Assignment 1: Shot Composition

This may be completed on an individual basis or in teams of two students.

Research and define/describe in your own words what the following filmmaking terms refer to. Shoot one example of each term with a still camera and insert a JPG picture (approx. 4 inches wide) to illustrate your text.

B&W printing is okay; no need to spring for color if it is a hassle.

  1. Establishing Shot (ES)
  2. Long Shot (LS)
  3. Medium Shot - Single (MS)
  4. Medium 2-shot (MS or MS2)
  5. Medium Close-Up (MCU)
  6. Close-Up (CU)
  7. Extreme Close-Up (ECU)
  8. Insert
  9. Cutaway
  10. Reverse
  11. Over the Shoulder (OTS)
  12. Over the Shoulder – Reverse (OTS-R)
  13. Point of View (POV)
  14. High angle
  15. Low angle

Assignment 2: Camera Movement

This project should be completed by teams of two or three students; so there would be two projects per group. Projects are to be shot in video, roughly edited, and burned to a playable DVD. Title or slate each example so that we know what you were trying to achieve.

Demonstrate the following moves:

  1. Short pan.
  2. Long pan.
  3. Whip pan.
  4. Dolly in.
  5. Zoom in (same content as dolly).
  6. Dolly out.
  7. Zoom out (same content as dolly).
  8. Track left.
  9. Track right.
  10. Boom Up.
  11. Boom Down.
  1. Do a long continuous pan, but EDIT a static cutaway into the middle of the move.
  2. Do a long dolly shot, but EDIT a static cutaway into the middle of the move.
  3. Do a long zoom shot, but EDIT a static cutaway into the middle of the zoom.
  1. Try to transition between two continuously moving shots first with straight cuts, and then with short dissolves.

Assignment 3: Continuous Movement vs. Static Montage

This project should be completed by teams of two or three students; so there would be two projects per group. Projects are to be shot in video, roughly edited, and burned to a playable DVD. Title or slate each example so that we know what you were trying to achieve.

In this exercise, you will shoot one continuous non-dialogue scene without any cuts. The camera can move as much as you care to: pans, zooms, handheld tracking, etc. Cover everything in one long continuous take.

Next, you will shoot the exact same scene but with no camera movement whatsoever! Do not zoom, pan, or track. Just lock down the camera position, select a focal length setting, and shoot part of the scene. Then reposition the camera, re-compose, and shoot the continuation. Use as many short, static shots as you require to cover the length of the scene.

Edit the static shots together for seamless continuity.

Hint: Use this exercise as a dry run for your upcoming Film Project! What you learn during this assignment will help you later when it comes time to plan out and execute your film shoot.

Assignment 4: Mastering Screen Direction

This project should be completed by each group. This will be a good chance to see how well you all work together. Projects are to be shot in video, roughly edited, and burned to a playable DVD. Title or slate each example so that we know what you were trying to achieve.

For this exercise, each group will shoot a simple non-dialogue "chase scene". The premise is that one twin is stalking the other one as he circles around a building or location. No dialogue; no violence. In fact, the two never meet. You will use the same actor to portray both twins. Use a simple wardrobe item to differentiate between the two characters, such as a hat or a jacket, so that the audience can tell them apart.

You will have to carefully plan your shots in order to convey this pursuit. Get creative, and have the lead character change direction a few times – we do not want to see both characters only travelling along one screen axis. Include screen L-R, upstage, R-L, and downstage pursuit.

Individual Film Project

The required plan for this exercise will be demonstrated by a descriptive paragraph, a shot list and a series of basic storyboards for each shot and sequence, all to be approved in advance of production.

Each student is required to shoot a 100 ft. 16mm roll of ‘reversal stock’ film encompassing broad physical movements as a specific event utilizing one of the “suggestions” listed below. The finished piece should comprise a minimum of four set-ups and be edited in as seamless a fashion as possible to create “cuts-on- motion”. During the exercise the group will assist each individual in the physical shooting of the event.

Movement examples: Pick up a key ring, move it to another location and set it down.

Then bend down and lift up a newspaper, and then throw it.

Each movement will be photographed twice, with a change of image size and camera angle. Each of the two shots would then be combined in the editing process to create a graceful, fluid “cut-on-motion”.

This exercise accomplishes many things in a relatively inexpensive way in an expeditious time frame; demonstrating the camera operating functions of composition, focus and exposure; experience with the film laboratory, knowledge of basic editing concepts and mechanics and shows an understanding of the importance of production planning and scheduling.

All finished films will be viewed in the class room. Note: the picture needs to be spliced on both sides of the film and the edited piece is MOS.

At each phase of the filmmaking process the instructor will evaluate the students.

Group Video Project

Each student will be expected to participate in a group with 4 other students and each will be assigned a role to write, produce, direct, edit, and shoot one video project of (non-sync) sound of approximately five minutes in length. For this project evidence of a shooting script, budget, pre-production plan, and production report will be required in a production notebook by each student. Each student within each group will sign a contractual agreement.

All dailies, rough and fine cuts will be screened and evaluated in class as part of the learning experience. Use of professional facilities or technicians outside the department for mixing, shooting, editing, or any other aspect of the production that is learned as a part of this class will be considered an infringement of academic integrity and will result in an immediate "F" for the course. However, use of outside students or recent graduates with skills in music composition and recording, makeup and special effects are permissible – if approved by the instructor. The point is to protect the learning experiences of all student partners, to emphasize the PROCESS of making these short films, not the sacredness of the final product.

Team Contributions

Each student must contribute $150.00 - $250.00 to the group budget, NO MORE THAN THIS AMOUNT ALLOWED! This money should be deposited with the Group’s Producer by the 3rd week of the semester and the Producer is responsible for all money transactions and maintaining auditable financial records. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO AUGMENT THIS ALLOCATION. PART OF THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE INVOLVES DEALING WITH FINANCIAL LIMITS. It is important that each crew work with the same resources. Partners found augmenting their budgeted stock will be asked to withdraw from the course. With the approval of the instructor, it is sometimes possible to undertake modest equipment rentals outside of school (e.g. a special lens or doorway dolly) when such equipment is not available through the CSUN stockroom.

If you foresee an inability to afford up to $250 for production expenses, then you should withdraw from this course right away. It is unfair to expect your group partners to ante up your share of the budget, or to be handicapped by your shortfall.

The Script

Each student group must have turned in an approved script in the proper script format. Approval of a new script is at the discretion of the instructor since the production schedule is so short and requires a student to be ready to do pre-production almost immediately. Subject matter is open to individual discretion, with feedback from instructors and classmates. Scripts adapted from copyrighted material must have the rights cleared prior to any screening of the film outside CSUN. There will no NO expositional dialogue, none. Avoid the use of weapons, excessive violence, or subject themes that test the boundaries of good taste; your audience is the general public (think mainstream television network).


All shooting must take place within a 30-mile radius of the CSUN campus. Distant locations are expensive and time consuming and make re-shoots or pickups difficult. The best locations are on campus or on private property, away from public view. Shooting in public areas often requires government permits, insurance, and other restrictions – all of which are your responsibility to research and to conform with.

Production Notebook

Each student is responsible for compiling a production notebook containing the syllabus and class papers, contracts, storyboards, photocopies of location permits, actor releases, music clearances, etc. These notebooks are valuable as a resource in your future productions at CSUN. You may be given a list of required contents, largely a matter of organizing material you will already be generating as you produce your project.. These notebooks are part of your class grade and they are due soon after your project mix. (see schedule)

Individual Film Project/Notebook:

Along with the completed film you must hand in a Production Notebook that contains:

  1. The script
  2. The storyboard
  3. Images collected to inspire visual elements of the film
  4. Location permits, Talent releases, etc.

All elements of this assignment will be addressed in class.

Final Group Project/Notebook:

Each crew member, except for Editors, will provide pre-production materials. The Final Project will not be complete without a DVD copy of the final video along with a Production Notebook that contains materials relevant to each crew position on the project:


  1. Script


  1. Break-down sheets
  2. Budget
  3. Location information/permissions
  4. Receipts of all purchases (photocopies are fine)
  5. Talent Releases, headshots/resumes


  1. A bracketed script indicating camera coverage
  2. Shot lists
  3. Storyboards for at least two scenes but bonus points for any additional
  4. Images that you’ve collected to help visualize the project


  1. Images that you’ve collected to help visualize the project
  2. Any equipment lists, lighting diagrams, etc.


  1. DVD copies of the final film to cast and crew.
  2. DVD for the final exhibition screening.
  3. DVD cases should have artwork for covers. It need not be complex

Observational Journal

This journal has three parts: the first is for observational purposes, the second is a space for recording reflections on your experimental learning that happens outside of the classroom. The journal is a way to be more conscious of all aspects of this process, more mindful and more self-aware.

The third part of your journal should document your group interaction. Keep minutes of all group meetings, especially attendance (or lack of). Keep track of who on your group does what he/she promises to do, and who flakes out. In most group settings, there tend to be a few individuals who end up doing most of the work, and others who are not as reliable or hard working. Maintain a diary of sorts to substantiate your praise or criticism of fellow group members, since you will be grading each other at the end of the semester.

As much as possible, use the Class Forums on the website for official group communications, rather than private email. That will allow us to monitor progress and group activity; and no one in your group can claim that some communications or replies never went out to them.