Lesson Syllabus

Visual Literacy


  1. Lesson I • Visual Literacy: This lesson covers why visual literacy is important, the nature of film language, and how a film is visually written. Two scenes from the David Jeffery’s movie, Girl #2, will be examined; demonstrating how the director visually planned the opening sequence of his film.
  2. Sequence Study I: The instructor will analyze two storyboarded scenes from a script based on Matt Groening’s story titled How To Get The Love You Deserve. Emphasis will be placed on the importance of understanding film language in order to understand how to interpret the written script to screen and visually plan how the scenes may be shot.


The Seven Elements of Cinema


  1. Lesson II • The Seven Elements of Cinema: This lesson covers the seven components of cinema; the act , the scene, the sequence, the beat, the shot, the composition, and the set up. The majority of the lesson will focus on the scene, the shot and the set up as these elements directly relate to the early process of filmmaking.
  2. Sequence Study II: The instructor will analyze ten storyboarded scenes from an early silent script titled A Trip To Africa (1902) which was derived from George Melies’ science fiction fantasy, A Trip to the Moon. The emphasis will be on understanding the difference between a scene, a shot and a set.


Basic Cinematic Storytelling


  1. Lesson III • Screenplay Structure: This lesson covers the paradigm of the three act structure and how the various scenes within an act are arranged to tell a story cinematically. Stress is placed upon the importance of certain scenes appearing at crucial moments within the story.
  2. Lesson IV • Character Arch-Types: This lesson shows how each of the seven character arch-types have a function within the story and how the writer can use modified versions of the arch-types to help illuminate and define the story. The second half of the lesson briefly covers how the protagonist’s perspective may change through the course of the story.
  3. Lesson V • Scene Types: This lesson illustrates the ten different types of dramatic scenes used to tell a story. The second part of the lesson deals with the five action scene types used to pre-visualize or storyboard the film.
  4. Sequence Study III: The instructor will analyze, eight storyboarded scenes from a typical, early, silent photoplay titled The Great Bank Robbery (1903), which was derived from Edwin S. Porter’s western The Great Train Robbery. The emphasis will be on understanding how the cinematic vocabulary began to expand at this time, including the introduction of the close up and the pan.


Basic Film Language


  1. Lesson VI • Camera Shot Size & Frame Angle: This lesson shows how the camera can vary size of the subject within the frame. Also, this lesson covers the six static camera positions used to cinematically illustrate a story.
  2. Lesson VII • Camera Movement: This lesson illustrates the ten camera movements used to give meaning to a story. The lesson begins by covering the mounted moves and ends with a look at the various unmounted moves. The second half of the lesson covers the psychology behind moving the camera.
  3. Lesson VIII • Shot Flow: This lesson briefly considers the practical application of camera positions and camera movement. Important considerations are the use of medium and close up shots for driving the story, and how to use line of action in order to preserve consistent screen direction and space. Within the scope of the line of action, the triangle shot system is examined, including when to cross the line and shooting action sequences.
  4. Sequence Study IV: The instructor will analyze, eight boarded scenes from a typical, mid-silent photoplay titled Mystery of the Swimming Donuts. (1916), which was derived from Todd Browning’s comedy spoof on Sherlock Holmes, Mystery of the Leaping Fish. The emphasis will be on understanding how the entire cinematic vocabulary developed by this time and how frequently cinematic cheating was done.


Film Continuity


  1. Lesson IX • Film Continuity: This lesson covers the elements of storytelling logic, including the structure of shots, scenes and sequences. In particular, the lesson looks at how the order of shots is a powerful means of telling a story cinematically.
  2. Lesson X • The Beat: This lesson illustrates how the story beats act as a structural element of continuity editing; specifically as a means of deciding the number of shots necessary to illustrate the story within the scene.
  3. Sequence Study V: The instructor will analyze, fourteen boarded scenes from a typical, late-silent photoplay titled The Vampyre. (1922), which was derived from Friedrich Murnau’s horror film, Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror. This study looks at how film language had matured into a full bodied art form, including expressive lighting, cross cutting and subtle camera movement.


Basics of Cinematography


  1. Lesson XI • Lighting: This lesson covers the basic principles of lighting types, strategies and techniques used to create dimension, mood and meaning.
  2. Lesson XII • Lenses: This lesson illustrates the different types of lenses, from long lenses to short or wide lenses, and how they are used to convey mood and meaning. A brief study of depth of field will be included in this lesson.
  3. Lesson XII • Composition: This lesson illustrates how the arrangement and division of space within the frame is a basic visual component of film. A brief study of the various aspect ratios will be included in this lesson.
  4. Sequence Study VI: In this sequence study, the instructional host will analyze a sequence of eight storyboarded scenes from a script entitled, Tarzan of the Apes. The script is derived from the 1934 film Tarzan and his Mate. This study looks at how the cinematic expressiveness of Weimar Germany influenced films of the Hollywood Golden Age

Course Objectives

A good understanding of story structure, and very a basic knowledge of film language.

Course Objectives
By the time the student completes this course, he or she should have a thorough understanding of cinematic language, understand how to translate a script for pre-visualization, which includes identifying plot elements and the premise of the story, understand, how to best lay out a location or set for shooting, understand the two main approaches to blocking, understand the various ways to cover a scene, and have a fairly good understanding of cinematography, lighting and the basics of acting. By the conclusion of the course, the student will have the comprehensive skills necessary to become a successful motion picture director.

Course Required Applications
None. Students are invited to translate screenplay excerpts in their own 3D application of choice.

Course Suggested Applications

Though the instructor uses FrameForge, Carrara, Blender, SketchUp and PhotoShop as the primary applications for modeling and finishing the storyboard studies, other applications such as Maya by Autodesk, Cinema4 by Maxon or Lightwave by NewTek are perfectly suitable. 

Course Schedule

Projected Course Schedule
The following schedule is subject to change. 

May 3rd • Introduction / Unit 1 • Lesson 1 • Visual Literacy
May 10th • Study 1 • How to Get the Love You Deserve

June 7th • The Act / Unit 2 • Lesson 2 • The Seven Units of Cinema
June 14th • Study 2 • A Trip to Africa (1902)

July 5th • The Scene / Unit 3 • Lesson 3 • Screenplay Structure
July 12th • Lesson 4 • Character Arch Types
July 19th • Lesson 5 • Scene Types
July 26th • Study 3 • The Great Bank Robbery (1903)

Aug. 2nd • The Sequence / Unit 4 • Lesson 6 • Camera Shot Size & Frame Angle
Aug. 9th • Lesson 7 • Camera Movement
Aug. 16th • Lesson 8 • Shot Flow
Aug. 23rd • Study 4 • Mystery of the Swimming Donuts (1916)

Sept. 6th • The Beat / Unit 5 • Lesson 9 • Film Continuity
Sept. 13th • Lesson 10 • The Beat
Sept. 20th • Study 5 • The Vampyre (1922)

April 3rd • The Shot / Unit 6 • Lesson 11 • Lighting
April 10th • Lesson 12 • Lenses
April 17th • Lesson 13 • Composition
April 25th • Study 6 • Tarzan of the Apes (1932)

July 5th • The Composition / Unit 7 • Lesson 14 • Space
July 11th • Lesson 15 • Line & Form
July 18th • Lesson 16 • Tone & Color
July 25th • Study 7 • Booby Trap (1945)

More to come.


Course Syllabus

Introduction • Unit 1 • Visual Literacy
            Sequence Study 1: How to Get the Love You Deserve

The Act • Unit 2 • The Seven Grammatical Elements of Cinema
            Study 2: A Trip to Africa (A Trip to the Moon)

The Scene • Unit 3 • Basic Cinematic Storytelling
           Study 3: The Great Bank Robbery (The Great Train Robbery)

The Sequence • Unit 4 • Basic Film Grammar
            Study 4: Mystery of the Swimming Donut (The Mystery of the Flying Fish)

The Beat • Unit 5 • Basic Film Continuity
            Study 5: The Vampyre (Nosferatu)

The Shot • Unit 6 • Basics of Cinematography
            Study 6: Tarzan of the Apes (Tarzan and His Mate)

The Composition • Unit 7 • Basics of Visual Design
            Study 7: Booby Trap (Fallen Angel)

The Set Up • Unit 8 • Basics of Blocking & Acting
            Study 8: Call of Cthulu (The Blob)

Mise-en-Scene • Unit 9 • Within the Frame & Cutting
            Study 9: A Boat on the Water (Knife In The Water)

Basic Film Theory • Unit 10 • Visual Expressionism and Realism
            Study 10: The Zeppelin (Das Boot)

Each one hour unit will be composed of roughly one to three 15 minute lessons followed by a half an hour to an hour analysis of a storyboard that is applicable to the unit’s lesson. Students may download the screenplay excerpts used to render the boards from www.filmspeakedu.com. All lessons will be free of charge unless otherwise noted.

Sequence Studies are subject to change.