Course Syllabus


WHS Department of English
Film I Elective
2022-2023 Semester 1
Ms. Prinn                                  
Classroom 220 (and on Canvas)

“Everything I learned I learned from the movies."
                                         -Audrey Hepburn (actress, 1929-1993)

“It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.”
                                        - Robert Ebert (film critic, 1942-2013)

Course Description
Welcome to Film I.  This elective course focuses on those films and filmmakers (from around 1895-1969) that have had a profound influence not only on American cinema but on how we see the world around us. We will view some indispensable classics this semester that will help us appreciate the history and continued influence of this fascinating medium. We will examine the art of filmmaking, including the basic terminology and its many collaborative artists: actors, directors, screenwriters, and cinematographers. We will spend time learning about the genres, systems, and transitions that defined (mostly) American film during these years. We also will pay attention to representation in film – who makes the films, who appears on screen (and who does not), and how groups and individuals are depicted. Also, we will view instructive documentaries designed to introduce us to the significant genre films in the development of cinema, such as: the western, the musical, and film noir.

Films (subject to slight changes as we go):

Early film shorts 1895-1920: Lumière brothers, George Méliès, Edwin S. Porter, D.W. Griffith - 

  • Workers Leaving The Lumière Factory in Lyon (1895)
  • A Trip to the Moon (1902)
  • The Great Train Robbery (1903)
  • Intolerance (clips) (1916)

Modern Times (1936)

Duck Soup (1933)

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Citizen Kane (1941)

Casablanca (1942)

Double Indemnity (1944)

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Rear Window (1954)

Vertigo (1958)

Psycho (1960)

The Searchers (1956)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

12 Angry Men (1957)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Documentaries on early film technology, end of the Silent Era, A Century of Black Cinema, The Golden Age of Cinema, Film Noir, Hitchcock, and The Western

Cinema is a mirror by which we often see ourselves.”
                                                                            - Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (director, screenwriter 1963- )


  1. Do your best to come to class on time and prepared with your laptop charged and ready to go!
  2. Watch films attentively. The majority of our in-person class time will be spent viewing films, answering analytical questions, and discussing the elements of significance.
  3. Actively participate in class with questions, discussion, and ideas.
  4. Be responsible if you miss class, be proactive, and make up work promptly. I’m here to support you.
  5. Use the Internet resources to help you succeed (see below).
  6. Be flexible as the course may adapt and adjust as the semester continues.
  7. Be kind, courteous, curious, and respectful of all members of our class community.


The traditional ways to make a film, the traditional ways to share a film, have all collapsed. There are no gatekeepers, per se, any more, and anything can be done. Truly, I feel that.

                                                                   - Ava DuVernay (filmmaker, 1972- )

As we watch each film, you will complete a digital viewer’s guide in Google docs that will help you take notice of significant elements on screen.  You will submit these guides through Canvas for credit. Once per quarter you will write a 2-page response (double-spaced, 12-point font) analyzing one or more element(s) of a film or pair of films. You will have a choice for your essays, usually responding to a review of the film or drafting your own critique in response to a prompt. You can also design your own prompt/paper  - come talk to me about your idea!

Engagement/Effort/Attendance/Participation (20%)
Viewer’s Guides (70%)    
Two-page responses (10%)

These websites are trustworthy and will provide you with a plethora of reliable information about the films we will watch. Very important: Be sure to cite your source(s) if you refer to these resources in planning and/or writing your papers. Plagiarism is never acceptable and violates our core value of academic excellence. (AMC Film Site) (American Film Institute) (International Movie Database)


Final Thoughts

I’m excited to teach this elective class, and I’m glad you’ve signed up. I encourage you to bring your enthusiasm and your positive energy to the group. This class will be what we make it as a community, and I have high hopes.  As director Martin Scorsese once said, “Now more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this.”