Composition Topics

I. Descriptive

A. Personal, emotional responses to films
B. Costuming
C. Settings
D. Shots and angles used
E. Use of sound: music, sound effects, silence
F. Use of color or black and white
G. Editing technique
H. Director's style

II. Persuasive

A. Writing film reviews
B. Using controversial themes from the film

III. Comparison and Contrast

A. Compare/contrast the film and the printed story
B. An actor's role in different films
C. Films of the same genre
D. Relationships between characters
E. Setting from two films
F. Director's style from two different films
G. Variety of music used
H. Character development within the film
I. Film reviews from different critics

IV. Research

A. Film reviews
B. Personal and professional life of an actor or director
C. Changes in film over a specific time period
D. How a specific film was made
E. Use of makeup/lighting/costuming/music
F. Specific elements of a particular genre

V. Analysis

A. The purpose for specific shots and angles
B. Symbols used in the film
C. Types of editing choices
D. Themes/messages supported with examples

VI. Creative Writing

A. Changing film endings
B. Creating a scene from a specific genre
C. Recasting major roles
D. Rewriting a scene
E. Updating the setting from a period film
F. Recreating dialogue

VII. Miscellaneous

A. Compare films written by a same author you are studying
B. Academy Award Winners Project
C. Students use a written work to create film treatment/film screen/film
D. Use a film set in the same time period of a story/novel you are reading to understand setting of novel better
E. Students keep a viewing journal similar to reading journal
F. Use a non-literal version of story/novel you are studying (Romeo and Juliet and Valley Girl or Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now)
G. Use films such as Star Wars or Clash of the Titans to discuss to hero cycle.

VIII. Assignments for specific content areas

A. Science teacher can show scientific process through films such as Never Cry Wolf, Apollo 13 or Lorenzo's Oil. Teachers should create specific viewing guides to focus writing on this theory.
B. Math is not a common film theme. Stand and Deliver and Good Will Hunting both contain mathematical concepts. (See http//
C. Social Studies have many film uses. Historical films are listed under countries of subject matter.

1. China-The Last Emperor-Provides history of Pu Yi as he travels from childhood to power to gardener. Filmed in Beijing's Forbidden City.
2. France-Danton-Parallels the French Revolution and Poland in the 1980's.
The Return of Martin Guerre-Noted for attention to detail of the 16th Century
3. India-Ghandi-Academy Award winning biography follows Ghandi from his days as a young lawyer through his assassination
A Passage to India-Captures India at the height of British colonialism
4. United States-A Long Walk Home-Deals with the Bus Boycott in Montgomery, Alabama
Malcolm X-Controversial biography of Malcolm X
5. World War I-Gallipoli-Glorious dreams of war become a nightmare of trench warfare
6. World War II-Das Boot-German film that depicts the war from the perspective of a U- boat patrolling off the coast of Europe
Schindler's List-Academy Award winning account of how one man saves Jews during the Holocaust
For more ideas on historical films and a discussion of their historical accuracy read Mark C. Carnes' Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies.


"All language arts and social studies classes can develop projects appropriate to both the film and other curriculum content. Using these ten ideas will guide, enhance and open up the wonderful world of film for both teachers and students. We must accept the technology of today and capitalize upon it in the classroom. It is clearly our task to be on the cutting edge of technology. We must incorporate, utilize, and creatively exploit the media so our students do not remain passive observers, but active participants in the technology of tomorrow.
When students watch carefully, they become more discriminating viewers. They find themselves thinking, evaluating, comparing and contrasting ideas, questioning, and commenting upon techniques. No longer will students go to a film merely to be entertained; they will now be able to see a film's educational and thematic values while also appreciating the film's technical artistry."

Kenneth E. Resch and Vicki D. Schicker
Using Film in the High School Curriculum:
A Practical Guide for Teachers and Librarians






Paige Mayhew OWP 2000