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Wednesday 9AM – 11:50AM, C115


Course Credits: 3
Course Materials: Posted to Learn ( & course Google Drive folder

Instructor: Nellie Kluz (she/her/hers)
Email: (office hours by appointment T/W/Th)
TA: Hannah Panov (


This is a practice-based course about using cinematic lighting strategies for image design. The theme is “Any time but now.” We’ll look at how past and future eras are imagined in period and sci fi films, especially in terms of lighting. Lighting technology is closely linked to political control & surveillance, experiences of night-time, bodily rhythms, health, and emotional states. Readings and screenings in this course examine how light in society has evolved over time, and how its shifts shape cinema aesthetics.

For the first portion of the course, class sessions will include screenings and discussion and in-class demos/test shoots. We’ll cover light kits & accessories; grip equipment; cameras (Sony A7sii and Red Raven); lens options; tactics for shaping light; making use of studio spaces; and planning lighting setups. 

During weeks 7-11, class time will be used to film a series of short films/scenes, each set in a different time period (1600s through the 2500s). The entire class will participate in these shoots, but a smaller group of students is responsible for planning and leading each one. Each student will also complete an individual final project in response to the themes of the class.

Week 1 (1.26.22)

Course Intro 

Watch: “All of Your Stars are But Dust on my Shoes” by Haig Aivazian
             Orlando by Sally Potter (excerpts) 

Read: “The World-Historical Cycles,” from The Earth in the Sun’s Embrace by Alexander        Chizhevsky (Russian Cosmism, Ed. Boris Groys)

Tech: Qualities of light, light metering, fall-off, safety/grids in C115 and C117.

Week 2 (2.2.22)

Umbra and Penumbra 

Read: “Shadows” from Being Animal by David Abram  
     Watch: Faya Dayi, dir. Jessica Bashir

             "Study of a River," dir. Peter Hutton
             Dark Days, dir. Marc Singer (excerpt)

             Ossos, dir. Pedro Costa (before class)
Tech: Contrast ratios, ND filters, diffusion techniques. Sony A7sii demo/review
***Determine groups/eras for collective shoots***

Week 3 (2.9.22)
Industrialization of Light: Paris and New York

Read: “A Flood of Light” from Disenchanted Night by Wolfgang Schivelbusch

Watch: "Luminous Variations in the City Skies," dir. Guiseppe Spina 
             Time Regained, dir. Raul Ruiz (excerpt)
            West Indies, dir. Med Hondo (excerpt)
            La Commune,
dir. Peter Watkins (excerpt)
            Hester Street, dir. Joan Micklin Silver (excerpt)
            The Immigrant, dir. James Gray (excerpt)

Guest (online): Meredith Lippincott, Production Designer

Tech: Lighting diagrams, Tungsten/LED/Fluorescent/HDMI lights.

Week 4 (2.16.22)

Cityscape & Policing

Read: “Movie Locations” from The History of Forgetting by Norman Klein
Guest (online): Staff Member from Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting
Watch: The Exiles, dir. Kent Mackenzie (excerpt)
            Heat, dir. Michael Mann (excerpt)
            "In Order Not to be Here" dir. Deborah Stratman

Tech: Color – LUTS, Gels

Week 5 (2.23.22)
“Darkness Made Visible”: Night Studies

Read: “24/7” by Jonathan Crary
Watch: Apichatpong Weeresethakul, TBD
            Shakedown by Leilah Weinraub (excerpt)

            Lover’s Rock, dir. Steve McQueen (before class) 

Tech: On location lighting

Week 6 (3.2.22)
Lighting Futures
Read: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (excerpt)
           “In Spite of Darkness” by Alixa Garcia
            Articles on lights developed for factory farming of chickens, LED lights’ effects on fireflies
Watch: World Without Sun dir. Jacques Cousteau (excerpt)
            “Field Resistance” dir. Emily Drummer
             Bitter Money, dir. Wang Bing (excerpt)

Tech: Red Raven Demo, matte boxes, cinema lenses

Week 7 (3.9.22)
In-class shoot 1

Week 8 (3.16.22)
In-class shoot 2
***Proposal for individual projects due***

Week 9 (3.23.22)

n-class shoot 3

Week 10– No class, spring break

Week 11 (4.6.22)

In-class shoot 4

Week 12 (4.13.22)

Individual meetings about final projects

Week 13 (4.20.22)
***Field trip: Golden Oaks Ranch backlot tour***

Week 14 (4.30.22)
Final Presentations/Critiques

Week 15 (5.4.22)
Final Presentations/Critiques


  • Stronger understanding of how lighting factors into in image design

  • Comfort/familiarity with light kits available in the cage, light meters, studio lighting options, and grip equipment

  • Ability to plan and implement lighting setups in the studio and on-location

The syllabus and other course materials can be found on Learn, CalArts’ learning management system.  Students should log into their account on Learn.  For course-related Learn Tech Support, please email

Required Reading / Materials

Readings are all available via Learn and the course Google Drive folder, listed by week. 

Contact policy:
I can be reached via email Monday-Friday before 8pm, and I will do my very best to respond to student emails within 24 hours. Over the weekend, I will likely take longer to respond. My office hours are by appointment, so please email me with a couple of suggested times if you’d like to meet on Zoom or on-campus. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are when I’m available for on-campus meetings. Meetings can be about the course, or just to talk about your work. 

This syllabus is intended to give students guidance in what may be covered during the semester and will be followed as closely as possible. However, the instructor reserves the right to modify, supplement and make changes as course needs arise. 


After we choose groups to work on four different time periods in week 2, groups will research their chosen era to come up with a vision for the scene’s lighting, setting, production design and coverage. The group will prepare lighting diagrams, a shot list of some kind, and any costumes or props needed to film the scene. The entire class will participate on the day of each shoot. These can be filmed in the studios or at nearby locations (logistics permitting). Edited scenes will be submitted by each group. 


The final project is open-ended – make something in response to the themes of the course. Your individual project might be a short video (around 5 mins or so) or an installation or performance that uses lighting, with or without video. I’m open to a final project that takes the form of camera/lighting tests for a longer work, like a thesis project, if we discuss this ahead of time and it makes sense.  


High Pass/Pass/Low Pass/No Credit grades are based on:
35%: attendance and participation
30%: Individual project (rubric/expectations will be detailed in an assignment sheet)
35%: Collective shoot & planning documents (rubric/expectations will be detailed in an assignment sheet) 


Participation can be: Responding to questions in class/asking questions, taking part in discussions, or being active during in-class shoots. When readings or advance viewings are assigned, students are expected to complete these before we meet and be ready to talk about them. Please put phones and other distractions away during class time.

Attendance is mandatory. If you must miss a class for extenuating circumstances, talk to me before the scheduled class. Please talk to me about any situations that are making it hard for you to attend classes. Three or more missed class sessions = No Credit (NC) grade for the course. *Note* missing class for Covid illness/quarantine or other verified illness is excused. 

Course Policies & Expectations

I expect all students to:
1. Give time and care to your projects, and contribute to your group preparations for your collective shoot. Be aware that one or two of the group shoots may take place outside of class time in the early morning or in the evening. This semester equipment check-out will again require some extra lead time and planning to make sure productions are as safe as possible, so be sure to build this into your plans.


2. Engage with fellow students’ work thoughtfully and respectfully in critiques. Examine your biases when you react to others’ work. Attention and generous feedback are among the best things you can give your classmates and receive in return. Obviously, derogatory language and hate speech won’t be tolerated in the classroom.  

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