A Level Film Studies


What is it about at sixth form level?

At the turn of the 20th century, Hollywood was a small and recently-named town that had begun as an agricultural community only fifty years earlier and film was a newly-established industry whose pioneers worked in Europe and America. Today, Hollywood is at the centre of a multi-billion dollar global industry and film is rightly recognised as a form of art in itself.

Film Studies is an academic A level designed to equip you with the critical skills and knowledge to understand film both as an industry and an art form. You examine different genres of films and the film-makers and technology behind them. The coursework includes a written analysis at AS and a research project at A2; there is also a creative element which will involve you writing and evaluating a storyboard or step outline for a film sequence at AS and a screenplay extract at A2.

Lower sixth

In the first year, you will begin your academic examination of film with a focus on contemporary British and American cinema. You will be introduced to the workings of the film industry and learn how to analyse films with reference to genre, representation, narrative structure and historical context. There are films for close study in topic areas of British and Hollywood cinema.

Upper sixth

In the second year, the course broadens to include world cinema and early film, together with close study of a ‘set text’ classic film. For your coursework you will create and evaluate a screenplay extract and work on your research project, which can focus on one of a wide range of areas of film such as auteur, genre, studio, start, film movement, historical period or technology.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Film Studies will develop your critical skills of analysis, your creative powers of expression, and your capacity to articulate your thoughts on paper in well-written and clear prose. It is a valuable and respected academic course that makes a good companion to other analytical subjects, such as English Literature and History of Art, and prepares you well for further study in any humanities subject at degree level.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

You must have a wide-ranging interest in cinema and a desire to learn more. You must have an open mind, as you will be introduced to a broad range of material that covers different genres, periods and industries. You must have a good grade in English GCSE to meet the comprehension and writing demands of the course.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

For the AS, there is a written exam and a coursework component. Unit 1 (Exploring Film Form) is assessed by coursework. You have to produce two pieces of work. The first is a 1500-word written analysis of a film extract. The second is a creative project comprising three elements:  (i) a written ‘aims and context’; (ii) a film sequence in the form of a storyboard or a 1000-word ‘step outline’; and (iii) a ‘reflective analysis’ of 750 words. It is worth 40% of the AS (20% of the A level). Unit 2 (British and American Film) is assessed by a written exam comprising three sections: (A) Producers and Audiences;  (B) British Film Topics; and (C) U.S. Film: Comparative Study. It is worth 60% of the AS (30% of the A level) and lasts 2 hours 30 minutes.

A2 level

For the A2, there are two exams on Units 3 and 4 respectively. Unit 3 (Film Research and Creative Projects) is assessed by coursework. You have to produce a piece of course which comprises two elements: (i) a small-scale research project on a topic of your choice, such as an auteur, historical context or genre; and (ii) a creative project involving the practical application of learning. It is worth 50% of the A2 (25% of the A level). In the Unit 4 (Varieties of Film Experience) exam, you must answer three questions, one on each of: (A) World Cinema: Japanese Cinema 1950–1970; (B) Spectatorship:  Early Cinema before 1917; and (C) Single Film – Critical Study: Hitchcock’s  Vertigo. The exam lasts 2 hours 45 minutes and is worth 50% of the A2 (25% of the A level).


AS Film Studies: The Essential Introduction
By S. C. Benyahia, F. Gaffney, J. White
Published by Routledge

A2 Film Studies: The Essential Introduction
By S. C. Benyahia, F. Gaffney, J. White
Published by Routledge

Film Art (10th Edition)
By D. Bordwell, K. Thompson
Published by McGraw Hill

Introduction to Film Studies (5th Edition)
Edited by J. Nelmes
Published by Routledge

Hitchcock’s Films Revisited
By R. Wood
Published by Columbia University Press

By R. Altman
Published by BFI

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: WJEC 2181, A2: WJEC 3181 (legacy)

Jonathan Luke
Head of Department