Finishing A Film Studies Degree

Having had my third term at home, my exams canceled, and my graduation ceremony postponed, it feels like the almost three years of my film degree have ended with something of a whimper. So as an exercise in appreciating all that I’ve learned over the course of my time studying BA Film, instead of sitting around eating Dairy Milks and feeling sorry for myself, I’ve decided to post some advice for anyone thinking of starting/currently doing a similar degree!

Acknowledge That American Film Is Only A Fraction

This might sound obvious at first, but bear with me: if you’ve never been explicitly told on a regular basis, and you’re from a wealthy English speaking country, you likely don’t fully appreciate the extent to which Hollywood conventions have shaped your understanding of the medium. I certainly didn’t, and it results in an unconscious assumption that the non-Western films you watch are somehow doing something wrong. They aren’t. They just aren’t adhering to the bizarrely strict rules of how movies are ‘supposed’ to be. Once you start reminding yourself of this, you’ll likely enjoy far more of what you watch – an episodic narrative structure or a lack of realism doesn’t equal a bad film.

Talk To Your Lecturers

I understand that this might be a bit of an intimidating task, especially if you’re just starting at university. But your lecturers are essentially just people who are so interested in the same things you love that they’ve made a career out of it. I’m not saying bother them at every opportunity, but if you’ve found a lecture or screening particularly interesting, go and tell them what you think – most likely, they’ll just appreciate that you didn’t bolt as soon as the session ended.

Aim For A New Film A Day

Of course, life gets in the way and this isn’t always possible, but even if you’re watching Looney Tunes shorts or 90s TV movies, you’re still expanding your horizons and gaining a better understanding of what the medium has to offer. Though I can’t vouch for this as someone who primarily went down the theory route, I’ve heard that this is invaluable for aspiring filmmakers – you never know what tricks or ideas you might pick up from an unlikely source.

Watch Beyond What You Are Shown

The required viewing for your course has been painstakingly picked from a collection of hundreds of thousands, hand-selected to maximize what you can learn in your three-year course. But this doesn’t mean that this is all you need to see: if you enjoy a certain genre, movement or director, then watch more! This will help hugely when you write essays, and it’ll give you something to bring up in a seminar if you face an awkward silence.

Don’t Be Bogged Down By Value Judgements

I feel somewhat hypocritical saying this on my film review blog, but in the context of academia, it’s best to cast your judgemental eye aside. While it’s impossible to be truly objective, saying that a movie is good or bad doesn’t really mean anything in the context or an essay or a discussion – instead, focus on what the film does and why. You might hate some of what you’ve been shown, but in my opinion, everything is worthy of study (I once cited The Gingerdead Man in a presentation).

Doing this degree was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life, and I hope I’ll be learning more and more about films for decades to come.

Feel free to agree or disagree with what I’ve said, and let me know in the comments if there’s anything you’d add or change!


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