Essay 2 Assignment
Choose ONE PAIR of films from the options below, and write an 7-8 page analytical
essay with a clear, argumentative thesis. You are free to choose any specific focus for
- Battleship Potemkin (1925, Eisenstein) & Do the Right Thing (1989, Lee)
- Breathless (1960, Godard) & Bonne and Clyde (1967, Penn)
Links to view all 4 films are available on Canvas
Your essay must:
- Analyze the visual storytelling of both films – you may not write about similarities in
story or characters, alone. Have a guiding thesis that focuses on one particular aspect of
the two films (for example, both films visually present a character type in the same way).
- Draw conclusions about the filmmaking choices – why might the director be making
these choices to tell this part of the story? Describing the shots, alone, is not sufficient.
- Any fact in the paper that is not your original analysis MUST have a cited source.
It is possible to complete this essay using only your original analysis, as long as you
focus exclusively on the films and do not include any external facts or ideas.
Your Essay must NOT:
- Do not review the films. Whether or not you like them is not the point of this
assignment, nor can that be objectively proven.
- Do not compare the films without having an argument that explains what the
comparison means (your thesis is the reason to make a comparison).
- Do not make broad declarations about a filmmaker’s body of work, a genre, film
history, etc. This paper should only be about these two films, analyzed in depth.
Pay close attention to the attached handout, “Guidelines for Academic Writing on
Film.” Points will be deducted for Guidelines that are not followed.
All essays must be formatted as .doc or PDF files with double-spaced lines, 1-inch
margins, 12-pt font, etc.
All essays must be submitted to the assignment in Canvas. If you have any technical
issues with this, or if you’re unsure it went through, email me a copy.
Because this is due at the very end of the Summer session, no late work will be accepted
(I have to submit your grades less than a week later).
Basic Guidelines for Academic Writing on Film
- Never use the first person (“I,” “we,” “us”) or the second person (“you”) in formal or
- The third person is standard for academic writing because it sounds more authoritative.
ex.: “Orson Welles’ use of extreme low angles in Citizen Kane forces a reevaluation of
the heroic composition most-often associated with this sort of shot.” Compare this to:
“I noticed many low angles, which make us reevaluate the heroic composition.”
- Because of the above convention, do not use the phrase “we see” when describing a
film. To write about the experience of watching a film, a writer may refer to “the
viewer,” “the spectator,” or “the audience” (all can be discussed in the third person).
- Check all titles, names (characters, actors, filmmakers), and dates against IMDB
(www.imdb.com). With access to this resource, there is no excuse for misspelled or
inaccurate information on films.
- Film, like literature, is always described in the present tense.
ex.: “Griffith cuts to a close-up to highlight the details of the photograph in her hand.”
- Never use contractions (“don’t,” “won’t,” “isn’t,” etc.) in formal/academic writing.
- Consistently underline film titles: Stagecoach, Coppola’s The Godfather, etc.
- Never use the phrase, “the camera cuts.” Cameras do not edit; they only turn on or off.
Instead, use: “the director cuts away to…,” “…the next shot is a close-up,” etc.
- All facts not taken from the film MUST have cited sources. This includes history, social
data (“women went to films in large numbers during the Depression”), biographical
information, etc. Use MLA or APA citation format.
ex.: “Low-resolution images are characteristic of digital filmmaking in the 1990s
(Bordwell & Thompson, 14).”
- Avoid broad generalizations in academic writing. In an 8-page essay (for example), it is
not possible to make a convincing argument about an entire genre, an entire
director/performer’s career, or any topic this broad. Stick to the task of making a
convincing argument about ONLY the film or films the paper should be covering.
Phrases like, “Since its invention, film has…” do not belong in academic essays.
- Avoid editorializing – academic writing is for making evidence-based arguments about
works of art, not expressing opinions that could appear in a review.
ex.: “John Ford brilliantly plays off different Western genre archetypes in Stagecoach.”
(Writing about John Ford implies his work has academic merit – no one needs to be told
it is “brilliant,” which is also impossible to prove as fact. Do not write this way.)
- Use 12-pt font, 1-inch margins, and double-spaced lines. Double-sided printing is
encouraged whenever possible.
- Cover pages and Works Cited lists DO NOT count towards an essay’s minimum length