Non-Fiction Film Workshop

Fall 2006


Instructor: Henry Hills

Contact: henry@henryhills.com, tel. 604997581

Class times: Wednesdays 9:50-13:05, room 7


Course description


Departing from FAMU International’s traditional emphasis on making short narrative films in groups, this group will focus on making NON-narrative films on their own as individual artists: actuality, structural, material, experimental, poetic, abstract, documentary, etc. Shooting in 16mm and editing work-print on the flatbed will be encouraged, alongside radical explorations of emerging digital possibilities. After confirming or acquiring necessary skills (shooting digital video, recording digital audio, editing in Final Cut Pro and related programs, using a light meter, shooting 16mm on a Bolex, making tape and cement splices, editing on a Steenbeck, etc.), students will conceive, discuss, shoot, edit, and complete at least one significant film before the break. Classes will be largely tailored to the students needs in performing this task. Many exemplary films (and other art works) will be examined.


Assignment: Shoot and edit a film on 16mm color negative. Suggested topic: an emotional change. Students will be given 6 rolls of film with processing and work-printing. This will be the primary focus in the first semester, but as a secondary focus students are to also shoot a videotape.  The film will be experimental in nature, ideally exploring qualities unique to film. The video, as shooting can be unlimited, should be more documentary in nature, focusing on ONE theme.


class 1 September 20 -- mutual introductions and viewing each others work: we will discuss where we are coming from, where you want to go, and how to get there. Since this is a small group, much of the course will be structured to fulfill the particular requirements needed to expand your horizons beyond the specific orientations of the individual talents whose display led to your acceptance into this program. Also, critique “Fascination with Prague” exercises.


The next four classes  (Sept 27, Oct 4, Oct 11, Oct 18) will be divided between instruction in using programs & equipment (including the assignment of shooting a Bolex camera roll: to have initial exposure to this learning machine and/or to demonstrate your level of competence on it), and planning (on paper and in classroom presentation and roundtable discussion) the nature of and processes to accomplish your projects.  Individual meetings possible by appointment.


As you proceed with your work (issues from which we will discuss as they arise), we will explore the work of other artists, discussing how and why they did what they did, as well as mining it for new ideas. The last hour of each class will thus be devoted to screening and discussion of short experimental films, to get a sense of the range of possibility.



class 5  October 25 -- Discussion of history of editing (Porter, Griffith, Eisenstein, Vertov). Move to Klimenska for introduction to the machinery and techniques of flatbed editing.


Oct 27 meet at Barrandov Laboratories for timing of workprints of first roll and touring the facilities.


October 30 - Nov 2  Lighting workshop with Michael Gahut


November 3 -  meet in Documentary Department to screen workprints


November 8  Barrandow with Lighting exercise group


November 10  individual meetings in Editing Room at Klimenska


class 8 November 15   By now shooting of 16mm projects should be well underway. In the next week or so, 5 of the 6 rolls should have been shot of your approved and discussed project. (Save the last roll until after you have at least 3 editing sessions, so that your editing informs your shooting for necessary fill-in shots).


class 9 Nov 22 introduction to Soundtrack program by Jan Sacher. Screening of rushes in Documentary department.


next 2 classes--whatever it takes to prepare to screen projects!!!!


last class December 13 -- critique projects, plan next semester


December 15 telecine of workprints at Barrandov


December 18 screening!!


Films to be viewed include: “Dream of a Rare-bit Fiend” by Edwin S. Porter, “Interior New York Subway” by Billy Bitzer, “Odessa Steps” by Sergei Eisenstein, MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA by Dziga Vertov, “Le Retour a la Raison” by Man Ray, “Ballet Mécanique” by Fernand Léger & Dudley Murphy, “H2O” by Ralph Steiner, “Meshes of the Afternoon” & “Choreography for Camera” by Maya Deren,  “Go! Go! Go!” by Marie Menken, “Towers Open Fire” by William Burroughs, “Report” by Bruce Conner, and various shorts by Len Lye, Robert Breer , Stan Brakhage, Ken Jacobs, Kurt Kren, Henry Hills, Leslie Thornton, Abby Child and others. Musical and graphic examples will also be analysed.