Course Outline

This course will give students an introduction to the academic study of film, focusing on
three key areas: film analysis, film industry and film history. In addition to developing a set
of critical tools for analysis of film texts, contextual studies will also offer students a wide
range of critical, institutional and historical frameworks for the study of film.

Note: We offer two classes in this subject area, Film Studies and Film Making. For the
majority of students, we advise against taking both classes at the same time. If you plan to
take each class in a different term we normally advise you to choose Film Studies first.

Course Structure

  • Part One: What is a Film?
  • Part Two: How to ‘Read’ a Film
  • Part Three: The Development of the Narrative Film
  • Part Four: The Film Industry: Hollywood and Beyond
  • Part Five: Alternative Approaches: Independent, Avant-Garde and
    Documentary Film
  • Part Six: The Major Film Theories



  • To develop an appreciation and understanding of different perspectives on film
  • To understand the basic principles of filmmaking
  • To develop skills in the areas of critical thinking, analysis and creativity
  • To understand the historical and institutional contexts within which narrative films
  • To enhance students’ ability to express themselves orally, in written form and
    through film


Outcomes: Students will be able to:

  • think critically and analytically about film, narrative structure and the creative process
  • develop an overview of the history of film, encompassing various film genres, styles
    and movements
  • understand the machinery of the film industry, both past and present
  • develop a critical perspective on films and the filmmaking process
  • understand the craft of filmmaking sufficiently to enable them to go forward and make
    their own short film projects

Assessment process

Grades for the course are based on the tutor’s ongoing assessment of how well the student
prepares for class and demonstrates their understanding of the topic through short written
exercises. There will be two major written assignments: one film analysis paper to be
completed after half term, and one longer research paper to be completed by the final week
of term.

Assessment Criteria

Grade A
Capable of making strong, coherent and original arguments; can demonstrate advanced understanding of all relevant concepts.
Grade B
Capable of making coherent arguments; can display a good understanding of all relevant concepts.
Grade C
Attempts a reasoned argument; displays a good understanding of most
relevant concepts.
Grade D
Engages with argument and debate; displays some understanding of the
relevant concepts.
Fail Does not engage with the key debates; does not show an understanding of the relevant concepts.

Recommended Reading

Alexander MacKendrick – On Film Making, Faber, 2004
Robert McKee – Story: Substance, Structure, Style and Principles of Screen Writing, Methuen, 1999
William Goldman – Adventures in the Screen Trade, Abacus, 1996

If you are unable to obtain books locally, they may be ordered from
Blackwell’s Bookshop or

Recommended introductory viewing

Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1957)
Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam, 1981)
Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1935)
Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2008)
Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, 1943)
The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1938)
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)