Since it was established at Ashbourne in 2000 Film Studies has grown steadily in popularity and is often chosen in conjunction with A Levels in Art, Photography, Graphics, English Literature, Drama and Theatre Studies and even Business Studies and Psychology. The course was introduced and has been led by Dennis Fulcher who has a track record of producing excellent results over the last 14 years. One student last year achieved A* in just 9 months of study in her Upper Sixth without having done the AS in the prior academic year. Dennis has an excellent grasp of editing and production techniques and a sophisticated understanding of ‘Final Cut Pro’ film editing software, which students use on the course. This software allows for the creation of industry-standard sequences. Coursework (both written and practical) amounts to 45% of the marks and Dennis provides advice on editing techniques to help students improve their technical and creative output. In examination terms the course selected by Ashbourne allows for a huge variety of choice of films or topics in both coursework and exam options, designed to engage students and push them in new directions.
These options include: Social, Political and Cultural Studies through the medium of film, Crime, Horror or Comedy genre studies, Regional and National Identity, Star and Studio Studies and American Comparative Cinema all at AS, and Bollywood, Iranian Cinema, Soviet and German Expressionism, Italian Neo Realism, Cinematic New waves, Latin American Cinema, Surrealist and Fantasy Cinema, Urban Stories: Power, Poverty and Conflict as well as Documentary and Spectatorship at A2. The specification has a huge range and the texts studied are enormously varied in style, form and context.
Why study film?
Film is a fast growing A level in popularity and is becoming more widely recognised. It is most likely, following detailed submissions to the QCA by the British Film Institute and other bodies that Film Studies will be endorsed for further teaching beyond 2018. No specification changes are planned under the current reform of A levels until at least September 2018 and so the course will benefit from continuity and stability until then. Films are an important cultural medium and the course offers access to diverse historical, social and national cultures ranging from the familiar to the unfamiliar. There is no other subject like it given that it is a marriage of technical and creative processes and will equip students with analytical skills not likely to be encountered in other subjects. We are confident that Film as an A Level will continue to be endorsed.
Which syllabus do we follow?
We follow the WJEC specification for Film Studies
How many units are there?
There are four units in total: two at AS and two at A2
What is each unit about?
AS unit 1 is called ‘Exploring Film Form’. This unit involves investigating how films work and how why they have the effect they do on their audiences. Students focus on the micro features of film. They look at specific film-making techniques such as editing, cinematography and sound and identify how these construct meaning and contribute to the sensory impact of the film. This is a 1500 word written exploration of a sequence (4-7 minutes) in a film of their choice and they illustrate their chosen techniques with screen-shots or relevant parts of the sequence. This year students will be submitting analyses of the following films: Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006 – The Pale Man sequence), A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard, 2001 – The reality V hallucination sequence) and Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007 – The Elegy for Dunkirk Sequence). In addition students need to make a creative short film of approximately two minutes with a written justification for the choices and selections made accompanied by screen-shots, a DVD commentary or a production blog.
Collectively this amounts to 45% of the AS. Here is one example of an excellent creative short produced last year which obtained maximum marks.
AS unit 2 is called ‘British and American Film’ This unit focuses on two aspects of Film Studies: producers and audiences and the relationship between them and the role of macro features of film in constructing meanings. Through studying films from the national cinemas of the USA and the UK students will develop an awareness the narrative and genre characteristics of the UK and US films. They will start drawing conclusions about the interrelationship between producers and audiences with a particular focus on aspects of the film industry and audience behaviour.
Section A of the exam is concerned with the film industry including the importance of genre, stars, studios, technology and film audiences.
Section B focuses on the wide diversity of British Cinema topics. This year we have studied Trainspotting, (Boyle, 1995) London to Brighton, (Paul Andrew Williams, 2006) Elizabeth, (Kapur, 1998) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, (Alfredson, 2011) & House of America (Evans, 1997), amongst others.
Section C focuses on comparative American Cinema. Students must choose two American films for the purposes of comparison. Thus far we have studied Goodfellas (Scorsese, 1990), Once Upon A Time in America (Leone, 1984), Double Indemnity (Wilder, 1944) LA Confidential (Hanson, 1997), MIssissippi Burning, (Parker, 1987) and Salvador (Stone, 1986).
A2 unit 3 is called ‘Film Research and Creative Projects’ This unit contributes to synoptic assessment and focuses on two projects related to the production of meaning; one is research based and one is creative. The research based project focuses on either Auter, Performance, Genre, Technology or Studio. It is also permissible to engage in critical study through a feminist, Marxist or psychoanalytic perspective. Current choices for study focus include Chaplin, Ramsay, Nolan, Burton and Guillermo Del Toro. Previous year’s choices included Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard, Gary Oldman, Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson.
Paralleling the AS, students also make a creative short, this time of no more than 5 minutes. Here is an example of one such creative short submitted last year. Again this obtained grade A.
A2 unit 4 is called ‘Varieties of Film Experience – Issues and Debates’ This unit also contributes to synoptic assessment. Understanding will be fostered through: studying complex films from different contexts, exploring spectatorship issues in relation to a particular type of film and applying key concepts and critical approaches gained through the course to explore one film in a synoptic manner.
Section A is called World Cinema Topic and this year we have chosen to study Urban Stories: Power, Poverty and Conflict. Films selected include Chungking Express, (Wong Kar Wai, 1995) Tsotsi, (Gavin Hood, 2005) Amores Perros, (Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu 2000) City of God (Fernando Mereilles and Katia Lund, 2002) and La Haine (Matthieu Kassowitz, 1995).
Section B is concerned with spectatorship. In prior years we have focused on cinema and emotional response. This has involved exploring how a diverse range of films produce spectatorship response. We have explored Un Chien Andalou (Bunuel/Dali, 1929), The Big Shave (Scorsese, 1967), Natural Born Killers (Stone, 1994),
Schindler’s List (1993), The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Herman, 2008) and many others. More recently we have shifted our focus to Documentary and explored The Act of Killing (Oppenheimer, 2012), Fahrenheit 9/11 (Moore 2004) Touching the Void (MacDonald, 2003), Searching for Sugarman (Bendjelloul, 2012) Man with a Movie Camera (Vertov, 1929) and many others.
Section C is a close study section. We select 5 films from a wider list of 12 published by the exam board. This allows the students a choice and ensures at the same time we do not spend a significant portion of year selecting from the wider list. This year we have studied Modern Times (Chaplin, 1936), Fight Club (Fincher, 1999) Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, 2002) Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo,1966) & Solaris (Tarkovsky, 1972).
How is each unit examined?
Students produce an analysis of how the micro aspects of a chosen extract from a film of their choice produce meanings and responses. They also produce a creative project based on a film sequence or short film. This represents 45% of the total AS.
Students answer three questions: one a response to some stimulus material, one based on ‘Topics in British Film’ and the last based on a comparative study of two US films. This represents 55% of the total AS.
Students produce a small-scale research project and a creative project. This represents 45% of the A2 marks.
Students answer three questions: one on World Cinema, one on spectatorship topics and one a critical study of a selected film. This represents 55% of the A2 marks.
How is the course structured?
Units 1 and 2 are studied concurrently. The pattern is repeated in the A2 year.
When do the exams take place?
Assessments are entered in Spring and examinations are sat in May and June.
Which Ashbourne teachers teach this course?
Dennis Fulcher, Head of Faculty of Multi Media and Social Sciences.
(BSc Hons (Kingston) MA (London) PGCE (Greenwich) Media and Social Sciences (HoD), Psychology, Sociology, Film, Politics and Law)
Dennis is the College’s polymath and Head of Humanities. Originally a graduate in Sociology, Dennis has also completed a Masters in Government and Political Studies, (Dissertation: The Dialectics of Cinema in the films of Sergei Eisenstein) a PGCE and a Diploma in Print Journalism. He is also a team – leader for Government and Politics examiners. Dennis is a lifelong film enthusiast. He has huge experience of his subject and an excellent track record of getting top grades. Dennis seeks yearly anonymised feedback from his students and consistently scores very highly in the student ratings of his teaching and their learning experiences. Dennis provides stimulating and engaging teaching materials in a variety of formats and uses innovative learning exercises to insist that the students contribute significantly to their own learning and development throughout the course.
Beyond A Level for Film Studies
There are a wide range of courses in the field of Film studies, Media, and Film, Radio and TV production. Opportunities for employment are good but the industry is competitive and demand for jobs will always exceed supply because of the assumed glamour of working in the industry.
Title – A2 Film Studies (Essentials),
Author – Casey Benyahia, Gaffney and White
Web link – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Studies-Essentials-Sarah-Casey-Benyahia/dp/0415454360/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275926056&sr=1-1