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