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Film Class Descriptions

SCN 112 - Screenwriting 1

Writing the Short

Every feature film, short film, music video, commercial or any film project starts here. This course introduces students to the critical elements of storytelling. The emphasis in this course is the story being physical and visible, and not relying on sounds or words. The focus is that film must not only tell, but show. Key concepts include: the importance of character, goals, rising conflict and obstacles, tension, suspense, turning points, resolution and finally format. In short, students will begin to learn how to write stories that are visual and dramatic. 

DIR 114 -  Film Directing 1

Visual Storytelling

The film director must bring the printed words of the screenplay to life and capture the resulting action in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and intellectually engaging. This course teaches the tools the director uses to stage a scene on paper long before the camera rolls via the Directors Notebook. Lab exercises allow students to practice and demonstrate these skills through short films projects while learning the function and role of the director. By the end of the course each student will have write, direct and edit a silent short film.

CIN 116 - Cinematography 1

Image Capture and the Camera

Cinematography is the art of image creation. In order to control an image students are first taught the fundamental processes of image capture. Technical studies establish fundamental skills in format, sensitometry and color. Also covered is the role of the director of photography as a visual translator for the film director. Students put this knowledge into practice during the course by producing short photographic projects. 

PRL 118 -  Production Lab 1

Production Principles

The MPI soundstage comes to life as students crew up on an in-class film production. Sets are constructed and actors are brought into class. Students light, shoot, and record audio in a simulated production environment. This course provides immediate "hands-on" training with students learning to run a film set. Students become proficient in camera operation, studio lighting, and digital sound recording. Students learn key set commands, interdepartmental communications, paperwork related to camera, sound & script continuity. Small group tutorials, production assignments and departmental rotations offer students crucial production training. 

EDL 120 - Edit Lab 1

Introduction to Digital Editing

This course trains students how to edit picture and audio using the latest Adobe Premiere CC software. Topics include workplace configuration, ingest, edit preparation, picture and audio editing, titling, and outputting for DVD and web.

PRM 122 - Production Management 1

Breaking down a Film

Producing a film, large or small, requires an understanding of how a film is organized and the legal aspects surrounding it.  This course teaches the standard industry processes for organizing and managing film productions.  This includes an in-depth study of the stages of production. Students are taught to use Entertainment Partners Movie Magic Film Scheduling software for breaking down a script and creating a shooting schedule.

SCN 212 - Screenwriting 2

Writing the Thesis Short

This course advances the storytelling concepts covered in Screenwriting 1 by employing dialogue to develop character, plot and motivations. Emphasis is placed on how to use three act structure, symbols and metaphors and the value of outlines to develop story. Students write short narrative scripts, loglines and pitches to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts.  Students are graded on writing assignments and in-class presentations of written material.

DIR 214 - Film Directing 2

Directing Talent

Students are assigned advanced level storytelling projects to develop their individual directorial styles. In this course students will explore the relationship between the director and the actor. Studio exercises allow student directors to work with both seasoned and inexperienced film actors to learn the delicate art of acting for the camera. Student directors will learn how to articulate character motivations, pull performances, or properly execute eye lines and the axis. Blocking and staging techniques train students to direct their work within the confines of the cinematic frame. Students conduct a large scale casting call through which they learn techniques for strategic casting and coming to know the film "look". From there, read-throughs and rehearsals give the student director a "real world" and practical experience to mold their film projects.  Each student writes, directs and edits a short dialogue film "In The Style" of a prominent director of their choice.

CIN 216 - Cinematography 2

Cinematic Elements of Visual Organization

This course explores the creative depths of cinematography. The latent image is always at the service of the story and an approach must be developed. The careful choices a cinematographer makes with respect to composition, color, light and texture affect the overall look and mood of the film. Students explore the impact of the visual language of film and related topics such as design principles and forces of visual organization. The effects of scene direction and lines of action on the editing process are explored. Students learn cinematic composition, the rule of thirds, spatial relationships and proper framing.

PRL 218 - Production Lab 2

Lighting for Film

Lighting a film requires both an artistic and technical understanding of its application. For this reason, this course teaches students how to use specific small and medium size fresnel, florescent, practical and reflected light sources and modifiers to achieve a desired look. The most commonly encountered lighting scenarios, problems and solutions are explored through the lighting of an actual film set or location.  This course utilizes specific clips from well-known films as a model to demonstrate how a particular look is achieved using light. Students are graded on a written exam and a lighting ion.

PRL 219 - Field Audio Recording

This course teaches students location sound recording techniques. This includes tech scouting of locations, hardware selection for the job, prepping gear, slating, microphone placement, using wireless systems, using time code systems, boom operation, monitoring, setting levels, dealing with difficult location situations, proper care and maintenance of equipment, detailing sound logs, and location sound mixing techniques. Students are exposed to a variety of audio hardware. Students are also exposed to recording ADR and foley for post production tracks.

EDL 220 - Edit Lab 2

Advanced Digital Editing

Editing requires a keen understanding of the storytelling process.  Students study why we make an edit. This course explains how we make edits to better immerse our viewers into our story, fix problems incurred during production and give our productions a fresh edge. Students learn advanced technical skills from edit styles to the rule of sixes to draw the audience in. Students are graded on editing assignments.

SCN 312 - Screenwriting 3

Story Development

Screenwriting 3 guides students through the steps of writing a feature length screenplay or a television pilot episode. They begin developing and writing log lines, pitches and treatments.  From this they learn to analyze story dynamics, the three-act structure, plotting and subplots, paradigms, characters, themes, dialogue, and many other feature screenwriting basics. Students are then required to select one idea to turn into a ten-page treatment, followed by the first ten pages of their screenplay. Students use this ground work to draft the first act of their script by the end of the semester.

DIR 314 - Film Directing 3

The Independent Filmmaker

Film Directing 3 finds students exploring advanced concepts of staging and how a director employs various staging techniques to make their scenes and films more effective.  The class will also touch on aspects related to making a festival worthy thesis film.  It is the simultaneous objective of this class to help ready THESIS projects for production.  Students will be required to produce a Director's Notebook for their thesis that is due by the end of the semester as it will be part of a class final presentation.

CIN 316 - Cinematography 3

Advanced Cinematic Techniques and the Camera

This course focuses on identifying the latest in film and digital camera and lens technologies in the professional market. Special attention is given to the various features of specific camera models and the critical factors for selecting a particular system for a production. This also includes techniques for checking lens quality and how to evaluate the lens before entering the field. Emphasis is also placed on evaluating color rendition in the use of reference field monitors and LUTs (look up tables). Students learn how these tools are used and their impact on maintaining the vision of the cinematographer from exposure to post production.

PRL 318 - Production Lab 3

The Camera Assistant

Production Lab 3 offers advanced training for technical positions such as camera assistants, operators and data managers.  Students learn do to a camera prep for both film and digital cameras as well as the daily set routines for the camera operator, 1st and 2nd assistant camera positions.  Technical skills developed include; camera assembly, leveling, setting focus marks, pulling focus, calculating depth of field, framing with movement, checking the gate, reporting, inventorying, care of media and gear on set, data management, DIT workflow and safety.

PRL 319 - Adv. Production Lab

The Film Short

This course takes the principles of Production Lab 1 and incorporates valuable knowledge acquired in the last two semesters and puts them to the test. Students shoot a short film project on the Motion Picture Institute soundstage over the course of the semester. Students volunteer or are assigned crew positions ranging from directing, assistant directing, art dept, camera, lighting, audio, and script supervising.

EDL 320 - Edit Lab 3

Post Production Sound

This course provides a broad introduction to sound editorial principles as applied to films, animation games and television.  Creative use of sound design is explored.  Hands-on exercises are performed using tools in Premiere Pro CC to advance editorial skill sets for sound editing and mixing a variety of sounds (voice, ADR, fx, foley and music).  Students learn the entire audio pipeline for delivering a completed stereo mix for film. 

PRL 400 - Grip and Electric Lab

Class time is a grip and electric intensive lab that is conducted the first week of the fourth semester. This course focuses on skills involving the Grip and Electric department of a film set.  Students learn the organization of a one-ton grip truck, learn and set up power distribution, lay cable runs, rig large frames from eight to twelve foot, modify light sources using a variety of solids, silks, scrims, measure light using meters, lay and level dolly track, operate Matthews doorway and Fischer dolly systems. Emphasis is placed on safety, identifying and correcting hazards, organization, power limits, and working in an efficient manner within the G & E departments.

Students will work from a one-ton grip truck using rented gear and light practical film sets on the Motion Picture Institute sound stage.

CCO 410 - Crew Call

The Production Office Team

It has been said that the difference between a professional production and an amateur one is the paperwork. In the production office valuable paperwork is generating and distributed, equipment is ordered, time cards are processed and crew problems solved.  The production office is the command center and a well-run, efficient production office means a well-run efficient production.  Students are taught how to set up and manage a production office from pre-production through wrap-out.

SCN 412 - Screenwriting 4

First Draft

In this course students embark on completing a first draft of either a feature length screenplay or television pilot. The course is devoted to writing the first draft. The students are told what to expect as the story begins to emerge on paper and are given a daily writing schedule for completing the draft.  Student’s meet weekly writing assignments that are analyzed in order to find weaknesses. Students are given the tools to identify the ways and means for addressing story problems, weak dialogue, or unfocused characters.  Portions of class time are devoted to lecture, collaboration in groups and writing.  

Assignments require students to turn in written work that is reviewed and critiqued by the instructor for revisions and suggestions.

DIR 414 - Film Directing 4

Thesis Production

This course is the production phase for thesis projects. Each student is given the opportunity to direct their own thesis film.  Those choosing not to direct a thesis must team up with directors to serve as a producer, assistant director or location manager.  This course meets three times during the semester to report progress on their productions and work on problem solving in preproduction.  Students are to shoot their thesis projects outside of class on their own time during the fourth and fifty semesters.  Students are REQUIRED to attain greenlight status before they begin principle photography.  Thesis films can be of any type (narrative, documentary, music video, commercial, experimental, etc.).  The completed films are shown at a local movie theater in October at the school's annual film festival.

PRL 416 - Production Lab 4

Thesis Production

Production Lab 4 requires students to work in key crew positions on thesis film projects that are shot over the course of the semester or intern on an approved outside production.  Students must commit to working on at least one film project during the semester.

PRL 418 - Production Lab 5

Commercial Production Techniques

Feature film or television shows are great gigs.  But there are a multitude of other types of productions that filmmakers or film professionals will do either during their down time, in between the larger projects or tackle when they are just starting out.  These types of productions range from low budget commercial spots for the web, weddings, music videos, testimonials, depositions, local sporting events, charities, corporate communications, recitals, and how to videos.  The list goes on but these types of productions have slightly different dynamics and require a modified approach to make them both efficient and profitable.  This course teaches students a variety of techniques for planning, shooting and delivering a quality project for these small scale productions where the crew size ranges from one person to ten.

EDL 420 - Edit Lab 4

Intro to Adobe After Effects

Adobe® After Effects® software is a widely used and compelling motion graphics and visual effects application. Students learn to navigate the main interface and workspace of this program. Of the many possible uses of Adobe® After Effects® this course focuses on primary color grading, animated titling and compositing capabilities.

PRM 422 - Production Management 2

Film Budgeting

This course focuses on the processes for building a budget including methods for obtaining pricing, pay scales, rental costs, and bids. Students are trained to use the most popular costing software; Entertainment Partners Movie Magic Budgeting. Students are graded on budgeting assignments and written exams.

FPF 500 - Feature Producing

Film Finance, Marketing and Distribution

Independently produced films make up a majority of worldwide film production each year. Many of the major Hollywood players began their careers on lower budgeted indie films. This course teaches students the business processes behind the start up of a production company for the purpose of financing and producing an independent film project. By way of exercise, this course requires students to contract screenplay rights from another student, develop a budget, attach talent, key crew personnel, create a marketing campaign, artwork, organize a business proposal and present their films to the instructor and peers as though they were film financiers.

Even before the film is shot the producer has to begin developing a plan for release. Today's world of digital media offers a multitude of platforms from theatrical to itunes.  The various platforms for self-distribution requires an extensive knowledge of the exhibitors’ revenue models, legal agreements and project deliverables. But this in only the tip of the iceberg when looking at what it takes to attract an audience. This course also teaches the students the process for finding a distributor, negotiating terms, tracking success or failure, and knowing the pitfalls. Students completing this course will have the knowledge necessary to develop a distribution plan for their film, approach potential buyers or promote their work on-line.

SCN 512 - Screenwriting 5

The Business of Screenwriting

This course focuses on the business of screenwriting as it pertains to the optioning and selling of their work.  Students are taught how to develop a marketing plan for their scripts and the different venues available for selling their work.  Topics include submission formats, query letters, pitches, agency solicitation, option agreements, and copyright/WGA registration.  Students are required to pitch their script in a conference setting.  They will also meet with the instructor to review written assignments and make sure they are continuing to rewrite their screenplays properly.

By the end of the course the student will have a completed screenplay, a pitch for their script, and understand the proper steps for launching their career as a screenwriter.  This course as a component of The Motion Picture Production Program enables students to obtain work as freelance screenwriter, script editor, or script reader.

DIR 514 - Film Directing 5

Creative Analysis 

Technical analysis dissects the production value of the film and helps those who worked on it improve their skills through critical feedback. Creative analysis dissects the story, casting choices, performances, usage of music and sound effects, and editorial decisions. Emphasis is placed on the visual approach that is primarily the usage of image composition, misc-en-scene, color, art direction, montage, pacing and sound to tell the story in an effective and intended manner by the filmmaker.   The first part of this course teaches students how to analyze and evaluate a film as an artistic work using the metrics above and from there developing either a rubric or critical treatise.  

Thesis project rough cuts are due by the fifth week of class for analysis by the instructor and the student body.  The point of the rough cut is to present a work in progress for positive and constructive feedback. It is expected that directing students will utilize comments to improve or make adjustments to their picture edit before moving on to their audio mix and color grade.

FCP 515 - Film Career Preparation

The Business of Freelance

Having valuable filmmaking skills is only part of the equation for getting work and making money. The other is building your reputation, putting yourself out there so people can find you, and nurturing work relationships that turn into job offers. And that is only part of the equation for success. This course delves into the world of the freelancer and what it takes to earn a living and having a grasp on expectations. Students work on developing social networking skills, resume writing, job search strategies, building a solid work ethic, developing skills on the job, managing their time and the money they earn, and negotiating their deals. Students learn life skills as it applies to film and television in a below-the-line position.

For those creatives intent on helming their own productions this course also teaches the basics for forming a company, capitalizing expenses, drawing up basic agreements, hiring, taxes, managing others from the top, building a show reel, and securing and agent or publicist.  

Additional topics include: Deal memos, contract terms, union rules, joining and jurisdictions, pay scales, work place safety, booking, and when to turn down a job.

EDL 520 - Edit Lab 5

Advanced Post Production

Creating deliverables is the process where the filmmaker must produce the proper film elements to give to either a distributor or an exhibitor.  In either instance the film must meet strict quality controls (QC) that include everything from legal video broadcast requirements to SEMPTE theatrical projections standards with the generation of Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs).  Every film must follow a finishing path that includes using the original media to color grade and conform a high resolution master. 

This course trains students to take a film through the finishing process that includes using Davinci color grading software for both picture and audio for broadcast, DVD, theatrical and electronic media distribution.

TFA 530 - Technical Film Analysis

Developing the Critical Eye

What did I do wrong?  Or how did he/she do that? These questions are answered with the screening of student films completed in the first and second semesters. This course analyzes the camera work, lighting, audio and editing as executed in their "non dialogue and dialogue" student film projects. Students develop a critical eye for evaluating how a particular shot was achieved, why it worked, what elements or settings were used to produce it and how they can either adjust or execute that shot.