How to View and Appreciate Great Movies

Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disapointing The content is not what I was expecting from the course description. No clips of movies but you do get to see some cheesy computer generated story boards. This course has very little to do with appreciating movies. It's more about aspects of making movies. Those are two entirely different things. I can find better content on appreciating movies on YouTube and they actually have clips of the films they are discussing. I ended up returning it for another course.
Date published: 2020-04-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I was very disappointed in the content ot the course. The lectures did not always seem to reflect an understanding of any subltlety of the course and more of a want-to-be film teacher than an actual professor. Many times he missed the substance of the course or the subject he was supposedly analyzing. The talk was long and shallow while he missed the meaning of film. I wanted to know more about film history and technique and he only presented a droning lecture on films I feel are not only not classics but banal and not worthy of my time.
Date published: 2020-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best Great Course So Far! I have watched 36 Great Courses, so far, and "How to View and Appreciate Great Movies" was the best course yet! I didn't look at the reviews until I finished this course. I am glad I didn’t because if I had read the reviews, I probably wouldn't have purchased this course. There were many good reviews and I will try not to duplicate many of the points that have been highlighted in these reviews. Take the bad reviews with a grain of salt. Most of the complaints were because the lessons did not contain original clips from the movies that were mentioned. While I felt the same way, for a while, I soon understood why there were no original clips used as examples. First, there would have been a huge cost associated with acquiring original clips. I know this from experience. A non-profit charity put on a drive-thru Christmas lighting display, for donations. The charity wanted to show clips from the movie, “A Christmas Story” while people waited in their car before getting into the display area. The quote to get the short clips for “A Christmas Story” was $50,000! Just for this one movie, alone. As you can see, getting the rights to show clips for all the movies used in Professor Williams’ lectures would have been prohibitive. Second, Professor Williams discussed so many topics and so many different things to look for in movies, that he used as examples, it would have been an impossible task to show all the movie clips that represented all the different topics he was highlighting. I will elaborate further. Professor Williams is not a lecturer for "How to View and Appreciate Great Movies". He tells stories. I felt like he was talking to me, personally, at home or in a bar, as he discussed how I may appreciate movies more than I have in the past. He is a storyteller. Just like reading a novel, you use your imagination to try to understand what the writer of the book is trying to communicate. Professor Williams is telling a story about things that happen in a movie and you (as a listener and a watcher, as he tells his stories) use your imagination as to what he is talking about. Many of the movies that he uses as examples, you already have seen, and you start thinking about them differently. Many movies that he discusses you may not have seen, but he makes you want to go out and see them, right now! That’s how good Professor Williams is. He tells stories about how he interprets the various parts of a movie, such as genre, colors used, shapes used, dialog written for the movie, actors, music, sound effects and many other topics. You can tell that he has not only seen many movies, he has analyzed them extensively, inside and out. The discussions are his ideas, based on his years of experience. If he talks about a movie you have already seen, you may say to yourself, “Oh, now I understand why the (movie director) did this or that.” You will see movies in a whole new light! Another complaint that some people had is with Professor Williams’ discussion of genres. He is right, that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of genres that people use to categorize movies. He postulates that there are really only eleven, which he explains. However, he further categorizes genres into macro and micro genres. If that is so, why not just go with the hundreds of genres that are already used? That is like saying all plants, animals and bacteria should not be classified first by Kingdom and then by more detailed classifications and, instead, should be classified only by the millions of species or breeds. That would truly be unwieldy. Likewise, Professor Williams uses only eleven genres to categorize movies and from there, he labels the movies in more detail. It makes explaining movies very simple. For example, that movie is a crime movie. Further, it is about a heist. And if you want to be more exact, it is about two buddies doing something they shouldn’t have done. If someone asks you what that movie was about, you say, “It’s a crime movie.” See how easy that was! As a side note, the set that is used in this course is facinating. It looks like a film editing room, with all the old, traditional machines, foley (sound effects) items and more. None of this green screen fake background, here. You think you are really in an editing room! Professor Williams uses this set to his advantage, also. When he talks, you feel like you are talking to the editor of a great film, as he describes the methods he uses to "cut" the movie. At other times, you think you are listening to the director of the movie, explaining why he chose the methods he used, during the shooting. And although Professor Williams does not discuss acting in detail, he explains how actors can make a good movie great and methods they use to do that. I learned a lot about movies that I had not even started to think about. I know I will start to enjoy movies more than ever and appreciate all the intricate aspects of movie making. Professor Williams couldn’t have been a better presenter and storyteller. I highly recommend "How to View and Appreciate Great Movies".
Date published: 2020-01-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from In School Again? He obviously has lots of experience lecturing on a college level. That is good, but when he defined genres, macrogenres, microgenres, and supergenres - I said No Thanks. I do not want dry analytical acedemia!
Date published: 2020-01-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I really wanted to like this course but... I have watched more than 40 Great Courses and have rated most of them good or excellent. The instructor is enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. But the lack of actual film clips makes this course almost worthless.
Date published: 2019-12-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from First Course I am returning. Had high hopes for this course. Husband adored a film studies course he took in college years ago. We made it through 7 lectures before saying this was a bad choice. The professor is the problem IMO. His points are not clear. He wastes time holding up printed scripts as a visual that adds nothing to his presentation. His ideas of macro/micro/ and super-genres seem to be specific to him rather than to film studies. Having 50 macro-genres is pointless. Or if there was a point to having so many, it was not communicated. We had hopes that when he finally started speaking to specific films that the course would improve. We stopped midway through the Casablanca/Citizen Kane lecture and agreed it was not worth continuing. This course is sadly not up to my expectations from The Great Courses. I would still be interested in a film studies course. One could be done without using clips from movies, but the instructor will need to be MUCH more clear about his points.
Date published: 2019-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and a pleasure to view Over the years, I have bought more than forty lecture series from The Great Courses. This course about film and how viewers might better appreciate the art form is one of my favorites. Professor Eric Williams is both knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. His enthusiasm is infectious. In fact, I have been reading some of the sources he recommends and have been watching several of the films he uses in his examples. Furthermore, the content of each lecture is easy to follow and understand. Williams begins with an introduction during which he outlines his objectives and the points he will make during the lecture, then he logically and clearly presents the material in an organized fashion. I teach at the college level and have taught a film appreciation course at the high school level. Still, I learned much from this series of lectures and found each a joy to watch. I only hope Professor Williams and The Great Courses will produce more series about film, film history, and film making. I would buy those without hesitation.
Date published: 2019-11-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Movie aversion therapy The course was a major disappointment. We had hoped for insights into film techniques with clips and stills from great movies. Instead, we ran afoul of the Teaching Company's aversion or inability to pay for reproduction rights (witness the course on the history of Broadway musicals that includes no song examples after 1927). How can you distribute a course on appreciating movies with no examples of movies? Instead, we are given primitive and slightly creepy CGI static illustrations that are supposed to represent scenes from the movies discussed. Also not helpful: Prof. Williams fills time with rambling discussions of his pet theories (e.g., how many movie genres are there?).
Date published: 2019-10-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Filmmaking from a Screenwriter's Perspective Although the lecturer (Eric Williams) has both directed films and written screenplays, his predominant experience is in writing film scripts and it shows in the elements of this course, i.e., there's a much greater emphasis on (generic) storytelling than on visual storytelling. If you're an aspiring screenwriter, this course could be very appropriate for you, but my interest in films and in the appreciation of them is more from behind the camera (director, cinematographer, etc.) and thus I was a bit disappointed with the mix of lectures. The lectures place a lot of emphasis on storytelling "rules," tension ascension and dissipation, and "character arcs," much of it quite interesting, but also reminding me that too many films are criticized for having "formulaic" scripts (you can early on roughly tell how the plot is going to build and then resolve). I was also disappointed with the virtual absence of film clips to illustrate aspects of filmmaking and film art. I've taken numerous music courses from The Great Courses where the lecturer tells us what to listen for, and then we hear a piece of music and listen to it with more understanding. Perhaps the copyright laws are too onerous and would have made this course too expensive, or perhaps use of film clips would have displaced too much lecture time. Instead, we get cardboard figures and artwork to simulate film examples. On the other hand, I appreciated the fact that the lecturer ends almost every lecture with a quote from (the deceased) Roger Ebert, a film critic we apparently both admire, and one whose reviews I continue to eagerly read. In addition, Mr. Williams makes a good point that CGI is too often used to retain the viewers' interest rather than to extend the story. He further observes that current filmmaking increasingly uses shorter scenes (from 4 to 2 minutes on average) and with shorter shots within those scenes (more cuts and editing); these developments he seems to view unfavorably for their effect on storytelling. Mr. Williams is a genial lecturer and uses a fair amount of humor, most of which, unfortunately, escaped me. He's fairly broadminded in his rendering of opinions, but he made three assertions that I'd like to challenge in ending this review: (1) He says screenwriters fundamentally differ from novelists in that they provide no "interior monologues." Can't voice-over narration simulate an actor's thoughts? (2) He lists 11 "Super-Genres" without including Comedy, which is not even included among his 50 "Macro-Genres." I don't understand Comedy's omission or under what category he's including comedies. (3) He asserts that "The Imitation Game" about Alan Turing and his British WW II code breakers is a "crime" film rather than a "war" film, presumably because it ends with Turing's criminal prosecution for homosexuality. About 90% of the film deals with the crucial aspects of WW II military intelligence so his classification escapes me. But then, movies are fun to argue about!
Date published: 2019-08-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Good information, but presentation is stilted I have watched over half of this course so far. The information content is high but the presentation lacks video examples. Most explanations all just talking or still images, and very few from the movies being described. They are mostly recreated storyboards. What this course is screaming for—but doesn’t provide—is examples using actual footage from the movies that are discussed. I realize that it may be expensive to get movie rights licensing and costly in terms of time and editing, but to have a course presented on video format about the movie industry and not use video examples as teaching tools is so contrary to good teaching practices. This course should be re-edited with video examples from the actual movies being described, rather than just static talk
Date published: 2019-08-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worst TGC course I've seen Anyone expecting this to include clips from the movies discussed will be disappointed. I have over 100 courses and this ranks at or near the bottom. Worthless.
Date published: 2019-07-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Movies, great presentation, poor packaging Bought this for my wife. Both of us enjoyed it (although we now find ourselves picking up on the cinematographer's techniques!). But I felt the need to downgrade by one star because of the poor packaging. The DVDs were "stacked" on top of each other...making it difficult to handle.
Date published: 2019-07-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thorough and well done. Took me forever to finish because he inspired to watch so many movies!
Date published: 2019-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title accurately reflected the subject matter. I was initially put off by the instructor's gimmicky use of old movie props and his use of "the late great Roger Ebert" quotes to summarize the lectures. Then I began to warm to both. (I always used RE reviews to make movie viewing decisions.) Also, I am not a fan of Joseph Campbell's "hero journey" method of deconstructing stories. So when he started the lecture series w/this I rolled my eyes. The series took off after that and I really liked his explanations regarding genre, POV, etc. The series as a whole and lecturer were excellent and gave me several good ideas for my own writing. I would recommend this course highly to anyone that enjoys movies or is in the industry.
Date published: 2019-06-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great topic, but only partially successful I love movies, and talking and reading about movies, and movie trivia. Never having had any formal instruction in the science, techniques, and history of film, I ordered this course with great expectations—a chance to get some real academic infrastructure for my avocational interest. But while its scope and goals are right on target, and the instructor is a good teacher who definitely knows his stuff, the course left me unsatisfied in several respects. Chief among these was its lack of illustration and example, in a field that relies fundamentally on the visual and the auditory. While Professor Williams cites and discusses many films in addressing each topic (the course booklet lists over 400 movie citations in the 24 lectures, although many of them are duplicates), we don’t get to actually see excerpts or even stills from them. Most likely this reflects copyright restrictions, and it’s OK for some topics—discussions of movie genres, character development, heroes and villains, etc—but much more problematic when it comes to teaching us about such things as cinematography, sound design, color and light, and special effects. In those areas it was like watching a lecture on the Mona Lisa that went into detail on Leonardo’s brush techniques, background effects, perspective, and framing without our ever being able to see the actual painting being discussed. As the course progressed this was less an issue with the cited movies I knew well (maybe half of them), but increasingly problematic for unfamiliar ones, leaving me a bit dissatisfied. I won’t comment on the ersatz CGI and skits put together on the set in an effort to make up for this problem, except to say that, for me, they definitely fell short. However, my wife thought the introductory sequence for the lectures—both visual and sound—was the most original of any of the 100+ courses we’ve watched, and I agree.
Date published: 2019-05-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Dissappointed Course was too much of professor just talking, not nearly enough video and still examples of what makes a good movie and why. Did not add much to my knowledge of film.
Date published: 2019-05-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Movies but no movies I got this knowing that there would be restrictions on showing the film clips but I think at least some of the photos for the scenes that were discussed would be shown. Just as much could have been gathered from getting some of the many books on movies already published, and they have photos to show the points or ideas being mentioned. Way too much talk to cover up the missing scenes and some of the movies were not that popular to warrant the amount of discussion. I do not intend to buy or watch each of them just for a few moments explanation. I do not recommend this.
Date published: 2019-04-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I learned a lot! I was amazed at how much goes into making a film, and at how much needs to be considered to fully appreciate a movie. And that's both the good news and the bad news about this course. The good news is that there's a tremendous amount of information to be had, dissecting each nuance of movie making. The instructor really knows his subject! But that's also the course's biggest weakness, IMNSHO: it's often difficult to see the forest for the trees. I would have really liked to have had a broad overview of the subject of film appreciation, as well as a glossary of terms. It also would have added a lot to have seen brief film clips that illustrated each of the points the professor makes. There was too much talking and not enough showing for my taste.
Date published: 2019-04-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from It is a title I have been trying for a week while trying to do a lot of other work. I put the disk in my DVD drive. It show up on the screen. However there is NO PLAY BUTTON highlighted. I tried a second dVD player, same thing. I use a MAC and use their DVD play, which has worked very well for me. Am I missing some secret code?
Date published: 2019-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I LOVED this course. As a writer, I found it to be more relevant to me than any of your writing courses I've viewed. Characters, point of view, editing, setting the scene, secondary characters, themes...I was in awe of how well they were covered. Furthermore, the Professor was amazing! So many of your instructors are stuffy or stiff-sounding. Eric Williams was wonderful: engaging, funny, and easy to understand his points. I highly recommend this course, whether you want to learn about movies, about writing, or if you just want to be entertained and inspired.
Date published: 2019-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent presentation well worth the purchase As a movie buff, this course has clarified and expanded my knowledge of the film industry.
Date published: 2019-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from how to review and appreciate great movies Excellent course especially for me(I love movies but didn’t know the mechanics of the film making process). Lots of info. Many movie recommendations. I’ll definitely watch this one again, and read the book.
Date published: 2019-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LIGHTS, CAMERA, MOVIES! GREAT COURSE!! I read the review below mine. I first wondered if he has actually watched the course. "Movies" is easily hands down my favorite Great Courses yet. Yes, I would have liked to see clips. I would have. With that out of the way what a great course. It had me bing watching which I NEVER do. So clap clap clap to Professor Williams and his film crew for making this course informative AND very entertaining.
Date published: 2019-04-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Appealing title 50 years ago, I took writing in college, which turned out to be a lecture course with almost no writing. Needless to say, I didn't emerge a better writer. Years ago, I bought your music courses hoping to learn about music, but gave it up when it turned out to be a music-less lecture series. Now I have a course on movies without movies, nor clips, and precious few stills, and those not used to illustrate points. The book is as helpful as the lectures, and quicker. It earned the course its two stars. I understand the limitations of copyrighted material, but zero? Has the instructor never used his own medium for instructive examples? At least shot stills to show different techniques? I am holding your courses on photography and woodworking with some fear that I'll find they, too, are all lecture.
Date published: 2019-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greater than the rest I’ve purchased many great courses and this is by far one of my favorite. I highly recommend. I found the flow of the course kept me watching is I’m ashamed to say is rare. I purchase courses and never get very far. This course is an exception. I got thru the lectures in a very short time. I was actually disappointed when I reached the end. Please make another!
Date published: 2019-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from VERY VERY VERY WELL DONE My husband and I really enjoyed this course. We had discovered This Great Courses from one of your mailings. A few years back we purchased a few courses and found that it did not really appeal to us. Sine then we usually just toss the mailings out but this time we peeked inside and decided to order Prof Williams course. We binged thru it together. It was GREAT. We both highly recommend.
Date published: 2019-02-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Should be on TCM. What a professional job. The Great Courses is usually known as the 70% off company. With production quality like this one, you should drop the discount and present your quality as your selling point. Very well cast, very well produced. I've recently begun watching programs from Masterclass. This course would fit right in. I can't remember the last course I've watched that truly engaged and connected with the audience the way this one does. Whoever found Professor Williams should get a gold star. I've taken other online courses on film but this one shines above the rest. The content is wide-ranging and unfolds in an easy to understand and follow the system. Professor Williams made me want to move forward onto the next lesson. This is rare. Most Great Courses courses lose me early on. I wasn't going to purchase another course for that very reason but I'm glad I did. The overall production quality is top rate, very well done. The other Eric, yes it seems that this is an Eric production, should get two gold stars and a bunch of bananas. You'll have to watch the credits to understand my reference. I don't usually watch the credits but this one is a must. One question, the course has a dedication at the end. Who is she? Thank you, Professor Williams, I look forward to seeing you again in part 2?
Date published: 2019-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A show stopper Simply outstanding and time well spent. Very happy with content and production. It covers a lot of ground and opens a new world to appreciating the complexity of movies. So I will watch again. And there are a couple of books now on my wish list. If you haven’t seen Screenwriting 101, these two make for a great set. The introductory lectures on breaking down super genres to macro and micro genres were an enjoyable way to stretch the mind. Some viewers have noted that actual footage from movies is not included. I say, thanks very much for producing it that way. As lectures are only 30 minutes each, I do NOT want to watch brief clips embedded in the lectures. Thanks anyway, but I’ll watch the movie in its entirety. Sure, some of the graphics were a little campy, e.g. the lecture on special effects; some might have been a little amateurish, e.g. Wizard of Oz. But it was all fun and quite memorable. Thanks for everyone’s contribution. Which leads me to Guidebook Questions / Activities in at the end of each lecture. These were useful and practical and very engaging. I want to encourage everyone to actually do some of them. You’ll get your money’s worth and you’ll get a deeper, hands-on understanding of movies. For example, Lecture 18: finding a screenplay online of a movie you haven’t seen before and examine word choice and sentence structure to build a character in your mind. Then see the movie. But then watch a movie before reading the screenplay. Brilliant. Lecture 16: Color and Light. Brilliant. Lecture 11: Set Design. Awesome. Lecture 7: Paradigm Shift. Watch movies: one pre-1940. One post-1950. Then compare with Citizen Kane. Fun! I could go on and on. There’s a Film Reference at the end of the Guidebook. Very handy. Finally, community help: Transitions between lectures paid homage to movies with the use of graphic icons. There’s the gun, Dirty Harry. The plane and Empire State Building, King Kong. Bowler hat, Charlie Chaplin. Umbrella, Mary Poppins. The spiral, James Bond. The bicycle, ET. Am I wrong? How many did I miss? Music was good, too.
Date published: 2019-02-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Absolute garbage This lecture gets totally down into the weeds about EVERYTHING, and then glosses over everything that is touched on while there. Nothing is explored or illustrated in detail, or by even by showing a remotely adequate example. He makes dozens and dozens of film references to illustrate the topic he is momentarily glossing over, but you NEVER SEE any of them. And when he says something like "let's look at how X uses this concept in his film Y", you don't see a clip form the film. You see a cheesy, static graphic. It's a total waste of time.
Date published: 2019-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Courses I've purchased many Great Courses before. This is one is of the most visually impacting and creative set of lectures I've viewed. It is very professional stitched together which complements Professor Williams delightful presentation and content. I've been a life long learner and have appreciated the efforts when trying to keep your products fresh and modern. I still remember when Professors would stand at a podium and deliver the lecture as if they were in a lecture hall. I've noticed a nice trend to make your courses more visually impacting. This course is one such course. I do agree that it would have been nice to see the actual movie clips discussed. I'm not sure why there are none considering there are literally thousands of movie review videos on paid youtube channels being used legally. They seem to aquire the basic rights to clips for free. Perhaps next time you'll figure it out. As for the course, there are plenty of visual aids. Still, slick animations, neat recreations - love Rosebud! Professor Williams you truly delivered! I hope they bring you back to make another one.
Date published: 2019-02-05
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How to View and Appreciate Great Movies
Course Trailer
The Art of the Silver Screen
1: The Art of the Silver Screen

Professor Williams introduces his passion for film by explaining exactly what experience he wants to capture—what makes movies magic for him. He provides a brief history of movies and foreshadows elements of the course that he will be digging deeper into including music, framing, and the three-act structure, tying the whole thing together by familiarizing you with what he considers one of the most important movie elements: tension.

34 min
We All Need Another Hero: Universal Stories
2: We All Need Another Hero: Universal Stories

Professor Williams introduces you to the story of a young hero, living a boring life on a small farm. Through extreme circumstances, the hero is whisked off on a journey through new lands full of strange and colorful characters, and introduced to a dangerous foe. The hero rises to various challenges, finds friends, and ultimate defeats the bad guy in a neat, happy ending. This is Professor Williams’s favorite movie. Is it Star Wars? Is it The Wizard of Oz? Uncover the foundation of Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey” and explore how this plot device shows up in many seemingly unrelated films and genres.

31 min
Movie Genre: It’s Not What You Think
3: Movie Genre: It’s Not What You Think

Begin this lecture with a challenge: How many film genres are there? Professor Williams spends this lecture introducing you to the definitive list of genres based on what happens in the film and how the movie makes you feel, not an arbitrary and generalized category. Diving deeply into the meanings and examples of movie genres can help you better define what you look for and love. As for the actual number of film genres Professor Williams has established? You’ll have to watch the lecture to find out the answer.

32 min
Genre Layers and Audience Expectations
4: Genre Layers and Audience Expectations

Become familiar with three simple variations of film genre: super genre, macrogenres, and microgenres. Professor Williams will further break down each by filtering in three important variables: atmosphere, character, and story. He’ll discern the difference between a heist film and an escape film, explain how the characters with whom your sympathies lay often define the genre you are viewing, and show how one movie can encapsulate multiple macro- and microgenres, with each additional label changing your expectations.

33 min
Popcorn Can Wait: Story Shape and Tension
5: Popcorn Can Wait: Story Shape and Tension

Professor Williams introduces the relationship between story shape and story rhythm. By presenting the shape for several genres—and you may be surprised to see he presents actual, recognizable shapes—you start to see the rhythm for your story and rhythms are essentially a pattern. To keep us coming back, sometimes filmmakers break the rhythm, while at other times they present the same pattern out of order. Characters, dialogue, and plot all play a part. But ultimately, building tension is the thing that keeps us in our seats and coming back.

33 min
Themes on Screen
6: Themes on Screen

Examine the concept of theme through a spectrum of approaches ranging from traditional filmmakers who believe that their role is to be part educator, philosopher, or theologian and the non-traditional filmmakers who often present messy and contradictory situations or characters without moralizing, lecturing, or judging. Professor Williams then layers on the method of storytelling chosen to present the movie theme—active vs. didactic vs. both, creating a matrix upon which he breaks down and plots several popular movies to help illustrate what the theme is and to determine when and how the theme will make its way into the film.

32 min
Paradigm Shift: Citizen Kane and Casablanca
7: Paradigm Shift: Citizen Kane and Casablanca

Looking at two iconic films that make up the yin and yang of filmmaking—Casablanca and Citizen Kane—Professor Williams looks at the historical context, the important elements, and the lasting influence these films have made on every component of movie making over the last 75 years. As Professor Williams breaks down Casablanca, you’ll better understand the three factors that made this movie an instant classic, suitable for repeat viewing: the characters, the theme, and the ending. With Citizen Kane, he’ll introduce you to seven groundbreaking film techniques that changed movies forever.

32 min
The Language of Visual Storytelling
8: The Language of Visual Storytelling

Learn how to look at film as you might study a painting. Professor Williams opens by explaining how visual literacy is based upon at least four central factors: color, space, line, and shapes. He then delves into the distinct camera moves and how each pan, zoom, and dolly brings you a different view and impression of what you’re seeing. Using classically, beautifully shot movies such as Blow Up, American Beauty, Jaws, and others, you’ll examine framing and filming constructs such as the “rule of thirds” and point of interest.

32 min
Building Screen Space: Blocking and Framing
9: Building Screen Space: Blocking and Framing

On a basic level, blocking is the way that characters interact in a space. Framing is the way in which the blocking is captured by a camera. It seems foolproof, so it’s hard to believe what a subconscious impact it can have when done well. Professor Williams explains how both framing and blocking can be broken down into the elements of lines and shape and scale. Using a plethora of examples including The Wizard of Oz, The Manchurian Candidate, Good Will Hunting, and others, you’ll explore what sorts of messages good blocking and framing can send.

32 min
The Cutting Room Floor: Powerful Editing
10: The Cutting Room Floor: Powerful Editing

What happens in an editing booth is a mystery to many of us. Professor Williams illuminates this complex and vital process, introducing the three stages of editing and delving into how an editor removes, inserts, and organizes hours and hours of footage into a comprehensive, visually literate film that resonates with the audience. Looking at movies including Roshomon, Slumdog Millionaire, The Godfather II, Reservoir Dogs, and more, you’ll explore examples of how editing can visually manipulate us, while setting the tone, pace, and thematic intention of the movie.

33 min
Sound Design and Acoustic Illusion
11: Sound Design and Acoustic Illusion

Professor Williams introduces you to the four approaches to film sound, provides eye-opening (or perhaps “ear-opening”) insights into where the sound made a scene memorable in films such as The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and The Hurt Locker, and how tuning us into what our character hears provides us with more than just background noise.

35 min
Setting the Scene: Masterful Set Design
12: Setting the Scene: Masterful Set Design

Dive into Apollo 13, The Shining, Room, Clockwork Orange, and more, to discover how props and set design can set a story up, introduce the characters, and provide clues about what to expect before the first line of dialogue has been spoken. Professor Williams demonstrates how the evolution or degradation of the set and props can often act as a mirror to the character’s mental state.

34 min
Special Effects in the 20th Century
13: Special Effects in the 20th Century

In the first of two lectures focused on the gamut of special effects from puppets to AI, you’ll learn the history and the science behind the magic we see and believe. Professor Williams unpacks the two types of special effects, complete with plenty of examples, and teases what two movies he believes are among the greatest special effects movies of all time.

32 min
Special Effects in the 21st Century
14: Special Effects in the 21st Century

You’ll go behind the scenes to discover the different ways stars interact with characters who don’t exist and the details that need to be captured—such as the correct angle of a non-existent sun reflection—when nothing you are filming is real. Plus, Professor Williams reveals his two picks for greatest special effects movie, and we’re pretty sure you’ll be surprised when you hear them.

35 min
Scoring the Story: Music in Film
15: Scoring the Story: Music in Film

Music tells a story and in film, it serves to continue or enhance the story you are watching via what you are hearing. Whether diegetic or non-diegetic, Professor Williams demonstrates how music becomes a motif or a leitmotif, acting as a guide for our subconscious attention, escorting us from scene to scene, or carrying us across continents, providing emotional cues and setting the stage for what to expect. Using examples from Jaws, Rocky, Star Wars and more, he demonstrates how just like with every other facet of moviemaking, filmmakers can use a score to adhere to—or subvert—your expectations.

35 min
Color and Light: Elements of Atmosphere
16: Color and Light: Elements of Atmosphere

Superficially, color and light add to a film’s aesthetic qualities, but Professor Williams will show you color and light can be used to tell a deeper story—emotionally and intellectually. Looking at a variety of films that make creative use of color and light, including Do The Right Thing, The Life of Pi, The Martian, and Schindler’s List, you’ll become familiar with a foundation of 12 hues, six color schemes, four characteristics of light, and three ways to use light—as well as what each means and how various combinations can alter how the audience sees the movie (literally and figuratively).

32 min
Knowing Characters from the Inside Out
17: Knowing Characters from the Inside Out

Professor Williams introduces the use of masks: public, private, and personal. He demonstrates that as characters pull each one off, we get to know them (and connect with them) better. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Imitation Game provide contrasting studies in the way the masks are used to reveal characters, and more importantly, to help you discern their motivation—What a character wants and what the character is willing to do to get it. Once the motivation is clear, the complexities of the character can be as well.

33 min
Knowing Characters from the Outside In
18: Knowing Characters from the Outside In

Professor Williams challenges you to read the screenplay of a movie you haven’t seen yet as if you were a detective, gleaning what you can about the plot, characters, and relationships simply from the word choices. Through a reading of Lean on Me, Professor Williams introduces you to the things you can learn about a character from what he or she says and what he or she portrays—or doesn’t say.

31 min
Secondary Characters and Supporting Actors
19: Secondary Characters and Supporting Actors

Thelma and Louise, The Godfather, and Barton Fink provide the backdrop for an expansive consideration of how supporting roles are used to influence our opinion of the protagonist. Professor Williams explores the idea that by pushing, reacting, and reflecting, the secondary characters define motive and reveal what the main characters are not. They represent the hearts and souls of our main characters.

33 min
Star Power: Lead Actors and Their Roles
20: Star Power: Lead Actors and Their Roles

Professor Williams acknowledges he can’t tell you how an actor does what he or she does, but through this lecture he helps you appreciate the nuance that goes into acting as he breaks down the role of an actor. As you travel through Psycho, Get Out, The Thin Red Line, Rounders, and others, you discover what actors do (or should do) to prepare for roles and the pressure to portray believability.

30 min
Character Relationships and Audience Empathy
21: Character Relationships and Audience Empathy

How relationships work is complex enough in reality. Professor Williams uses Precious and The Piano, and sprinkles in theories from Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, to illustrate how relationships are established, how the relationships work, and how they create tension in film. Examining established archetypes and character types, Professor Williams shows you how easy it is to make movies predictable and how objective and intention can help subvert expectations.

33 min
Pathways to Great Antagonists
22: Pathways to Great Antagonists

Discover how a great villain is created and that a villain and an antagonist are not the same. Professor Williams demonstrates how all great villains are a distorted reflection of the hero, through movies including The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, The Silence of the Lambs, and Rocky. He unpacks why the antagonist may not always be bad, but must be present. Additionally, you’ll explore the four thematic groupings (pathways) and how the protagonist and antagonist are utilized in each.

36 min
Point of View in Script and on Screen
23: Point of View in Script and on Screen

As the lens through which the audience views the story, the point of view a movie takes can truly enhance your appreciation for how stories in movies can be told. Professor Williams reveals the decision trees that come with crafting the point of view, starting with three central questions. Using Annie Hall, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Sherlock Holmes, No Country for Old Men, and more, you get a handle on how to decipher the POV and the reason behind it, adding a whole new dimension to your enjoyment of the story.

34 min
Filmmaker’s Voice and Audience Choice
24: Filmmaker’s Voice and Audience Choice

After breaking down the filmmaker’s voice into six central parts, Professor Williams demonstrates how the audience itself—specifically our expectations—can play a key role in voice. Looking at films such as Anomolisa, The Artist, When Harry Met Sally, and others, you’ll see why it is what the filmmaker chooses to say with their voice that is important. Professor Williams also provides a list of five ways audiences can be made uncomfortable, reveals what a movie can tell you about itself in the first 10 minutes, and introduces three movies you’ve probably never heard of, but shouldn’t miss.

40 min
Eric R. Williams

Film, as an art form, helps us to define our experience of the world, and other worlds.


Columbia University


Ohio University

About Eric R. Williams

Eric R. Williams is a Professor in the School of Media Arts & Studies at Ohio University, where he teaches courses on screenwriting, film, and virtual reality production. He is also the director of the MFA in Communication Media Arts program at Ohio University. Professor Williams received his bachelor’s degree in Communication with a minor in Education from Northwestern University, and he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in Film from Columbia University. Before directing his first feature film, Professor Williams worked as a cinematographer and assistant director in New York City. He has written more than 30 screenplays. He has also written, produced, and directed for companies such as Workshop Productions, Liam Films, American Movie Classics, Fox Interactive, and Universal Studios. Professor Williams’s films and screenplays have won the Best New Work award from the Writers Guild of America and the Individual Excellence Award in screenwriting from the Ohio Arts Council. His film Breaking News was selected as one of the “Top Five Films Not to Miss” by the Athens Independent Film Society at the Athens International Film and Video Festival. At Ohio University, he received the University Professor Award for excellence in teaching, and he was also a finalist for the Presidential Teacher Award. Professor Williams co-edited the book Media and the Creative Process. He is also the author of two other books: Screen Adaptation: Beyond the Basics and The Screenwriters Taxonomy. When he is not writing, producing, or directing, Professor Williams enjoys working on international media education projects and he frequently travels to South America and Eastern Europe. His dedication to teaching was recognized by the president of Guyana, where he was awarded a lifetime honorary membership to the CineGuyana society.

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