Film Analysis- Notes from Class (Page 1)

Key Terms:

  • Mise-en-scene– “Setting the stage”; painterly/stylized; an expression used to describe the design aspects of a theatre or film production, which essentially means “visual theme” or “telling a story”.
  • Rule of thirds– applies to the process of composing visual images such as designs, films, paintings, and photographs. The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.

  • Formalism– Kind of poetics, critical thinking.
    • Notice certain patterns to understand meaning.
  • Poetics– System for meaning
    • Filmmakers build on other filmmakers’ work.
    • Factory product vs. Independent films.
  • Form– Pattern of a film; ways a film’s parts work together to create specific effects and meaning.
  • Style– Cinematic techniques
    • Mise-en-scene: people, places, objects
    • Cinematography
    • Editing
    • Sound
  • Preproduction– Funding is secure and script is down; film is ready for production
  • Storyboard– Series of sketches of the shots in each scene
  • Postproduction– Editing, special fx, etc.
  • 24 fps (frames per second)– Films are shot and projected in 24 fps; or more specifically: 23.976 frames per second.
  • Critical flicker fusion– The projector shutter breaks the light beam once a new image slides into place and is held there. Thus, each frame is actually projected twice. The raises the number of flashes to 48.
  • Apparent motion– creates the illusion that something is moving
  • ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement)– Audio that is re-recorded in post production to replace the audio that was captured during production.
  • Auteur (author)– Directors with distinct approach to filmmaking while working with Hollywood studio system.
  • Master Shot– Records entire action and dialogue of scene in one take
  • Coverage– Portions of a scene that are re-staged or shot at different angles.
  • Photographic Film– Ribbons of still images that run through a projector; film strip emerges from a camera as a negative; positive print must be made for projection. Light imprints on the emulsion. Printer modifies image/footage from camera, controls passage of light.
  • Digital Film– Lens gathers and focuses light from a scene, shutter breaks the input into frames. Sensor generates pixels. Digital is cheaper than film. Footage stored on memory cards.
  • 3 Phases of MoviesProduction, Distribution, and Exhibition
  1. Script writing and funding
  2. Prep for filming
  3. Shooting
  4. Assembly
  • Editing– Putting the scenes and shots together; adding fx and sound
  • Small scale production– Usually a small group of people working on a film; single filmmaker.
  • Studios and Distribution– Distribution companies hold all the power.
  • Story– Pattern of narrative elements; events; actions
  • Stylistic Elements– (also narrative elements) How film techniques are used to create effects for the viewer.

Analysis Process for short film “Six Shooter”

-Watch film and take notes on the colors, character interactions, tiny details, and symbols.
-Look for parallels between characters.
My notes/examples: -Doctor’s dialogue serves as a foreshadowing tool.
-The monkey symbolizes the young man; he is annoying, loud, and outgoing.

  • This film is an ironic tragedy- we can identify with the main character, Donelly. He’s just trying to cope, move on, and keep going.
  • This film evokes sympathy and allows us to forgive some of the worst character flaws.

Audience Reaction- this short film causes the audience to fall silent one moment and then laugh the next.

*Think like a screenwriter. How are the events motivated?
*I’m shown this on screen and not something else, why did the filmmaker intend for it to be this way?
*What’s the effect of something that has been done?
*How are character actions motivated in a film?
*How does a movie move from event to event?
*How do elements of a film’s style create a film’s form?

1. How is attention directed?
My answer: In the short film “Six Shooter”, the audience’s attention is very much directed towards the bright colors, main actors, and certain objects. The filmmakers frame each shot sot that the audience has no choice but to look at the character or object that is in the center of the screen. The filmmakers also use bright and vibrant colors, like the young man’s lime green shirt, to direct attention to something that is important to the plot of the film.

2. What visual patterns do you find? How do they reveal character traits?
My answer: I noticed in this movie that there were quite a few animals (sheep, bunny, cow) that were brought to the audience’s attention. In some ways, the animals were used as fillers to temporarily distract the audience or alleviate tensions that arise; especially tensions caused by the young man. These animals also serve as a reminder to the young man of his childhood. He recalls a story of a cow that blew up; a humorous story that brings the young man and Donelly a little closer as characters.

3. What is the effect of knowing Donelly? Why?
My answer: I think it is good that the audience doesn’t know Donelly more personally, or that we really don’t have to. Any information about him would just be excess or unnecessary in relation to the story that this film is trying to tell. The fact that the audience immediately learns that he has lost his wife allows us to sympathize with him better. He also seems to be a relatable character because he isn’t complex and his desires are clear.

Studying Film Based on Interpretation

  1. Watching for comprehension/what’s happening?
    -character development
    -plot order
    -visual and sonic patterns
    -whose plot is it?
  2. Analysis
    -original take or understanding
    -what’s significant about the film and why?
    -What does the film reveal about its culture or “the human condition”?


Analysis: Interpretation; often incorporates limited summary; key to good writing and good thinking, meaning is negotiated.
Summary: Description; paraphrasing; restating; brings viewer to filmmaker’s viewpoint

Rhetorical Triangle

Text (play, novel, film, etc) vs. Viewer vs. Filmmaker



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