COVID-19: Essential Information

Plans for Fall 2020

After many conversations, the faculty and staff in Film & Media Culture have decided to plan for all of our courses to be taught remotely, with some potential hybrid in-person supplements as health and safety situations allow for. To be clear, while a few courses may have in-person components, we all believe there is a strong likelihood that we might have to quickly shutdown campus due to an outbreak, and/or that a significant number of students, staff, and faculty may need to be quarantined enough to disrupt teaching. Thus to be proactive, we are planning for online teaching to maximize the best pedagogical approach, and make most classes available to students no matter their location.

We know that nobody came to Middlebury to take online courses - and none of us relish teaching in that format. However we have investigated what protocols would need to be in place to make an in-person classroom safe, and we believe they would not be pedagogically effective for most courses. For instance, a 15-person seminar would have to be spread out in a large room like Axinn 229, making it difficult to hear each other, collaborate, and communicate. A group of students learning video production in our studio would be challenged by not being able to touch equipment together. The idea of a large group of people watching a film together for hours in Axinn 232 feels like a relic of a bygone day.
To be clear, our online classes in the Fall will not resemble the “crisis pedagogy” of the Spring semester. We are all doing extensive training this summer to learn best practices in online learning, and thinking through how we will structure our courses. We are also shifting what classes we are teaching to accommodate remote learning. Feel free to reach out to individual faculty to ask about specific courses, or chair Jason Mittell for any departmental arrangements.
We recognize that there are no “good choices” on the table in a pandemic, but we all can only try to do our best. While we long for the days that we can connect personally in Axinn, we are hopeful that we can maintain our community at a distance.
- The faculty & staff of Film & Media Culture
June 24, 2020

Courses for Fall 2020

FMMC 101: Aesthetics of the Moving Image (Dobreva)

Available to students in any time zone, this fully remote introductory course focuses on the critical analysis of film form. Students will become familiar with basic film terminology, and learn to appreciate film as an art form considered through formal, cultural, and theoretical perspectives. Asynchronous readings, viewings, lectures, and other assignments due earlier in the week will be followed by synchronous small Zoom discussion sessions on Thursdays. Assessed work includes weekly reaction papers, two exams, and a final essay, as well as small collaborative production assignments. Students will need sufficient internet access to stream films and other assigned media. No prior knowledge of film/media criticism or experience with video production is required.

FMMC 104: Television & American Culture (Mittell)

This introductory course will be fully remote and available to students in any time zone. Most of the work will be asynchronous: doing readings, watching television programs and recorded lectures, participating in online discussions, and doing some individual and small group exercises. Once per week we’ll meet in synchronous small discussion sections over Zoom, spread out across time zones on Thursday and Friday. The assessed work will be three short essay exams and one optional final essay. Students will need sufficient internet access to stream television programs.

FMMC 105: Sight & Sound 1 (Ngaiza)

This fully remote introduction to video making is the gateway to the production component at Middlebury’s FMMC. In this course, students will master the basic grammar of cinematic language and the basic techniques of video production, applying them to their own audiovisual projects. Students will develop their own creative voice through a combination of shooting, editing and post-production in a collaborative, online process. The class will be a combination of once a week, highly recommended synchronous sessions over Zoom where will discuss and brainstorm creative projects and asynchronous material that students can access through Canvas. All students residing on campus will be provided with the audiovisual equipment needed to complete their projects; students who are studying remotely will be given alternative assignments to adapt to the equipment that they have personally available (such as smartphones). 

FMMC 106: Writing for the Screen 1 (Uricaru)

This fully remote course is an introduction to dramatic writing for the screen (film, television, as well as dramatic new media, web or game writing). The course is intended for students who have minimal to no experience in dramatic writing, but familiarity with the medium (basic understanding of film and Tv aesthetics) is important - hence the FMMC 101 prerequisite. The prerequisite can usually be waived by the instructor for students who have taken creative writing or film courses. We will spend the first half of the semester learning concepts and practicing skills and techniques of writing for the screen, and the second part working on the final projects - 10-15 page screenplays. There will be some required viewings of streaming video, and we will use professional screenwriting software (you will have various options to access the software). Writing assignments will be due every week and we will read student work both in class and asynchronously. Providing feedback on your classmates’ work and participating in discussions are a crucial part of this class, and we will have both plenary class meetings and small group or one-on-one feedback sessions. Although the class is scheduled Tuesdays and Thursdays, half of students will meet on Tuesdays and the other half on Thursdays (so each student will only have one weekly synchronous class meeting). We will divide the class on our first meeting day.

FMMC 215: 3D Computer Animation (Houghton)

3D computer animation has revolutionized animation, graphics, and special effects. In this fully remote course students will explore basic 3D modeling techniques, virtual material and texture creation, digital lighting, rendering, and animation. Every workshop will be hands-on and fully immersed in this rapidly evolving technology. Students will leave with a strong conceptual understanding of the 3D graphics pipeline, a fundamental 3D skill set, options for further study, and an independent final animation project. 3 hrs. workshop

FMMC 224: African Cinema (Ngaiza)

In this fully remote course we will study how African films from 1967 to 2020, address the cultural identities of Africans in a post-colonial world.  African films will be defined as films made by sub-Saharan Africans, about Africans, for an African audience. This class will be a combination of highly recommended, once a week synchronous Zoom sessions where students will discuss the week’s material, and asynchronous material (readings, video lectures and weekly films) that can be accessed through Canvas. Students will be evaluated through one essay, four reading responses and a final creative project. 

FMMC 252: Authorship & Cinema (Keathley)

In this blended class, we will focus on the films of two of the most important international film directors of the past 50 years: Terence Davies (England) and Abbas Kiarostami (Iran). Classes will meet on Mon and Wed, either in person or remotely, depending on conditions, with some asynchronous presentations and class discussions via Canvas or Slack. Films will be available via the course folder, and students will screen the work on their own.  

FMMC 276: Remix Culture (Stein) 

With the spread of digital technologies, remix has come to the forefront as a major form of creativity and of cultural and political commentary. In this fully remote course, we will explore the history, creative logics, and cultural and legal impact of remix. We will examine a range of remix works across media, with a focus on video remix. Students will produce video remixes and reflect on their own experiences of remix production. The class will combine weekly synchronous zoom sessions, periodic small-group online collaboration, and asynchronous engagement with readings, screenings, and video editing tutorials. Assessed work for this class includes four video remixes and accompanying reflections, two small group projects, and ongoing participation in weekly reading and screening discussions. Students will participate in evaluation of their own work through self-assessment. Students will need to regularly stream video for this course. 

FMMC 358: Theories of Spectatorship (Stein)

In this fully remote course, we will explore a range of theoretical approaches to the study of spectatorship and media audiences. How has the viewer been theorized throughout the history of film, television, and digital media? How have theoretical understandings of the relationship between viewer and media changed in the digital age? How have gender, class, and race informed cultural notions of media audiences from silent cinema to today? We will consider key theoretical readings and approaches to studying spectators, viewers, audiences, fans, and anti-fans across the history of the moving image. The class will combine weekly synchronous zoom sessions, periodic small-group online collaboration, and asynchronous engagement with readings and screenings. Assessed work for this class includes ongoing participation in weekly written reading and screening discussions, four short (1 page) papers, and one longer (12 page) concluding essay based on primary research. Students will participate in evaluation of their own work through self-assessment. Students will need to regularly stream video for this course. 

FMMC 507: Independent Project

All Film & Media Culture faculty are willing to supervise independent projects that work well with the remote format and build on work, skills, or interests previously explored in courses. Contact individual faculty members for more guidance, or chair Jason Mittell for general parameters.

FMMC 700: Senior Tutorial (Miranda Hardy & Mittell)

The Fall 2020 senior tutorial will be highly flexible in structure and format. Students will each work on their individual projects as supervised by one of the two faculty leaders. Group meetings will occur weekly on Zoom for part of the scheduled Wednesday afternoon time, and then breakout into small groups or individual conferences, either in-person or remotely. The nature of the projects are quite open-ended, as detailed on our Senior Work Guidelines; however, any video production or other forms of collaboration need to strictly adhere to campus physical distancing protocols. Students may choose to either spend the Fall tutorial completing a project that has been approved by a faculty leader, or doing project development (e.g. preproduction, research and outlining, all as detailed on these guidelines), with the option to complete the project over Winter or Spring terms.

Department of Film and Media Culture

Axinn Center at Starr Library
15 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753
Fax: 802.443.2805