Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Contemporary Independent Film Directors: the start of the midterm project

Here's some info on your midterm assignment, which will have two phases: a "rough draft" phase, due on week 6 of class (Feb. 23), and a "final draft" phase, due on week 8 (Mar. 9).

The basic outline of the project is this: I want you to choose at least two films by a currently-working independent film director, and write about them, trying to define what the director's personal stamp is. What are some commonalities of theme and style between the films? How would you describe the director's personal "vision?" The first article on Linklater's films, two assignments ago, does a pretty good job of this.

Included in your paper, in addition to your "auteurist" analysis, I want the following things included:

1. A brief bio of the director, and some notes on the production history of the films (how was it made, and in what cinematic context did it appear?).

2. A close reading of at least one scene from each film. What was the narrative intent of the scene (what emotions, feelings, and thoughts did the director intend to invoke), and how did the director achieve those ends? Use the language of film-making to describe the formal strategies of the scenes -- how is framing, composition, color, camera placement, camera movement, sound design, and/or editing used to further the aims of the scenes? How do the performances of the actors contribute?

What I don't want to see in your papers is a basic summary break-down of the film, tracing the plot for start to finish, in a sort of junior-high book-review format. Give whatever narrative background you need to explain your points, but I'm not interested in a top-to-bottom summary. Feel free to "spoil" anything in the film, up to and including the ending -- that's fine if it helps you to make your point about the director's relation to style and theme. But don't give plot-summary just to fill space.

Below is a list of contemporary independent directors. It's not comprehensive by any means, and if there's a director not included on the list who you'd like to write about, let me know in the "comments" on this blog post. Plug some of these names into wikipedia (or maybe google images if you want to get a hit of visuals) to get a sense of what their work might be like. I haven't researched availability of the films of these directors -- before you commit to one, see if you can get your hands on a couple of their movies, through streaming, your local rental place, or what have you.

Once you've selected your director, post their name in the "comments" to this blog post -- and make sure no one else beat you to them. I want everyone to be focusing on a different director.

I highly recommend you pick out your director by the end of the week.

chantal akerman

pedro almodovar

alison anders

paul thomas anderson

wes anderson

ramin bahrani

noah baumbach

bong joon-ho

charles burnett

catherine breillat

jane campion

lisa cholodenko

larry clark

the coen brothers

sofia coppola

pedro costa

alfonso cuaron

the dardenne brothers

julie dash

jonathan demme

clare denis

abel ferrara

stephen frears

michel gondry

stuart gordon

debra granik

david gordon green

peter greenaway

michael haneke

hal hartley

werner herzog

nicole holofcener

hou hsiao-hsien

jim jarmusch

jia zhang ke

spike jonze

neil jordan

aki kaurismaki

harmony korine

ang lee

mike leigh

kasi lemmons

terrence malick

lucrecia martel

takashi miike

gaspar noe

park chan-wook

alexander payne

lynne ramsay

robert rodriguez

george romero

david o russell

john sayles

steven soderbergh

quentin tarantino

julie taymor

tsai ming-liang

gus van sant

nancy savoca

todd solondz

lars von trier

john waters

michael winterbottom

You can also choose from directors we've seen, or will be seeing, in class, who are still working (some of these directors have made both indy and studio films -- it might be interesting to compare/contrast their independent and commercial modes. Pick two of their films that aren't being screened for class, if you're interested in one of these)

david cronenberg

spike lee

richard linklater

david lynch

guy maddin

martin scorsese

agnes varda

wong kar wai


  1. I would like to do my paper on Sofia Coppola.

  2. If he isn't taken yet, I'm interested in doing David Cronenberg.

  3. Keith -- Cronenberg's great, just don't pick "Videodrome" for one of your two movies, since we'll be watching that in class.

  4. I would like to write my paper on George A. Romero.

  5. well i'm a bit keen for quentin tarantino