Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lesson Plan for teaching Film Analysis

Part 1:
Begin the activity with a discussion about film as an art form. Explain that, like painting, filmmakers use color to emphasize components of the art piece. Review with the students the meaning of some of the more popular colors ("What does the color red mean?" "love!" "What does the color green mean? "springtime or rebirth") Of course fill in the blanks for the harder colors such as blue (symbol of desire). Reiterate the fact that every single thing seen in a shot is there for a reason to emphasize some aspect of the story from the lighting and color of the lighting, to the music, to the camera angles and camera movement, to the costume and makeup, to the action by the actors.

Part 2:
Show them the clip from Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. (SEEN ABOVE) The scene depicted shows the meeting of Nick and Norah as Norah is attempting to impress her friend Tris by showing her her "new boyfriend" (she asks Nick to pretend to be her boyfriend) and Norah soon realizes that Tris is Nick's recent ex-girlfriend. IMPORTANT NOTE: While this film is rated PG-13, the first few minutes of this clip are too inappropriate to be shown in school, so for the lesson, begin the clip at 1:55.

Part 3:
Brainstorm the thematic keywords: ask "what single words describe what the scene is about?" = love, jealousy, sexuality, sensuality, relationships, break-ups, music, friends, partying, high school, kissing, ex's, boyfriends, girlfriends, temptation, etc.
Ask "if you had to describe the moral of the story that the filmmakers are trying to describe with this scene in one sentence, what would it be?"
"Love will conquer all", "Sensuality is more important than sexuality", etc.
These are the themes of the film!

Part 4:
Break the class up into 8 groups to look for a specific filmic technique and describe what they see, or hear, and then discuss how they emphasize a theme keyword or sentence.
The groups are: music, lighting, editing, camera work (Cinematography), choreography of actors, Mise-En-Scene (how objects or actors or composed in the shot, AKA Shot composition), script (what they actors say: highlight a few important lines), and make-up.
Show the clip to the class again, but this time, tell them to take notes on their specific component.
Once all the groups have a chance to discuss and are ready to present, each group will go up to the front of the class and discuss their findings.
Here are some examples of things students might discuss for each film component:

Music: "I don't wanna be your favorite enemy" when Norah is talking to Tris (Nick's Ex). "Who will save us? Your smile's on fire" during the Kiss.

Lighting: Overwhelming Red = Love for Norah. Blue = Desire for ex-girlfriend (negative connotation of desire).

Editing: Fade to flashback to show change of setting to inside his memories/ day dream.

Camera work (Cinematography): Slow motion to emphasize their kiss and instant love for each other. Point of view shot from Nick's perspective looking at Tris being kissed by another guy- the shot is slowed down to emphasize Nick's trance by Tris.

Choreography: Bump into each other to physically be introduced to each other. Norah walks over to Nick, grabs his sweatshirt and kisses him.

Shot Composition: Bump into each other- Caroline on far right side of shot- put emphasis on Nick and Norah meeting. During day dream sequence, Nick is on left side of shot by him self, and Tris is on right side of shot by her self to emphasize Nick's distance from the scene as it is his past memories/ day dream.

Script: "Dont give into temptation", "Who do you belong to?" "Would you be my boyfriend for five minutes?" = Sensual Love is greater than sexual love.

Make-up/ Costume: Norah is seen with conservative amounts of make-up and dress. Tris is seen in a skimpy outfit and plenty of make-up. = Tris is the evil character who is depicted as sexually attractive, while Norah is the protagonist and is depicted as naturally beautiful.


  1. Brian, excellent activities for getting each of the groups to focus on certain activities--the idea of a "jigsaw" activity where different groups each adopt a different focus. (This can also be used with the critical lenses/approaches--feminist, Marxist, etc.) to critique a text. You cite a lot of nice examples for each of the different techniques--that can be used to model what you mean for each of the types of techniques.

  2. Brian, I liked how you touched on teaching the importance of color in film. Often times, camera angles, lighting, and panning dominate film technique critques. I also liked how you would introduce the notion of film as an "art form." I think kids view film as merely entertainment and fail to look at it critically. Though your ideas and activities, you do a good job of introducing film as something culturally important and, therefore, worth studying.

    You have a good foundation to become a good media studies teacher.