My Most Important Pedagogical Changes of the Year: Time = Importance

I occasionally teach a film elective, and when I do, I find that the transition from watching movies as a viewer to watching them from a film perspective is a really hard one for a lot of students. In order to help them in their transition, I have found that giving students this one simple rule on the first day makes all the difference:

Time = Importance

The reason for this is that movies are incredibly tightly packed affairs. Like books, they are supposed to build up tension, establish interesting themes, and get us to connect to characters, but they only have a fraction of the space (a screenplay directly converted to regular pages would likely be 30 or 40 pages). This means that if a director has us spend nearly 30 minutes at a family wedding like in opening of the The Godfather (see below), it means something; in this case it is largely about characterizing the family members as humans first before showing them as mobsters, as this is essential in a movie where criminals are the “good guys.”

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