I have given many talks on film theory and application. Some were successful, some not so much. But the one talk that got everybody going, that created interest and that generated genuine interest from the audience, was the talk on the craft and commerce of cinema. Here is what I said in that lecture:
The subject of film study is fascinating to me because it covers a lot of material, but perhaps most importantly it is the most difficult subject to cover in any academic course. It is more like the study of wine. You might have all the answers to every question, but you still cannot be precise if you take one small piece out of the whole basket.
But this is not the problem with film studies. In fact the subject of the film is very simple. You just need to know how to take one small piece and interpret it in a specific way. To take one piece and interpret it properly is the essence of film studies. This is not as difficult as you may think.
For example, you can take a talk about the psychology of film and interpret it in a way that will help you predict which films will sell well and which will fail at the box office. Or you can take a talk about plot structure and interpret it as teaching you how to effectively structure a movie. Or you can take a talk about the technical aspects of camera work and talk about the visual language of films. As long as you can take one small piece of information and change it to fit into the rest of the course you will do OK. You don’t have to know everything and you don’t have to talk about everything, but if you take one tiny piece and turn it into the crux of your argument you can make substantial progress.
And this is the beauty of this subject. As long as you are careful and you’re clear about what you want to talk about you can pretty much take any small piece of information and turn it into a focal point of your course. After all, what’s the point of studying art if you never put it in the context of other art? You can take my the craft and commerce of cinema and talk about it, but you cannot take the subject and then say, OK, let’s apply this to these examples so we can all understand the way the film was made. This is true with all subjects and I’m always amazed when I see students talking about the subject matter in this way when they could easily take that information and put it in their own context in their own paintings or even in their own photography.
So I love this subject because it gives you so many chances to express your own understanding of the subject matter. If you take my the craft and commerce of cinema course you can talk about the long battles between directors and studio executives over which scene should be shot first (which is interesting because sometimes it’s just shot before the others and they fight over it). You can take my the craft and commerce of cinema and talk about the logistical difficulties behind shooting certain scenes. And you can take my the craft and commerce of cinema and talk about the technical aspects of shooting a particular movie.
You can take my the craft and commerce of cinema and talk about the complicated relationships between actors and director, producers and studio executives, the behind-the-scenes politics at work in Hollywood. Or you can take my the craft and commerce of cinema and talk about the financial rewards that come with producing a successful movie. The possibilities are endless, I love talking about these subjects because they are so different and yet intrinsically connected to each other.