Getting Started


Welcome to the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ course “Movies and Films: Watching and Analyzing”. This course is designed to introduce you to cinema as a means of communication, both from the perspective of the viewer and of the filmmaker. As this is a writing intensive course, students will have an opportunity to hone their skills while writing about films, and while writing their own original screenplays.

Please click “Film Schedule” in the navbar to view the layout of the course. You will notice that, each week, you have a new film to watch, and must either complete an assignment or join a discussion on that film to exhibit your understanding of the themes/issues covered. Additional material, sometimes necessary for completion of the film’s assignment and other times only recommended, is also available in the nav bar (popping out to the right of the film-title to which the material applies).

Each Week…

No books need be purchased for the course.  All reading material is contained within the course shell.  The amount of reading is modest, but is a critical complement to the movies we watch, so please do take the time to read what is here.

Please watch All Quiet on the Western Front in order to get started.  Films are on physical reserve at the UAF Rasmuson Library. Each film’s page has a link to where you can stream the film online, for the most part on Amazon Instant Streaming for approximately $3 to 4 a pop, as well as a description for how you can complete the assignment for that week. All assignments/discussion-involvement for each week are due by that week’s deadline as specified in BLACKBOARD, at midnight. (Note: The links to where you can watch the films are only suggestions. Any means by which you can view the film are acceptable).

Students will investigate the means, methods, and styles of visual communication through comparative viewings of various films and popular movies. Particular attention will be paid to the effectiveness of communicating ideas through film, and the barriers or achievements of filmmakers towards this end.

In particular, this course will examine how films and movies create a window into the lives and experiences of others. How we interpret the world as influenced by these films is the focus of reflection in this course. The thematic topic is adversity and war, and the focus will be largely on films created after 9/11.

Semester Length Assignment…

In addition, students will also be required to write either:

  1. a research paper (topic must be approved ahead of time; first draft 3500 words, final draft 5000 words), or
  2. an original screenplay (first 30 pages of feature-length)

Please note that if you do choose to write a screenplay, I will critique all elements of craft in my written responses.  I do not assume any prior knowledge, but you will ultimately be graded on the quality of your work and your ability to write good dialogue, create believable, complex characters and settings, and develop structured scenes that tell a story.  Please note up front that I discourage you from writing science fiction, action, horror, fantasy and other “blockbuster” genres.  Because you lack experience, I prefer that you write a small, indie-type film in which character development and a concise story line are paramount.  Create a screenplay in which spaceships, zombies and special effects are not necessary.

Students are encouraged to spend significant time on revisions and are welcome to schedule an appointment to discuss them with me.  The first draft of your Final Screenplay or Paper is required to be turned in week 10. Students may re-submit papers with revisions pending consultation with me. The final draft of your semester-length project is due by the end of the final week of class.