Week 3: Women in Film

 We will have Dr. Karen Mahar, of Siena College, join us in class to discuss her book, Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood. This book explores when, how, and why women were accepted as filmmakers in the 1910s and why, by the 1920s, those opportunities had disappeared. In looking at the early film industry as an industry—a place of work—Mahar not only unravels the mystery of the disappearing female filmmaker but untangles the complicated relationship among gender, work culture, and business within modern industrial organizations. In the early 1910s, the film industry followed a theatrical model, fostering an egalitarian work culture in which everyone—male and female—helped behind the scenes in a variety of jobs. In this culture women thrived in powerful, creative roles, especially as writers, directors, and producers. By the end of that decade, however, mushrooming star salaries and skyrocketing movie budgets prompted the creation of the studio system. As the movie industry remade itself in the image of a modern American business, the masculinization of filmmaking took root.

We read part IV “Emerging Camerawomen,” in the book Women Behind the Camera. We will also watch the companion documentary, “Women Behind the Camera.” This section of the book interviewed several contemporary camera women and asked them about their experiences of working in a male dominated industry. These women included: Sabrina Simmons, Karen Williams Kane, Sandy Butler, and Alicia Sehring.

We also read the widely touted article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” by Laura Mulvey. She was the one that popularized the idea of the “male gaze.” Be sure to be ready to discuss the assigned readings in class, as well as your latest work on your websites. You can post your project summaries in the comment section below.


Week 2: The Documentary Form as Visual Sociology

This week in class we will come to understand the documentary form and its uses for visual sociology. We will go over this Prezi review of the book. We will ready and discuss the first half of the book Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction. We will also watch part of the documentary Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary, time permitting. Students are also encouraged to check out the website and video clips from this documentary. We will finalize students’ ideas about their own projects and make sure everyone is up to speed on creating their own WordPress.com website where they will post their project. Your “About Me” page  should include a biographical blur, a link to this course and a statement that your website is part of this course, and your topic of interest. You can check out samples of student pages from my Analyzing Reality Television course here, for more ideas. You can post a link to your website in the comment section on this blog posting. You can also look at my Prezi.com on how to make a documentary film, for some ideas about framing.

Week 1: Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary

Welcome to our course, SOCI 385: The Sociology of Documentary Filmmaking. Please review the syllabus. During the first week in class, we will be discussing our personal relationship to documentary filmmaking. Be prepared to talk about your favorite documentary film and show us one clip. What are the sociological messages in your favorite documentary?

During this course, students will be expected to write a significant proposal for the creation of their own feature length documentary film. On the first day of class, we will explore topics that students may be interested in exploring. Do you have an idea for a film? What sociological message would your film send?

What is a pitch proposal? How would you summarize your movie pitch in 2-3 minutes, to a potential producer? We will practice our pitches in class.

How do you interview people for films? What is the process of interviewing people? We will practice interviewing each other in order to explore the dynamics of the interview.

For your proposal, you will also be creating a website with WordPress.com or another blog platform. You will be required to create 10 pages for the website, which will be the same content as your final paper. The website should have plenty of hyperlinks, images, and videos. We will go over how to use WordPress.com in class.

We may watch clips from Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary, time permitting. Or else we will watch it during week two. But you should explore the website of the movie and watch some clips.