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FIL2400 - History of the American Cinema red line

General Information

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A. FIL 2400 -- The History of American Cinema

What film is:
"Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls." - Ingmar Bergman (b. 1918), Swedish stage and film writer, director.

Well, maybe not:
"The making of a picture ought surely to be a rather fascinating adventure. It is not; it is an endless contention of tawdry egos, some of them powerful, almost all of them vociferous, and almost none of them capable of anything much more creative than credit-stealing and self-promotion." Raymond Chandler (1888-1959), US author.

I. Your Instructor
Mr. Terry Dugas
ECC Office: HM 028
ECC Office Hours: By appointment
WGCU Phone -- 590-2300
590-2310 (fax)
E-Mail address:
WWW Home Page:
Mailing address:
Terry Dugas
27443 Pollard Drive
Bonita Springs, FL 33923

II. General Course Information:
American Cinema is a survey of the American film industry as an art form, as an industry, and as a system of representation and communications. The course explores how Hollywood films work technically, aesthetically, and culturally to reinforce and challenge how Americans view themselves.

III. Course Objectives and Written Requirements:
A. Course Objectives
1. To acquire a general knowledge of American film history, from the silent cinema to the present day.
2. To recognize and use the basic technical and critical language of film making.
3. To understand how the technology of movie making relates to the art of film.
4. To understand the economic structure of the film industry.
5. To understand the role of genre in American film and to recognize how genres express American social and cultural tensions
6. To question their own role as passive spectators, and increase their ability to watch films actively and critically.

B. Written Requirements
1. There will be two tests and a comprehensive final exam.
2. In addition, there are two written assignments. The assignments can be faxed, E-mailed, turned in during my office hours, or turned in at HU 79 to be put in my mailbox. But they MUST be typed!
The average grade of the two assignments and the average grade of the two tests will count 1/3 of your final grade. The comprehensive final will count 1/3.
3. Optional journal. You will get a better grade if you keep a journal for the class. It's not required, but you can submit it for extra credit!
a. Jot down questions you have about the readings or the videos. We can discuss these if you call.
b. You can also write down ideas you have about the material.
c. If you see any films, give a brief review. Did you like it? And most importantly, why?
d. And answer the Self Test questions in the Study Guide. You will see many of these on your graded exams.

IV. Course Components:
A. 13 telecourse programs, broadcast over WGCU-TV, Channel 30/Cable Channel 3. If you miss a program, copies are at the Edison library.

Note: Due to legal restrictions, some of the broadcast programs are edited. Language classified as legally obscene in Lee County has been "blipped." However, unedited versions of the programs are available at the library. The unedited versions may be especially helpful in the discussions of contemporary American films.

B. Supplemental programs broadcast over WGCU-TV, cable and commercial channels.

C. A textbook, American Cinema/American Culture, by John Belton

D. Study Guide for American Cinema, by Ed Sikov

E. Additional screenings from the Edison library, public libraries, or video rental stores. These are recommended but not required. Films in bold are directly related to the text or videos. Films marked with a * are especially important to the understanding of the material. Please try to screen the * films.

Note: Many of the films from the 1960's through the 1990s are rated R and contain violence and sex.

F. Three class meetings (optional, but really helpful):
Saturday, August 29 -- 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM, Hendry Hall 143
Course Orientation and discussion on the language of film

Saturday, September 19 -- 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM, Hendry Hall 143
Discussion of mise en scene.

Saturday, November 14 -- 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM, Hendry Hall 143
Final Study Guide, discussion on the business of film.

G.Three Tests
Covering weeks 1-6
Covering weeks 7-11
A Final covering the entire semester
H. Two written assignments.
You have two required assignments taken from the Study Guide. These written assignments range from one to three pages. You can bring them to class, E-mail them, fax them, or have them put in my mailbox. But they MUST be typed!

V. Surviving a Telecourse (and Getting the Most From It)
A. Get a good notebook and use it for your journal. Each week, jot down ideas, questions anything related to film. The more you think and write about the movies, the better you will understand what you watch.

B. Begin each week by reading the Study Guide for each unit. Read the Study Guide first. Pay special attention to the "Study Plan for This Unit" section.

C. Read the textbook chapters next. Jot down in your journal anything confusing, anything interesting.

D. Then watch the videos. Don't try to watch them at midnight! Tape them, watch them slowly, stop if you don't understand something, rewind and watch the clips again, watch the clips in slow motion. This type of TV watching is hard work. But it's the heart of a telecourse.

E. After watching the video, go back to the Study Guide. Do any of the assignments that appeal to you or are required and take the Self Test to check your understanding of the material.

F. Go to the Edison library, your local public library, or your local video store and check out any additional videos that look interesting. You'll only see clips in the telecourse programs. But movies have beginnings, middles, and ends. A clip is fine for studying technique, but you'll learn nothing about the soul of the film.

VI. Grading Procedure:
A. The tests will be objectively graded based on how well you understand the material.

B. Your written assignments will be graded subjectively. I'll look at how much you write and in what detail. Clarity of thought and expression will also count (can I read it, does it make sense.)

VII. About the Instructor:
I'm Director of Programming and Production for Southwest Florida Public Television and Associate Director for Distance Teaching and Learning for FGCU. I've spent the last 21 years in television, working in both commercial and public broadcasting. I've won national awards for my work in public TV and have produced, directed, or written over 50 nationally distributed television shows.

This is also my 22nd anniversary as a college teacher. I started teaching Film History and Criticism in 1975 for the University of South Carolina. I was also a full time faculty member of Seton Hall University, teaching film and television production, history, and criticism. This is my fifth year as an Instructor for Edison. In addition to this course, I teach Freshman English, Introduction to Broadcasting, and Internet Research.

I've written articles for a half dozen film and television journals and was a film critic for several years for magazines and newspapers in South Carolina.

I'm also an Internet consultant and Past President of the Naples Free-Net.

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Page last updated 7/10/98. © 1995, W. Terry Dugas.