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Tips for Film-Based Classes

Explore how to go beyond simply screening movies in the classroom to cultivate engaging discussion and connection with each film.

Policies and examples to make your film-based class a success-not just a screening!

OLLI at UNLV Film Discussion Policy ​ 

As Adopted by the Educational Programming Committee on April 21, 2020 ​ 

As OLLI at UNLV is a lifelong learning community, our goal is to encourage collaboration and the construction of knowledge within our classrooms. Copyrighted material may be used in class if it is used for a limited and transformative purpose such as commentary or criticism. 

To ensure fair use compliance, every film, video, or online piece shown, regardless of length, during OLLI at UNLV classes, activities, or events should be accompanied by a minimum of 15 minutes of discussion per piece.

How to Use Video in the Classroom

How to Use Video in the Classroom ​ 

Where to Begin? Aim to go beyond simply watching a video. ​ 

  • Ask Engaging Questions 
  • Pause longer videos for reactions, feedback, and discussion 
  • Always tie the video back to your main focus ​ 

Curious about how to pose engaging questions-even if only a 4-minute clip is shown? See some examples below to assist with planning your class discussions.

Classroom Planning: Show the Trailer First ​ 

Instructors might first show a trailer of a film or movie and ask class members to watch, reflect upon and discuss the clip. This can help set the tone for further discussion and identification of themes, cultural influences and character development.

Example: Anna Karenina

ANNA KARENINA (2012) HD Official Trailer - Keira Knightley

Sample Discussion Questions ​ 

  • What are your immediate reactions to the trailer? 
  • How do the colors in the film reinforce some of the main themes? (Ex: The instructor might mention the dance scene and not how certain characters are dressed.) 
  • Based on what you already know and on the trailer, what themes do you expect to see in regards to the time period of the film? What are some of the social, economical, and religious challenges of the time period? 
  • What message do you think this film is aiming to send to the audience?

Classroom Planning: Show an Important Clip and Build the Discussion ​ 

Show one or a number of important clips to build the discussion. This is an especially useful approach if your class is unable to watch the entire film. 

Example: Something's Gotta Give

Pancakes ( Something's Gotta Give, 2003 )

Sample Discussion Questions ​ 

  • Sometimes what is NOT said is incredibly revealing. After watching this dialogue, what do you feel is being said between the characters without using words? 
  • Both characters comment about how they feel the other perceives them. What do you think each character fears the other will say? What happens, instead? 
  • What are your thoughts about the characters' comments on marriage, relationships, and being alone at times?

Classroom Planning: Discuss How Current Events, History, Culture, and the Time Period Influence the Film ​ 

Great discussion can be built around simply providing a brief overview of the time period in which the film is set. What was happening in the story? In the world? What cultural or political changes influenced the plot? Etc. 

Example 1: Glory

glory night before the battle

Sample Discussion Questions ​ 

  • This scene is one of the most memorable from the movie "Glory", which tells the story of the first African-American volunteer company during the Civil War. What influences of the time period do you see? Which ones are obvious? Which ones are subtle? 
  • What do the characters reveal about their internal and external struggles in this scene? 
  • One character is given a platform to find his voice. What is your reaction to what he says?

Example 2: Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond - Smuggling Scene

Sample Discussion Questions ​ 

  • This film highlights true events that happened during the 1990s in Sierra Leone, when illegal diamond trading set the scene for numerous crimes and tragedies. This article , emailed to the class the week before, details some of the ins and outs of the trade. What are your thoughts on these events? 
  • What relationships and tensions were explored in this one scene of the film-and how were those tensions captured? 
  • What was happening in the world in 2006 that might have influenced this film and the audience in some way?