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Crash Course Film History

Welcome to Crash Course Film History! This 9-week course (one quarter of a school year, or 45 days) is intended to help you get an overview of the history of film making. We will cover important innovations in the field as well as important historical figures and notable films.

(It is recommended to combine this course with Crash Course Film Making for a full semester film class.)

Day 1

1. Watch the first Crash Course video about film history.
2. Create a document titled, “Film History Terms.” In it, write the 3 different definitions of the word ‘film’.
3. Add the following terms to your document and define them:

  • persistence of vision
  • phi phenomenon
  • zoetrope
  • camera obscura
  • daguerreotype
  • motion study
  • chronophotographic gun
  • zoopraxiscope
  • kinetograph

4. OPTIONAL: Watch this video about 3D zoetropes.

Day 2
1. Create a document titled, “Figures in Film History.” Add the following names and a brief summary (one sentence or less in most cases) of their contribution to the development of film. Reference yesterday’s video for relevant information. For Thomas Edison and W.K.L. Dickson, you only need to add the information given in the video.

  • Peter Mark Roget
  • Max Wertheimer
  • Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
  • Louis Daguerre
  • George Eastman
  • Eadweard Muybridge
  • Étienne-Jules Marey
  • Thomas Edison
  • W.K.L. Dickson

2. Watch Eadweard Muybridge’s series of photographs in motion. Some people consider this to be the first movie ever made.

Day 3

1. Watch the video about the first movie camera.
2. Add the following terms to your document “Film History Terms” and define them.

  • celluloid filmstrips
  • kinetograph
  • kinetoscope

Day 4

1. Referencing yesterday’s video, add more information about Thomas Edison and W.K.L. Dickson to your document “Figures in Film History.”
2. Add Andrew Holland to the list, and briefly summarize what his most significant contribution to film history was.

Day 5

1. Watch the video about the Lumière brothers.
2. Watch ‘The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat.’
3. Add the following terms to your document “Film History Terms” and define them.

  • maltese cross
  • cinématographe
  • latham loop
  • vitascope

Day 6

1. Add the following names to “Figures in Film History,” and a brief summary (one sentence or less in most cases) of their most significant contribution to the development of film, referencing yesterday’s video.

  • Auguste & Louis Lumière
  • Oskar Messker
  • Woodville Latham
  • C. Francis Jenkins
  • Thomas Armat

Day 7

1. Watch the video about Georges Méliès, master of illusion.
2. Add the following terms to your document ‘Film History Terms’ and define them.

  • editing
  • transitions (also list the types mentioned)
  • double exposure
  • split screen
  • matting
  • in-camera effects
  • proscenium framing

Day 8

1. Add the following names to “Figures in Film History,” and a brief summary (one sentence or less in most cases) of their most significant contribution to the development of film, referencing yesterday’s video.

  • Georges Méliès
  • Alice Guy-Blaché

2. Watch “The Cabbage Fairy” by Alice Guy-Blaché.
3. Watch “Pierette’s Escapades” by Alice Guy-Blaché. Remember that every frame of every colored item in this film had to be painted by hand!

Day 9

1. Watch “A Trip to the Moon” by Georges Méliès.

Day 10

1. Watch the video about the language of film.
2. Add the following terms to your document, “Film History Terms” and define them.

  • parallel action/cross cutting
  • pan
  • tilt

Day 11

1. Add Edwin S. Porter to “Figures in Film History,” and a brief summary of his most significant contribution to the development of film, referencing yesterday’s video.
2. Watch “The Great Train Robbery.”

Day 12

1. Watch the video about the birth of the feature film.
2. Add the following terms to your document, “Film History Terms” and define them.

  • film studio
  • production
  • distribution
  • exhibitor
  • one reelers
  • patent wars
  • close-up
  • insert shots
  • flashbacks

Day 13

1. Add the following names to “Figures in Film History,” and a brief summary (one sentence or less in most cases) of their most significant contribution to the development of film, referencing yesterday’s video. Add more about Edison and W.K.L. Dickson.

  • D.W. Griffith
  • Thomas Edison
  • W.K.L. Dickson
  • Motion Picture Patent Company
  • Motion Picture Distributing and Sales Company
  • Oscar Micheaux

Day 14

1. Watch the video about German Expressionism.
2. Add the following terms to your document, “Film History Terms,” and define them.

  • kostumfilme
  • unreliable narrator
  • mise-en-scène
  • German expressionism
  • unchained camera

3. What is the difference between a “cinema of attractions” and a “film d’art”? Write a few sentences explaining this.

Day 15

1. Add the following names to “Figures in Film History,” and a brief summary (one sentence or less in most cases) of their most significant contribution to the development of film, referencing yesterday’s video.

  • Ernst Lubitsch
  • Robert Wiene
  • Fritz Lang
  • F.W. Murnau

Day 16

1. Today you are going to watch your first full-length feature film! Watch Nosferatu (1922).
2. Grab some popcorn or your favorite movie snack for while you watch. Be sure to let your family know this is for school and is important for your education.

Day 17

1. Watch the video about Soviet Montage.
2. Add the following terms to your document, “Film History Terms,” and define them.

  • Kuleshov effect
  • creative geography/artificial landscape
  • Soviet montage
  • discontinuity editing
  • intellectual montage
  • tonal montage
  • metric montage
  • rhythmic montage
  • overtonal montage
  • propaganda
  • kinoki

Day 18

1. Add the following names to “Figures in Film History,” and a brief summary (one sentence or less in most cases) of their most significant contribution to the development of film, referencing yesterday’s video.

  • VGIK
  • Lev Kuleshov
  • Sergei Eisenstein
  • Dziga Vertov

Day 19

1. Watch the video about the golden age of Silent Cinema.
2. Add the following terms to your document, “Film History Terms,” and define them.

  • Hays Code
  • compensating values

Day 20

1. Add the following names to “Figures in Film History,” and a brief summary (one sentence or less in most cases) of their most significant contribution to the development of film, referencing yesterday’s video.

  • Thomas Ince
  • Mack Sennett
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • MPPDA
  • Will Hays
  • Cecil B. DeMille
  • Ernst Lubitsch (He is already on your list, just add a note.)

Day 21

1. Create a new document: “Film Studios.” Add the following studios and when they were founded. (Look it up.)

  • Famous Players Lasky Corporation
  • Loew’s Inc.
  • First National Pictures
  • United Artists
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Warner Brothers
  • Fox
  • Universal
  • Columbia Pictures

Day 22

1. Time to watch another feature! Watch “The Gold Rush” (1925) by Charlie Chaplin.
2. Make sure you have plenty of snacks. This is important for educational reasons.

Day 23

1. Watch the video about the development of synchronous sound in film.
2. Add the following terms to your document, “Film History Terms,” and define them.

  • synchronous sound
  • amplification
  • kinetophone
  • sound-on-film
  • tri-ergon process
  • audion 3-electrode amplifier tube
  • phonofilms
  • vitaphone

Day 24

1. Add the following names to “Figures in Film History,” and a brief summary (one sentence or less in most cases) of their most significant contribution to the development of film, referencing yesterday’s video.

  • W.K.L. Dickson (he’s already on your list, just add a note)
  • Eugène A. Lauste
  • Lee De Forest
  • Al Jolson

2. Watch Disney’s “The Skeleton Dance.” (1929)

Day 25

1. Time to watch another feature! Watch ‘Singin in the Rain’ (1952) if you are able to get a copy. (Try your local library.) Although this movie was made in the 1950s it explores the transition from silent films to ones with sound.
2. If you are NOT able to find a copy, you may watch “King Kong” (1933).

Day 26

1. Watch the video about the “Golden Age of Hollywood.”
2. Add the following terms to your document, “Film History Terms,” and define them.

  • toning
  • technicolor
  • aspect ratio
  • academy aperture
  • widescreen
  • cinerama
  • cinemascope

Day 27

1. Add the following names to “Figures in Film History,” and a brief summary (one sentence or less in most cases) of their most significant contribution to the development of film, referencing yesterday’s video.

  • Louis B. Mayer
  • Irving Thalberg
  • James Clerk Maxwell
  • David O. Selznick


2. Open your document, “Film Studios.” Add studios not previously listed, and add a note to any studio mentioned about what they were producing during this period.

  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Paramount Pictures
  • Warner Brothers
  • 20th Century Fox
  • RKO

Day 28

1. Time to watch another feature! You can choose from one of the following films:

Check your local library. It is likely they have at least one of these for you to borrow for free.
2. If you are not able to find any of those movies (or if you choose) you may watch “The Little Princess” (1939) starring Shirley Temple.

Day 29

1. Watch the video about the rise of independent cinema.
2. Add the following terms to your document, “Film History Terms,” and define them.

  • Independent Cinema
  • classical Hollywood cinema
  • high key lighting
  • Italian Neo-Realism
  • French New Wave
  • United States v. Paramount Pictures Inc
  • New Hollywood Cinema

Day 30

1. Add the following names to “Figures in Film History,” and a brief summary (one sentence or less in most cases) of their most significant contribution to the history of film, referencing yesterday’s video.

  • Roberto Rossellini
  • Vittorio de Sica
  • Jean Delannoy
  • Rene Clement
  • Jean-Luc Godard
  • Alfred Hitchcock
  • Alain Resnais
  • Agnès Varda
  • David Newman
  • Robert Benton
  • Steven Spielberg
  • George Lucas

Day 31

1. Time to watch another feature! Choose from one of the following films. Check whether you have access to stream them.

2. If you are not able to find one of the above movies, you can watch “Dark Star” (1974) for free on several platforms. (Check out Tubi, although there will be ads.)

Day 32

1. Watch the video about the introduction of home video.
2. Add the following terms to your document, “Film History Terms,” and define them.

  • home video technology
  • betamax
  • interlaced format
  • field
  • vhs
  • vcr
  • direct-to-video
  • laserdisc
  • dvd
  • blu-ray
  • progressive scan
  • hd-dvd
  • 4k uhd disc
  • streaming services

Day 33

1. Time to watch another feature! This time we’re going to choose between blockbusters from the 80s and 90s – the kind of movies that people would rent or purchase for their own video libraries. Choose from one of these movies or check the list of the highest-grossing movies of the 1980s and 1990s. If you don’t have a way to watch one of these at home, check your local library. They should definitely have at least one of these for you to watch.

Day 34

1. Watch the video about world cinema (part 1).
2. Add the following names to “Figures in Film History,” and a brief summary (one sentence or less in most cases) of their most significant contribution to the history of film, referencing yesterday’s video.

  • Yasujiro Ozu
  • Ishiro Honda
  • Akira Kurosawa
  • Zhang Yimou
  • John Woo
  • Wong Kar-Wai
  • Satyajit Ray

Day 35

1. Time to watch a feature, this time from somewhere outside the US! Choose from one of the following:

2. If you are not able to watch any of these movies, you can watch “I Was Born, But…” on youtube.

Day 36

1. Watch the video about world cinema (part 2).
2. Add the following names to “Figures in Film History,” and a brief summary (one sentence or less in most cases) of their most significant contribution to the history of film, referencing yesterday’s video.

  • Youssef Chahhine
  • Asmaa El Bakray
  • Inas Al-Degheidy
  • Ousmane Sembène

Day 37

1. Time to watch another feature! Most of these films are difficult to find online, so there are not a lot of choices today. Choose a film from among the following:

2. If you are not able to watch either of these movies, you can watch The Cow (1969) on Youtube.

Day 38

1. Watch the video about experimental and documentary film. This is the final Crash Course video in this series!
2. Add the following terms to your document, “Film History Terms,” and define them.

  • cinéma pur
  • cinéma vérité
  • direct cinema

Day 39

1. Add the following names to “Figures in Film History,” and a brief summary (one sentence or less in most cases) of their most significant contribution to the history of film, referencing yesterday’s video.

  • Salvador Dali
  • Maya Deren
  • Stan Brakhage
  • Guy Maddin
  • George Lucas
  • David Lynch

Day 40

1. Time to watch another feature! This time you are going to watch a documentary. Choose from one of the following:

2. If you like, or if you cannot watch the movies above, you can watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) on youtube.