A Level Film Studies

What is Film Studies?

Film constitutes the primary art form of the 20th Century and remains the dominant medium through which world audiences access fictions and narratives. In the late 1990s the British Film Institute (BFI) identified five stages of cineliteracy with three areas of learning: Film Language, Producers and Audiences, Messages and Values. The A level is structured around these three areas.

What sort of student does it suit and what will you get out of the course?

Students of Film need to have a love for the medium coupled with a wish to explore texts beyond the mainstream, contemporary Hollywood product they are likely to be most familiar with. A good GCSE in English Language is vital given the emphasis on communication and self-reflection. Film offers a framework to study of recent texts balanced with classic texts from the 1920s onwards. It is also internationalist in approach which means that texts from India, Europe, South America, Russia and Australia are to be covered as well as films from British and American cinema. There is a great deal of scope for supported self study and this would be integral to delivery of the course as a one-year A level. At AS, Film offers an excellent contrasting fourth subject and the fact that it is not universally available means that it always stands out in university application. The full two-year A level is also available and offers a new possibility to subject choice. There is natural linkage to subjects such as English Literature, English Language, Psychology, Sociology, Business, Economics, and in some option strands, History. Key academic skills of critical thinking and evaluation are to be gained from the subject. While cineliteracy is developed at an early age and initial teaching sets out to develop skills already attained through informal learning, Film is a rigorous, detailed study of the cinema medium.

AS Level

MPW approach to AS study

The course aims to create independent, critically thinking cinephiles who will take AS and A level study into lifelong learning of Film. Critical tools and new conceptual frameworks will prepare students for the rigour of university study. Supported independent study works to foster critical autonomy and students will begin to engage with a great deal of theory. While strongly academic, this is balanced equally through an approach that involves many presentations, debates and role play such as creating a movie 'pitch'. The coursework short film may be a video-project or one shot on 8mm film. Partnerships with local theatre companies offer the opportunity for MPW students to work with experienced actors should they so wish. There is one substantial main textbook that serves the full two year course and students would purchase additional texts to focus on specialist course strands they may choose. Students should aspire to, and will be supported, in adopting the writing style to be found in a quality newspaper film review, or the journal Sight and Sound, to which it is recommended that students take out a subscription. A study trip to the National Museum of Film, Television and Photography in Bradford will be held each year and students will need to become very regular cinema goers, also reading journals, books and reviews on a daily basis.

AS Specification Number
WJEC 2181


Unit 1 (FM1)

Coursework 40% (20%)
Exploring film form.
Film language is recognised as a distinct form and considered in relation to audience/spectator. Coursework tasks demonstrate how micro aspects of film make meaning: performance, cinematography, editing and sound. The interaction of film texts and audience as a communication process is considered. In addition to an essay, students create their own film sequence or short film. This unit is internally assessed and externally moderated.

Unit 2 (FM2)

2h 30m exam 60% (30%)
British and American Film.
Three equally weighted questions involve response to unseen stimulus material based on Producers and Audiences of film, topics in British Film and a comparative study of two US films.

Reading list

Jill Nelmes (Ed)  An Introduction to Film Studies  Routledge 

A2 Level

MPW approach to A2 study

Critical approaches appropriate to A level are introduced. While the second year is developed organically from the first, A2 Units are demanding with more broad ranging considerations such as how ideologies are embedded in films, and why. Aesthetic qualities to Film are addressed and student reflection and personal response is informed through wide reading, research and application of critical tools. While development of students' interest in and appreciation of cinema remains at the heart of the course, academic and study skills need to operate at a very high level and there is a great deal of attention to building individual and group capacity to attain well in this respect. The course at this level assumes a maturity in candidates as reflection on perceptions of 'right' and 'wrong', moral behaviour and change within societies are linked to the ways in which fictions address such issues.

A2 Specification Number
WJEC 3181


Unit 3 (FM3)

Coursework 50% (25%)
Film Research and creative projects.
1. Small-Scale Research Project: based on one focus film, with reference to related texts. Studies relate the focus film to one context selected from: performer/star, genre, technology, social/historical and/or political context, institution, auteur, gender issues and ethnicity. Intended to foster research skills towards higher education, students will engage in primary and secondary research, producing a catalogue of items. A presentation script is produced.
2. Creative Work: screenwriting or film/video-making. The product may be one of three options:
A film extract or complete short film (group work permitted)
A screenplay for a section of a feature-length film or a complete short filmAn outline of a 30 minute documentary based on the small-scale research project

Unit 4 (FM4)

2h 45m exam 50% (25%)
Varieties of Film experience - Issues and debates.
Three questions, one on each topic area of: World Cinema, Spectatorship and the Critical Study of a single chosen film.

World Cinema offers four options and the choice will be made as a negotiation between student and tutor, as all can be delivered by MPW subject specialists:
Aspects of National Cinema - Bollywood, Iranian Cinema, Japanese Cinema and Mexican Cinema.
International Film Styles - German and/or Soviet Cinema of the 1920s, Surrealism, Neo-Realism and New Waves.
Specialist Study 1 - Urban Stories - Power, Poverty and Conflict
Specialist Study 2 - Empowering Women

Spectatorship offers four options and the choice will be made as a negotiation between student and tutors, as all can be delivered by MPW subject specialists:
Early Cinema before 1917 - Development of film language from 1895 to the first feature films, such as Birth of a Nation.
Documentary - Historical and contemporary examples of persuasive and observational films
Experimental and Expanded Film/Video - Radical 'alternatives' to mainstream film form and representation
Popular Film and Emotional Response - How spectacle and powerful, sensory experiences work on the spectator

Single Film - Critical Study: All previous learning is brought to bear in analysis of a single film chosen from: Modern Times, Les Enfants du Paradis, Vertigo, The Battle of Algiers, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Solaris, Happy Together, Fight Club, Talk to Her, Morvern Callar

Reading list

Jill Nelmes (Ed)  An Introduction to Film Studies  Routledge