Film Studies BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years)


September 2016

code: p303

The entry requirements below are for students starting in September 2016.


Get a solid grounding in film history and theory, and use a critical knowledge of film culture to explore ideas when creating your own film projects. You’ll discover a wide spectrum of approaches to the moving image, and develop specialist interests with subjects like film practice, reviewing, theory and screenwriting.

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Full description


This course will prepare you for a career or further study in film and video production, film and television post-production, film journalism, cinema and film festival management, film education, film programming and curation, broadcasting and public relations.

Modules & assessment

Year one, core modules

  • Introduction to Film Studies
    This introductory module will show you an analytic and creative approach to the study of films and film practices, introducing you to some of the key features of film language and theory. As well as contemporary and classical Hollywood, you'll study experimental practices and products, films and film-making contexts from a range of cultures. You’ll look at film as an ideological tool and learn to identify and debate the relative merits of different films, developing the critical judgement skills crucial to the subject. You’ll visit cinemas and film festivals and seminar activities such as shot analyses and oral presentations will help you understand the links between conceptual and practical approaches.
  • Introduction to Video 1
    Through a series of briefs and exercises that investigate the principles of filmic conventions, this module will introduce you to the language of film and video from the point of view of a practitioner. The projects will encompass the investigation of principles such as: composition and lighting, shot/reverse-shot sequences, matching on action and the rhythmic editing of picture and sound. The aim is not necessarily for you to perfect conventions, rather to experiment and gain an understanding of how they work. No prior technical experience of film and video is required - you'll receive inductions into camera operation, sound recording and editing. Your work will be regularly screened in a critical forum, allowing you to gain invaluable feedback from your peers and tutors.
  • History of Cinema
    In this module you'll explore the ways in which cinema has responded to historical developments from 1895 to today. You'll examine how both the cinematic product and its reception have been shaped by momentous political and cultural upheavals, such as the two world wars, Communist revolutions, colonial and civic struggles for independence and equal rights, the Cold War and its aftermath. You'll trace the origins of the shape of today's industry, from film-maker as artisan through the Hollywood studio system to multinational complexes, and consider the historically contingent experiences of cinema's audiences, including the shift from nickelodeons to movie palaces and today's multiplexes, and the diversification of audiences. You'll discuss technological innovations within the industry, such as the conversion to sound and colour, widescreen processes and digital effects as socially embedded phenomena. The key theme you'll consider throughout will be the relationship of the industrial and aesthetic aspects of film and cinema to the historical, social and political contexts of their moments of production and reception.
  • Film Reviewing
    The module will introduce you to film reviewing, beginning with an exploration of the nature and purpose of reviewing films, then working through the various steps of the reviewing process. You'll learn to write original reviews for a variety of different readerships. You’ll also explore aspects of genre, dramatic structure, performance and the technical background of film production, with examples from mainstream, independent and foreign language films.
  • Screenwriting: Introduction to the Screen
    This module will equip you with the skillbase needed to make an entry-level submission in the industry, both in schemes for new writers and relevant competitions. You'll analyse a range of television dramas, learning how story ideas are generated and developed into a workable template. You'll then progress to developing your own original idea, producing a short treatment and the first few pages of a television script as well as some supporting material. Your final submission will be divided between an analysis of a TV series of your choosing, as well as the creative practice component.

Year one, optional modules

  • Introduction to Global Cinema
    Traditionally, the concept of 'world cinema' has been used for national cinemas outside Hollywood. By contrast, this module will introduce you to a global and transnational approach, in which Hollywood forms one part of the globalised commercial and artistic film landscape of the last fifty years. You'll study a range of films in order to explore topics which may include Bollywood, Nollywood, Hollywood as global cinema, the cinema of small countries and other emergent cinema. You'll address the aesthetic, economic, linguistic and political contexts of different film cultures, with a focus on how they situate themselves in a global market.
  • Introduction to Video 2
    This module will introduce you to creative, practical and theoretical issues concerning self-directed video projects. Working in small production teams, you'll produce a number of short videos in response to a series of briefs set by the tutor. You’ll engage conceptually with the medium, by focusing on an investigation of a series of formal characteristics such as framing, duration, editing, and relationships between sound and image. To support your work, you'll be shown a number of short films and extracts related to the project briefs, which will encompass a range of different types of film-making. Your work will be regularly screened and discussed in a critical forum, so you can benefit from the feedback of your peers and tutors, and you'll have the chance to attend technical workshops to supplement the inductions provided in previous modules.

Year two, core modules

  • Cinema and Sound
    On this module you'll explore the role played by sound in the development and appreciation of cinema, including: the impact of the introduction of sound, the influence of sound on the perception and experience of the film spectator and the evolving terminology in the field. You'll examine the aesthetics of sound in the cinema with reference to films from the earliest experiments in sound recording, such as W.K.L. Dickson's Experimental Sound Film (1894/5), to early sound films by directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, René Clair and Fritz Lang, and all the way to contemporary cinema, by way of auteurs such as Robert Bresson, Jacques Tati and Andrei Tarkovsky. The theoretical framework for your study will include key texts by a range of critics and theorists who have sought to redress the balance in Film Studies (and culture at large), which often tends to privilege the image.
  • Documentary Film Theory
    On this module you'll explore the world of contemporary documentary film. How do we watch documentary films in the digital age? What is behind the recent documentary boom? Through a close analysis of contemporary documentaries such as Standard Operating Procedure (2008), Waltz with Bashir (2008) and 5 Broken Cameras (2011), you'll consider a range of critical discussions and debates surrounding the historical, technological, aesthetic and socio-political developments of the documentary approach to film and video-making. You'll also address the historical and theoretical contexts of the study of documentary film, and engage with topical debates regarding the relationship between reality and representation, documentary ethics, structured reality TV programmes, and the role of the internet in disseminating documentaries.
  • Independent Cinema: US and Beyond
    You’ll focus on the development, features and impact of independent cinema in the US and beyond. Alongside close examination of a number of key films, you'll consider areas such as the financing and promotion of independent film-making, and investigate how and why certain directors choose to work outside the protective infrastructures and high budgets provided by a studio system. You’ll also look at US-based film-makers starting out in the late 1970s and early 1980s, such as John Sayles, Jim Jarmusch and Joel Coen, and how they influenced later international filmmakers, such as Quentin Tarantino, Gregg Araki, Vincent Gallo and Lukas Moodysson. You’ll explore how Awards ceremonies and Film Festivals can showcase 'peripheral' cinema, and critically examine the role of independent distribution companies. Your assessment will take the form of a critical essay and an oral seminar presentation on the work of an independent film-maker of your choice.
  • Theorising the Specular and Classical Hollywood Cinema
    You'll address issues of spectatorship and representation through a range of theoretical approaches including psychoanalytic theory. You'll also explore the intersection of pleasure and terror in our encounters with the image, considering the ways in which film taps into our unconscious, and the role of the body, the senses, and emotion in shaping our responses to moving image culture. You'll look at the future of film studies by addressing the changing conditions of spectatorship in the age of digital cinema. In the second part of the module, you'll focus particularly on the practices, products and institutional frameworks of the classical Hollywood period, exploring the narrative conventions that continue to shape the majority of mainstream commercial cinema. This will include a consideration of the formal and stylistic features of the 'realist' text, its ideals and ideologies.

Year two, optional modules

  • 16mm Filmmaking
    Despite its decline, Kodak's bankruptcy and the end of Fuji 16mm and 35mm production, celluloid is still very much alive. This module will allow you to work directly with film, from shooting, through editing and on to projecting. Your practical work will be underpinned by a critical consideration of the nature of film, its history and its relationship to photography and the digital image. You'll explore the proto-cinematic motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne Jules Marey as well as artists like Cindy Sherman and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Some of the films you'll study include works by the Lumière Brothers, Chris Marker and Guy Sherwin.
  • Animation
    To study this module you must have already taken the Introduction to Video module. You’ll become more familiar with the discipline of animation, emphasising the creative possibilities of the frame-by-frame manipulation of time. You'll be introduced to a range of conventional and experimental works that will develop your understanding and practice of animation. You'll watch a series of screenings covering a range of key figures and movements in animation, from the geometric abstraction of Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling to the early films of the Disney studio, the camera-less films of Len Lye and Stan Brakhage, the reflexive strategies of Chuck Jones and Robert Breer, and the pioneering work of Lotte Reiniger. You'll take part in a number of practical workshop projects that will develop various skills, from camera-less filmmaking to collage and pixilation, encouraging you to take an idea-driven and experimental approach to the medium. Your final project can be completed individually or in a pair.
  • Intercultural Encounters in Global Cinema
    On this module, you'll examine how the effects of increasing globalisation and the expansion of the European Union have been closely monitored and discussed not only in political discourse but in media as well. Cinema and TV are no exceptions, and such media portrayals are of key importance, be it as potential reflections of popular attitudes, ideas and preoccupations towards migration, or their likely impact on popular views and opinions on the topic. You'll investigate how the global perspective goes beyond the exploration of individual films in their national frameworks, and is therefore better equipped to address questions linked to the legacy of globalisation and international migration.
  • Screenwriting: The Feature Film
    This module will build on the skills you learned in the short fiction film module. Having understood the short film format, you'll now apply your skills to the more demanding task of understanding the feature film. You'll produce a portfolio including the first act of a screenplay with evidence of analytical story structure skills, including a focused analysis of genre in a series of self-managed presentations. As a key element of this module, you'll study the work of well-known screenwriters, in particular Kaufman, Schrader, Mamet and Ball, whose work will be critically discussed as potential models. You'll also study established film-makers, including the Coen Brothers, Darren Aronofksy, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Charlie Kaufman, Paul Thomas Anderson and Gus Van Sant, as examples of writer directors.
  • Screenwriting: Script to Screen
    On this module, you'll explore creative and technical processes involved in devising and developing a short narrative film, from script to screen. It differs from other screenwriting modules in that you'll turn your scripts into video. In particular, you'll learn the importance of visualisation, communicating narrative through image, sound and action. Although films are created in a collaborative way, you'll learn about and discuss the distinct roles of producer, director, writer and editor, to form an understanding of the interrelationships between each of them, ensuring the most effective realisation of your script ideas.
  • Non-Fiction Filmmaking
    To take this module you must already have taken Introduction to Video. You'll explore the nature and practice of documentary filmmaking, addressing the aesthetics of documentary in relation to expository, poetic, observational, performative, and reflexive modes of practice. You'll consider, reflect and implement appropriate responses to the range of issues that might arise in your work, including the ethical, creative, methodological, theoretical, and technical concerns relating to documentary. To rationalise the subject of non-fiction film and video in terms of forms and conventions of documentary language, you'll examine in detail various examples of contemporary, historical, independent, and mainstream documentary.

Year three, core modules

  • Film, Modernity and Postmodernity
    On this module, you'll examine the emergence of film as one of the key technologies of modernity, and hence consider the role of film in helping to express and consolidate ways of thinking and feeling about modern times. You’ll look at cinema’s impact on memory identity and subjectivity and also contemplate to what extent cinema is bound up with the nature of reality, and our attempts to know and understand it. Defining modernity and postmodernity as a period of history, but also as a set of ideologies and representational strategies, and as a set of epistemological conditions and ontological concerns, you'll look at problematic distinctions between modernity and postmodernity, and consider ways in which they intersect, overlap, or bleed into one another. You'll also study a range of theorists associated with modernity and postmodernity, including Tom Gunning, Bela Balasz, Antonin Artaud, Anne Friedberg, Jean Baudrillard, Fredric Jameson, and Gilles Deleuze, amongst others.
  • Major Project
    The individual Major Project will allow you to undertake a substantial piece of individual research, focused on a topic relevant to your specific course. Your topic will be assessed for suitability to ensure sufficient academic challenge and satisfactory supervision by an academic member of staff. The project will require you to identify/formulate problems and issues, conduct research, evaluate information, process data, and critically appraise and present your findings/creative work. You should arrange and attend regular meetings with your project supervisor, to ensure that your project is closely monitored and steered in the right direction.
  • Multiplexed: Contemporary Popular Cinema
    On this module you'll explore trends in the aesthetics and production practices of Hollywood movies, and their contexts of distribution and reception, based on a representative selection from the last four decades. You'll discover how the style and output of American popular cinema in this period has responded to changing socio-political, economic and cultural circumstances. Alongside close readings of a number of films (bookended by the box-office record breakers Jaws and Avatar), you'll consider some of the broader tendencies they represent: What lies behind the so-called 'blockbuster syndrome' supposedly initiated by Spielberg's monster movie? What is the impact of new locations or technologies for viewing on the aesthetics of popular cinema? Did the blockbuster destroy or save Hollywood? These are just some of the questions you'll answer over the course of the module.

Year three, optional modules

  • Avant-garde Film and Experimental Video
    On this module, you'll take an historical approach to the various movements and themes associated with avant-garde film and experimental video. You'll consider these in aesthetic and socio-political contexts, but you’ll also study the work of a number of key film and video-makers in close detail. Throughout the module, you'll consider and reflect upon the history of experimental film and video and its association with other artistic forms, as well as its rebellious relationship with the mainstream. In addition, you'll examine the movement of the avant-garde film between cinema and modern art, while still focusing on it as an independent form of art practice with its own internal logic and aesthetic discourse.
  • Independent Film Practice 1
    This module will allow you to develop your own mode of creative film practice. Whether your projects are informed by considerations associated with drama, documentary, animation or experimental work, you will be expected to show a critical and reflective attitude towards your practice. Early in the module, you'll present your project proposal to tutors and the rest of the group, then, at a later stage, show and discuss your work in progress in the context of individual tutorials and class seminars. To develop your proposed project, you'll undertake preliminary practical projects, conduct research, begin pre-production and openly discuss your ideas, with advanced technical workshops being organised as required. You can work individually or in small groups. After completing the module, you'll attend a screening and a crit, at which every student will show at least one finished piece of work. The film that you show in the crit constitutes the first element of your assessment. You'll also submit a commentary and evaluation, discussing the intentions behind your project and the formative features of your work.
  • Independent Film Practice 2
    The projects that you'll propose to tackle in this module will draw on the strengths of your work in Independent Film Practice 1, as you develop a particular method of working, or hone a specific approach to practice - whether in the context of drama, documentary, animation or experimental modes. In this respect, you'll also be encouraged to consider the wider context of your work. In the first few weeks of the module you'll take conceptual workshop projects that, through practice, will help you think critically and re-examine concepts associated with the fundamental aesthetics and theoretical concerns of your work. After these initial workshop projects, you'll attend presentations and work-in-progress screenings, with the content of module, for the most part, led by the discussion of issues and concepts that arise in relation to your independent project. The progress of your projects will be addressed in detail throughout the semester in the context of seminars and individual or group tutorials with staff from across the department.
  • Film Art
    On this module, you'll examine film as an art form and the relationship of film to other forms of art. You'll consider the peculiarities of cinema's formal languages, focusing on those visual practices and strategies specific to narrative film and considering the aesthetic singularities associated with the moving image. You'll study the dialectic relationship between film and other forms of art and visual and textual culture, such as painting, comics, videogames and literature, as well as diverse narrative and non-narrative rhetorical devices and modes of address. In particular, you'll consider non-Western filmic codes of representation, such as those in Japanese and Indian cinemas. You'll look at the role of the moving image in the context of the art gallery, critically examine selected theorists of art and film form and study seminal moments of European aesthetics and art criticism, critically applying them to film - particularly the writings of Aristotle and Immanuel Kant.
  • Film Journalism
    Starting with an exploration of the various modes within which film journalism functions, this module will guide you through the world of professional film journalism, giving you the skills and knowledge to create original features for a variety of readerships in a range of media. You’ll look at working with editors; planning and structuring interviews; developing, drafting and revising reviews and features; and developing a personal style. Your explorations will be reinforced by regular formative assignments, leading to the creation of your own portfolio of work.
  • Screenwriting: Adaptation
    On this final year module, you'll produce a portfolio that includes adaptations of existing material, such as short stories, poems, graphic novels or cartoon strips. You'll be encouraged to focus on theme, character and structure, plus other imaginative ways of transferring from a textual to a visual medium. This may involve changing aspects of the written story, such as point-of-view, number and nature of characters, location, duration, use of flashback, establishing shots, montage effect, and so on. You'll first discuss extracts from a number of adaptations from fiction to film and then go on to produce your own final short screenplay, adapted from a short story, poem or graphic novel of your choice You'll submit your final adapted screenplay as part of your portfolio, together with supporting material and a critical commentary and evaluation of all your work.
  • Working in English, Communication, Film and Media
    This module, with a focus on work experience, will help prepare you for targeted entry into the world of multimedia, film, television, cinema, radio, video, teaching, publishing, arts administration and related creative and cultural industries. You'll identify, negotiate and carry out a work placement, or produce a commissioned product, in a chosen area, with guidance from the relevant Course Leader and Module Leader, who will provide ongoing consultation, supervision and support in association with the University's Careers Service. You'll develop a portfolio and write a critical essay, both of which you'll submit at the end of the semester. Your portfolio should include: your CV; copies of a range of academic work (including a DVD showreel, where appropriate); evidence of extra-curricular activities; evidence of work experience. Presentation is crucial to your portfolio, and you should make use of all available multi-media when refining your work. This module will form part of your ongoing programme of Personal Development Planning.
  • Independent Learning Module
    This module will allow you to prepare and submit your own independent learning project on a topic not provided within existing modules, with clearly defined parameters: You should already have a background in a relevant area of study or professional practice You can choose any topic within the subject area that staff can supervise Your work will be facilitated by individual tutorials You'll need to carry out in-depth research for your topic and engage with current critical debates. You'll be assessed by either a 3,000 word essay or a 3,000 word report, depending on the topic chosen.

Optional modules available all years

  • Anglia Language Programme
    The Anglia Language Programme allows you to study a foreign language as part of your course. You'll take one language module in the second semester of your first year in order to experience the learning of a new language. You must select a language you've never learnt before from the following: Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.


Because of the practical nature of the course, you won’t have to take any written examinations. Instead, you’ll demonstrate your learning through critical essays, oral presentations, film reviews, evaluation reports and your portfolio of creative work (such as film scripts or short videos). You’ll also give critical evaluations of your creative work, and present and defend your work in ‘crits’.  

Each year you’ll prepare a Personal Development Portfolio, which includes a CV and personal statement. This will give you the chance to reflect on your progress to date, the skills you’ve developed and any extracurricular activities that will help you when looking for work. 

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

The Department of English and Media is a community of more than 800 students, exploring subjects that further their understanding of culture and communication in the global age, from film studies to applied linguistics. We focus on skills and knowledge valued by employers, and provide our students with valuable industry insight through our links with creative partners.

Our students take part in many activities to help prepare them for the future, like work placements, study abroad opportunities, talks by internationally acclaimed guest speakers, and research conferences. They even have the chance to get writing advice from our Royal Literary Fund Fellow.

We’re part of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences, a hub of creative and cultural innovation whose groundbreaking research has real social impact.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

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Additional study information

Our links with the Cambridgeshire Film Consortium will give you the chance to screen your project work at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse and, if good enough, the Cambridge International Film Festival. The Arts Picturehouse will also host some of the lectures and screenings on your taught course.

We also run a dedicated Facebook group and YouTube channel for our Film Studies students.

Work placements

Through our partnerships with regional and national organisations, you’ll gain an excellent grounding for many roles within the film and creative industries. Our recent placements and internships have included the BBC, Cambridge Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge Film Festival, Cambridge Festival of Ideas, Cambridge Union Society, Cambridge United Football Association, Cannes Film Festival, CBBC, ITN, London Studios, LUX, MTV, New York Film Academy,, Optimum Releasing, Red TV, Sight & Sound and Zenith Productions.

You’ll also have the chance to undertake commission work and gain valuable experience in the film and creative industries through volunteering opportunities, including at the Cambridge Film Festival.

Specialist facilities

We’ll give you access to industry-standard film equipment, including Super 8 Nizo cameras, 16mm Bolex film cameras, and a number of rostrums for traditional animation. Our digital facilities feature Panasonic and JVC HD cameras, and Macintosh computers with Final Cut Pro software for editing and post-production. Our campus also houses film and television studios, multimedia studios and screening theatres.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students, 2015/16 (per year)


International students, 2015/16 (per year)


UK & EU students, 2016/17 (per year)


International students, 2016/17 (per year)


How do I pay my fees?

Tuition fee loan

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Most English undergraduates take out a tuition fee loan with Student Finance England. The fees are then paid directly to us. The amount you repay each month is linked to your salary and repayments start in April after you graduate.

How to apply for a tuition fee loan

Paying upfront

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If you choose not to take out a loan you can pay your fees directly to us. There are two ways to do this: either pay in full, or through a three- or six-month instalment plan starting at registration.

How to pay your fees directly

International students

You must pay your fees up-front, in full or in instalments. You will also be asked for a deposit or sponsorship letter for undergraduate courses. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees
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Funding for UK & EU students

We offer most new undergraduate students funding to support their studies and university life. There’s also finance available for specific groups of students.

Grants and scholarships are available for:

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Funding for international students

We've a number of scholarships, as well as some fee discounts for early payment.

Entry requirements


Entry requirements are not currently available, please try again later.

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Important additional notes

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email for further information.

We don't accept AS level qualifications on their own for entry to our undergraduate degree courses. However for some degree courses a small number of tariff points from AS levels are accepted as long as they're combined with tariff points from A levels or other equivalent level 3 qualifications in other subjects.

Entry requirements are for September 2016 entry. Entry requirements for other intakes may differ.

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International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

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English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for undergraduate courses.

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Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry onto a degree course.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

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Get more information

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International applicants

+44 1245 68 68 68

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