Syllabus v1.5

A comprehensive overview of the program and assignments

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Written by Chris Chan Roberson
Updated over a week ago


Filmmaking (4 points)

Online High School Filmmakers Workshop Syllabus Summer 2021

COURSE DESCRIPTION This workshop introduces students to the theory and techniques of developing and producing story ideas that are shot on digital video and edited digitally on a computer. As most students enter the program with little or no experience in film or video, early assignments familiarize them with equipment and introduce documentary, experimental, and narrative approaches. Working in crews, students develop their directing, shooting, and editing skills as they produce short videos (three to four minutes in length). 

Special emphasis is placed on storytelling through visual language and collaboration. Students learn the basics of screenwriting through the script development of their short films. Lectures, seminars, and screenings highlight the fundamentals of story structure, character development, communication of thematic statements, and visual storytelling, among other topics. In addition, screenings of significant works and lectures with industry professionals and Tisch faculty are held. 

New York University Tisch School of the Arts Kanbar Institute of Film and Television 1 of 8 

Online High School Filmmakers Workshop Syllabus Summer 2021

GRADING Your final grade will be determined by the following: 


Individual project grades will be based upon: 

  1. Concept development 

  2. Success of final solution 

  3. Technical skills/craft 

  4. Presentation and collaboration 

  5. Professional attitude and ability to meet deadlines 

  6. Class participation/critiquing skills 

Final Project grade breakdown is: 

A. 60% process B. 20% final project content and craft C. 20% participation/presentation 


  1. There is no right or wrong. 

  2. Think, but also trust your intuition. Your gut instinct is one of the best design tools you have. You don’t need a conscious reason for every choice you make during the process. Your unconscious is powerful and meaning often comes out of the making. If, however, your solution doesn’t seem appropriate when you back up and look at it, there’s a good chance is isn’t---no matter how much rational thinking you’ve done to convince yourself otherwise. That’s OK.

  3. Make mistakes. Bring them in; show them to the class and me. 

  4. Your voice, not mine. I want to be surprised, not placated. I’m here to guide you, not tell you what to do. 

  5. Scare yourself. 

  6. Participate. Speak up. Practice makes perfect (and it’s part of your grade). 

  7. The Devil is in the details. At the critiques, I want to talk about the actual work---not bad technique. 

  8. Take notes. Draw. Scribble. 

  9. Work hard. 

  10. Collaborate. Use your TAs and classmates as collaborators. None of us is as smart as
    all of us. 

  11. HAVE FUN!

CRITIQUE - BE CONSTRUCTIVE We’re all guilty of being too barbed with our comments, so try to be constructive in your criticism. As in “This part is successful because; this part isn’t successful because; Maybe you could think about...” Don’t simply say every piece of work is great. The result is that nobody learns anything. It’s not about “good” and “bad”, more about “successful” and “unsuccessful”. What could be more clear? What potential could be reached? 

Discuss elements of a film using ALPHAS and DELTAS ALPHAS = elements we like in a film DELTAS = things we would change if we had the opportunity 

THE BIG NO-NO The words, “I like it” or “I don’t like it,” without an explanation, are forbidden. 


  1. Content: does it make sense? Where does the content come from

  2. Formal Characteristics: composition, imagery, etc. 

  3. The Relationship Between Form and Content: does the form reflect its content  visually? Is the form appropriate for the subject matter

  4. Craft: is the piece beautifully and carefully constructed? 

  5. Process: did the author exploit the process enough? 

  6. Cultural Issues: what are the different cultural implications? How does it function within different cultures? What does the piece reveal about the culture? 

  7. The Audience: who are they? Would they go for it? Do we care? 8

  8. Context: where is this coming from? 

  9. Ethics: does the piece raise ethical concerns? 

EQUIPMENT You’ll find out early on if the equipment you have is appropriate for the class. We feel strongly that we will be able to work with the gear that you have available. As long as you can upload your footage to the internet, we can work with the cameras and editing tools that you have. 

Cameras Due to the nature of the class, students will need to use the resources available to record images. What is the best camera to use? The best camera is the one you own! Students will be making recording footage on their phones, using DSLRs, their laptops, and more. Class discussions regarding the technical and aesthetic aspects of cinematography will better help students understand how to make movies with the equipment they have readily available. We won’t make you run out and buy the most recent, most expensive camera, but you should have access to some sort of image recording device. 

Editing There are many edit programs available to students. Some of these programs are inexpensive, others are free! What’s the best edit program? The best edit program is the one you own! All non-linear editing programs function in a similar way, so regardless of the platform you’re using, you’ll still be able to talk about post-production, the technical and aesthetic steps that go into editing, as well as collaborate and work with your fellow students.  


Please read carefully, paying special attention to the DELIVERABLES for each assignment. Also pay attention to the due dates since most students live in different time zones from each other. 

Plan ahead. There will be a lot of preparation/thought required of you both in and outside of class to successfully bring your assignments/projects in on time with strong artistic merit. 

Some assignments will be done with your crew, others will be done solo. However, you will always be placed in a crew as a means of receiving support. Each crew will have at least 3 other students and a teaching assistant. You are always welcome to get feedback from your crewmembers, classmates, and TAs before you formally upload an assignment. Even while planning your films you should feel free to discuss ideas, shots, story ideas, and other filmic elements with your crew and your teaching assistant. 

Some assignments will require you to receive a green light from the professor before you are able to film. This will require uploading a production book that articulates your artistic vision, schedules, and steps you’ve taken to ensure that your set will operate smoothly and safely. 

If you have questions about an assignment, please ask!

Assignment #1: Introduce yourself!

Upload a video 2 minutes or less of yourself talking about your favorite food. If you can also show the food to us, even better! This should be a one-shot assignment. No need to edit or put special effects or titles, just a shot of you talking about a food you like to eat. Please limit it to just one food and keep it under 2 minutes! Bonus: film it at a favorite location of yours

Assignment #2: The Single Moment

The impact of an action is sometimes dependent on how it’s lensed. Actions are also often dictated by genre and vice versa. Choose an action and film it three ways: 

● Film the action in wide. 

● Film the action in medium shot 

● Film the action in close up. Does the action feel different when you change perspectives? Is the action clear without context? Is the action genre clear? 

Assignment #3: Lumiere and Company

Make a movie that’s 60 seconds or less. You can’t make any edits to your film and it must be one continuous take. Think about movement across the frame and along the z-axis, camera movement, movement of actors, and working within the limitations of the continuous shot. How can you tell a compelling story given the challenges of the assignment? 

Assignment #4: Editing

Come up with a story that can be articulated in 3-5 shots, creating a film under 60 seconds. 

● Crew Member #1 shoots JUXTAPOSITION 

● Crew Member #2 shoots ACTION-REACTION 

● Crew Member #3 shoots MATCH CUT 

● Crew Member #4 shoots PARALLEL ACTION 

❖ Crew Member #4 edits JUXTAPOSITION filmed by Crew Member #1 ❖ Crew Member #3 edits ACTION-REACTION filmed by Crew Member #2 ❖ Crew Member #2 edits MATCH CUT filmed by Crew Member #3 ❖ Crew Member #1 edits PARALLEL ACTION filmed by Crew Member #4 

Assignment #5: Exquisite Corpse

 The idea of this exercise is to have a collaboration with people that aren’t in the same geographic location. Each group is to film the following shots: 

  1. Wide shots (up to 3) of a landscape that you find beautiful. This can be either a wide shot of your city’s buildings, a nearby beach, something wide that shows something you find aesthetically pleasing from far away. 

  2. Medium shots (up to 3) of your subject performing a specific action 

  3. Close up shots (3 to 5) of subjects with intricate details 

  4. Tracking shots (2 to 4 shots) of following a subject moving through a space 

  5. Pan/tilts (2 to 4 shots) exploring an object that doesn’t fully fit into the frame *Before shooting, each crew must submit a production book. Work with your teaching assistant when planning your pre-production. 

The first Exquisite Corpse involves downloading the collective footage from your group and making an edit based on the footage that you have that is under 3 minutes. What kind of movie have you made? What genre is it? What imagery or themes resonate with you? Your cut must involve at least one shot from your group members in each category. What is your audio landscape?
Your second Exquisite Corpse involves sharing your work with the group and discussing reactions to how footage was used. Identify collectively what additional shots are needed by each filmmaker to make the films more coherent. Students then go and get the requested shots, upload the footage, and then go back to edit. 

Assignment #6: Group Documentary

STEP 1 Students talk with each other and ask (but aren’t limited to) the following questions: 

  1. What is something you do/see every day that is commonplace to you but is special to everyone else? 

  2. What is something that you wish you could do outside of where you live? 

STEP 2 Based on the conversation and questions generated from the conversation (this can be a written conversation or video conversation), the group creates a production book to come up with a plan for what material will be used in the group documentary. Work with your teaching assistant on the creation of this book! 

STEP 3 The production book is submitted and the professor either gives the green light to film or additional work needs to be done in pre-production. STEP 4 The footage is compiled and a group edit is done of the footage. STEP 5 

  1. After screening the footage, feedback is given and a second cut is made that might need to incorporate additional footage. 

  2. Group discusses what next steps are and what needs to be done for second cut STEP 6 Final Screening 

Assignment#7: Music Video

These music videos will have no dialogue, focusing on visual storytelling and collaborative effort. Here are the specifications: 

➔ Single music track.
➔ Three minutes long not including titles/and credits (keep short)
➔ All videos must include the following: a hat, an umbrella, and ice cream cone.
 ➔ COLLABORATION is the cornerstone of this project. Both in the conception and execution of the project. Everyone will contribute to the cinematography and editing of the video.
➔ Our expectation is that you will spend no additional funds on your projects. Each music video must capitalize and demonstrate a grasp of narrative, character, cinematic language and sound aesthetics. 

*Before shooting, each crew must submit a production book. Work with your teaching assistant when planning your pre-production. 

Assignment#8: Final Films

This assignment is the culminating evolution of the program. It is designed, first, to demonstrate our new understanding of filmmaking processes and theories and, second, to start clarifying your own unique filmmaking process and voice. 

Within their crews, each student will develop, direct, and edit a film no longer than 4 MINUTES including title and credits. 

➢ Voice Over is allowed.
➢ No Dialogue allowed.
 ➢ Find a way to collaborate with a fellow crewmember, regardless of their geographic location. Will your collaborator be your writer? Your editor? Co-cinematographer? *Before shooting, each crew must submit a production book. Work with your teaching assistant when planning your pre-production. 

STATEMENT OF ACADEMIC INTEGRITY Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work as though it were your own. More specifically, plagiarism is to present as your own: A sequence of words quoted without quotation marks from another writer or a paraphrased passage from another writer’s work or facts, ideas or images composed by someone else. 

STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLE The core of the educational experience at the Tisch School of the Arts is the creation of original academic and artistic work by students for the critical review of faculty members. It is therefore of the utmost importance that students at all times provide their instructors with an accurate sense of their current abilities and knowledge in order to receive appropriate constructive criticism and advice. Any attempt to evade that essential, transparent transaction between instructor and student through plagiarism or cheating is educationally self-defeating and a grave violation of Tisch School of the Arts community standards. For all the details on plagiarism, please refer to page 10 of the Tisch School of the Arts, Policies and Procedures Handbook 2013-2014, which can be found online at: 

WELLNESS Your health and safety are a priority at NYU. If you experience any health or mental health issues during this course, we encourage you to utilize the support services of the 24/7 NYU Wellness Exchange 212-443-9999. For additional options to connect to Wellness - go to - 

Also, all students who may require an academic accommodation due to a qualified disability, physical or mental, please register with the Moses Center: Please let your instructor know if you need help connecting to these resources. 

TITLE IX Tisch School of the Arts is dedicated to providing its students with a learning environment that is rigorous, respectful, supportive and nurturing so that they can engage in the free exchange of ideas and commit themselves fully to the study of their discipline. To that end Tisch is committed to enforcing University policies prohibiting all forms of sexual misconduct as well as discrimination on the basis of sex and gender. Detailed information regarding these policies and the resources that are available to students through the Title IX office can be found by using this link: 

New York University Tisch School of the Arts Kanbar Institute of Film and Television 9 of 8 

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