Film Studies

About the Major

Department/Program Description

The College of Film and the Moving Image explores the motion picture in a unified manner, combining the liberal arts tradition of cultural, historical, and formal analysis with filmmaking at beginning and advanced levels. The department offers a major and a minor.

Student Learning Goals

The College of Film and the Moving Image (CFILM) encompasses the Film Studies Department, the Center for Film Studies, the Student Film Series, and the Wesleyan Cinema Archives. The College approaches the moving image as an art in all its various forms, whether fiction, documentary, experimental, live-action, or animated, and in all its various venues, whether in cinemas, on television, in galleries, on the Internet, or on consumer/home formats. The College is designed specifically for liberal arts undergraduates who benefit most from the marriage of image making, history, and studies.

Mission of the Film Major

The mission of the film studies major is to deliver the finest undergraduate film, television, and media education through our distinctive blending of history, analysis, and production. The major explores moving image art by looking at what is on screen using the language of filmmakers. We highlight Hollywood studio-era cinema as both the foundation and pinnacle of visual storytelling. Our emphasis is firmly on cinema as an audience-centered artistic practice. We consider the creation and analysis of the moving image to represent compatible reverse processes—creator to film to audience, or audience to film to creator. No matter the level of the course or the nature of the discussion, we maintain a direct route from our intellectual activity to filmmakers’ choices and audience experiences. In contrast to graduate programs, which separate practice from study or teach methods of scholarship, we teach about the films themselves in a jargon-free classroom.

Mission of the Film Minor

The film studies minor offers the same fundamental orientation as the major, but in a more flexible format that accommodates different course clusters. Its mission is to deliver a substantial and encompassing curriculum in film and media studies through an interdisciplinary approach that highlights international culture.

Our Pedagogical Goals

Our broad goal is to foster the critical understanding of cinema and television as art forms. To all students, both general education and majors, we offer a unified perspective that enables students to think critically about form and the choices that visual storytellers must face. This orientation toward intensive aesthetic analysis is unique in undergraduate film and media programs. No other liberal arts film program features such a broad and deep background in analysis and history coupled with sensitivity to film’s immediate and intimate relationship with audiences.

Our majors develop a critical and creative approach to the medium based on a strong visual vocabulary, extensive viewing, and a grasp of film production. Production and studies are mutually reinforcing in this environment.  Our 16mm and digital production courses facilitate deeper comprehension of film and television’s formal complexities and demand a higher level of critical and analytical thinking. Likewise, students steeped in history and analysis bring a robust visual vocabulary and awareness of formal problem-solving to the tasks of filmmaking. Upon graduation, majors know how to make a movie; are experienced in all forms of film and television writing; understand film history; can offer original solutions to artistic problems; and are capable of extending our knowledge of cinema.

Our major demands and rewards original critical thinking. We believe that true learning involves synthesis, discovery, and original thought. Our students must face the challenge of defining and resolving artistic, historical, and analytical problems on their own, while also learning to work in collaboration. We encourage students to develop a personal vision, take risks, problem solve, and learn from failure as well as success.

Admission to the Major

The requirements for admission include a minimum overall academic average of B (85.0) and the successful completion by the middle of the sophomore year of two designated entry-level courses with a grade of B+ or better in each. Entry to the major is possible only after completion of these two courses and application to the film major. To apply, students must meet with the department chair by the first semester of their sophomore year and place their names on the list of potential majors. Students on this list will receive an application form. Students who do not meet with the department chair will not receive an application or be considered for the major. Film studies faculty will evaluate applications based on performance in film studies classes (including but not limited to grades) and any other factors deemed pertinent.

Because of the prerequisites and major requirements, students transferring to Wesleyan after their first semester sophomore year are not able to declare the film studies major.

Major Requirements
  • All students must take two designated prerequisite courses and earn a grade of B+ or better in each to be eligible for the major.
  • After entry to the major, students must take the required production course.
  • Students must also take a minimum of six film studies electives.
  • Students may count a maximum of 16 credits in any single department toward the 32 credits required for graduation. Credits that exceed this limit will count as oversubscription.

Additional Options

Selection of options is dependent upon students not exceeding 16 total film credits (the maximum allowed in any department by the University prior to oversubscription).

  • Students have the OPTION to take two senior theses courses for an honors project (one in fall, one in spring).
  • Students have the OPTION to take up to three additional film/digital production courses. (Note that a senior thesis film counts as two additional production courses.)
  • Students have the OPTION to take up to three additional screenwriting/television writing courses. (Note that a senior thesis screenplay/teleplay counts as two screenwriting/television writing courses.)
  • Note that OPTIONAL COURSES count toward graduation but not toward fulfillment of the major.

Please see our departmental website for further information regarding the specifics of our major (wesleyan.edu/filmstudies/).

Please be aware that cross-listed courses must be counted in all departments in which they are listed.

Course offerings vary from year to year and not all courses are available in every year. With prior approval by the department chair, one history/theory course from another institution may be transferred to the Wesleyan major. The department does not offer group or individual tutorials other than senior thesis projects, but uncredited opportunities to work on individual senior films are available. Consult the chair of film studies for further details. The Film Studies Department does not offer credit for internships.

Students may become involved in film studies in ways other than class enrollment. The College of Film and the Moving Image houses the Wesleyan Cinema Archives. The Film Board (composed of Wesleyan students) runs the Wesleyan Film Series. The College of Film also hosts the Wesleyan Freshman/Sophomore Filmmaking Club.

Prerequisite Classes

FILM304 History of World Cinema to the 1960s 1
FILM307 The Language of Hollywood: Styles, Storytelling, and Technology           1

Required Courses After Entry into the Major

FILM450 Sight and Sound Workshop (in junior year) 1
A department-designated seminar during senior year or a senior thesis project        
1

Required Film Studies Electives 

Select a minimum of six of the following: 6
The History of Spanish Cinema
Film Noir
Directorial Style: Classic American Film Comedy
Myth and Ideology in Cinema: Hollywood Sex, Race, Class, Culture
Television Storytelling: The Conditions of Narrative Complexity
The New German Cinema
Alfred Hitchcock
Visual Storytelling: The History and Art of Hollywood's Master Storytellers
The Art and Business of Contemporary Film
Videogames as/and the Moving Image: Art, Aesthetics, and Design
Cinema of Adventure and Action
The History of the American Film Industry in the Studio Era
Contemporary East Asian Cinema
Melodrama and the Woman's Picture
Postwar American Independent Cinema
Contemporary International Art Cinema
From Caligari to Hitler: Weimar Cinema in Context
Newest German (and Austrian) Cinema
Philosophy and the Movies: The Past on Film
Elia Kazan's Films and Archives
Frank Capra's Films and Archives
Using the Moving Image Archive
The Art of Film Criticism
Martin Scorsese
The Documentary Film
The Long and the Short: Fritz Lang in Berlin and Hollywood
Seminar on Television Series and Aesthetics
Advanced Global Film Auteurs
Film Genres: The Western
History of Film Sound

Optional Film/Digital Production Courses

Select a maximum of three of the following: 3
Video Art
Documentary Filmmaking for Majors and Minors
Advanced Filmmaking (Fall - must be taken with FILM457)
Advanced Filmmaking (Spring - must be taken with FILM456)                

Optional Film/Television Writing Courses

Select a maximum of three of the following: 3
Senior Thesis Tutorial (Fall - must be taken with FILM410)
Senior Thesis Tutorial (Spring - must be taken with FILM409)                
Writing About Film
Screenwriting
Writing for Television
Visual Storytelling: Screenwriting
Scripting Series for the Small Screen

Note: The oversubscription rule limits students to a maximum of 16 credits in a single department before oversubscription occurs, at which point further credits earned in the department cannot count toward the 32 credits required for graduation.