FILM 325 Experimental Filmmaking I

Chi Jang Yin

Office: CDM 465
Fall 2023-2024
Class number: 13415
Section number: 402
M 1:30PM - 4:45PM
14EAS LL107 Loop Campus
Course homepage:


What is Experimental Film?

This form of filmmaking practice explores the dialogue of critical thinking to explore the potential of what cinematic language can become. Experimental filmmakers frequently combine creative forms with interdisciplinary approaches, such as media art, ethnographic films, literature, poetry, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, socio and economic studies, and even new technical resources in media productions. 


Course Description

Experimental or avant-garde Cinema is a genre of filmmaking that uses film art, video art, and new media to challenge traditional Cinema. The goal of making experimental Cinema is to foster intellectual work, create meaningful forms and content, and engage critical film studies. Assignments emphasize readings, discussions, and debates about the history, theory and aesthetics of film art. These encompass non-narrative treatments in multiple forms, including single and multi-use monitors and projection, installation, and performance for the camera. You will produce your own short film by using a non-linear editing system. 


Course Objectives

Media literacy is an important component of contemporary life. Experimental film and video are mediums with varied interpretive levels that can force us to think critically about our choices of interpretation and about the relationship between form and meaning. The art of Cinema is a visual language that involves describing and interpreting the media culture around us and our relationship to it. Therefore, experimental film and video can be excellent devices to foster the objectives of constant learning, thinking critically and enhancing knowledge about ourselves and the world around us.

In addition, at the end of the course, you shall expect to learn the following skills in filmmaking:

  • To develop writing and communication skills on describing and analyzing experimental films
  • To explore history and aesthetics in moving image and sound art
  • To explore editing in moving images and sound by understanding the film language
  • To explore alternative forms and methods for making experimental Cinema


Course Structure

Class assignments include studio projectsweekly reflection papers (1 page per week), and their pre-production proposals (1 page each)

Students will draw upon the history, theory, and aesthetics of experimental Cinema within their creative practice. 


In addition to their studio assignments, students should expect to spend three hours outside of class time dedicated to watching assigned films and videos, reading assigned articles and writing paper assignments. 


After students receive feedback on their work, they will revise and resubmit their projects. Throughout the course, students have an opportunity to improve their work by resubmitting them by a designated due date. This way, students have time to contextualize and communicate their ideas clearly in oral, written, visual and audio form.


Class time will be divided between lectures, discussions, critiques, film viewings, and presentations. As part of the class structure and schedule, assignments and projects will overlap. Assignments or projects will be introduced two weeks prior to a lab day to help you prepare your shooting plan before the lab time starts. Active participation in critiques is required. 


Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to analyze work through film language and contextual-based critique.
  • Students will be able to explain, in well-written prose, what a work of the experimental film is about and/or how it was produced.
  • Students will be able to comment on the relationship between form and content in work.
  • Students will be able to assess the formal aspects of their subject and put those qualities into words, using, when appropriate, specialized vocabulary employed in class and readings.
  • Students will be able to understand the language of experimental Cinema through film analysis and theory.
  • Students will be able to examine experimental film's history and connections to the evolution of all forms of motion-picture media.
  • Students will be able to utilize non-traditional cinematic concepts and techniques to produce experimental films.



List of Required Readings (PDF download on D2L)

  • A History of Experimental Film and Video by A. L. Rees, British Film Institute
  • Michael O'Pray. Chapter 1. The Avant-Garde Film: Definitions. In Avant-Garde Film: Forms, Themes, and Passions (London: Wallflower, 2003), 1–7. 
  • Clement Greenberg. Avant-Garde and Kitsch. 1939. In Art and Culture: Critical Essays (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2006), 3–21. 
  • Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. Ed Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Film language, Maya Deren
  • MacDonald, Scott. A Critical Cinema 4: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005. Stan Brakhage, Shirin Neshat
  • Walter Murch. In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, Silman-James Press
  • Meigh-Andrews Chris. A History of Video Art: The Development of Form and Function. Berg Press
  • Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing About Film. New York: Longman, 2001.
  • Hito Steyerl. In Defense of the Poor Image, from In The Wretched of the Screen (Berlin: Sternberg Press)
  • Cahiers du Cinéma; 1960-1968: New Wave, New CinemaReevaluating Hollywood. Ed. Jim Hillier. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1986.
  • Cahiers du Cinéma; The 1950s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave. Ed. Jim Hillier. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1985.
  • Erika Balsom. After Uniqueness: A History of Film and Video Art in Circulation (Film and Culture Series), Columbia University Press (March 21, 2017)
  • Erika Balsom, Documentary Across Disciplines. The MIT Press (April 1, 2016)
  • Minh-ha, Trinh T. The Digital Film Event. New York: Routledge, 2005. 
  • Rush, Michael. New Media in Late 20th-Century Art. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1999.
  • Paul, Christiane. Digital Art. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2003.
  • Andrey Tarkovsky. Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema (London: Bodley Head, 1986), 113–124. Discusses His Art. Austin; University of Texas Press, 1987
  • Opening Series: Interview with Phillip Hoffman, Canadian Filmmaker



Studio Projects (Individual/Groups)                     50%

Weekly Film Essay Paper (Individual)                 30%

Class attendance and Participation                     20%


Evaluation (Grading Rubrics available for assignments on D2L)

Students will be evaluated on their efforts to understand the concepts, their participation in class discussions, attendance and quality of the work. **Please note: Average work merits a “C” in this course. Simply following the requirements of the assignment does not result in an “A”. To achieve an “A” or a “B”, the work must be thoughtful, creative, original, well presented and go beyond the stated requirements of the assignment. However, I also take overall improvement into account as the course continues. 


Grading Scale:

A = 100 – 94, A= 93 – 90, B+ = 89 – 88, B = 87 – 83, B= 82 – 80, C+ = 79 – 78, C = 77 – 73, C = 72 – 70, D+ = 69 – 68, D = 67 – 63, D- = 62 – 60, F = 59 – 0


Standards for Achievement (See rubrics on D2L):

A indicates excellence

B indicates good work

C indicates satisfactory work

D work is unsatisfactory in some respect

F is substantially unsatisfactory work

School policies:

Changes to Syllabus

This syllabus is subject to change as necessary during the quarter. If a change occurs, it will be thoroughly addressed during class, posted under Announcements in D2L and sent via email.

Online Course Evaluations

Evaluations are a way for students to provide valuable feedback regarding their instructor and the course. Detailed feedback will enable the instructor to continuously tailor teaching methods and course content to meet the learning goals of the course and the academic needs of the students. They are a requirement of the course and are key to continue to provide you with the highest quality of teaching. The evaluations are anonymous; the instructor and administration do not track who entered what responses. A program is used to check if the student completed the evaluations, but the evaluation is completely separate from the student’s identity. Since 100% participation is our goal, students are sent periodic reminders over three weeks. Students do not receive reminders once they complete the evaluation. Students complete the evaluation online in CampusConnect.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

This course will be subject to the university's academic integrity policy. More information can be found at If you have any questions be sure to consult with your professor.

All students are expected to abide by the University's Academic Integrity Policy which prohibits cheating and other misconduct in student coursework. Publicly sharing or posting online any prior or current materials from this course (including exam questions or answers), is considered to be providing unauthorized assistance prohibited by the policy. Both students who share/post and students who access or use such materials are considered to be cheating under the Policy and will be subject to sanctions for violations of Academic Integrity.

Academic Policies

All students are required to manage their class schedules each term in accordance with the deadlines for enrolling and withdrawing as indicated in the University Academic Calendar. Information on enrollment, withdrawal, grading and incompletes can be found at

Students with Disabilities

Students who feel they may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the instructor privately to discuss their specific needs. All discussions will remain confidential.
To ensure that you receive the most appropriate accommodation based on your needs, contact the instructor as early as possible in the quarter (preferably within the first week of class), and make sure that you have contacted the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) at:
Lewis Center 1420, 25 East Jackson Blvd.
Phone number: (312)362-8002
Fax: (312)362-6544
TTY: (773)325.7296