be published on the class website. There will be one group problem-solving exercise for each of the three units. Each group assignment will be published on the class website. The ultimate goal of the class is to publish, collectively, one multimedia research paper focused on the problem and based on the in-class presentations. The entire class will be responsible for achieving this goal together. This class is a “Tech Third,” which means it has a central workshop and additional components featuring other faculty who help with the interdisciplinary nature of the problem solving. There will be additional workshops by Professors Adam Brown and Angela Ferraiolo, as well as presentations by subject matter experts and torture survivors.
Space, Time, Material
A sculptural experience could be described as an encounter with a set of materials at a particular space and time. In this yearlong sculpture course, we will consider the elements of space, time, and material both discretely and in conjunction. The first half of the course will present students with a series of sculptural problems to be solved with a variety of material and conceptually-based strategies, examining both the categorical flexibility of the term sculpture and challenging students to push beyond their creative boundaries. In the second half of the course, each student will develop a particular research focus—an object, a material process, a space, a site, or a landscape—and delve into it through a series of self-directed studio projects. Throughout, studio work may encompass diverse media, including both conventional sculptural practices, as well as digital and time-based media, performance, and photography. Students will be encouraged to experiment, invent, and discover. Short-term focused exercises will alternate with longer-term studio projects; periods of rigid structure will complement periods of open investigation.