What constitutes “independent film” in an era where both filmmakers who distribute their work online and boutique divisions within Hollywood studios lay claim to the term? English 345 addresses this question by examining the narrative, stylistic, industrial and cultural aspects of contemporary U.S. independent film. We will begin by examining the early work of John Cassavetes, the “father” of American independent film before turning to the burgeoning of independent cinema that began in the late 1980s. In addition to viewing films in class, students will attend selected screenings at the Seattle International Film Festival. The first seven weeks of the course will take place on campus; the final three weeks will blend online and face-to-face instruction to accommodate SIFF screening times.
Course Goals and Methodology
Students in the course work toward several goals: learning how to read film formally, theoretically, and contextually and developing as critical thinkers and writers. By the end of the course, students should be able to:
- Identify narrative and formal techniques that define U.S. independent film.
- Analyze how filmmakers use artistic strategies to achieve a range of effects.
- Compose written arguments focused on the artistic, industrial, or ideological significance of selected films and support those arguments with sufficient and appropriate evidence.
- Engage the work of film scholars, critically responding to their ideas in discussion and writing.
Course activities promote active learning, with most class sessions including a mix of mini-lectures, discussion, and group work. My role is to provide the tools and resources; you will need to advance your own thinking and writing. I will pose questions, design activities to help you think through these questions, and respond to your ideas. Your role is to do the hard work—the critical reading, discussion, and writing. You will analyze films, generate ideas in electronic and face-to-face discussions, verbally analyze film clips, and construct written arguments.