Fall 2013

Films That Try: Essay Film Production

Listed in: Art and the History of Art, as ARHA-401  |  Film and Media Studies, as FAMS-444


Adam R. Levine (Section 01)


(Offered as ARHA 401 and FAMS 444) Essay filmmaking is a dynamic form with many commonly cited attributes—the presence of an authorial voice, an emphasis on broad, open-ended themes, an eclectic approach to genre, and the tendency to ruminate, digress or draw unexpected connections. Yet, true to its nature, the precise definition of the essay film is in constant flux. It can be both personal and political, individual and collective, noble and mischievous, the favored  methodology of established film auteurs, Third Cinema activists, and contemporary vidartists.

If we entertain the notion that the processes of cinema closely resemble the mechanics of human thought, then the essay film may be the medium’s purest expression. To watch or make such a film, we must give ourselves over to a compulsive, restless energy that delights in chasing a subject down any number of rabbit holes and blind alleys, often stopping to admire the scenery on the way. As with thought, there is no end product, no  clear boundaries, no goal but the activity itself.

The term "essay" finds its origins in the French "essayer," meaning “to attempt” or "to try.” In  this advanced production workshop, we will read, screen and discuss examples of the essayistic mode in literature and cinema while making several such attempts of our own. Students will each complete a series of writing assignments and two video projects informed by class materials and group discussion.

Limited to 12 students.  Fall semester.  Visiting Professor Levine.

If Overenrolled: Priority to ARHA/FAMS majors, then attention will be given to achieving a mix of majors and Five College participation.


Artistic Practice


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2020, Spring 2022