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Five Things To Do Before You Study Film At University

June 15, 20185 min read

I have just finished my first year of university, in which I took Film Studies (you specialise in your first year in the UK). Having not studied it at all at school, I had no clue what to expect and little guidance on what would be helpful before I began. But if another student had given me advice before I started, I think it would have looked something like this, based on my experiences since September:

Make Sure You Enjoy Films

It sounds obvious, sure, but if you’re the kind of person who only goes to see a movie once or twice a year and views catching up on new releases as a chore, then studying film academically won’t be for you. Simultaneously, if you love watching films but find that delving deeper into the narrative or cinematography ‘ruins it’ for you, you’ll likely hate having to write 2000 words essay on a movie, even if you liked it.

Set Yourself A Film Watching Goal

I realise that depending on your schedule and living situation this can be fairly difficult, but at the start of the year, I set myself the goal of watching at least two films a day. These don’t have to be absolute masterpieces, nor do they necessarily need to be full feature length; just having this extra experience of watching films is guaranteed to sharpen your analytical skills, even if half of them are short cartoons from the 50s like Tom and Jerry or shallow romances like the Hallmark films. They all count, and they’ll all help shape your taste and perspective, even if you don’t enjoy all of them or even think they’re decent movies.

Get On Top Of Some Formal Concepts Ahead Of Time

Coming to university having not studied Media or Film at school before, I was worried I’d be a little behind. My course was good at catching everyone up on formal techniques like cinematography and narrative structure, but there are certain articles I read and YouTube videos I watched that definitely primed me for all of this new information. Lindsay Ellis and Lessons From The Screenplay are both fantastic at using case studies to break down academic concepts in an entertaining way, and channels like Now You See It focus in on specific thematic concepts or motifs and look at how different films utilise them.

Know The Difference Between Reviewing and Analysing

Whilst there’s definitely crossover between the two, writing an academic essay about a movie is hugely different to explaining your opinions on it. I studied Charlies Angels: Full Throttle in my first year, and whilst I don’t find it to be a good film I can still talk about the formal techniques it uses and why it uses them, as well as the context surrounding why it was made and the history building up to it. Your opinions do matter in essays, but in a more complex way than just whether you think a movie is good or bad.

Don’t Limit Yourself

You might go into a course loving crime films, or thinking that movies from before a certain period might be boring or hard to get personally involved in. Looking at the film list for each term before I started, I found myself excited for the American and English films, and dreading the films from Hong Kong and New Zealand, purely because of their unfamiliarity to me. Acknowledging these preconceived notions you hold and trying to get over them before your course starts will allow you to widen your reach and give new movies a chance when you get to them; unexpectedly, the films I enjoyed most were from the Fifth Generation Chinese movement.

So try to apply this advice over summer, and it might make the step up to studying Film at university more manageable, and give you some confidence before you start.

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Zoe Crombie

Film student from Lancaster, U.K. who loves movies, old video games, Modernist art and my hamster Vlad.