Teaching the History of Film Craft (pt. 3)

Teaching the History of Film Craft:

Video Resources

Third part in a series of posts about teaching the history of below-the-line film artists (cinematographers, sound designers, etc.) and of screenwriting.

Part 1 introductory post
Part 2 scholarly books 
Part 3 video resources
Part 4 student research projects
Part 5 the theory of craft
Part 6 limitations
Part 7 Syllabi

I generally don't like outsourcing my teaching to videos, but when it comes to craft, audiovisual materials provide a valuable supplement.

Special Recommendation
Century of Sound: This is a historically rigorous compendium of (often rare) sound cinema clips with explanation about the development of sound technology for cinema. A DVD set covers 1876-1932, and a Blu Ray set covers 1933-1975. They're not available commercially because of rights issues, but educators can write to request a copy. Even those teaching a general film history class will find the set worth getting alone for parts covering the development of talking pictures.

Pedagogical and Historical Documentaries
There are a number of documentaries about film craft, often made for a general audience. They can adopt popular history narratives, which scholars may at times find limiting, or worse. But they can be useful to introduce students to the topic or to raise historiographic issues about popular history.

Visions of Light
Cinematographer Style [largely interviews]
Side by Side [on digital cinema]
Women Behind the Camera
James Wong Howe: Cinematographer
Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff 
Writing with Light: Vittorio Storaro
Light Keeps Me Company [on Sven Nykvist]
In the Mood for Doyle

Tales from the Script
Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show

The Cutting Edge - The Magic of Movie Editing
Off the Tracks [on nonlinear editing]
Jill Bilcock: Dancing The Invisible
Murch: Walter Murch on Editing

Production Design
Masters of Production: The Hidden Art of Hollywood

Film Music
Sound of Cinema: The Music That Made the Movies 

Essay Films
There are some films that essayistic or experimental methods to comment specifically on film craft.

Cameraperson - Kirsten Johnson's theoretical reflection on documentary camerawork
Interface/Schnittstelle - Harun Farocki's essay film on editing
Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? - Pedro Costa portrait of Straub and Huillet's editing
Man With a Movie Camera - needs no explanation, but useful as meta essay on film editing
Los Angeles Plays Itself - little about craft but a sustained examination of shooting location
Hacked Circuit - Deborah Stratman's short experimental piece about Foley and The Conversation

Video Essays
Videographic criticism has developed as a popular and academic form. I've barely dipped my toes into the waters here, but a lot of video essays deal with material relevant for a film craft course.

Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos's Every Frame a Painting series is well researched and engaging.  Relevant videos include
  • Hollywood Scores and Soundtracks
  • How Does an Editor Think?
  • Satoshi Kon - Editing Time and Space
Patrick Keating has excellent essays, including on 1920s camera movement, neorealist lighting, and Marlene Dietrich's star lighting.

Liz Greene's essays are astute on sound design.

David Bordwell's video lecture on widescreen is probably too long (50+ minutes) for easy classroom use without excerpting, but it contains good technical explanation and examination of film examples.

InTransition journal has a number of relevant videos, including
Padraic Killeen on melody in film noir
Patrick Sullivan on sound in Hanna Barbera animation

I have not begun to catalog these, but practitioner interviews may be available beyond the compilation documentaries above. Additionally YouTube has video lectures from practitioners.

Similarly, DVD commentary tracks often include commentary from editors, sound designers, or cinematographers.


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