When you join your course and start your modules, you’ll get a full reading list that will include journals, essays and textbooks, so don’t jump the gun and wait until you start to make the most of your finances and the awesome library here. In the meantime, to quench your thirst for knowledge, I’ve put a few bits below to help you get started on your film degree and this includes a bonus list of some must-see films before you join us in September that I discovered throughout my degree.
1. Theorists / Text books
For me, a lot of the film theory I focussed on was gender, queer theory and the male gaze so some good theorists to investigate (if this sounds like your cup of tea) would be Judith Butler and Laura Mulvey. Having a good understanding of Sigmund Freud’s theories will also help on this topic.
The thing is with film theory is you will cover a huge range, from classical Hollywood to documentary, gender to race. Be open to all these subjects but always read in more depth the ones you enjoy studying, as this will help inform your dissertation (even though that feels a long way off right now. Trust me!)
I loved writing screenplays, but it is impossible to format it accurately and correctly 100% of the time unless you have software on your laptop or tablet to help. I personally love Celtx as a screenwriting tool – I find it easy to use and there are free versions available. I would have a look and certainly play around with how you format screenwriting in advance, there is nothing worse than realising your whole scripts needs reformatting at the last minute.
3. Must-see films
You are a film buff so I’m sure you’ve seen all the films, but you want to have a good range in terms of your knowledge of movies and films. So here are a few must-see films from my time studying:
A Colour Box by Len Lye – first animation to ever receive a public release in 1935! It’s experimental but it’s so much fun and it gives you an idea of the birth of animation, too! Best of all, it’s available to see on YouTube: youtube.com/watch?v=fOEqTwwkB3Y
Jaws by Spielberg – Guys, this film is a classic, but it also going to come up time and time again. Whether we’re talking about scores, suspense building or even feminism – this film is a lynch pin of modern movies and you’ve got to have seen it, not just know of it.
Vertigo or Psycho by Hitchcock – remember earlier when I said I was interested in the male gaze? But also, both films are fantastic for suspense, camera work and quite a bit before their time! Did you know Psycho was the first time a toilet flushing appeared on screen in Hollywood?
A Film Noir (my favourite is Chinatown but technically that is a Neo Noir) – if you have any interest in mise-en-scène you need to watch a film noir (modern or classic) and take in just how much thought goes into props, sets and lighting.
Fight Club by David Fincher – so when I started my film degree I hadn’t watched Fight Club and I soon realised I needed to. I don’t know what it is about film students and Fight Club – but they go hand in hand. Trust me on that.
Be well versed in at least two foreign movies or directors – I know it seems cliché – the film student studying the arty foreign film, but it is vital you get used to watching films with subtitles and integral for you to understand how context affects content. If everything you watch is based in 21st century Hollywood you might not realise how much the context is seeping into everything every director does.
Good options for first time foreign film watchers: Amores Perros (2000/Mexican), Seven Samurai (1954/Japanese) In the Mood for Love (2000/Hong Kong and France).
Good luck and see you soon!
Megan studied Writing and Film at ARU. To find out more about our degree courses and student life at ARU, book your place at an Open Day.