Movies from Marlboro Courses

Curriculum Overview

Students will enroll in 16 credits. All students will take the four core courses. Additionally, students will enroll in one pre-production and one production lab each. Assignments to pre-production labs will be negotiated with the program director based on student interest, experience and skills.  Department assignments for production will be negotiated after a review of each student's interest, aptitude, and demonstrated engagement in the lab(s) supporting various crew positions.

One credit at Marlboro equals 40 hours of combined class time and outside work, with 12-15 contact hours with the professor per credit. 

Core Courses (see descriptions below)

  • Arts Expeditions: Sundance Film Festival (1 credit)
  • Screenwriting and Directing (2 credits)
  • Literature Course (3 credits)*
  • Film Studies (3 credits)*

*The Literature and Film Studies courses for each iteration of Movies from Marlboro are thematically related to the script and genre of the film being made.  

Production Labs (see descriptions below)

  • Pre-Production Labs (3 credits each)
    • Production Management
    • Production Design
    • Cinematography, Lighting, and Sound
    • Editing and Screen Continuity
    • Marketing and Community Relations
  • Production Labs (4 credits each)
    • Production Management
    • Production Design
    • Cinematography, Lighting, and Sound
    • Editing and Screen Continuity
    • Marketing and Community Relations

Course Descriptions

Arts Expeditions: Sundance Film Festival 

Description: Students will travel to Park City, Utah for a 5-day immersion experience at the Sundance Film Festival where more than 130 films will be shown in a variety of venues. Expect long days, long lines, and fascinating discussions with filmmakers, actors, agents, cinematographers, and fellow filmgoers as you navigate America’s premiere cinema event. Dorm housing at Park City’s Chateau Apres is located 1 minute from the Park City Library screening venue, 10 minutes to Main Street shops and restaurants, and 2 minutes from the regular shuttle that circles the Sundance venue loop every ten minutes. Students will be graded based on participation in film screenings, group discussions and a final reflection paper about the experience.

Screenwriting and Directing

Description: Effective screenwriting requires an understanding of story structure and an ability to shape character, theme, tone, and incident to dramatic effect. This class will focus on the regular practice of story and screenplay development, through writing exercises, character research, narrative construction. Students will engage in regular revision of the working script for the film in development – and they will write their own scripts of twenty or fewer pages, intended to be producible using available resources. Emphasis will be placed on instructor and peer critique, and re-writing to maximize impact.

This class will also focus on the role of the film director, to organize and prepare for the film shoot. Discussion will include week-to-week review, brainstorming, and actual planning for the film shoot. We'll articulate details of character, story themes, and visual design through discussions with key collaborators and the planning of day-to-day production. We'll work to find and chart key story beats; review locations; prepare shots and block scenes with the director of photography; advance casting and rehearsal; discuss props, costumes, and scenic elements with the design team; and follow the shape of schedule and logistics. 

Students will also collaborate to develop their own shorts films—and produce them for screening during the Marlboro-based portion of the semester.  


Description: The literature course will closely investigate the novel on which the film is based, and related literature that will help bring nuance to students' understanding of the genre. Assignments include readings, in-class discussions and papers. More details as the production nears. 

Film Studies

Description: Students will screen, discuss, research, and critique films that share characteristics with the current production. More details as the production nears. 

Production Labs


Faculty: Jay Craven, department heads, visiting artists, and special guests
Description: Using the production script as the blueprint and catalyst, students will work in their respective teams with department heads (Producer, Director, Director of Photography, Production Designer, Editor) to interpret the script for directorial, design, and cinematographic choices. We'll also chart details and logistics needed for production.

Department heads will assign appropriate readings and screenings – and work with students to present workshops and organize short film productions demonstrating theory and practice in their respective areas. Within their respective departments, team leaders will also mobilize the resources, personnel, materials, and strategies needed to prepare for production. 

Schedules will intensify as actual hands-on work begins in mid-February, to prepare the film shoot. Film screenings and discussions will also be scheduled throughout the period—to provide exposure to behind-the-scenes documentaries and interviews with various production personnel from assorted films..

Pre-Production: Production Management Lab

Description: This unit will prepare and engage students in the many facets of producing, production management, set management, and coordination of budgets, locations, daily call sheets, Screen Actors Guild reports, budgets, copyrights, procurement, the recruitment and wrangling of professional crew members and in-kind production support, and the hundreds of details that get a film production on its feet—and sustain its momentum in the face of daily challenges. Students working in this department will take on the jobs of assistant directors, unit production managers, producers, production coordinators, and location managers—to oversee, plan, and manage the daily work of physical production.

Pre-Production: Production Design Lab

Description: Student filmmakers often overlook the importance of the art department to the filmmaker's challenge of creating a distinct, authentic, and captivating world where viewers enter and suspend disbelief. This class will examine the theory and practice behind the work to create a multi-layered world of production design and art direction, where creative practitioners take on the tasks of overall design, drafting, searching for props, designing costumes, dressing sets, wrangling vehicles, and much more. 

Effective production design is crucial to the experience of a film—as it provides clues to plot, character, and theme. It interacts with cinematography, performance, and editing to create narrative meaning and resonance. Students will screen and discuss films, paying special attention to the details and impact of design. Assigned texts and special guests will deepen and intensify the creative dialogue—as will the hands-on work of preparing the art direction and design for the production, which will provide a class focus.

Pre-Production: Cinematography Lab 

Description: This class will focus on the theory and practice of cinematography for narrative and documentary applications—using the motion picture camera to capture imaginative, expressive, and affecting images. Weekly activities will include shooting assignments; in-class critiques; readings; screenings; and discussion aimed at fostering fresh visual thinking and an increased understanding of what's required to capture closely observed and energetic cinematography. Regular camera exercises will aim to develop technical competence, theoretical understanding, observation skills, strategic visual thinking, and imaginative cinematographic instincts. Areas of inquiry and practice will include framing, composition, lighting, camera movement, scene blocking, and storyboarding—using a variety of scripts and documentary projects. We'll also take up the theory and practice of sound recording, especially as it relates to the work of coordinating effective picture and audio recording during production.

Students who plan to work in the camera, lighting, grip or sound departments—or as director trainees for the production are strongly encouraged to enroll. Class work will include production location scouting, shot listing, and discussion, to determine visual options.

Pre-Production: Editing and Screen Continuity Lab

Descriptions: The work of the editor is closely linked to the work of the director, cinematographer, screenwriter, and script supervisor. This lab will start work immediately, meeting with these vital players to review key production issues. The editing team will also work during pre-production to assemble and start cutting the behind-the-scenes documentary and regular web postings about the project. Students in this area will also work with other students, to participate in editing student-made shorts. Students interested in the position of script supervisor will join student editors, as part of this department.

Pre-Production: Marketing and Community Relations Lab

Descriptions: Producing a movie requires an exhaustive mobilization of resources, before, during and after production. This pre-production course will focus on marketing and communications theory, with special focus on the realm of film production. The course will also consider the emerging “cultural agent” field, with readings and discussions about creating and maintaining audience and support for the arts despite changing economic and cultural trends. 

Students in the Marketing and Communications department will play critical rolls, including taking still photographs, direction and production of the behind-the-scenes documentary, working with local, regional and national press, helping to build and maintain effective relationships with organizations like the Nantucket Historical Society and Dreamland Theater, with whom we will work to stage educational community activities in relationship to our on-island production. Students in this area will also participate in the visioning, planning and executing of fundraising events.


Faculty: Jay Craven,  department heads and special guests
Description: During this time, students will experience and perform professional roles on a feature film set. Students will report to and work with their respective department heads for the duration of the film shoot. Daily work will include all of the work associated with students’ individual crew job descriptions—and the overall collaborative production of the film. Crews are expected to work 12-hour days (including meal breaks) for five-day weeks that will generally run Mondays through Fridays during the production period. Evening sessions will also be organized to view film dailies, review shot lists and schedules, and discuss the progress and evolving strategies for production. Students will earn professional film credit, in addition to college credit, for their work during this period.

Production: Production Management Lab

Production: Production Design Lab

Production: Cinematography Lab

Production: Editing Lab

Pre-Production: Marketing and Community Relations Lab