Film Studies

Oh how Shakespeare would have loved cinema!

Derek Jarman

Despite how many movies our students may have seen over the course of their lives – or even over the last week – there is far more to an academic study of film. From its early days to the modern blockbuster, the language of film is nuanced and detailed, drawing in expertise from hundreds of different contributors, each adding a brushstroke to a collaborative canvas that every audience member experiences differently.

In this subject, students will learn how to “read” a film in ways that reveal far more than the story, revealing hidden messages, meanings, and perspectives that the casual viewer rarely sees. It engages with the wider ideas of Politics, History, Sociology, Art, and Photography in order to allow students to understand a film as both art and business. We encourage them to delve into not only the texts themselves, but what they reveal about the society that created them, and how they reflect or challenge that society’s attitudes and values.

Film Studies has more in common with English Literature than any other subject, taking its cues from the critical perspectives and political philsophies of the published authors who have analysed the canon of world literature.

The OCR Film Studies course takes students through the history of cinema, from 1920’s experimental cinema and its influences by German Expressionism, through the French New Wave, Film Noir, the Black Cinema of the 1980s, and to the world of the contemporary studio system. With a syllabus packed with documentaries, thrillers, comedies, dramas, science fiction and the modern blockbuster, our students engage with a range of different styles, ideas, genres, and narratives.

The coursework element, worth 30% of the final grade, challenges students to prove what they’ve learned by creating a text that applies their theoretical knowledge to the production of their own film, or film script and storyboard, the best of which are often indistinguishable from professional productions.

Film A level Course Aims

  • Develop an understanding of the language of cinema which ensures students will never watch a film the same way again.
  • Develop critical thinking and analytical skills.
  • Research and reflect on a variety of complex academic texts that challenge our basic assumptions about what we understand film to be.
  • Improve essay writing and linguistic skills essential for other A levels and university work.

Course Details

Aims of the Course

During the course, we will give you opportunities to:

  • Learn the analytical skills to “read” films through the language developed by film-makers
  • Respond critically and independently to cinema throughout its history
  • Develop your essay writing skills in academic responses
  • Understand the film and TV you consume every day in a different way, getting more out of how camera angles, movement, sound and lighting create meaning
  • Apply critical and literary theory to your understanding of film production
  • Reflect and analyse work that you produce yourself in the context of the industry
  • Learn industry-standard software and film-making techniques
  • Appreciate the two-way influences of film – how society shapes the films we make, and how the films we make help shape society.

Units on the course:

UNIT 1 – Film History

2 hour exam (35% of total A level)

Students will respond to a number of pre-selected texts, commenting on how meaning is created in film, and understanding its established language alongside experimental cinema throughout history.

Section A: US Cinema

  • The General (Buster Keaton, 1926)
  • Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
  • Do The Right Thing! (Spike Lee, 1989)

Section B: European Cinema

  • Un Chien Andalou (Luis Bunuel, 1929)
  • L’Age D’or (Luis Bunuel, 1930)
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920, TBC)

UNIT 2 – Critical Approaches to Film

2 hour exam (35% of total A level)

Students will develop their understanding of the larger ideas in film, such as narrative, genre and representation within contemporary British, US, and World cinema.

Section A: Contemporary British and US Film

  • Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012, TBC)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014)

Section B: Documentary

  • Man on Wire (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2008)

Section C: Ideology

  • Whiplash (Damien Chazell, 2015)
  • District 9 (Neil Blomkamp, 2009)
  • The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-Wai, 2013, TBC)

UNIT 3 – Production

Coursework Component (30% of total A level)
Students will use the knowledge that they have learned from the other units to apply their theoretical knowledge to the production of a film (or components of film) that they create themselves. They will also evaluate and critically analyse their own work using the same skills that they have been developing.

Task 1: Research

  • Viewing eight preselected short UK films.
  • Production of a draft script, a location report, notes on casting considerations, a storyboard, a series of screen tests with notes.

Task 2: The production

  • A complete, new short film (4-5 mins)


  • A screenplay for a new short film (10 pages, equivalent of 10 minutes screen time)
  • A very detailed digitally photographed storyboard (20 frames)

Task 3: Individual Evaluation

  • 1,500 word evaluation on process from research to production, building in critical analysis from other units.

I’ve enjoyed my Film Studies course a lot, as it has allowed me to see cinema in a new light. It’s expanded my own creativity, too, through the filmmaking process. My favourite units were on German expressionism and how we see different groups represented on screen.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking Film Studies and have really developed my understanding of how films make meaning. The only downside has been that every time I watch a film now, I’m constantly analysing it!

Film Studies Staff

David Dowson

Dave Dowson Photo
BA(Hons), MA, PGCE

David Dowson graduated from Loughborough University before taking a Master’s degree in Film Studies at Nottingham. A sixth-form education specialist, he has worked in London schools and colleges for 15 years, teaching a diverse range of students of different backgrounds...

Read More