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Film Studies

Why Film Studies?

Film is one of the main cultural innovations of the 20th century and a major art form of the last hundred years. Those who study it characteristically bring with them a high degree of enthusiasm and excitement for what is a powerful and culturally significant medium, inspiring a range of responses from the emotional to the reflective. Film Studies offers the opportunity to investigate how film works both as a medium of representation and as an aesthetic medium. 

This specification offers opportunities to study mainstream American films from the past and the present as well as a range of recent and contemporary British films, American independent films and global films, both non-English language and English language. The historical range of film represented in those films is extended by the study of silent film and significant film movements so that learners 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.

Summary of content

At the root of all film studies is a recognition that films are made: they are constructed using a range of elements – cinematography, mise-en-scène, sound, editing and performance (the key elements of film form) – which are organised structurally in terms of narrative and often genre (the structural elements of film form). How filmmakers use these elements, frequently in complex and highly artistic ways, is a large part of what constitutes the formal study of film. Equally important is how spectators respond to the work filmmakers create and how learners interpret the films with reference to spectator response, relevant contexts, critical approaches and debates. In turn, these formal studies have a direct impact on learners' own work as filmmakers and screenwriters.

Introduction: Studying Film

At the root of all film studies is a recognition that films are made: they are constructed using a range of elements – cinematography, mise-en-scène, sound, editing and performance (the key elements of film form) – which are organised structurally in terms of narrative and often genre (the structural elements of film form). How filmmakers use these elements, frequently in complex and highly artistic ways, is a large part of what constitutes the formal study of film. Equally important is how spectators respond to the work filmmakers create and how learners interpret the films with reference to spectator response, relevant contexts, critical approaches and debates. In turn, these formal studies have a direct impact on learners' own work as filmmakers and screenwriters.

For this specification, the elements underpinning the study of film are organised into:

  • Core study areas, which learners apply to all the films they explore
  • Specialist study areas, which learners apply to specific films

Studying film: core study areas

Learners will study all of their chosen films (eleven films in total) in relation to the following core study areas.

Area 1
The key elements of film form: cinematography, mise-en-scène, editing, sound and performance

Area 2
Meaning and response: how film functions as both a medium of representation and as an aesthetic medium

Area 3
The contexts of film: social, cultural, political, historical and institutional, including production.

Studying film: specialist study areas

In addition to the core study areas, the following six specialist areas of study will be considered in relation to the films indicated.

Area 4
Spectatorship

Area 5
Narrative

Area 6
Ideology

Area 7
Auteur

Area 8
Critical debates

Area 9
Filmmakers' theories

Full clarification of content to be covered within each of these areas can be found in WJEC’s Guidance for Teachers.

The following provides an overview of specialist study areas which will be considered in relation to specific film topics:

Component 1 Topics Specialist Study Area(s)

Section A: Hollywood 1930 – 1990*                           Auteur

Section B: American film since 2005                        Spectatorship; Ideology

Section C: British film since 1995                             Narrative; Ideology

Component 2 Topics Specialist Study Area(s)

Section A: Global film**                                              Core study areas only

Section B: Documentary film                                     Critical debates; Filmmakers' theories

Section C: Film Movements – Silent cinema           Critical Debates

Section D: Film Movements – Experimental film   Narrative and alternative forms of narrative; Auteur

*The Hollywood 1930-1990 comparative study foregrounds contexts from the core study areas in addition to its specialist study of the idea of the auteur. (See page 13 and pages 20 and 21, Component 1 of the full specification for further detail.)

**The Global two-film study is a study of the core areas only and has no specialist study area attached.

Component 1: Varieties of film and filmmaking

Written examination: 2½ hours
35% of qualification

This component assesses knowledge and understanding of six feature-length films.

Section A: Hollywood 1930-1990 (comparative study)

One question from a choice of two, requiring reference to two Hollywood films, one from the

Classical Hollywood period (1930-1960) and the other from the New Hollywood period

(1961-1990).

Section B: American film since 2005 (two-film study)

One question from a choice of two, requiring reference to two American films, one mainstream film and one contemporary independent film.

Section C: British film since 1995 (two-film study)

One question from a choice of two, requiring reference to two British films.

Component 2: Global filmmaking perspectives

Written examination: 2½ hours
35% of qualification

This component assesses knowledge and understanding of five feature-length films (or their equivalent).

Section A: Global film (two-film study)

One question from a choice of two, requiring reference to two global films: one European and one produced outside Europe.

Section B: Documentary film

One question from a choice of two, requiring reference to one documentary film.

Section C: Film movements Silent cinema

One question from a choice of two, requiring reference to one silent film or group of films.

Section D: Film movements Experimental film (1960-2000)

One question from a choice of two, requiring reference to one film option.

Component 3: Production

Non-exam assessment
30% of qualification

This component assesses one production and its evaluative analysis. Learners produce:

  • either a short film (4-5 minutes) or a screenplay for a short film (1600-1800 words) plus a digitally photographed storyboard of a key section from the screenplay
  • an evaluative analysis (1600 - 1800 words).

This linear qualification will be available for assessment in May/June each year. It will be awarded for the first time in summer 2019.

The range of films set for study is listed on page 3 of the full specification on the WJEC website – follow the link to the site.            

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