COURSE SYLLABUS for CTVA 250 Fundamentals of Film Production

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Course Information

COURSE: CTVA 250 Fundamentals of Film Production

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Fred Ginsburg, C.A.S. Ph.D. MBKS

  • (818) 231-1038 cell
  • (818) 892-9236 fax
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MEETS: (Section 4) RM 124, Manzanita Hall - Monday 8am - 10:45am |  RM 170 (film soundstage) - Wednesday 8am - 10:45am

OFFICE HOURS: RM 167, Manzanita Hall - Monday and Wednesday after class | Friday 8am - 9am


  1. The Filmmaker's Handbook, Edward Pincus and Steven Ascher, American Library, New York. – 2013 Edition
  2. Online multimedia coursebook: Film TV Sound, ( published by EQE Media & Consulting Group. Includes numerous articles, tips, tricks, equipment reviews, tutorials, news, forum, calendar of events, and way more.

Course Description & Purpose

The purpose of this class is to examine the basic areas of film production. During the semester students will explore pre-production which includes scripting, storyboarding, budget, casting, production which includes directing, lighting and shooting, and finally post-production which include editing and sound components. Each student will make one 16mm individual film exercise project and one 5 minute group video during the semester; as well as smaller photographic or video assignments.

The individual “film” project will be no more than a one-minute silent film. Each student will be assisted by group members and it will be silent. The individual may use up to 3 minutes of raw stock which will then be edited down to a one minute or less film. Students will receive two grades for this film. The first grade will be based on the direction, coverage, exposure and focus. The second grade will be based on the editing on the film which will be done in the conventional film manner on the moviola with clear film splicing tape. Since we work in groups on all films, the group will act as the production assistants for the individual film.

The second film project will be shot on video and will be approximate 5 minutes or less. This is a group film with non-sync dialogue sound, no exposition to tell the story. When the film is finally edited it will have sound added which includes music & sound effects which serve to give additional dramatic expression to the film. This project will require a script, storyboard, dailies, and edited final project. Students may be allowed reshoots in order to correct any drastic mistakes with permission of the instructor. The students are required to provide their own video camera and editing equipment. (See more below.)

The minor projects will include: 1) Creating photographs as examples of shot definitions (ES, LS, WS, MS, MCU, ECU, 2-shot, OS, insert, cut-away, reverse); 2) Creating video shots as examples of camera movements (zoom, pan, dolly, truck, crane); 3) Comparing static angles vs. movement; and 4) Demonstrating understanding of screen direction by shooting a chase sequence of a twin stalking the other twin (using the same actor, but with simple costume difference such as hat or jacket, to play both roles).

The nature of filmmaking in general and in this class in particular is one of collaboration. The successful students and films come from the groups, which work well together. Any problems with group members who prove unreliable or do not share in the workload for the class should be brought immediately to the attention of the instructor. In addition one should bear in mind that filmmaking is also an expensive undertaking with the cost of film stock, development and mistakes which necessitate reshoots. The Art 260, the beginning photography course is a pre-requisite for this class.

Student Learning Outcomes

(CTVA Department SLO 1, 2, 3) Intermediate/Practiced Students in this course will:

  • Understand and articulate the processes of single camera film production and postproduction.
  • Understand and articulate dramatic film narrative structure.
  • Understand the basic oral and written communication tools to function professionally in single camera film production.
  • Research, structure and write a dramatic story for a film production project
  • Conceptualize, produce, direct and or edit a film production project.
  • Exhibit a film project for entertainment and educational purposes.

Course Expectations

CTVA 250 students will be required to read all assigned readings by the due date listed in the class schedule. Attendance is mandatory and students will be expected to take good lecture notes. Students will also be expected to participate in all class discussions and activities.


Take special care in cultivating and nurturing a workable, communicative partnership. Collaboration skills are necessary in every stage of filmmaking. Without them, talented filmmakers can find themselves working alone, without access to the essential talents that other colleagues bring to a project.

Instructor-Student Conferences

Office Hours are listed at the top of the syllabus.

Mid-Semester Conferences

If you desire, these voluntary conferences allow you to get a sense of your overall progress, areas for improvement and an estimated grade at mid-point in the semester. If you are in danger of failing, you will be alerted in writing and in a conference; we will outline together what steps must be taken in order for you to pass. It is the student's responsibility to be aware of CSUN's add/drop and withdrawal deadlines.


An essential part of successful filmmaking is the ability to meet deadlines regardless of the troubles encountered along the way.  Being well prepared, organizing your time well, anticipating and planning for disasters or no-shows are essential in 250.  Attendance (and being on time) in class, meeting deadlines for dailies, rough cuts, and fine cuts are all a part of the professional behavior of a filmmaker and are a factor in grades.  Written medical explanations are required for excused absences.  There are no incomplete grades available for any reason other than severe medical cases or serious emergencies.

Your grade will be based on: classroom attendance & participation; take-home exercises; mid-term and final exam; and your individual and group films.

NOTE: Students are to view & sign in to the class blog at every week.

All students are expected to attend all classes and lab sessions. There will be NO MAKE-UP of lab assignments without prior consent of the instructor. If you miss a lab assignment you will receive a zero for that assignment. Unexcused absences as well as tardiness will be considered in your final grade. THREE unexcused absences may result in a grade reduction (i.e. up to one full letter on the final grade). Attendance is taken daily and it is the student’s responsibility to SIGN THE ATTENDANCE SHEET! These penalties are designed to encourage professionalism, participation and fair treatment for all. Disruptive, unprofessional behavior will be counted as an unexcused absence and will also entail written assignments as punishment. Group or project switching is prohibited without prior consent of the instructor.

IN THE EVENT OF ABSENCE, it is the student's responsibility to catch up on missed content and to arrange to take make-up exams.

Grading Criteria

Grading for this course will be based on the following point values:

15% - Photo & Video simple exercies (4)

15% - Mid-term Exam

15% - Final Exam

10% - 16mm Individual Film Exercise (Cinematography)

10% - 16mm Individual Film Exercise (Editing and Effective use of Medium)

15% - Observational Notebook and Production Notebooks

  • Class papers, project papers, photo story board

20% - Group Video Project (see Class Schedule)

  • Note: 50% of this grade segment will come from your production teammates

Letter grades are derived from the following table, based on 100 total points possible:

A = 93-100 B+ = 88-89 C+ = 77-79 D = 60-67
A- = 90-92 B = 83-87 C = 73-76

B- = 80-82 C- = 68-72

Once all points are added up for each student, they may be curved to determine the final grade.

Due Dates

All assignments are expected to be completed on time and grades will be lowered substantially for overdue assignments.

Final film et al. will not be accepted late and there will be no make-ups of the mid-term or final exam without a written medical excuse signed by a Doctor.

Except for extreme circumstances, students are expected to complete the requirements of this course by the last day of classes (official date of Final Exam). Projects are due not later than the dates posted in the syllabus. Students who have not taken all exams and turned in their projects may be subject to a failing grade. In extremely rare cases, students with valid reasons for not being able to complete the course may petition the Instructor, in writing, for an Incomplete


Requests for Incompletes must be submitted prior to the last day of classes. Students granted Incomplete grades are responsible for contacting the Instructor during the semester break but not later than one month after the start of the following semester in order to set up an arrangement and timetable. Although the University allows up to one year to convert an Incomplete, it is the prerogative of the Instructor to determine how and when Incompletes may be completed. Failure to set up and adhere to this timetable is an automatic F. Students with an outstanding incomplete in this course, or a grade less than B minus, will not be able to continue on in the CTVA major.

Department Regulations

It is understood to be a privilege not an entitlement for students to use the facility and equipment here in the CTVA Department at CSUN. Therefore, each student is responsible for the rooms they use and the equipment they check out for use

Film Stages

As in the use of any location the filmmakers MUST leave it like you find it (or better). If there is any possibility of contention in this regard, take some before pictures.

By stages we include the film stage, the green screen stage, and the ADR Stage. These rooms may be used by students for their class room assignments only during class time. No exceptions.

No food or beverages allowed except where relevant to the story being shot.

Stages may be used only by those only who have been accepted into the CTVA and is not available to those who are Pre-CTVA.

Editing Suites and Sound Rooms/Bays

All post production rooms have the strict rule of having no food or beverages AT ANY TIME. If this rule is broken you will be asked to immediately give up your editing privilege. At a minimum editing space can be reserved (4) four hours at a time, twice a week. Reservation is handled by signing up on the sheets next to the systems or posted on the doors.

The Pre-CTVA students may only use those editing rooms specifically assigned on the first floor.

The only students who may edit in the edit rooms are those who have the permission card from the instructor.

Department Equipment

You break it… pay for it. Before a student can check our equipment he or she must have approval from the instructor. Instructors are required to give an approved list of students to Michael Bryant at the beginning of each semester. You may only check out equipment set aside for 250 classes.

Equipment Checkout

To check out equipment for the Equipment Room please note that 250 students have a limit as to what equipment may be used. Please check with your instructor.

You MUST also do the following:

  1. READ the Equipment Room check out procedures.
  2. You may check out equipment using your student ID number or your name.

The equipment may be checked out between 1 and 4 pm on check out dates. When you pick up the equipment check it all over and make sure everything is there and in good working condition because if it does not work when you return it is your responsibility to pay for repair or replacement. "Assumption is the mother of all mess ups."

Equipment Return

The equipment must be returned between 8 am and noon on the appointed date of return.

End of the Semester 250 Screening

At the end of each semester we celebrate by showing all films made in the 250 sections. To be eligible to have your film screened in the Armer Theater we will apply the following conditions:

  1. Your instructor indicated that the film it is ready for screening.
  2. The films are not to be more than 5 minutes 15 seconds long. That includes all closing credits.
  3. No scenes with the violent use or threat of guns or knives are allowed. Your film should be suitable for screening to a general audience, since family members might attend these screenings.
  4. No lip sync scenes. Voice over or narration may be possible. The object at this step in your education is to learn how to tell a good story using images, sound effects, and music-- and not being dependent on dialogue. (Considering that your instructor is a professional dialogue mixer, I realize that this may appear as a difficult constraint. But it is an important learning stage.)


Much of what the class does will involve group activity, use of sophisticated equipment, and interaction with industry professionals. Students are expected to display professional and courteous behavior towards people and equipment. Disruptive, unprofessional behavior in this class will not be tolerated. Irresponsible professional behavior that reflects negatively on the department may result in academic penalties; inappropriate behavior will be dealt according to the university regulations and be referred to the Dean of Students.

Academic Dishonesty

In conjunction with examinations, projects and written assignments, it should be noted that severe penalties—including failure in the course and even expulsion from the University—might be applied for any infraction of accepted academic rules of honesty. Among other things, it is understood there shall be no sharing of information on any examination: there shall be no reference to any notes during any test (unless otherwise announced); and despite the collaborative nature of the class, individuals assigned to a position should be the one completing the task.

Use of computers and smart electronic devices

Unless deemed by the Instructor as pertinent production equipment for a specific in-class exercise, the use of personal computers and other smart electronic devices is PROHIBITED. Too many students have used these devices to browse the internet, edit/screen videos, and perform distracting tasks not relevant to class activity. Under no circumstances may cell phones, cameras, and similar devices be within proximity of written tests. (Students with special emergency issues may arrange to leave their phones at the instructors desk.)


You are all strongly encouraged to provide the instructor with your views about me, the course, or the department. Feel free to meet with me, phone, or even leave anonymous notes! Feedback helps all of us grow, students and faculty alike.

Problems, Questions, Etc.

Please, and I cannot stress this point enough, CALL ME! Confusion and logistical problems are natural, but curable. There is bound to be something in the readings or lectures that you are unsure about. During class, if I rattle off some industry jargon that you do not understand — interrupt me and ask. If you have any questions about the readings or lectures, problems with the assignments, need production advice, or whatever...THAT IS WHY I GIVE OUT MY PHONE NUMBER!


The personal safety of yourselves, your cast and crew members is a vital consideration as you plan and shoot your projects. Please check with your instructors before shooting if you have any questions or concerns. Read the safety handout and understand the contents. Footage shot in unsafe conditions may be withheld from the final project.

Free Resources

In order to complete some of the minor exercises, students will need to perform some simple video editing. Some of you already own, or plan to purchase, major editing programs such as Avid Media Composer, Final Cut, or Adobe Premiere. But for the purposes of this course, students can also use less professional software, such as Pinnacle 16. There are a number of free editing programs available on the internet; but try to stick with software that supports multiple video and audio timelines for the final Video Projects. The minor exercises only require cuts and maybe a dissolve or two. Also, many of the for sale programs, such as Pinnacle, can be downloaded for free 30 day trials at no cost.

Students with disabilities

Students with disabilities must register with the Center on Disabilities and complete a services agreement each semester. Staff within the Center will verify the existence of a disability based on the documentation provided and approve accommodations. Students who are approved for test taking accommodations must provide a proctor form to their faculty member signed by a counselor in the Center on Disabilities prior to making testing arrangements. The Center on Disabilities is located in Bayramian Hall, room 110. Staff can be reached at (818) 677-2684.