Skip to main content

Unit information: Experimental Film in 2020/21

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Experimental Film
Unit code FATV20016
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Piccini
Open unit status Not open

DRAM11007 Production Skills or FATV10001 Film Fundamentals



School/department Department of Film and Television
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit explores the aesthetic forms and thematic concerns of experimental film. Experimental film spans a wide range of practices from artists' moving image to expanded cinema to found footage to installation-based film-performance. It tends to abandon an emphasis on narrative, instead focusing on film as a medium with its own distinctive aesthetic, material, philosophical or political powers.

Experimental films and ideas they have generated have played a vital role in the history of cinema, offering a space for filmmakers and artists to explore ideas of what cinema can be, how it creates its effects, and how it can challenge and disrupt established norms. This unit examines such issues through the study of: key experimental filmmakers, such as Maya Deren and Michael Snow; different forms that experimental film has taken, such as credit sequences and gallery installations; different ways in which experimental film engages with key film concepts, such as realism, ideology and spectatorship; and the interrelation of experimental film with other artistic forms, such as poetry, performance and painting.

The unit develops its exploration of experimental film around a practical project where students make a short film or related screen work informed by the various potentials of experimental film.


  1. To explore and understand the aesthetic, material, cultural, conceptual, and political potential of experimental film;
  2. To situate experimental film in wider contexts of culture, art and society;
  3. To employ the aesthetic, material, cultural, conceptual, and political aspects of experimental film;
  4. To create an experimental film, from concept to final film;
  5. To demonstrate through writing a research-focused understanding of relationships between theories and practices of experimental film.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of experimental film as an aesthetic, cultural, conceptual, and political form;
  2. Engage in a detailed and informed fashion with the theoretical contexts of experimental film forms and practices;
  3. Identity and employ key elements of experimental film;
  4. Articulate an understanding of the aesthetic, cultural, conceptual, and political aspects of a filmmaking project and translate this into practice;
  5. Communicate an understanding of how aesthetic/formal decisions relate to experimental film’s theoretical, aesthetic and/or historical contexts.

Teaching details

Weekly seminar/workshop, lecture, and screening.

Assessment Details

100% Practical Portfolio, equivalent to 4000 words

Reading and References

  • Balsom, E., 2017. After uniqueness: a history of film and video art in circulation. New York: Columbia University Press
  • Connoly, M., 2009. The place of artists' cinema: space, site and screen. Bristol: Intellect.
  • Elwes, C., 2015. Installation and the moving image. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Le Grice, M., 2001. Experimental cinema in the digital age. British Film Institute.
  • Rees, A. L. 2011. Expanded cinema: art, performance, film. London: Tate Publishing
  • Russell, C., 1999. Experimental ethnography: the work of film in the age of video. Duke University Press.
  • Sitney, P. A., 2002. Visionary film: the American avant-garde, 1943-2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press.