Film 101 | Term Research Project. The term research project has two stages. An initial Proposal and Bibliography research stage asks you to survey the critical landscape of selected films. Build your essay around movies that you understand and think have cinematic, cultural and personal impact. Your research could explore historical contexts, formal analysis, cultural analysis, the style and works of the Director(s), movie type or genre, film influence or tradition. Information collected through this process leads into the second stage: drafting and refining a narrative essay that makes some judgement about the films. Attentiveness to Scope is critical.
Research Essay and Reflection Letter
The paper will develop an argument—THESIS—about the personal, cultural, and artistic significance of between one and three films. These could be the films that have most influenced your love of movies at different stages of your life, your top three in a favorite genre, or a comparative analysis of two films that are somehow connected (by director, actor, type, genre, theme, etc.).
The core of your paper will highlight key elements of film working together in key scenes to convey specific meaning. Your analysis should go beyond Narrative—or summarizing plot—and instead incorporate treatment of mise-en-scene, acting, sound, and editing. A minimum of three secondary resources from the Bibliography stage of the project will help set up and support your discussion: cradle the text in a thoughtful cinematic or cultural context.
Your essay must be typed and double-spaced. The length requirement is min of 2000 words and max of 2500 words. All submissions must show evidence of careful revision, proofreading and editing. Revision means reassessing focus and organization. Proofreading and editing means looking for things like grammar and mechanics, documentation and formatting.
You will submit a Reflection Letter describing your experience with this paper, its strengths, and areas you would improve it we were living in a perfect world with no competing responsibilities or time limitations.
Proposal and Bibliography
The Bibliography requires you to perform and document research in preparation for the term essay. You will present a minimum of THREE (3) “secondary” resources relevant to the paper. Documentation should be precise and the research must be academic.
You may begin the research stage of the project with a known research question. For example(s): How does Black Panther answer Baldwin’s concerns about “Heroes” on film? Why does Tarantino use offensive language and violence in his work? What is the relationship between the two versions of Scarface?
NOTE—If you don’t have a specific research question, then you may need to do some exploratory research to narrow the scope of your interest. That’s normal. DO NOT write films covered in your Response Papers.
Part of the assignment is to evaluate the strength of available resources on the basis of resource / research type, publication history, and relevance to your topic. Viable academic resource types include articles from peer-review journals (online d-bases in the library), articles from essay collections (d-bases and library stacks), and scholarly books or book chapters (library stacks). Staple research types include standard film reviews, formal analysis, cultural analysis, history and film history. Use MLA or APA to cite your research.
A brief Proposal—250-500 words—(a) introduces your primary text and research process, (b) describes your personal interest in this material, and (c) presents the tentative argument you hope to make in the paper. The Proposal may also cite research that you have not included with the bibliography.
Additional Resources: Writing Center; Purdue’s Online Writing Lab; “VIUSpace” links to award winning student essays. You have use ___________ class period for project work.
Guiding Principles of Academic Research
Learn to expand and contract the scope of your research, like breathing
Look in more than one place (e.g. Library Search, individual data bases, stacks and web)
Vary language of your search
Vary research and resource types; anticipate using the respective material in a few different ways
Spread out the work (i.e. let your ideas grow)
Ask for help
Bibliography | Library Skills
The Annotated Bibliography is intended to familiarize you with the process of academic research. Beyond the most basic planning stage, you should plan to spread this work across not less than three to four sessions.
Step 1: Locate a range of viable research and resource types **
Step 2: Review this material by actively reading | developing your own ideas
Step 3: Draft the Bibliography and Proposal (as per assignment requirements)
Step 4: Revise, proofread and edit your work on a targeted basis
What is Documentation? Documentation is the record of your research. Good research will help you to build credibility and to set-up and support your discussion, but only if cited correctly. Documentation consists of two equally critical parts: in-text citations and back section (often called Works Cited or Reference page). In order to “do” both sides of documentation, you need to know three things: (i) style you are using; (ii) type of resource you are citing; (iii) where to find a model.
How do I figure out my main angle? Survey the “scholarly landscape” of a film for patterns (i.e. cultural or formal criticisms, close treatment of cinematic elements such as mise-en-scene, cinematography, acting or sound); study the specific “type” or “genre” of film you are interested in; explore the historical period that a film either reflects or was made in; research a human theme or emotion presented in a film (e.g. psychology of love or fear); examine the biography of a filmmaker (e.g. key influences); look at “the life” of a film online.
Additional Resources. Reference Librarian Desk (live chat); VIU’s online Guides and Tutorials; the Writing Center; Purdue’s Online Writing Lab; sample essays in VIUSpace; and Peer Support.
Sample Topics | Research Approaches **
Film Literacy Narrative. You might research films and events that have shaped your perspective, for worse or better, of important social issues. For example, I might explore some cultural contexts around the time I saw Rambo in the movie theater with my father, who was a Vietnam veteran. Other parts of my narrative could explore more complex movies (e.g. Platoon or Apocalypse Now or Full Metal Jacket) and my changing perspective of the subject including through university-level film / literature courses.
Study of an Adaptation or Remake. You could direct research into both the source and adapted or remade movie. The research might be one part literary, split between two films, or focused on the cultural significance of the main theme or conflict the movies explore. You could also look for general sources on the subject of adaptation or remakes.
Study a Historical or Social Consciousness Film. Besides the actual film, you might direct research towards the historical period or event that your movie illuminates. Similarly, you might research some contentious social issue that a film engages (i.e. sexuality, pregnancy, or mental health). Papers dedicated to treatment of Anti-Black Racism or Truth and Reconciliation are encouraged.
Continuity in the Works of a favorite Director. Research might focus on the biographical experience of the filmmaker, as well as on the specific films that best represent her work. You could study context, influence, genre, or the performance of specific actors featured in several films by the same director.
Some Priorities for Academic Writing | Editing:
Refer to authors, directors, actors by last name: Welty, Douglass (not Eudora or Freddy)
Signal resource titles, including film titles, correctly—e.g. MLA uses quotations to signal titles for works within an anthology or edited book, as well as for journal articles. By contrast, titles for film and book length studies appear in italics (e.g. Looking at Movies or Memento)
Use active voice and present tense. Instead of “Welty was saying that…” or “Douglass was arguing that…” write “Welty says” and Douglass argues” (simplify)
Ensure that your paper goes beyond Summary and that you incorporate “close reading” of scenes most important for your argument or discussion. Examine the elements of cinema working together in these scenes; access screenplays for dialogue or stage direction as needed.
Avoid vague, imprecise language: nowadays, whatnot, basically, kind of, maybe
Avoid I-centered writing (be conscious of word and sentence construction variety)
Vary your use of signal phrases. Achieve variety by changing the placement AND language you use to refer to other authors and texts.
Example 1. In “One Writer’s Beginnings,” Eudora Welty suggests that “Learning stamps you with its moments” (512).
Example 2. “Learning stamps you with its moments,” Welty says (512).
Example 3. “Learning,” Welty argues, “stamps you with its moments” (512). She continues: “Childhood’s learning is made up of moments. It isn’t steady. It’s a pulse.”
Deadline for Proposal and Bibliography: ______________________
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