Spring 2024 Cinematic Arts Non-Major Courses

Every semester, the School of Cinematic Arts offers a selection of courses available to all students at the University of Southern California. Any USC student with an interest in film, animation, screenwriting, game development, or digital art can explore how cinematic art is made in one of these courses. Courses in Spring 2024 include:

Animation and Digital Arts:

CTAN 200g The Rise of Digital Hollywood (4 units)
An overview of the evolution of computer graphics in modern media.

CTAN 432 The World of Visual Effects (2 Units)
Introduction to the expanding field of visual effects; topics include integration for cinematic storytelling and the study of digital productions employing the latest visual effects.

CTAN 510 Inside Story: Creative Development for Animation (2 Units)
A creative development workshop for animated pitch storytelling, supported by an introduction to character development and story structure fundamentals.

CTAN 511 Demystifying the TV Animation Pipeline (2 Units)
The practical aspects of producing a 2-D animation series. Identifying and understanding the 2-D pipeline.

Cinematic Arts

This dynamic and practical course is designed to equip students with the tools and skillsets needed to Map Their Way to Success in Showbiz. Through highly interactive classes, students will learn best practices in creating film and television projects, starting from the initial stages of sourcing material all the way through the final stages of marketing and advertising and each week, students will engage with panels of "industry insiders."

Cinematic and Media Studies

CTCS 190g Introduction to Cinema (4 units)
Rated one of the top six USC classes you cannot afford to miss and fulfilling the GE-A requirement, this course explores the formal properties of movies and their social context: narrative form, performance, art direction and mise-en-scene, cinematography, post-production, sound design, genre, style, and the production process - how movies are made, how they work their magic on us, how we can improve our perceptive abilities when it comes to filmgoing, and how the wider cultural, sociopolitical, and industrial environment of film shapes our perceptions of the world. A perennial favorite, CTCS 190 fills fast. Open to all majors. You must register for the lecture as well as a discussion section.

CTCS 191 Introduction to Television and Video (4 units)
This course provides an introduction to the history, institutions, forms and critical analysis of television, and its relationship to the cultures around it, including other media and arts. It is designed to expand your knowledge of American and global television by exploring issues such as genre, style programming, branding, industrial structures, and the social and cultural significance of television. We look at television programs as cultural artifacts and industrial products that reflect and refract such issues as class, consumerism, gender, race, sexuality, and national identity. The course is intended to help you develop a historical and critical framework for understanding television, broadly conceived to include broadcast, cable and streaming platforms, and to become critically informed viewers and practitioners.

CTCS 192gm Race, Class, and Gender in American Film (4 units)
This course analyzes how issues relating to race, class, and gender have been addressed and depicted in American film, and how the cinematic representations of those topics have affected opinions and attitudes in mainstream U.S. culture. By studying historical representations alongside more contemporary images, the course aims to explain the role cinema plays in creating and influencing ideas around American identity. This course satisfies USC’s General Education requirement. Screenings include: Bombshell (2019), The Banker (2020), The Blind Side (2009), Real Women Have Curves (2002), Pleasantville (1998), Mulan (1998), Enter the Dragon (1973), Platoon (1986), In & Out (1997), among other titles.

CTCS 394 History of American Cinema since 1960 (4 units)
Hollywood may form its backbone, but American cinema is so much more than "the industry"
— especially since the major studios lost their stranglehold on production following World War II. In this course, we'll explore significant developments that have occurred since Classical Hollywood dissolved. New Hollywood auteurs and big-budget blockbusters will be studied alongside various independent and documentary movements, situating each within their economic, creative, cultural, and technological contexts.

CTCS 407 African American Cinema (4 units)
This course is a historical survey of African American cinema from the 1960s through the present. While the course is mindful of pre-1960s film history, the focus will be on the last sixty years of Black film history in America. The course will highlight various films, filmmakers, actors, other creative figures, aesthetics, themes, and controversies, while linking this historical approach to the social, cultural and political issues that have evolved in American society over this sixty-year period. Further, the course will use developments in Black cinema as a broader framework for discussing American social, cultural, and political history, from the era of the Civil Rights Movement through the very recent present. Screenings include: Malcolm X, 13th, A Raisin in the Sun, Coffy, Boyz N the Hood, Dead Presidents, Zola, Coming to America, Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, Daughters of the Dust, and One Night in Miami, among other titles.

CTCS 409 Film Censorship (4 units)
A historical survey of film and television censorship from the origins of motion pictures to the present day, with emphasis on specific censorship cases from the United States and around the globe. We will study the foundations of the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America (forerunner to today's MPA), the Production Code Administration, the development of the studio ratings system, approaches to censorship in the streaming era, and contemporary political Courtney White.

CTCS 464 Film and/or Television Genres (4 units)
Vampires on Film
A year past Nosferatu's centenary, cinematic bloodsuckers continue to fascinate us. Horror, sensuality, eroticism, and political commentary intermingle in this genre born on the footstep of modernity. Join your favorite Transylvanian-born professor in a survey of the long-lasting vampire mythos and its continuing appeal. Screenings will likely include Nosferatu itself, alongside a variety of American and international takes on the vampire film: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Vampire's Kiss, Twilight, Mr. Vampire, Renfield, El Conde, Vampyr, Irma Vep, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Let The Right One In, From Dusk til Dawn, and others. Professor: George Carstocea.

CTCS 464 Film and/or Television Genres (4 units)
The Action Film
Violence & speed. Quips and oners. Bodies under maximum stress. Genre origins and inflections. Franchises & B movies. Stuntwork: choreography and safety, fistfights and gun battles, car chases and car crashes. Course focuses on Hollywood films with limited attention to non–US cinema. Examples may include: 48 Hrs., The Adventures of Robin Hood, Collateral, Commando, Crank, Die Hard, Dirty Harry, Domino, Face/Off, Foxy Brown, Hard Boiled, Jackass 3D, John Wick, Mad Max: Fury Road, Long Kiss Goodnight, Mission Impossible 3, Ong Bak, The Other Guys, Point Break, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Rambo, Under Seige 2: Dark Territory, The Warriors, The Woman King.

CTCS 466 Theatrical Film Symposium (4 units)
Theatrical Film Symposium, taught by world-renowned film critic Leonard Maltin, brings you face-to-face with leading film directors, writers, producers, and actors working today. Each week, students watch sneak previews of upcoming movies, followed by exclusive Q&As with the creative teams behind the films. Past semester screenings included Coco, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Colossal, Life, Land of Mine, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, The Shape of Water, American Made, and Thor: Ragnarok. Recent guests include Damien Chazelle, Adam Scott, Scott Derrickson, Taika Waititi, Lee Unkrich, JJ Abrams, James Franco, Jeff Nichols, Sylvester Stallone, Ryan Coogler, Bryan Cranston, Patricia Riggen, Charlie Kaufman, Atom Egoyan, Kevin Feige, and Judd Apatow.

CTCS 467 Television Symposium (4 units)
Taught by Mary McNamara, Pulitzer-prize winning TV Critic and Cultural Editor for the LA Times. Each week, students meet with current TV Creators and Showrunners for Q&As about writing and producing their shows. Recent guests include: Jon Favreau (The Mandalorian), Adam McKay (Succession), Alena Smith (Dickinson), Stephen Williams (Watchmen), Chris Mundy (Ozark), Susannah Grant (Unbelievable), David Mandel (Veep), Steven Canals (Pose), Sam Levinson (Euphoria), Raphael Bob-Waksberg & Kate Purdy (Undone), Joel Karsberg & Jesse Daniels (Surviving R. Kelly), Aline Brosh McKenna (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Marti Noxon (Sharp Objects), David Kajganich (The Terror), Tanya Saracho (Vida), Matt Duffer & Ross Duffer (Stranger Things), Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch (Glow), Hiro Murai (Atlanta), Noah Hawley (Fargo), Ron Moore (Outlander), Kenya Barris (black-ish), Prentice Penny (Insecure), Lang Fisher (Never Have I Ever), and Sarah Paulson and Jay Roach (Coastal Elites).

CTCS 464 Film and/or Television Genres (4 units)
Hollywood Cinematography
Cinematography is the key element of what we often think of as ‘cinematic style,’ and yet the field and its practitioners are greatly understudied in media studies (and in the media). In this course, we will explore the history of Hollywood style from the point of view of cinematography and cinematographers, as well as engaging with issues such as labor, technology, gender, race, and the collaborative nature of the production process. This class will focus primarily on American cinema and explore the soft style of Classical Hollywood, deep focus, film noir, realism, modernism, New Hollywood, and digital photography while considering the influence of other cinemas along the way.

CTCS 469 Film and/or Television Genres (4 units)
Sports, Media, and Culture
This course will analyze the representation (and misrepresentation) of sports and athletes in fiction film, documentary, and American media culture more broadly. The objective of this course will be to critically examine media that feature a variety of sporting examples, for the purpose of exposing the underlying themes that illuminate the role of sports in American society. The course is especially interested in media examples that offer complex representations of identity around issues such as race, class, gender, history, and the American Dream. The class is taught by Dr. Todd Boyd, a.k.a. Notorious Ph.D., one of the nation’s most widely recognized voices on issues of sports and culture. Overall, the course will study feature films, along with documentaries, and other media examples, in exploring connections across sports and society, sports and politics, sports and entertainment, and sports and fashion, among numerous other topics. Screenings to include: The Last Dance, Air, Uncut Gems, I Tonya, Venus and Serena, Ken Burns’ Muhammad Ali, O.J:Made in America, He Got Game, and One Night in Miami, among other titles.

CTCS 494 Advanced Cinema and Media Studies Seminar Analysis (4 units)
This seminar explores the relationship between visual media (e.g., cinema, television, and digital media) and the natural environment. Our environmental predicament originated in the industrialization of Western Europe, when, almost simultaneously with new forms of capitalist exploitation, mechanically reproduced media surfaced to document and preserve the natural world as it was disintegrating. #Earth will address questions such as: What can cinema and media studies contribute to the ongoing debate over the future of our planet? How have visual media historically explored the natural world and its alteration by industry? In what ways does media itself function as a natural environment? And finally, what has been media industries’ influence on the environment, and what can these material histories tell us about the nature of our social, political, and cultural life? Screenings include The Louisiana Story (1948, Flaherty), The Day Earth Caught Fire (1961, Guest), Zabriskie Point (1970, Antonioni), Mirror (1975, Tarkovsky), Life on Earth (1979, Attenborough), Daughters of the Dust (1991, Julie Dash), The Gleaners & I (2000, Varda), Wild (2014, Vallée), Okja (2017, Bong). Professor: Jelena Culibrk. 

Expanded Animation:

CTXA 423L Visualizing Science Production (2 units)
Principles of 2-D and 3-D digital animation applied to scientific themes and research topics.

CTXA 524 Contemporary Topics: Animation Dreams and Consciousness (2 units)
Explores the relationship of science, philosophy and art to new forms of animation practice, including Artificial Intelligence with a focus on dreams and consciousness.

CTXA 525 Gesture Movement for Animation (2 units)
The concepts of animation performance, body and facial gesture, and the emotional and psychological resonance through cinematic arts.

CTXA 575 Cinematic and Media-based Installations (2 units)
The history and practice of media-based installation art, from site-specific architectural projection mapping, to activist and public art, video sculptures and immersive, physical transformations.

CTXA 588 Animation for Virtual Characters Robotics & AI (2 units)
Designed to explore the illusion of life, sentience and how to develop compelling animation, diverse stories and gesture for virtual characters, AI and robotics.

CTXA 592 Master Class Composing Color and Light for Story (2-6 units, max 12)
The study of color, light and composition techniques to enhance creative storytelling.

Film and TV Production

CTPR 288 Originating and Developing Ideas for Film (2 units)
Exercises in observation, imaginative association, visualization, etc., that deepen the creative process, leading to ideas, stories, characters, and images for narrative, documentary, and experimental films.

CTPR 327 Motion Picture Cinematography (3 units)
Use of high-definition motion picture equipment to explore the fundamentals of shot design, movement, and lighting. In class group projects. The magic of creating images on film, from using cameras, lenses, and filters to photographic processes and the role of cinematography in interpreting stories. Hands-on projects put theory into practice.

CTPR 327 Motion Picture Editing (3 units)
Theory, techniques, and practices in picture editing; use of standard editing equipment; individual projects.

CTPR 340 Creating the Motion Picture Sound Track (2 units)
Techniques and aesthetics for recording production sound, editing dialogue, sound effects, music, Foley and preparing for the mix. For film, television, and other media.

CTPR 371 Directing for Television (4 units)
Preparation of director’s preproduction blockout; study of direction for live, tape, and film production, for both dramatic and informational television. Students will work in teams creating short scenes in various formats, including traditional episodic and situational comedy. The directorial role as production leader and visionary is emphasized.

CTPR 385 Colloquium: Motion Picture Production Techniques (4 units)
Basic procedures and techniques applicable to production of all types of films; demonstration by production of a short film from conception to completion. Includes writing of the script to planning, shooting, and editing.

CTPR 386 Art and Industry of the Theatrical Film (4 units)
Detailed analysis of one theatrical film from conception through critical reception to develop an understanding of motion pictures as art, craft, and industry. The course studies the anatomy of a film by examining a major current release with guest speakers involved in the making of a production. Films previously studied include The Avengers and The Sessions.

CTPR 404 Practicum in Podcast Production (2 units)
The basics of podcast production, including creating an idea, researching and writing the script, hosting, casting, recording and promoting a podcast episode.

CTPR 407 Sound Design for Podcasting (2 units)
Explores the nature of storytelling through sound, and the technical skills necessary to create vibrant and intriguing soundscapes for these stories to live in.

CTPR 409 Practicum in Television Production (2 units, 4 units)
Television production: laboratory course covers operating cameras, creating graphics, technical operations, controlling audio and floor-managing live productions. Students plan and produce actual Trojan Vision programs.

CTPR 410 The Movie Business: From Story Concept to Exhibition (2 units)
Examination of the industry from story ideas, through script development, production and exhibition; evaluation of roles played by writers, agents, studio executives, marketing and publicity. Guest speakers and lectures discuss and cover the role of the writer, agent, studio executive, producer, director, as well as address the topics of marketing, publicity, and distribution.

CTPR 422 Makeup for Motion Pictures (2 units)
Lecture-laboratory in makeup relating it to mood of the story and emulsion of the camera stock. An introduction to the craft of makeup for film, TV, and other media. Students learn through lectures, demos, and hands-on workshops the different kinds of makeup styles and procedures, including the study of glamour, old age, gore, fantasy, and prosthetic techniques.

CTPR 423 Introduction to Special Effects in Cinema (2 units)
Introductory workshop in the aesthetics and practices of special effects, embracing both the classical and contemporary modes.The class focuses on techniques, cost, and operational characteristics. For aspiring production managers, directors, and camera and effects specialists. Conducted in a workshop environment where students experience the complexities involved with techniques in use industry-wide.

CTPR 425 Production Planning (2 units)
Theory, discussion, and practical application of production planning during preproduction and production of a film.

CTPR 426 The Production Experience (2 units)
To provide students with basic working knowledge of both the skills of the motion picture set and production operations through classroom lectures and hands-on experience. Students learn the fundamentals of episodic TV drama and participate in the shooting of an episode written and directed by students. Positions available in producing, camera, sound, production design, or editorial.

CTPR 431 Developing the Documentary Production (2 units)
The tools and skills necessary to turn an idea into a documentary story, using sample reels, pitches, and writing to develop a professional proposal. Course is designed to teach students the knowledge, skills, insight and judgment needed to research, develop and create pitch materials for a documentary production.

CTPR 448 World Building Design Studio (2 units)
Integrating visual and scenario design in the construction of worlds as containers for narrative in documentary, drama, fiction, fantasy, and immersive media.

CTPR 454 Acting for Film and Television (4 units)
Intensive examination of skills and techniques necessary for successful performances in film and television. Practical application through in-class exercises and assigned projects.

CTPR 456 Introduction to Art Direction (2 units)
Introduction to drafting, set design, set decoration and creating models for students with diverse abilities. Guest lectures, group discussions and hands-on workshop.

CTPR 460 Film Business Procedures and Distribution  (2 units, 4 units)
Financing, budgeting, management as applied to films; problems of distribution, including merchandising, cataloging, evaluation, and film library management. Students are introduced to film economics, as it relates to production, distribution, and exhibition.

CTPR 461 Managing Television Stations and Internet Media (2 units)
Managing electronic media, including radio and television stations, broadcast and cable networks, and the internet. Executives from all areas of the TV industry address class each week to provide first-hand information about a wide range or areas, including news production, sales, marketing, and syndication.

CTPR 470 Practicum in On-Screen Direction of Actors (2 units)
Concentration on the basic skills in working with actors from a director’s point of view. Students learn to experiment and discuss the many choices in directing actors, including laboratory and scene analysis. The course also breaks down a script from the emotional point-of-view of the actor.

CTPR 474 Documentary Production (2 units)
Pairs produce, direct, shoot, and edit a short documentary on a subject of their choice. Finished projects will be suitable for broadcast/festivals. Students are encouraged to form pairs before class; individual students form partnerships at the beginning of the term. Students must come prepared with two to three documentary ideas.Finished films will be approximately fifteen minutes in length.

CTPR 491 Internet Famous: How To Make Viral Comedy (2 units)
Translating traditional storytelling tools into short form comedy that stands out online. Writing, directing and producing creative projects designed for current online platforms. Students learn how to translate storytelling into short form comedy that will stand out online. Students explore newer avenues, such as YouTube, IGTV and TikTok as outlets for their creative voices with projects they will write, direct and perform in.

Media Arts and Practice:

IML 424 The Music Festival Experience (4 units)
Exploring the cultural significance of music festivals as spaces where music, media and culture intersect; learning experience design and planning innovative experiences for music festivals.

IML 425 Narrative Across Media (4 units)
Traditions and emerging practices in multimedia storytelling. Narrative convergences of literature, film, television, comics, mixed reality, videogames or physical/virtual environments.

IML 453 Design Fiction and Speculative Futures (4 units)
Designing fictional stories, images and worlds to imagine possible futures as a form of speculative design and critical inquiry.

IML 456 Nature, Design and Media (2 units)
Investigation of the impact of natural patterns on digital media design. Explores the relationships among chaos, harmony, beauty, proportion, spirituality, holistic systems and shaped experience.

IML 475 Art in Postreality: Critical and Creative Approaches to AI (2-4 units, max 8)
Description: A hybrid theory/practice course exploring new forms of the real as venture into virtual, augmented, and artificial realities.

IML 493 Creativity and Wellbeing (2-4 units)
Exploration of the intersections among creative practice, mindfulness and wellbeing through individual studio-based project work.

Interactive Media and Games:

CTIN 291 Advanced Games Crew (2 units, max 4)
Do you want to be a part of making something special the world can see? Join Advanced Game Project crew and help create a polished playable video game with a large team as a part of the USC Games Studio.

CTIN 420 Tabletop Roleplaying Games (2 units)
Do you love to play Dungeons and Dragons, or other tabletop roleplaying games? Have you ever wanted to understand how they work, and how to design them and design content for them? Students of any experience level who wish to play, study, and make roleplaying games are welcome.

CTIN 487 Streaming Explorations: Games and Entertainment for Community (2 units)
Do you want to understand Twitch, live-streaming, and build your skills and portfolio as a content creator? CTIN-487 investigates the live streaming medium through in depth conversations with successful streamers and platform managers, and assignments designed to build your own content portfolio.

CTIN 488 Game Design Workshop (4 units)
Are you interested in making games, but don't know where to start? In Game Design Workshop students of any background learn the fundamentals of interaction design and collaboration as they make a series of board games with other students.

Writing for the Screen & Television:

CTWR 303g From Page to Screen: Adapting Stories for Film & TV (4 units)
Section 19152R
An investigation into the choices TV and film writers make translating source material to your favorite series or feature film. Through lectures, special guests, and readings, we’ll examine how material changes and what liberties Hollywood takes in that process. Potential screenings/readings to include Hamilton, Watchmen, Little Women, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and others. This course counts towards the GE-A “The Arts” category and the Screenwriting Minor.

CTWR 430 The Comedy Writing and Influence of Judd Apatow (2 units)
Section 19409R
From his breakthrough TV series Freaks and Geeks to his classic comedy features Superbad and The 40-Year-Old Virgin to Bridesmaids and Trainwreck and to his ode to stand-up comedy, Funny People, Judd Apatow is arguably the most influential name in film comedy of this century. He has launched the film careers of some of the biggest comedy stars and creators in their own right, including Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, Jason Seigel and Ron Burgandy's alter ego, Will Ferrell. This course will highlight Apatow's unique comic voice, but more importantly his storytelling skills built around deeper themes of sexual awakening, the empowerment of women, and the politics of romance.

CTWR 431 The Labor Struggle: Unions on Screen and in Life (2 units)
Section 19350R
In-depth analysis of the structure of television. Through lectures and guests, we’ll examine the elements of good TV from premise to character to structure to story engine. Potential Screenings: Grey’s Anatomy, Breaking Bad, Insecure, Atlanta, The Americans, This is Us, The Sopranos, Succession, Fleabag, Maid, Bridgerton, Normal People, and others. This course will be taught by Michelle Denise Jackson who is currently a Producer on The Morning Show and past credits include Queen Sugar, Maid, Generation, Pieces of Her and others.

CTWR 431 Sharks, Tornados, and Asteroids: Writing the New Antagonist (2 units)
Section 19181R
The temperature is rising, the sharks are circling, and it’s cloudy with a chance of meatballs. How do you write a film where the antagonist is Mother Nature? We’ll look at how these stories act as a call to action to fight against climate change and how they emotionally connect with audiences around the world. From action films (Jurassic Park) to animation (Wall-E) to comedy (Cocaine Bear, Don’t Look Up) to drama (Life of Pi), we’ll come together to examine why nature is such a mother…

CTWR 432 Women Showrunners: Changing the Prime-Time Narrative (2 units)
Section 19410R
That glass you hear cracking? It’s the small screen. In 2023, almost a third of all television shows —32.5% — are being created and run by women showrunners. We’ll look at the evolution of this change and the stories that have gone from niche audience to prime time must watch TV and discuss what might deliver the final blow that shatters the glass screen completely. Scheduled guests include Marta Kauffman (Friends), Liz Meriwether (New Girl), Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black), Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls, The Marvelous Ms. Maisel), Angela Kang (The Walking Dead), Marty Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Nahnatchka Khan (Fresh Off the Boat).

CTWR 509 Understanding the Process of Film Making (2 units)
Section 19212R
An in-depth look at what it means to be a writer/director in the independent sphere. Through lectures and guests, we will cover the nuances of writing a script to get the attention of financiers, and the journey from production, post, and festival circuit. CTWR 509 is taught by Kerem Sanga, a writer/director whose credits include The Violent Heart, First Girl I Loved, The Young Kieslowski, and more. His films have been a part of the Tribeca Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival. He won the Sundance Audience Award for his film First Girl I Loved.

Additional Spring 2024 courses can be found by clicking on the departmental links below:


For schedule information, please see the "Courses of Interest" section in the the Spring 2024 USC Schedule of Classes and click on the course title.

Please note that some of these courses will require D-Clearance. To learn more see http://cinema.usc.edu/studentaffairs/nonMajor.cfm

View our Non-Major Frequently Asked Questions.