Film History – Week 1

I am putting together a film history course for Truffaut this year, and I thought I would share it on here. I majored in film studies in college, and I am very excited about Tru’s interest in film and about studying film together.

I have spent a good deal of time searching for a spine to use for our study of film history, but I have not found a solid film history book for children that I would want to use. There seems to be a major gap in this area in regards to kids, which I find surprising given our media-rich world. I would think film history would be a great topic for children to learn, but there just does not seem to be that much interest in it.

I did pick up The Young Oxford Book of the Movies a few years ago, and although I don’t feel it is the perfect book for our studies, it will do. There is much I like about the book, I just don’t care for the way it is organized. It does cover the history of film though, so we will be using it as a guide. In addition I will link web pages, videos from you tube, and Netflix films to watch. This, along with some projects that will be assigned, will make up the bulk of our studies.

Week 1: Precursors of Film

1. Read Oxford Book of the Movies p. 10 -15.  You should be able to list and talk about the earliest forms of picture shows, such as shadows thrown on  a cave, puppet shows, the diorama, and the magic lantern. You should also be able to explain the importance of  optical toys to the history of film. In a notebook define persistence of vision and write a short summary of your reading. Optional: Research one of the men and their inventions talked about in the reading. Read this Wikipedia entry on precursors to film.

2. Watch the following videos.

It is important to note that music was very important to these shows. Music and the moving image have been connected since the earliest times, and this idea has persisted through the years.

You can read more about magic lanterns here.

Please note that in the video above the man mistakenly calls the device a zoetrope. It is not a zoetrope but a thaumatrope.

This video illustrates a zoetrope. You can read more about a zoetrope here.

Finally, here is a short film of an early flip book.

Project for the week: Make your own Thaumatrope. You will find the directions in the book on page 14. Here is a video of a dragon thaumatrope that someone made.

Or make a Phenakistoscope.

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