Monstrous Bodies

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” ~ George Orwell
Assignment: Final Film Project
INSTRUCTIONS:  As a class, we will be producing a short (15 min) film.  Throughout the semester, you will work in teams of 5 on various aspects of the film (production, screenwriting, filmmaking, post-production, and marketing).  Since research is one of the major components of the course, you will be required to research your role carefully.  Throughout the semester, you will also be researching thematic and historical topics related to the theme of the film.  All of the other assignments you complete for the class will serve as ancillaries for the finished film.  Within the first few weeks of the semester, you will begin work on the final film as part of one of five departments (each with a department head).  

COLLABORATION AND INNOVATION: Once in your department, you will need to work together to delegate the various duties.  I offer below a sense of the various things each group might accomplish; however, I encourage individual departments to also consider other ways that they might fulfill their role.  Read or review these sections of the e-text for suggestions on how to foster good collaboration in your department: chapter 2, sections 13 and 14.

DEPARTMENT HEADS AND CONFERENCES:  Each group will self-nominate a department head.  All the department heads will meet several times throughout the semester to discuss and coordinate the interactions between the various departments. I will have individual conferences with each department and with the department heads (see dates on schedule).  This will give us a chance to confer about our progress and to consider next steps for the project. 

PRODUCTION DEPARTMENT:  The production department will be in charge of legal, financing, casting, and location scouting.  They will produce a production schedule for the film in the first half of the semester, a legal brief and accounting of incoming and outgoing funds in the second half of the semester, and will work on coordinating the mini-film festival at the end of the semester. The members of this group will be leaders in charge of organizing the end-of-semester event and coordinating the interactions between the rest of the groups.  This group’s work will be spread relatively evenly across the semester, and there will be quite a bit of flexibility for due dates for specific components.

Resources: I highly recommend that one or more of the members in your group purchase this book: The Filmmaker's Handbook. It’s very inexpensive given the amount of information it contains. Since you will be interacting with all of the other departments, this book gives a good sense for what everyone will be doing. Also, this book is a good resource for the legal dimensions you’ll be tasked with exploring: The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers. Finally, read or review these sections of the e-text: chapter 2, sections 36, 37 and 43.

SCREENWRITING DEPARTMENT:  The screenwriting department will create a screenplay and storyboards for the film in the first half of the semester and will work on a published shooting script (a polished and formatted version with images, etc.) in the second half of the semester.  They will also send members to the set to advise and re-write as the film is being shot. This group’s work will involve creative writing, document design, photography, drawing, etc.  The members of this group will be working very quickly to produce a screenplay and storyboards from Sep. 12 - Sep. 30.  The rest of their work will be paced relatively slowly over the remainder of the semester.

Resources: To help with formatting, I highly recommend using screenplay-writing software instead of trying to compose in a conventional word-processing program. You can use this one for free on the web: http://scripped.com/. And here’s another that you can download free for use on a Mac: http://celtx.com/. I also highly recommend that one or more of the members in your group purchase this book: Cinematic Storytelling.

FILMMAKING DEPARTMENT:  The filmmaking department will be in charge of shooting, lighting, directing, sound, etc.  The film will be shot about halfway through the semester.  The filmmakers will spend the first half of the semester acquiring equipment, building sets (if necessary), assembling costumes/props, etc.  Once the film is shot, the filmmakers will work on a short (3 min) behind-the-scenes documentary. The head of this department will be the director, who will also collaborate closely with the heads of the screenwriting and post-production departments. This group’s work will be primarily creative, involving direction, cinematography, make-up, costumes, set-design, etc.  The members of this group will complete much of their work from Sep. 30 - Oct. 21.

Resources: I highly recommend that one or more of the members in your group purchase this book: The Filmmaker's Handbook. It’s very inexpensive given the amount of information it contains. Also, this book would be especially useful for the director and cinematographer: Master Shots.

POST-PRODUCTION DEPARTMENT:  The post-production department will be in charge of editing, music, sound-effects, titles and credits, visual effects, etc.  They will spend the first half of the semester preparing music, sound effects, and visual effects.  The bulk of their work will be done in the second half of the semester, editing the film once it has been shot. This group’s work will be primarily technical, using video and sound editing software to finalize the film.  The members of this group will complete much of their work from Oct. 21 - Nov. 28.

Resources: I highly recommend that one or more of the members in your group purchase this book: The Filmmaker's Handbook. It’s very inexpensive given the amount of information it contains. Also, this book would be especially useful for the editors: Film Editing.

MARKETING DEPARTMENT:  The marketing department will produce a teaser trailer in the first half of the semester.  In the second half of the semester, they will work on viral marketing, a full preview, a press-release, a DVD w/ insert, a website, and a film festival program. This group will be jacks-of-all-trades, given the varied small components they will produce.  Members of this group will have the option of working independently on some of these ancillaries, some of which will require technical writing (e.g. the press release), whereas others will offer lots of creative freedom (e.g. the teaser trailer and website).  This group’s work will be spread relatively evenly across the semester, and there will be quite a bit of flexibility for due dates for specific components.

Resources: While it may be too expensive for someone in your group to buy, you should consider looking at this book for ideas about how graphic design has been used for film marketing: Art of the Modern Movie Poster. Also, this book is more relevant for professional productions looking for a real distributor, but you might still find some sections useful: The Complete Independent Movie Marketing Handbook.

OUTCOMES:  Each department will work in different ways toward a common goal but will have tasks that stress:
  • Research.  One of the main goals of this course is to develop your research skills.
  • Critical Thinking.  In addition to the analytical work we’ll be doing during class, this project will have you engaging with and analyzing your own creative production.  You will also be forced to develop new strategies for achieving unfamiliar goals.
  • Process.  We will be working through the steps of this project carefully over the entire semester.  You will be evaluating yourself and the work of your group at various steps along the way.  You will also be meeting with me halfway through the semester to discuss and reflect on your work.
  • Modes and Media.  You will be working in many different media during the semester, including written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal.  You will be thinking carefully about the relationship between the various modes we use and media we study.  You will be introduced to many new tools (software, electronic, and mechanical) during your work on and with these genres.
  • Collaboration:  This course requires you to work closely with a community of other thinkers, artists, and communicators.  You will be considering both your individual process and reflecting on our process as a collective.