The Film Experience

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  • Edition: 5th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2017-11-10
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's

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The experience of watching films can begin with journeying to imaginary worlds, witnessing re-creations of history, observing stars in familiar and unfamiliar roles, and exploring the laughter, thrills, or emotions of different genres. Understanding the full depth and variety of these experiences starts with that enjoyment. But it also requires knowledge of the technology, business, history, and visual language of cinema. The Film Experience brings all of this together in one comprehensive book.

The Film Experience: An Introduction aims to help students learn these film languages and synthesize them into a cohesive understanding of the medium that will, in turn, enhance their own film experiences. The new edition places special emphasis on representation throughout the history of film, highlighting voices and groups from the past that interact with the medium’s future. More than ever, the book places important historical developments in the modern, accessible context of ever-changing film technology, economics, and narrative. Throughout the book (and online through its LaunchPad Solo), perfect examples and digital tools bring this material to life.

Table of Contents



watching, studying, and making movies

introduction Studying Film: Culture and Experience

Why Film Studies Matters

Film Spectators and Film Cultures

FORM IN ACTION: Identification, Cognition, and Film Variety


chapter 1 Encountering Film: From Preproduction to Exhibition

Production: How Films Are Made




Distribution: What We Can See


Ancillary Markets

Distribution Timing

Film in Focus: Distributing Killer of Sheep (1977)

Marketing and Promotion: What We Want to See

Generating Interest


Form in Action: The Changing Art and Business of the Film Trailer

viewing cue: Suicide Squad (2016)

Word of Mouth and Fan Engagement

Movie Exhibition: The Where, When, and How of Movie Experiences

The Changing Contexts and Practices of Film Exhibition

Technologies and Cultures of Exhibition

The Timing of Exhibition

FILM IN FOCUS: Exhibiting Citizen Kane (1941)


chapter 2 History and Historiography: Hollywood and Beyond

Silent Cinema 355

Early Hollywood Features

German Expressionist Cinema

Soviet Silent Films

French Cinema

HISTORY CLOSE-UP: Oscar Micheaux

The Sound Era

Classical Hollywood Cinema

European Cinema in the 1930s and 1940s

Golden Age Mexican Cinema

Postwar Cinemas (1945-1975)

Postwar Hollywood

Italian Neorealism

viewing cue: Gilda (1946) and Rome, Open City (1945)

French New Wave

Japanese Cinema

Third Cinema

Global Cinema Cultures (1975-2000)

Contemporary Hollywood

film in focus: Taxi Driver and New Hollywood (1976)

Independent Cinema

Contemporary European Cinema

Indian Cinema

African Cinema

Digital Cinema (2000-present)

Hollywood in the 21st Century

Chinese Cinema

Iranian Cinema

FILM IN FOCUS: Lost and Found History: Within Our Gates (1920)

Film Preservation and Archives

Orphan Films

Concepts at Work




film scenes, shots, cuts, and sounds

chapter 3 Mise-en-Scène: Exploring a Material World

A Short History of Mise-en-Scène

Theatrical Mise-en-Scène and the Prehistory of Cinema

1900–1912: Early Cinema’s Theatrical Influences

1915–1928: Silent Cinema and the Star System

1930s–1960s: Studio-Era Production

1940–1970: New Cinematic Realism

1975–Present: Mise-en-Scène and the Blockbuster

The Elements of Mise-en-Scène

Settings and Sets

viewing cue: Life of Pi (2012)

Scenic Realism and Atmosphere

Props, Costumes, and Lights

FILM IN FOCUS: Mise-en-Scène in Do the Right Thing (1989)

viewing cue: Boyhood (2014)

Performance: Actors and Stars

FORM IN ACTION: Mise-en-Scène in Hugo (2011)

Making Sense of Mise-en-Scène

Defining Our Place in a Film’s Material World

Interpretive Contexts for Mise-en-Scène

FILM IN FOCUS: Naturalistic Mise-en-Scène in Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Spectacularizing the Movies

Concepts at Work


chapter 4 Cinematography: Framing What We See

A Short History of the Cinematic Image

1820s–1880s: The Invention of Photography and the Prehistory of Cinema

1890s–1920s: The Emergence and Refinement of Cinematography

1930s–1940s: Developments in Color, Wide-Angle, and Small-Gauge Cinematography

1950s–1960s: Widescreen, 3-D, and New Color Processes

1970s–1980s: Cinematography and Exhibition in the Age of the Blockbuster

1990s to the Present: The Digital Future

The Elements of Cinematography

Points of View

Four Attributes of the Shot

viewing cue: Touch of Evil (1958)

FORM IN ACTION: Color and Contrast in Film

viewing cue: Rear Window (1954)

viewing cue: The Battle of Algiers (1967)

Animation and Visual Effects : The Impact of Computer-Based Imaging


Making Sense of the Film Image

Defining Our Relationship to the Cinematic Image

Interpretive Contexts for the Cinematic Image

viewing cue: Vertigo (1958)

FILM IN FOCUS: From Angles to Animation in Vertigo (1958)

Concepts at Work


chapter 5 Editing: Relating Images

A Short History of Film Editing

1895–1918: Early Cinema and the Emergence of Editing

1919–1929: Soviet Montage

1930–1959: Continuity Editing in the Hollywood Studio Era

1960–1989: Modern Editing Styles

HISTORY CLOSE-UP: Women in the Editing Room

1990s–Present: Editing in the Digital Age

The Elements of Editing

The Cut and Other Transitions

viewing cue: Chinatown (1974)

Continuity Style

Editing and Temporality

viewing cue: The General (1927)

FORM IN ACTION: Editing and Rhythm in Moulin Rouge! (2001) 160

Making Sense of Film Editing 161

FILM IN FOCUS: Patterns of Editing in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) 162

Disjunctive Editing

Converging Editing Styles

Concepts at Work


chapter 6 Film Sound: Listening to the Cinema

A Short History of Film Sound

Theatrical and Technological Prehistories of Film Sound

1895–1920s: The Sounds of Silent Cinema

1927–1930: Transition to Synchronized Sound

1930s–1940s: Challenges and Innovations in Cinema Sound

1950s–Present: From Stereophonic to Digital Sound

The Elements of Film Sound

Sound and Image

VIEWING CUE: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Sound Production

Film in focus: Sound and Image in Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Voice in Film

Music in Film

FORM IN ACTION: Pop Music Soundtracks in Contemporary Cinema

Sound Effects in Film

viewing cue: Winter’s Bone (2010)

viewing cue: The Thin Red Line (1998)

Making Sense of Film Sound

Authenticity and Experience

Sound Continuity and Sound Montage

FILM IN FOCUS: The Role of Sound and Sound Technology in The Conversation (1974)

Concepts at Work




from stories to genres

chapter 7 Narrative Films: Telling Stories

A Short History of Narrative Film

1900–1920s: Adaptations, Scriptwriters, and Screenplays

1927–1950: Sound Technology, Dialogue, and Classical Hollywood Narrative

1950–1980: Art Cinema

1980s–Present: From Narrative Reflexivity to Games

HISTORY CLOSE UP: Salt of the Earth

The Elements of Narrative Film

Stories and Plots


Diegetic and Nondiegetic Elements

Narrative Patterns of Time

FORM IN ACTION: Nondiegetic Images and Narrative

viewing cue: Shutter Island (2010)

Narrative Space

Narrative Perspectives

viewing cue: The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

FILM IN FOCUS: Plot and Narration

Making Sense of Film Narrative

Shaping Memory, Making History

Narrative Traditions

viewing cue: Midnight Cowboy (1969)

FILM IN FOCUS: Classical and Alternative Traditions in Mildred Pierce (1945) and Daughters of the Dust (1991)

Concepts at Work


chapter 8 Documentary Films: Representing the Real

A Short History of Documentary Cinema

A Prehistory of Documentaries

1895–1905: Early Actualities, Scenics, and Topicals

The 1920s: Robert Flaherty and the Soviet Documentaries

1930–1945: The Politics and Propaganda of Documentary

1950s–1970s: New Technologies and the Arrival of Television

1980s–Present: Digital Cinema, Cable, and Reality TV

The Elements of Documentary Films

Nonfiction and Non-Narrative

Expositions: Organizations That Show or Describe

FILM IN FOCUS: Nonfiction and Non-Narrative in Man of Aran (1934)

viewing cue: The Cove (2009)

Rhetorical Positions

viewing cue: He Named Me Malala (2015)

Making Sense of Documentary Films

Revealing New or Ignored Realities

Confronting Assumptions, Altering Opinions

Serving as a Social, Cultural, and Personal Lens

FILM IN FOCUS: Stories We Tell (2012)

HISTORY CLOSE-UP: Indigenous Media

FORM IN ACTION: The Contemporary Documentary: What Happened, Miss Simone? (2016)

Concepts at Work


chapter 9 Experimental Film and New Media: Challenging Form A Short History of Experimental Film and Media Practices

1910s–1920s: European Avant-Garde Movements

1930s–1940s: Sound and Vision

1950s–1960s: The Postwar Avant-Garde in America

FILM IN FOCUS: Avant-Garde Visions in Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

1968–1980: Politics and Experimental Cinema

1980s–Present: New Technologies and New Media

Formalist Strategies


Narrative Experimentation

Experimental Organizations: Associative, Structural, and Participatory

FILM IN FOCUS: Formal Play in Ballet mecnanique (1924)

Making Sense of Experimental Media

Challenging and Expanding Perception

Experimental Film Styles and Approaches

viewing cue: Gently Down the Stream (1964)

FORM IN ACTION: Lyrical Style in Bridges-Go-Round (1958)

viewing cue: The Future (2011)

Concepts at Work


chapter 10 Movie Genres: Conventions, Formulas, and Audience Expectations

A Short History of Film Genre

Historical Origins of Genres

Early Film Genres

1920s–1940s: Genre and the Studio System

1948–1970s: Postwar Film Genres

1970s–Present: New Hollywood, Sequels, and Global Genres

The Elements of Film Genre


Formulas and Myths

Audience Expectations

Six Movie Genres





viewing cue: La La Land (2016)

Horror Films

Crime Films

viewing cue: The Searchers (1956)

Making Sense of Film Genres

Prescriptive and Descriptive Approaches

Classical and Revisionist Traditions

FILM IN FOCUS: Crime Film Conventions and Formulas: Chinatown (1974)

viewing cue: Unforgiven (1992)

HISTORY CLOSE UP: John Waters and Midnight Movies

FORM IN ACTION: Melodrama and In the Mood for Love (2000)

Local and Global Genres

Concepts at Work




Reading and writing about film


chapter 11 Reading about Film: Critical Theories and Methods

The Evolution of Film Theory

Early and Classical Film Theory

Early Film Theory

Classical Film Theories: Formalism and Realism

Postwar Film Culture and Criticism

Film Journals

Auteur Theory

Genre Theory

Contemporary Film Theory

Structuralism and Semiotics

viewing cue: The Wizard of Oz (1939)


FILM IN FOCUS: Signs and Meaning

Theories of Gender and Sexuality

Cultural Studies

Film and Philosophy

Postmodernism and New Media

FILM IN FOCUS: Clueless about Contemporary Film Theory? (1995)

Concepts at Work


chapter 12 Writing a Film Essay: Observations, Arguments, Research, and Analysis

Writing an Analytical Film Essay

Personal Opinion and Objectivity

viewing cue: Birdman (2014)

Identifying Your Readers

Elements of the Analytical Film Essay

Preparing to Write about a Film

Asking Questions

Taking Notes

Selecting a Topic

FILM IN FOCUS: Analysis, Audience, and Minority Report (2002)

Elements of a Film Essay

Thesis Statement

Outline and Topic Sentences

Revising, Formatting, and Proofreading

Writer’s Checklist

Researching the Movies

Distinguishing Research Materials

FILM IN FOCUS: Interpretation, Argument, and Evidence in Rashomon (1950)

Using and Documenting Sources

FORM IN ACTION: Creating a Video Essay

FILM IN FOCUS: From Research to Writing about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Concepts at Work



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