5 Shot Analysis of Little Miss Sunshine

5-Shot Analysis of a Single Scene Assignment

Due 10/20/2020 11:59 p.m. EST

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Paper Length: Minimum of 850 words (3 pages)

MLA Format; Word (.doc, .docx) or RTF, no Google docs

I. Purpose

One of the functions of this assignment is to have students gain practice on becoming active readers of film by focusing on a small number of shots from a SINGLE SCENE of a particular film. In addition, students are putting into practice what they have learned thus far. Moreover, this assignment prepares students for their biggest writing assignment—the Film Analysis Paper, which is due at the end of the term.

This assignment addresses learning objectives, listed as Course Objectives 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 in Section VII. of the Syllabus:

Students will demonstrate an understanding of the basic vocabulary, terminologies, and genres of film
Students will demonstrate an understanding of the techniques available to analyze and interpret film
Students will demonstrate an ability to identify and apply the elements of cinematic language in order to analyze how films convey information, story, and meaning
Students will demonstrate an appreciation for diversity in film
Students will engage in analytical readings of films and present critical responses…in their writings.

II. Description

Write an 850-word (minimum) analysis of five shots from ONE scene of ONE fictional (narrative) film. No documentaries, animated films, or films which are episodes, or parts of a longer series.

III. Preparation

To prepare for this assignment, review Chapter 2 of your Corrigan textbook, A Short Guide to Writing about Film. In that chapter, Corrigan explains and describes how students can begin to think, prepare to watch, and start to write about film. In addition, Corrigan details how students can begin to derive meaning from cinematic language. Particularly helpful will be the sections beginning with “Subject Matter and Meaning” on page 24 to the end of the chapter.

As Corrigan explains in Chapter 2, in order to become a more an analytical reader of film, students can focus on a short sequence, or scene, of a particular film. By taking careful notes and focusing on individual shots of the scene, students begin to analyze how the cinematic language functions to implicitly convey theme, character state of mind, character development, and so on.

Recall, if you will, the Chapter 1 tutorial from Looking at Movies which analyzes the abortion waiting room sequence in Jason Reitman’s Juno. In that tutorial, Dave Monahan breaks down the sequence’s individual shots, focusing primarily on shot type, frame composition, camera movement, and sound. After describing each shot, Monahan interprets the significance of the cinematic language from that sequence, explaining how it works to implicitly convey how the “fingernail factoid” infiltrates Juno’s psyche and ultimately drives her from the clinic, thereby causing her to change her mind about getting the abortion.

You will be conducting a similar analysis for this assignment. 🙂

IV. Directions

Choose a single short scene from a film and annotate it as precisely as you can. Select five (5) individual shots from that ONE scene that you will highlight in your paper. You will describe each of those 5 shots in detail, one shot per body paragraph (see V.C. section below for paragraph structure). In each body paragraph you will note each shot’s

shot type (close up, medium close up, medium long shot, long shot, extreme long shot, etc.)
frame composition (that which is in the frame’s foreground, middle ground, background; describe the shot in DETAIL)
camera angle (low angle, eye-level, high angle, dutch angle, etc.)
camera movement (pans left, pans right, tilts upward, tilts downward, dollies in, dollies out, tracks left, tracks right)
figure movement, if any (describe any movement made by the character(s), animals, objects, etc.)
shot duration (what is the length of the shot in seconds), and
sound emanating from the shot, indicating if the sound is diegetic or non-diegetic

Describe your annotations in clear, precise prose. Based on your annotations of the shots, determine the interpretations you make about the shots and their significance in the context of the scene. (See V.C. for paragraph structure.)

In order to derive a reasonably sound interpretation of the scene and its shots, you have to see the film in its entirety. I mention this because in past terms I have had some students attempt to do this assignment by watching a scene they find on YouTube and try to interpret it without having watched the entire film, or if they had watched the film before, they had not seen it for some time. Do not attempt to approach this assignment in that way.

Choose a film you have access to, one you own or one that is available on a streaming service. As I mentioned under Section II. Description, make sure that you select a fictional film, not a documentary, not an animated film, and not an episode from a series.

Watch the entire film at least a few times. Next, determine an important scene in the film. Then, watch the scene several times. Take notes. Analyze the scene carefully. Once you have an arguable interpretation of the significance of the scene, determine which 5 shots of that scene best illustrate what you argue is the significance of that scene to the film.


For this assignment, do not focus on the acting or the presumed effect the shot/sequence might have on the viewer. In other words, do not write (hypothetical example from Juno scene), “Juno becomes upset when she hears fingertips drumming.” The word “upset” presumes a conclusion, and you reach that conclusion based on the cinematic language, and in this case, it is based on figure movement. Instead, then, a student focusing on figure (Juno’s) movement could write, “In this medium close-up (MCU) shot, Juno’s head lowers slightly, her eyebrows furrow, and her shoulders droop, which suggests her growing uneasiness.”

For this example, one could also argue—as Monahan does from the tutorial—that other elements of cinematic language, such as the shot types, editing, diegetic sound, camera movement, and so on, convey Juno’s growing uneasiness.

Moreover, when asserting a shot’s meaning, do not write, “In this shot, the viewer sees…,” or “During this sequence, the viewer feels…” Instead, your writing should concentrate on what the shot or scene CONVEYS. Instead, a student might write, “The tight framing of the shot conveys…” or “The duration of this climactic sequence suggests…”

V. Structure

A. Title

Your analysis should have an engaging title that hints at your paper’s thesis statement.

B. Introductory Paragraph

Your introductory paragraph will include the following:

The film’s title (italicized), the film’s release date in parentheses, and the film’s director
A one- to two-sentence summary of the film’s plot
A brief description of the sequence your paper will analyze
Your thesis statement–that is, what you claim is the implicit meaning of the shots in that scene

C. The Body of the Paper

For each of the 5 shots your essay will include a paragraph that describes each shot in detail (see 1-7 under “Directions” section).

After each shot’s description, your paragraph will then explain how the shot’s cinematic language conveys what you claim is its meaning. In other words, explain how the cinematic language of the shot defends your thesis statement.

Your analysis will NOT need a concluding paragraph. Therefore, your analysis should be a total of 6 paragraphs.

D. Works Cited Page

Note: This analysis is to be your own; you are NOT to consult secondary sources at this point. The only sources you may reference in your analysis are your textbooks. Should you reference your textbooks, remember what is necessary to avoid plagiarism:

1. Include a signal phrase before the quote or paraphrase;

2. Enclose verbatim phrases and sentences in quotation marks; if paraphrasing, make sure to do so effectively;

3. Include an in-text citation after the quote or paraphrase;

4. Discuss or apply quote or paraphrase; and

5. Include a complete bibliographic reference on the Works Cited page.

VI. Other Important Information

Plagiarism: Do not plagiarize any part of this assignment. Refer to my Plagiarism Policy (Section XII.D.) of my Syllabus.
Formal Academic Writing: Use formal academic writing for this assignment. Write in third-person. In other words, do not use first-person (I, me, myself, we, us) or second-person (you, yourself, your). Moreover, do not use contractions, colloquial phrases, or idiomatic expressions.

For additional evaluation criteria of this assignment, refer to XI. Evaluation, Graded Assignments section of my Syllabus

Submit your analysis as a Word (.doc, .docx) or RTF. No Google docs or PDFs accepted.


For your reference, you may review an example of a student’s Shot Analysis by accessing this document: Shot Analysis Student Exemplar.docx


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