Peter Symonds College

Study at PSC

Film Studies involves the academic study of contemporary and historical films spanning a wide range of production styles and film movements. Over the two-year course, you will study eleven films, including films from the USA and the UK as well as European and World Cinema. You will examine film as an aesthetic art form and a storytelling medium, considering the role of the spectator in the construction of meaning as well as exploring how films reflect their social and political contexts. The course will not only enable you to understand how films make meaning and reflect wider societal values, but will also help you develop your own film making skills as you put theory into practice.

Course Content

Year 1

In the first year, we will introduce you to the basics of film language and film form, providing you with the critical tools we use to analyse films, as well as giving you a short induction into filmmaking to start developing your creative skills. We then study our two British films, which are currently We Need to Talk about Kevin and This is England, analysing the representations they offer and the way in which they make meaning through film form. We will also explore the specialist study areas of ideology and narrative. Alongside your study of British cinema, you will also study classical Hollywood and New Hollywood cinema, developing a greater understanding of where much contemporary cinema emerges from. The films we currently study are Casablanca and Bonnie and Clyde. You will also study the contemporary Independent American film Moonlight as well as  European film Portrait of a Lady on Fire and finally as part of the global film unit South Korean masterpiece Parasite.

Year 2 

In the second year, the course will explore a wider range of films. You will learn about defining film movements such as experimental film, looking at the work and aesthetic of auteurs such as Wong Kar Wai and his iconic Fallen Angels. We continue our journey through the history of cinema, analysing how silent films such as Sunrise made meaning before the advent of sound, as well as considering their relationship to expressionist and realist film movements. You will also study documentary film, looking at the way in which non-fiction films such as Stories We Tell explore key debates around truth, authenticity, and technology. You will study another contemporary American film such as La La Land, looking at issues around spectatorship and ideology.

NEA (Non examined assessment) - 30% of your final grade

Film Studies not only offers the opportunity to study and analyse a wide range of films but also to put theory into practice, with 30% of your final grade coming from the production of a short film. In Component 3 you will study a range of short films and then plan, film and edit your own 4-5 minute film independently. We have all the equipment you need, including DSLR cameras, dollies and lights. We also have full-time technical instructors who will train you to use the equipment and the Adobe Premiere Pro editing software.

Methods of Teaching

Film Studies is taught in a dedicated room with access to a personal computer and excellent camera and editing facilities. The subject also has a high-specification green screen studio to support your filmmaking ambitions. Lessons are structured around screenings, taught content, presentations and group work. The majority of lessons will focus around analysis and discussion of the set films. We are a paper-free subject as all the resources are on Google Classroom and the classroom has computers for all lessons. We also arrange a number of educational trips and screenings, including to the British Film Institute in London and to more local arthouse cinemas as we seek to extend your film education beyond the classroom.

Please note that some films studied may carry an 18 certificate. The screening of films classified 18 in a non-commercial educational context, where mediated through a teacher, is permitted and accepted by the BBFC as representing exceptional viewing conditions. However, mindful of the possible impact on students, we always assess the suitability of all films before screening and have a content warnings sheet that students can access in advance if they are worried about the content of any of the films studied.

Methods & Patterns of Assessment

Examination: 70%

Component 1: Varieties of film and filmaking

  • Study of two Hollywood films 1930 - 1990
  • Study of one contemporary American independent film and one contemporary American mainstream film
  • Study of two British films

Component 2: Global filmaking perspectives

  • Study of one experimental film
  • Study of one contemporary European film and one global film
  • Study of one documentary
  • Study of one silent film

Non-exam assessment (NEA) 30% (short film and Evaluative analysis)

Component 3: Film production

  • Here you will be able to make your own short (4-5 minute) film and learn skills in cinematography, editing, post-production effects and sound design. You will also produce a 1600-1800 word evaluative analysis, discussing the short films you have studied and evaluating your own production in comparison.

Where Could It Take Me?

Film Studies is a highly regarded subject. Cambridge now offers a Masters in Screen Studies and nearly all the Russell Group universities offer Film Studies BAs. The combination of rigorous theoretical understanding coupled with the development of technical knowledge and creative skills means that the qualification provides a strong basis for university study. Many students go on to study film, television, journalism or other creative industries related courses. It also provides an excellent qualification alongside other A-levels, enabling you to access a wide range of university courses in Arts, Humanities or Science disciplines. Many of our students also go on to work in film and television production and the wider creative industries.

Financial Implications

There will be a list of films for suggested viewing which students may wish to purchase if they choose. Each student will be required to purchase their own SD card for the filming of practical work. The ones we recommend cost £5.99. The College has a Student Support Fund for those students who have difficulty meeting these costs.

Work Experience

Although work experience is not a formal part of the course, you will have the opportunity to participate in our annual department EXPO week, which is a week of industry-related events including talks from those working in the film industry, workshops from industry experts on screenwriting, animation and post-production effects. EXPO week also includes the opportunity to take part in a 48 hour film competition.

We also try to arrange trips to film festivals and film events during the course including a trip to Pinewood film studios for their Futures festival, the largest screen careers fair in the country.

Entry Requirements

5 GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including Maths and English.

A desire to plan and create your own short film independently (we will train you to use all the cameras and editing software)

Most Recent Results

Below is a summary of the most recent set of results for this subject:

Grade: A* A B C D E U Total
Total: 4 12 32 20 3 0 0 71
Percentage 5.6 16.9 45.1 28.2 4.2 0.0 0.0