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FILM171 - Intro to American Cinema

This course will focus on the history of American Cinema from the beginnings of the silent film era to the present day. Students should be able to demonstrate knowledge of aesthetic principles as they apply to the film as an art medium. The student will view a wide variety of selected films and discuss them in class. The student will demonstrate a prescribed level of mastery of technical terms and concepts on examination.
Credits:         3
Instructor:     Marie Westhaver

Overall Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will:

  1. Define specific photographic terms, including cinematic shots (medium shot, close-up, extreme close-up, deep-focus, wide-angle); camera angles (low, high, eye-level); and discuss the effects of lighting; color; and photographic styles of realists and formalists.
  2. Explain the history of American cinema.
  3. Define mise-en-scène and explain how composition influences the director's message.Identify some editing techniques.
  4. Explain the effects of sound, including music, dialogue, background, etc.
  5. Distinguish differences in acting styles.
  6. Define documentary and cinema-verité.
  7. Identify some ways in which film directors manipulate audiences.
  8. Identify key elements in film authorship, genre, ideology and theory.

Major Topics

I. Beginning of American Cinema
II. Photography
III. Mise-en-scène
IV. Movement vs Editing
VI. Sound
VII. Acting
VIII. Ideology
IX. Genre

Textbook and Materials


Textbook information:  To visit our bookstore's online sales site, please visit and follow the instructions for selecting textbooks.

Technical Requirements and Plug-Ins:

Review the Technical Requirements link above. The following plug-ins are required for this course:

  • Internet Explorer or

  • Netscape

  • Real Player

  • Word Viewer, if you don’t have the full version of Microsoft Word

Course Requirements

Grading/exams: Grading procedures will be determined by the individual faculty member.

Other Course Information

This course may be used as a Fine Arts elective, Humanities Elective, or Arts and Science elective. It is required of Theatre (Performance and Technical) majors.

If you have any questions or comments about this course, please send a message to Marie Westhaver,
Last updated on 14-Nov-07 © Howard Community College, 2007

Student Profile - Maribel