Film & Media Studies
If you don’t know how to use media, media will use you.
Film and Media Studies seeks to understand the moving image—something that we engage with, use to communicate, and are entertained by, almost every day. Simply watching lots of media does not teach us how media works, and how media works on us—as individuals and as a culture. Film and Media Studies deals with the study of the moving image in everything from cinema to television to video art to the internet to video games and well beyond—any moving image that can be seen on any kind of screen.
Our goal is to understand how moving images are made and why, and to become very powerful analysts and critics of moving images and their contexts.
The initial task is to become aware of the moving image, something we know so well that we typically forget to ask questions of and about it. Coming to this greater critical awareness involves knowing what's in the frame, literally, and also what surrounds the frame—what are the formal, historical, cultural, technological, industrial, ideological, political and social contexts that make any moving image—and the whole idea of the moving image—meaningful to us.
Seeing is a culturally learned set of processes, and Film and Media Studies helps us come to understand more fully how meaning is made by moving images and by their makers, and how meaning is made by us, the spectators. The world is only getting more mediatized, and students need to understand how to navigate that world, as consumers, critics and makers of media.
- The ability to critically analyze works from a wide variety of moving image media (e.g., cinema, television, video art, streaming video, mobile apps, video games, GIFs) and artistic modes (e.g., narrative, documentary, experimental)
- A keen awareness of moving images’ contexts (political, historical, cultural, technological, industrial and social) and how these evolve over the life of their circulation
- Research skills that cover a range of types and levels—basic Internet research, in-depth scholarly research, archival research—and an understanding of how to use different kinds of research appropriately
- An ability to make creative media, at least an introductory production level, with a critical eye and reflective mindset
- Proficiency at sharing ideas effectively through three types of communication:
- Written: majors will be able to write clearly and persuasively in a range of formats and for a range of audiences (e.g., blog posts, short response papers, conference abstracts, in-depth research papers)
- Spoken: majors will be able to present ideas orally in a range of settings (e.g., one-on-one with the instructor, in small discussion groups, in large classroom discussions, through in-class presentations)
- Media: beyond the form of creative media-making majors learns in their production classes, they will also learn to communicate scholarly ideas about media through media (e.g., by making websites, video essays, podcasts, GIS mapping projects)
In addition to film festivals, the program regularly hosts visiting filmmakers, critics and innovators. Here is a sampling of those who have enlivened campus conversations:
- “How to Watch Movies,” an afternoon with Ann Hornaday, Washington Post film critic and Smith alum (2018)
- “Beyond Filmsplaining: Exploring Gender Dynamics in the Video Essay” with video essayist Kevin B. Lee (2018)
- “Gaming Representation,” a symposium on video games and identity, featuring a keynote lecture from Lisa Nakamura, one of the foremost scholars researching race and digital media (2017)
- An afternoon with Christine Vachon, founder of Killer Films and a pioneer in independent filmmaking, including producing all of Todd Haynes’ films (2017)
- A screening of AWOL with director Deb Shoval (2016)
- “Black Radical Imagination,” a series of screenings organized in collaboration with the Amherst College Film and Media Studies Program (2016)
- The first annual OUTFEST On The Road Film Festival, the first festival to bring Outfest film programming to a collegiate community (2016)
- A 30th anniversary screening of the Oscar-winning Kiss of the Spider Woman with producer David Weisman (2015)
- The third annual Society for Cinema and Media Studies undergraduate conference (2015)
- Smith College Libraries - Film
- Film Courses in the Five Colleges
- University of Massachusetts Film Studies
- Five College Digital Humanities
Watching in the Valley
Online Film Archives
Online Film Journals
Research & Institutions
- The Library of Congress: Motion Picture and Television Reading Room
- American Film Institute
- Internet Movie Database
- All Movie Guide
- Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
- Movie Review Query Engine
- British Film Institute
- AFI: Silent Film Catalog
- Museum of the Moving Image
- The Paley Center for Media
- The National Film Registry
- Society for Cinema & Media Studies
- EDIT Media
The Film and Media Studies major at Smith College comprises 10 courses:
FMS 150 Introduction to Film and Media Studies (offered every fall)
Media History (a survey course covering approximately 50 years of one moving image medium's global history); FMS 250 Global Cinema after WWII satisfies this requirement. Other courses in the Five Colleges may as well; confer with your advisor.
FMS 290 Methods and Theories of Film and Media Studies (offered every spring)
One film, video, digital production and/or screenwriting course (FMS 280 Introduction to Video Production is offered annually)
Three courses in a focus designed by the student in consultation with the adviser (see below; at least one must be taken at the advanced level)
Three additional electives
No more than three courses in the major can be production courses.
Four courses must be taken at the advanced level. Two must be 300-level seminars.
Introduction to Film and Media Studies is the prerequisite for any production course, and for Methods and Theories of Film and Media Studies.
One course must centrally address alternatives to commercial media (e.g., documentary or experimental/avant-garde work.)
Only one component course may count for the major. (A core course is one in which the moving image is the primary object of study; a component course is one in which the moving image figures significantly but is not the central focus of the course).
The three-course focus allows Film and Media Studies majors to concentrate in a particular area, as designed by the major in consultation with the adviser. Normally the focus should be chosen by the second semester of junior year. At least one course in the focus must be at the advanced level. Focus areas include, but are not limited to:
- Theories of film and/or other media
- National/transnational cinemas and/or other media industries
- Intersectionality (emphasizing some meaningful conceptual combination of gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, class, ability, age, and more)
- Moving image audiences and cultures
- Comparative genres
- Media histories
- Media industry studies
The Film and Media Studies Program provides the opportunity for in-depth study of the history, theory and criticism of film and other forms of the moving image. Our goal is to expose students to a range of cinematic works, styles and movements and to help them understand the medium's significance as an art form, as a technology, as a means of cultural and political expression, and as symptomatic of social ideologies.
Six semester courses to be taken at Smith or, by permission of the director, elsewhere among the Five College institutions.
- FMS 150 Introduction to Film and Media Studies (offered every fall)
- FMS 290 Methods and Theories of Film and Media Studies (offered every spring)
FMS 280: Introduction to Video Production
This course will provide a foundation in the principles, techniques, and equipment involved in making short videos. Application and permission of instructor required.
FMS 282: Advanced Production Workshop
Students in this course will take skills and insights gained in introductory production courses and develop them through the creation of one 10-minute project. Application and permission of instructor required.
“We have created a new kind of person in a way. We have created a child who will be so exposed to the media that he will be lost to his parents by the time he is 12.”
“A new medium is never an addition to an old one, nor does it leave the old one in peace. It never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and positions for them.”