4.366 | Spring 2004 | Undergraduate

Advanced Projects in the Visual Arts: Personal Narrative


There are five assignments during the course of the semester, and each builds in some way on the skills learned in the previous assignments. Assignment tapes should be from 3-5 minutes in length and have a title at the head and your name at the end.

Assignment #1: Variations on a Scene

Secure the camera to a tripod and shoot a static image or reproducible scene while altering the following parameters:
A) Focus: plane of focus; focal length; and depth of field.
B) Exposure: over / under / correct; privileging one element in the composition at the expense of another.
C) Lighting: high key (broad, even, bland); low-key (dramatic); and chiaroscuro (artistic, moody).
D) Audio: layered sound effects; background music; voice-over; close-miked vs. shotgun-miked; and silent.

Assignment #1a: Variations on a Scene Part Two: Editing

Edit one short scene in several different ways while altering the following parameters: rhthym / pacing; point of view; color; sound.

Assignment #2: Dream sequence

A) Select a dream sequence from a commercial film to present in class.
B) Keep a dream journal for one week.
C) Create a scenario / storyboard for a two-minute dream sequence.
D) Shoot the sequence.

Assignment #2a: Audio Re-editing of Dream Sequence

Assignment #3: Slice-of-Life Mini-Narrative (Fictionalizing Reality)

A) Shoot a live action diary or documentary excerpt - taking place in the everyday world - of an exchange of dialogue or action between two or more people (unscripted and un-self-conscious). Use a surveillance camera if necessary to obtain natural and spontaneous behavior.
B) Reenact this scene from memory with the same or random participants. Don’t allow either yourself or the other person(s) to watch the recorded material beforehand. Ideally this would take place in the same space as the original scene, but this is not absolutely necessary.
C) Write a scripted version of the scene to be used as a blueprint for re-staging the scene.

Assignment # 4: Deconstructing Narrative

Here, the big emotions will be played small and the small emotions played big. Use lighting, sound, music underscoring, color manipulation and other special effects to invert the normative expectations of a scene. For example, a dramatic scene that could be the turning point or denouement in a film can be undercut and reduced to the quotidian with the music replaced by everyday sounds and the dialogue (if any) altered or removed. (Cf. Removal of all dialogue moments from a Hollywood film in Martin Arnold’s recent installation leaving only eye line matches). Or the opposite can be achieved (Cf. Remake of To Kill a Mockingbird by Martin Arnold).

Assignment #5: Final Project

Create a 5 to 8 minute piece using one of the following three themes as a take off point.

  1. Self-inventory: Recreate an incident from your life and provide a narrative, then transform it.
  2. Alter ego / fictional persona.
  3. Dreams

The project development stages will be as follows:
A) Brainstorming ideas.
B) Automatic writing without editing of the whole idea.
C) Class presentation of Final Project proposals.
D) Storyboard: bring in 3 video clips / photographs / writings that relate to your ideas.
E) Rough cuts of the final project.
F) The final edit.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2004
Learning Resource Types
Projects with Examples
Media Assignments