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Film Journal

A journal is a systematic and analytical record of your reflections. It is neither a diary, which contains thoughts usually not intended to be shared with others, nor a log, which merely records events or readings, with no personal analysis. Instead, over the course of the semester you should integrate the concepts you are learning in this course with your film experiences. See examples in SGWF and this example journal on parallels in Rear Window.

For the weeks they are assigned, these journal responses are due via D2L Dropbox and a printout to turn in by the beginning of class on Thursday without exception.

Your film journal entries are “think-piece” responses to pre-assigned questions about our films. These are short, evaluative essays. Each entry length will vary; that is, spend as much or as little time and space as you need to thoroughly address the assigned question(s) and discuss your points (2 double-spaced pages max; always double-side your printing). Consider each film in relation to the questions and readings, but be sure to include your own analytical observations as well—and to avoid plot summary. Do NOT submit plot summaries in lieu of your own thoughts. See my Comments Guide for a key to understanding my comments on your papers and for suggestions on how to write your very best work. Be sure to title each entry; feel free to be creative here.

You should engage with the subject material of your journal critically and actively. Take detailed notes on each film during the screening. Focus on how the film is put together using your film terminology, and on why you interpret material in the way that you do. Simply writing about your reactions to the film is not the objective of this assignment; your reaction is important, but in this kind of assignment, use your reactions as points of entry into a text, image, etc., not as points of conclusion.

For examples of how to write film analyses, examine the sample analyses in your textbooks: Film Art and A Short Guide to Writing About Film. See my Comments Guide for a key to understanding my comments on your papers and for suggestions on how to write your very best work.

Plagiarism Warning: Use no other guides than these, your film, and your own ingenuity to write this journal. Your borrowing from other critics will not fulfill the goal of this assignment, which is to demonstrate your fluency with our film terms and concepts. Do not consult works of criticism (books, magazines, reviews, etc.), Internet resources, term paper files, or DVD commentaries regarding your film. Even if you correctly cite them, you will be under suspicion of plagiarism. 

Also, note that this is NOT a group assignment; you must work ALONE while studying your film and writing your journal. No collaboration is permitted; if you do collaborate outside of perhaps just watching the film together, you risk plagiarism, failure on the assignment, and/or failure of the course. (So don’t do that.)

For format, follow the guidelines listed in on the Course Conduct & Policies page. Journal grades will be based on the degree to which your writings reflect:
    1) your understanding of the course material and response to the assigned question(s)
    2) a serious and skilled use of terminology, ideas, and concepts from the course to develop greater understanding of films
    3) well-written, intelligible, expressive arguments

At the bottom of your paper after my written comments is a letter grade (like A-) or two “slashed” letters (like B+/A-). The single letter grade corresponds to the usual percentage grade; so an A- is a 90 percent. The slashed grade indicates that the paper falls between two letter grades, so a B+/A- would earn about an 88 percent. If you double-sided your paper, then there’s also roughly one point extra credit, indicated by the letters XC (usually circled).

You may also see the letters C, O, and MGS at the end of your papers. (See the Comments Guide for an explanation of each.) I don’t tend to use these letters as much for your quicker, weekly journal entries (unless the journal’s content, organization, or mechanics are so poor that they really need seriously detailed feedback). You'll definitely see them on your longer and more formal papers, though.