Film Studies: A Level at Rainham Mark Grammar School
Film Studies is a fast expanding and innovative field. The Good Schools Guide has identified RMGS as a centre for excellence for A Level Film Studies. We follow the WJEC syllabus. Our course aims to extend your critical understanding of film, arguably the major art form of the twentieth century. The course offers opportunities to study mainstream and independent American and British films from the past and the present as well as more recent global films, both non-English language and English language.
The historical range of films studied includes silent film and important film movements (such as
European avant-garde and new wave cinemas in Europe and Asia) so that you can gain a sense of the development of film from its early years to its still emerging digital future. Studies in documentary, experimental and short films add to the breadth of the learning experience.
You will analyse films from a variety of critical perspectives. These will include the auteur critical approach (in which films are considered as the product of an author, usually the director, and are compared with other films by the director to explore their stylistic features, themes, and worldview), formalist approaches (focusing on an examination of narrative), and gendered approaches (exploring the representation of women and men on screen). You will also explore important debates in Film Studies, such as the realism vs. expressionism debate.
Production work is a crucial part of this A Level. Studying a diverse range of films is designed to give you the opportunity to apply your knowledge and understanding of how films are constructed to your own filmmaking and screenwriting.
Component 1: American and British Film (Written examination: 3 hours. 35% of qualification)
This unit focuses on how a film generates meaning and audience response, and the interaction between the film and the spectator. This involves formal analysis - close analysis of sound, lighting, editing, cinematography (framing, camera movement, depth of focus), mise-en-scène (setting, props, staging, costume) and performance. You will also analyse narrative structure and genre and how they provide a structure form films. In addition, you will apply important critical frameworks to your analyses of different films. Your skills of film analysis will be developed through the study of
• One classical Hollywood film (1940s and 1950s) – Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) – a suspense thriller by one of the masters of cinema, and voted the greatest film of all time by Sight and Sound magazine in 2012
• Two Hollywood films produced since the 1970s – Blade Runner – The Director’s Cut (Ridley Scott, 1992), a dystopian sci-fi film that helped to reinvent film noir, and La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016) an Oscar-winning reinvention of the classic Hollywood musical
• One contemporary American independent film – Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010), a bleak and haunting film with a star-making performance form Jennifer Lawrence.
• Two British films – Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996), following Ewan McGregor’s attempt to escape from the Edinburgh heroin scene, and Under The Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013), starring Scarlett Johansson as a mysterious alien in this disturbing arthouse sci-fi horror.
Component 2: Varieties of film (Written examination: 3 hours. 35% of qualification)
For this component you will study:
• Silent film, exploring the birth of cinema through the analysis of F.W. Murnau’s German Expressionist masterpiece, Sunrise (1927) or several Buster Keaton films, including The Scarecrow (1920).
• Experimental film – Vivre sa vie (1962) the French New Wave film directed by Jean Luc Godard
• One documentary film – Amy (Asif Kapidia, 2015), a British documentary exploring the life and death of Amy Winehouse
• Two international, non-English language films, one European and one from outside Europe – Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006) a dark fantasy film set against the backdrop of the Spanish civil war, and Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2014), an African film exploring the impact on the local community when the town is taken over by Muslim fundamentalists.
Component 3: Production (Non-exam assessment. 30% of qualification)
This section is assessed through coursework. It is designed to give you the opportunity to put into practice your own filmmaking ideas developed throughout your course of study. The production may take the form of either a short film or a screenplay for a short film. The screenplay will be accompanied by a digitally photographed storyboard of a key sequence from the screenplay in order to demonstrate how the screenplay will be realised. Alternatively you will produce a short film of around 4-5 minutes. Whichever option is chosen, you will which include one of the following:
• a narrative twist
• a narrative which begins with an enigma
• a narrative which establishes and develops a single character
• a narrative which portrays a conflict between two central characters.
Your coursework will be informed by the study of short film. Short films are different in kind from feature-length work. The short film is an extremely flexible art form. The films chosen provide examples of the distinctive narrative features that are characteristic of shorts in general. The films in the compilation are diverse in genre, theme and cultural context.
There are no entry criteria, but it is advisable that students should have at least a level 6 in English or English Literature.
Component 1: American and British Film – assessed by a 3 hour written examination (35% of qualification)
Component 2: Varieties of film – assessed by 3 hour written examination (35% of qualification)
Component 3: Production - Non-exam assessment. Coursework component consisting of a short film or screenplay and storyboard (30% of qualification)
Film Studies students, as trained critical thinkers and analysts, benefit from all the skills, advantages and career opportunities of students of more traditional A Level subjects. They are particularly well placed for further training and careers in the cinema, television and media industries. The course develops writing and analytical skills and provides an excellent foundation for students who wish to study Media or Arts subjects at university. It also gives Science and Maths students the breadth of study that universities now demand. Film Studies is a widely respected A Level, and Film Studies is offered at a range of universities, including Warwick, Nottingham, Exeter, University of London (King’s College and Queen Mary), University of Reading and University of Kent at Canterbury. Film Studies is not a handicap to studying at well-respected institutions, and RMGS students have gone on to study at Oxford universities after completing A Level Film Studies.
How to apply
If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Rainham Mark Grammar School directly.