What I’ve learned from 4 years of Film Studies

by Rebecca Davison

Hi, I'm Rebecca, a postgraduate film student at Lancaster. I finished my undergraduate degree in film studies here last year, and loved it so much that I went on to study it at Master's level! This is the first year the Film Studies MA has been offered, so I am excited to share how it's been going and what sort of things to expect from a film degree at Lancaster.

Production/Making my own films

At the undergraduate level at Lancaster, there are a variety of theoretical and practical modules to choose from, which means you can decide how much practical-based or theoretical-based work you would like to do based on your own preferences. I have always been eager to make my own films, so I opted to pick as many practical modules as I could.

In my third year, I took a short film production module which saw me directing Screen Junkie, a sci-fi/horror short about an evil sentient computer. I loved working on the film and although it was stressful at times to lead the shoot, I learned a lot about directing and found the experience incredibly rewarding. As part of the module, we also got to help on the set of another group's film. I was a camera operator, and despite the early production call (6am start on a cold winter's day!!) I had a lot of fun helping out and learning how to use the industry-standard cameras.

Onto the Master's!

As I mentioned earlier, this is the first year that the Film Studies MA has been running, so going into it I wasn't sure what to expect, especially in the midst of a global pandemic! However, the transition into Master's wasn't as scary as it first seemed. Before term began, we had an online welcome session which talked us through the course, telling us what to expect, how to pick modules, and giving us a friendly introduction to the faculty and the subject.

What assignments are like

The type of coursework you are assigned varies depending on the modules you choose, but the compulsory modules in the film Master’s programme offer a nice range of assignments. For these modules, I had to prepare presentations, create a research proposal, and write a couple of essays. I like that the coursework is varied as it makes things less tedious. I'm sure I'm not the only one who doesn’t enjoy a seemingly never-ending stream of essays! In my experience, doing presentations and proposals balanced things out and made the course more engaging.

One key thing that helps with managing assignments is making sure you have a solid and reliable organisation system. Writing out all my assignment deadlines in my bullet journal kept me well-prepared and on top of things.

I really enjoyed the freedom we were given, in that we could choose our own essay questions and pick films outside of the program that we wanted to discuss. Honestly, at first it felt daunting to be setting my own essay questions. I didn’t know where to start or what sort of questions I should be asking. But because we were offered plenty of support from course tutors, things became less intimidating. Through various meetings with my film academic tutor (the member of staff who leads the course and is there to support you with your learning) I was able to talk through my ideas and get really helpful advice and support. One of my favourite things about studying film at Lancaster and the reason I decided to stay here for my Master's is the staff.

Support from my tutors

The academic staff who run the course are passionate about film, and because they are so supportive and friendly, they are always happy to schedule a meeting with you to discuss anything you are struggling with. On top of that, there are regular informal sessions that are optional to attend where you can have a coffee and a chat with course mates and tutors about anything you like. I feel close to my academic tutor and know that I can reach out to her whenever I need or want to, whether it’s just for a casual catch up or for something important.

My favourite module - Transnational cinema

Transnational cinema was a compulsory module at the time I took the course. In this module, we learned about different cinemas from all over the world, focusing on a particular type of cinema each week. We saw films from all over the world, from Hong Kong, to Australia, to Iran and beyond!

This was my favourite module in the MA, because we saw films I probably never would have come across on my own. We watched a variety of films, from dramas to documentaries, tackling a lot of different subjects. Some films were more light-hearted, while others were political and sometimes very harrowing to watch. But with that said, I found the films that were the most difficult to watch the most fascinating to study, and learning about the cultural context behind them was really interesting.

This module has opened my eyes to cultures and cinemas that I was unfamiliar with, and hearing what my course mates thought about them by joining in with our weekly seminar discussions was really enjoyable. I gained a lot from the module and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in film and world cultures!

Final thoughts

Studying film at Lancaster has been a great experience on the whole for me. The opportunity to learn about both theory and practice in depth has made me feel confident about my knowledge of both areas, and has given me the experience I need to start thinking about my future career as a filmmaker!


Rebecca is studying MA Film Studies at Lancaster University.

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