Scene Analysis


Analyzing movies and television shows, like analyzing literature (fiction and nonfiction texts), is a form of rhetorical analysis—critically analyzing and evaluating discourse, including words, phrases, and images.

Unlike literature, film and television incorporates audiovisual elements and, therefore, introduces a new dimension to the analysis. Ultimately, however, analysis of a film or TV show is not too different. Think of all the things that make up a scene in a film or TV episode: the actors, the lighting, the angles, the colors. Think also of all the social, cultural, economic, and political commentary in movies and television series. The inclusion of all or some of these things stem from deliberate choices on the part of the director, producer, or screenwriter—as are the words chosen by the author of a work of literature. Furthermore, literature, film, and TV incorporate similar elements. They both have plots, characters, dialogue, settings, symbolism, and, just as the elements of literature can be analyzed for their intent and effect, these elements can be analyzed the same way in a film and television series.

Specifications: The goal of the scene analysis assignment is to begin drafting portions of the film/TV research paper. You are to select a scene from the film or TV show you choose and start analyzing it. Make sure that your analysis supports the argument of the film/TV research paper. Scene analyses should be in 1-2 paragraphs (total word count for both paragraph 300-500 words) and are due Friday, July 17, via online submission to Blackboard by 11:59 p.m. The scene analysis is worth 10% of the final grade. The estimated time for completion of this discussion response is 10 hours.

Some helpful tips:
You should frame your analysis in relation to your argument for the film/TV research paper. Helpful here is to copy the thesis to the top of the scene analysis. Doing so will allow you to easily refer back to the thesis and to determine whether the scene analysis is supporting the argument.

If you are unsure where to start, select a scene and consider how the scene functions aesthetically. Consider also how the scene conveys an argument about society (e.g., gender, race, sexuality, patriotism, class) or how it works emotionally to impact a viewer. However you frame the question(s) of your analysis, it must effectively explore a scene in rich detail and highlight the significance of the scene within the larger contexts of the argument of the film/TV research paper.

Here are two options you can use for your scene analysis:

Option #1: Mise-en-Scene Analysis
Mise-en-scene analysis is an analysis of the arrangement of compositional elements in the film or TV episode—essentially, the analysis of audiovisual elements that most distinctly separate film and TV analysis from literary analysis. Remember that the important part of a mise-en-scene analysis is not just identifying the elements of a scene but explaining the significance behind them.

Some helpful questions and suggestions:
• What effects are created in a scene, and what is their purpose?
• How does the film or TV episode attempt to achieve its goal by the way it looks, and does it succeed?
• Use the screening guide to help you identify elements in the scene and to help you explain the significance
behind them. The screening guide is located on the Week 7 folder.

Audiovisual elements that can be analyzed include (but are not limited to): props and costumes, setting, lighting, camera angles, frames, special effects, choreography, music, color values, depth, placement of characters, etc. Mise-en-scene is typically the most foreign part of writing film or TV analysis because the other components discussed are common to literary analysis, while mise-en-scene deals with elements unique to film and TV. Using specific film or TV terminology bolsters credibility, but you should also consider explaining what the terms mean to your audience.

Rewatching the film or TV show and creating screen captures (still images) of certain scenes can help with detailed analysis of colors, positioning of actors, placement of objects, etc. Listening to the soundtrack can also be helpful, especially when placed in the context of particular scenes.
Some example questions:
• How is the lighting used to construct mood? Does the mood shift at any point during the film or TV show, and how is that shift in mood created?
• What does the setting say about certain characters? How are props used to reveal aspects of their personality?
• What songs were used, and why were they chosen? Are there any messages in the lyrics that pertain to the theme?

Option #2: Contextual analysis

Contextual analysis is an analysis of the film or TV show as part of a broader context. Think about the culture, time, and place of the film’s or TV series’s creation. What might the film or TV show say about the culture that created it? What were/are the social and political concerns of the time period? Or, like researching the author of a novel, you might consider the director, producer, and other people vital to the making of the film or TV show. What is the place of this film or TV show in the director’s career? Does it align with his usual style of directing, or does it move in a new direction? Other examples of contextual approaches might be analyzing the film or TV show in terms of a civil rights or feminist movement.

For example, Frozen is often linked to the LGBTQ social movement. Whether you agree or disagree with this interpretation, you will use evidence from the film to support your analysis.

Some other questions to consider:
• How does the meaning of the film or TV show change when seen outside of its culture?
• What characteristics distinguish the film or TV show as being of its particular culture?
• Use the screening guide to help you identify contextual elements. The screening guide is located on the Week 7 folder.

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