Education Blog

Redefining Defining: The Visual Glossary

By Sean Weiner, Full-Time Faculty 09.22.14

When I first began teaching at the newly opened Media Arts Lab in 2009, my colleagues and I were in a uniquely exciting moment. As faculty, we were positioned to teach film technique and language in a new way The landscape of media-making (filmmaking in particular) shifted immensely. No longer was there film or tape in our cameras. Instead, the community co-opted DSLRs for their quality and exchangeable lenses while suffering the unwelcomed return of un-synched sound. No longer was the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed film grad looking for PA work. Instead they were buying these handheld devices and cutting their teeth as one-man bands.

Things were moving faster.

In response, I sought to create a teaching tool that would ask these hurried students to take pause and appreciate the boundless techniques showcased in any strong film scene- a tool that would also illustrate just how much we all still had to learn. What resulted was a Visual Glossary prototype: a scene from Wes Anderson’s film Rushmore refurbished with labeled techniques and overlays appearing in time with their usage: film terminology no longer just defined, but actually annotated. In the following years, this clip became a staple in our classes at the Lab. Not only did it introduce fundamental concepts, but also, it illustrated the orchestration that results from true creative collaboration. After all, every great film is the product of many creative minds working in concert.

At the start of the summer, Irvington High School Senior, JBFC Creators’ Co-op alum, and soon-to-be USC Film School freshman, Lily Harty, helped me curate the first installment of Visual Glossary clips. Quickly, this tool began to reveal itself as something immensely useful to both aspiring makers and critical viewers (or viewers and doers, as we like to say).

The inspiration for our Visual Glossary film clips are some of the JBFC’s iconic educational programs: Cinemania, Classroom to Screening Room, and Friday Night Films @ the Lab. In the future, they will represent the incredible film series of the JBFC programming department. The excerpts often highlight young protagonists hailing from all corners of the world and all moments in time. We also ensure that every clip is appropriate for all ages and suitable for a variety of learning environments.

With the Visual Glossary, what we've created is a tool we always wanted, as educators and as lovers of cinema.