The Language of Film and TV


Authored by Lori Landay


Course Code: OLSOC-150

Next Semester
Starts April 3

Level 1

Level 1

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


As a composer or musician in the film and television industries, it's essential to be able to communicate effectively with directors, producers, and others involved in the production of these media. The Language of Film and TV course is designed to give you a thorough understanding of film and television and, specifically, how they make meaning beyond their stories and characters.

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The course guides you through the history of film and television and the crucial concepts about the language they use to reach their audiences - a language that includes camera, frame composition, lighting, production design, acting-styles, editing, dialogue, plot, genre, themes, sound, and point of view. You'll learn about mise-en-scène, cinematography, and editing, so that you are well versed in the design and visual elements of film and television.

The course begins with an overview of the origins of cinema, exploring the contributions of Edison, the Lumière brothers, and Méliès, and then moves through the silent era into sound and the studio system, examining the role of narrative, acting, and sound and how they evolved. It then explores the emergence of television and how it became a part of everyday life.

You'll also learn about documentary, experimental, and animated film, and examine how digital technology is changing film, television, and media today. Throughout the course, you will screen and analyze such films as The Great Train Robbery, It, The Crowd, Bringing Up Baby, Double Indemnity, North by Northwest, Citizen Kane, Singin' in the Rain, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and others. You will also choose films from the American Film Institute's 100 Years 100 Movies list and other sources for analysis. Television series include I Love Lucy and currently airing series.

The goal of the course is to provide you with the skills to interpret and analyze film and television, including their historical, stylistic, and narrative contexts, in order to better prepare you for working in these industries.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Identify and define terms associated with the film and television industry
  • Understand the historical development of film and television and the cultural contexts in which they evolved
  • Explain how film and television make visual and narrative meaning through a language that includes camera, frame composition, lighting, production design, acting-styles, editing, dialogue, plot, genre, themes, sound, and point of view

  • Interpret and analyze film and television, with emphasis on the cultural contexts of filmmaking, television production, and film and television meaning
  • Better communicate with directors and producers in the media industries
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Lesson 1: Classical Hollywood Cinema

  • The Eye & the I of Cinema
  • Classical Hollywood Cinema
  • Film Narrative
  • Film Style
  • Terms for Film & Television Analysis

Lesson 2: Early Cinema: From Muybridge to The Great Train Robbery

  • Photography into Moving Image: Muybridge and Early Image Toys
  • The Beginnings of Cinema: Reality, Artifice, & Spectacle: Edison, Lumière, Méliès
  • Edison: Entertainment
  • Lumiere Brothers and The Cinematographe: Actualites
  • Melies: The "Magic" of Illusion
  • Narrative and Style Together: The Great Train Robbery

Lesson 3: Silent Film

  • The Language of Film Develops
  • Narrative and Conventions: Genre
  • It and The Crowd
  • Music in the Silent Era

Lesson 4: Coming of Sound in Film in the 1930-40s

  • Narrative and Acting in Sound Film
  • Genre Iconography
  • Life Cycle of a Genre, Including Television
  • The Studio System

Lesson 5: Film Sound

  • Diegetic and Non-Diegetic Sound
  • The Sound Mix
  • The Elements of a Score
  • Sound and Image Make Meaning

Lesson 6: Network Television

  • Origins of Television Culture: I Love Lucy
  • Television Genres
  • Economics of Production
  • Television in Everyday Life

Lesson 7: Documentary, Experimental, and Animated Film and Television 

  • Beyond Classical Hollywood Cinema
  • Documentary
  • Experimental/Avant-Garde
  • Animation
  • Influences on Mainstream Film and Television

Lesson 8: Mise-en-Scene: What Is in the Shot 

  • Setting
  • Costume and Make-Up
  • Lighting
  • Performance and Movement (Acting, Blocking, Staging)

Lesson 9: Cinematography: Photographic Qualities of the Shot 

  • The Look of an Image
  • Framing
  • Scale/Proximity
  • Camera Movement
  • How the Camera "Speaks" the Language of Film

Lesson 10: Editing 

  • Continuity Editing: Invisible Style
  • The Development of Editing
  • Montage—Editing as Art
  • Editing in Television

Lesson 11: Television in the Cable and Internet Eras 

  • Television Genres
  • Spectatorship in the Cable and Internet Era
  • What Stays the Same: The Sitcom Today

Lesson 12: The Digital Era 

  • The Digital Revolution
  • From CGI to Whole Sets, Worlds, Digital Performers
  • Transmedia
  • Digital Television: Aesthetics and Narratives


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

This course does not have any prerequisites.

Required Textbook(s)

Film/TV Requirements on DVD or Online

Week 1: One of the following films:

  • Scarface (1932)
  • Golddiggers of 1933 (1933)
  • Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  • A Star Is Born (1937)
  • Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • Rebecca (1940)
  • Double Indemnity (1941)
  • Casablanca (1942)
  • Mildred Pierce (1945)

Week 2: None needed; resources provided

Week 3: It (1927), and one of the following films:

  • The General (1926)
  • Metropolis (1927)
  • Sunrise (1927)
  • City Lights (1931)
  • Nosferatu (1922)
  • The Gold Rush (1925)
  • La passion et la mort de Jeanne d'Arc [The Passion of Joan of Arc] (1928)
  • Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari [The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari] (1920)
  • Bronenosets "Potyomkin" [The Battleship Potemkin] (1925)
  • Greed (1924)
  • Die Büchse der Pandora [Pandora's Box] (1929)
  • Wings (1927)
  • The Wind (1928)
  • Napoléon (1927)
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
  • Intolerance (1916)
  • Sherlock, Jr. (1924)
  • The Big Parade (1925)
  • Safety Last (1923)
  • The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
  • Broken Blossoms (1919)
  • The Kid (1921) 
  • Foolish Wives (1922)
  • Les vampires (1915-16)
  • The Son of the Sheik (1926)

Week 4: Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Week 5: Citizen Kane (1941)

Week 6: At least two episodes of the television show, I Love Lucy (1951-1957)

Week 7: None needed-resources provided

Week 8: Rear Window (1954)

Week 9: Breathless (1960)

Week 10: The Graduate (1967)

Week 11: None needed; resources provided

Week 12: None needed; resources provided

Software Requirements

  • A video editing program. If you don't have one, you can use iMovie, which comes with Macs, or MovieMaker, which you can get for free on Windows machines. You can also use the YouTube online editor.

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact for any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of  Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Lori Landay


Lori Landay is a professor of cultural studies at Berklee College of Music and an interdisciplinary scholar and new media artist exploring the making of visual meaning in 20th- and 21st-century culture. She is the author of two books, I Love Lucy and Madcaps, Screwballs, and Con Women: The Female Trickster in American Culture, in addition to articles on topics such as virtual worlds, digital narrative, silent film, and television culture. Her creative work includes animation, graphic design, creative documentary, machinima, interactive virtual art installations, and music video. Landay has been awarded the Dean's Award for Excellence in the Professional Education Division at Berklee College of Music, a Newbury Comics Faculty Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Enduring Questions Grant. She has consulted on and appeared in Finding Lucy, an American Masters documentary airing nationally on PBS and internationally, in addition to serving as the Information Technology Officer for the Society for Cinema and Media Studies from 2002-05. Landay holds a bachelor's degree from Colby College, which included a year abroad at the University of York in England, master's degrees in American Studies and English from Boston College and Indiana University, respectively, and a doctoral degree in English and American Studies from Indiana University.

Sujay Pandit


Dr. Sujay Pandit's work focuses on the interplay between media, architecture, human rights, and philosophy. He is also keenly interested in film and design. Before his time at Berklee College, Sujay was a graphic designer and multimedia specialist for several media outlets including Scientific American, Art:21, the NYU Afghan Digital Library, and various corporations and non-profit/educational institutions. Dr. Pandit has also taught at Emerson College, New York University, Fordham University, and The School of Visual Arts in NYC.

Danielle Riendeau


Danielle Riendeau is an editorial video producer at Vox Media's, a game development instructor and an indie game designer. She holds an MA in Visual Media Art from Emerson College and has taught at Northeastern University since 2010, primarily game design and interactive storytelling courses.


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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