Film History

Film History is a 10 class, 10-week course that provides an overview of major American film movements since 1927. Beginning with the transition to sound, students will be exposed to important films, filmmakers, and genres, and will learn techniques for discussing and interpreting films as cultural artifacts, products of industry, and works of art.

The ability to provide knowledgeable opinions about great movies is an underrated and overlooked skill that will help actors pursue and sustain a career in film and television. The entertainment industry is an industry of film buffs. From Hollywood executives to do-it-yourself indie crews, a common denominator is a passion for great filmmaking. Beyond just names, titles, and dates, this class will give students the tools to intelligently discuss cinema, whether at auditions, interviews, in rehearsal, or on set. Having shared references and a common language of appreciation can go a long way in such a competitive industry. Also, simply put, experiencing and appreciating great art is a tremendous source of creative inspiration.

Each week, students will be assigned a film to watch outside of class, to be discussed and analyzed the following week as a group. Discussions will consider films in their historical contexts, while also focusing on questions of style and form. Basic concepts of filmmaking – cinematography, editing, sound, special effects – will be examined. Assigned films have included Casablanca (1942), On the Waterfront (1954), Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Taxi Driver (1976), and Do the Right Thing (1989). Lectures will make heavy use of clips, to provide an introduction to as many relevant films, filmmakers, and filmmaking techniques as possible.

Historical units will include the classical Hollywood studio system, the 1970’s “Hollywood Renaissance,” and the rise of independent filmmaking in the 80s and 90s. Perhaps of most relevance to the aspiring actor, the final two lectures will examine the industry as it stands today, from both an indie and blockbuster perspective.

In addition to outside screenings, students taking Film History will be assigned weekly readings, two short quizzes, and a final presentation.

Film History is a prerequisite for Business I and Business II.

Jeff Richardson( Film History: )

Jeff received a BA in Film & Television from the University of Michigan, and an MA in Cinema Studies from New York University. He is a full-time staff member at New York University’s Department of Cinema Studies, where he has helped organize numerous international conferences and film screenings. Jeff’s major interests in the field of cinema include exhibition history, road movies, and the James Bond film series. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and cat and is thrilled to be teaching Film History at the Maggie Flanigan Studio.


  • The Film History course is a great (and necessary) resource for all actors. Jeff, the teacher, is not only passionate about the subject he teaches but provides a safe space to discuss, ask questions or even make suggestions about topics to cover in class. This class exposed me to legendary actors and directors from the past and present, as well as smaller filmmakers making strides in independent films.

    Kimberly Spohn