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Case Study BA (Hons) Film and Screen Media
Case Study - BA in Film & Screen Media
Name: Dan O’Connell
Programme: BA in Film & Screen Media
The BA in Film & Screen Media is designed to support a gradual progression in building students' skills over the course of their academic study; all within an integrated learning path, from BA to MA/MRes to PhD (with both theory and practice options available). Led by internationally recognised experts, and with a thriving component of visiting speakers, guest practitioners and artists in residence, it is designed to immerse students in the history and theory of film and screen media from around the world, from the birth of cinema to the age of the Internet. Its combination of practical and theoretical modules is designed to fully develop students' understanding of the aesthetics and practice of film and screen media and prepare them for the challenges and opportunities of a modern society and with constantly evolving technologies.
In what context does this initiative/practice take place?
We offer students a diverse curriculum with a variety of teaching methods and other learning opportunities. The diversity of our approach addresses a range of learning styles and also helps students to develop transferable skills. Students engage with lectures, seminars, workshops and group work projects. Our assessments are located across the academic spectrum, including the more traditional essays and examinations with blogs, video essays and a wide range of production work. We offer the students the chance to work on individual practical projects and also as part of a team, both when completing formal assessment but also on informal and extra-curricular projects. We encourage students to work on each other's projects, getting as much experience as they can in different roles, and this in many ways mimics how the industry works; good working relationships need to be fostered and this can often lead to repeated collaborations.
What was the rationale for introducing this initiative/practice/project?
In the Department of Film & Screen media, we want our students to engage with theory and practice and contribute to the world of knowledge by producing theoretically engaged work that challenges social norms and hierarchies. The Graduate Attributes Programme aligns closely with what we as a Department are striving to accomplish: to produce graduates that are digitally fluent, creative and independent thinkers, socially responsible, creators and communicators of knowledge that recognise and challenge injustice and inequality. Film and screen media have the power not only to reflect, but to challenge the world around us and we encourage our students to consider their role as creative producers in educating and informing others, in challenging stereotypes and injustices and in reflecting upon the many facets of the human condition in ways that are both visually arresting and thought-provoking.
The BA in FSM features a varied and regularly updated curriculum that incites a variety of graduate attributes through research-led teaching with a firm link between theory and practice. This link is something that we nurture from very early on in the programme. For instance, the students’ first practical assignment, "Project Lumière" is based on the collaboration between two modules FX1004 (Introduction to Digital Media), a practical module that features instruction on manual camera skills, and FX1003 (Early Cinema: From the Magic Lantern to the Pioneers), a theoretical module on the development of early cinema. The project is designed to explore the work of the Lumière brothers. It encourages students to embrace the restrictions and limitations that inspired the Lumières' continuous innovation and creativity.
As students progress to the second year, they are provided with further opportunities to garner key graduate attributes. FX2003 (Documentary Filmmaking: Theory and Practice) is a co-taught module that focuses on documentary filmmaking. Grounded in a series of documentary seminars by Professor Laura Rascaroli and supplemented with various technical workshops targeted explicitly at the theoretical approaches to, and aesthetics of, documentary filmmaking it examines the potentiality, subversive power, and ethical responsibility of documentary filmmaking. Students are encouraged to foster a lateral way of thinking and a conversational attitude towards the contribution and sharing of knowledge by engaging with seminal film texts and with the world around them through the projects they undertake. In this module, students create a wide range of practical and theoretical work in the form of a personal photojournalistic project, a video essay, and a team documentary short film project. These have resulted in a vast range of documentary subjects emerging from the department such as John Gleeson's award-winning documentary Beautiful Boy that examines the question of ageing for the parents and primary careers of a teenage boy with severe autism. Another example is Eli Doliver's short documentary Chloe that provides an invaluable insight into the daily rituals and emotional considerations of an individual undergoing hormone replacement therapy. Other topics explored in the students' work have included the representation of women in sports, testimonials from people in direct provision and the effects of alcoholism on family relationships
In their final year of Film & Screen Media, students are given the full flexibility to engage with digital media and the subject of their choice in any manner they wish through their graduate film. This has resulted in documentaries, experimental and narrative films that are engaging in a variety of ways that are both entertaining and subversive, conventional and artistic and often engage with sociopolitical concerns.
Are there any unique elements?
We invite a range of directors, cinematographers, producers and screenwriters in each year to talk to the students. We have also taken requests from the students on areas they were keen to know more about, and as a result, we have organised sessions with industry bodies like the Irish Film Board and Screen Producers Ireland.
As well as industry-based workshops and masterclasses, Film & Screen Media is proud to offer a full series of modules by its Film Artist in residence, an Arts Council supported scheme. The scheme has been running for six years and has featured some of Ireland's leading screenwriting talent including Carmel Winters, Gerry Stembridge, Hugh Travers, Mark O'Halloran, Pat Murphy and, currently, Alan Gilsenan.
How has this initiative/project/practice helped the development of 'graduate attributes' in your students?
- Providing students with the necessary technical training / digital skills.
- Providing a deep theoretical/critical understanding through their chosen medium.
- Encouraging creativity in all aspects of student work.
- Championing collaboration through team-based projects.
- Generating opportunities for students to engage with the broader societal concerns through the topics they explore.
- Providing avenues for students to disseminate their work in an accessible medium: film festivals, screenings and online.
How are you going to make Graduate Attributes development explicit in the expression of the Curriculum and Learning Outcomes?
We intend to explore the list of desired Graduate Attributes with students during induction to alert them to the different ways they can develop as individuals through curricular and extra-curricular activities during their time in the Department of Film & Screen Media. We will encourage students to consider how the study of the creative industries, the birth and development of mass media, the historical exploration of local, national and world cinemas can help develop the powers of independent and creative thinking. As creators, evaluators and communicators of knowledge, our students are empowered to disseminate that knowledge through their practical filmmaking work, which often embodies their role as effective global citizens who recognise and challenge inequalities in the world around them.
Key features/strengths of the approach described in this case study
- Develops the powers of critical analysis
- Expands knowledge on differing national representations and funding systems
- Encourages a broad theoretical and practical understanding of digital media
- Encourages ethical filmmaking which highlights social injustices and stereotypes
- Expands understanding of Film and Screen Media as a vehicle for activist messages and social change
Any student/employer/stakeholder testimonials?
BA Film & Screen Media Graduate 2018.
“Since graduating, I’ve hit the ground running. I was an intern at a production company, then the Script Supervisor on the children’s TV show ‘Mini Moguls. I went on to be Script Supervisor on two more projects before accepting another internship. This internship led to my current role as Trainee Producer. In the office - I prep for shoots, manage clients, brainstorm ideas. Also, on set, I’ve served as an Assistant Director, Camera Assistant and Production Assistant. We’ve worked on campaigns for Centra, Supervalu, the Charity ‘Bothar’ and many more. We hope to expand into more creative pursuits over the next year, which is exciting!
My thesis film has been accepted into multiple film festivals, including ‘Spooky Empire’ in Orlando, Florida and the ‘Elevation Indie Awards’ where it received the Pinnacle Award. This could not have been possible without the support and lessons I received from UCC’s Film and Screen Media department. The course gives you a taste of everything and allows you to develop and expand your skills through the ease of access to the equipment there. The department is more than happy to help in any way that they can as well, which I definitely availed of more than once”.
BA Film & Screen Media Graduate 2017.
“I currently work as a Business Development Lead for a company that offers a platform for online video distribution. After graduating from Film & Screen Media in 2017, I spent 2018 working in New York and I'm now based in their newly opened London office. They thought I'd be a good fit for their team based on my knowledge and interest in the global media Industry, which was enhanced through the many projects undertaken as a student of UCC's BA in Film & Screen Media. The consumption of Web-based Media & Video On Demand continues to have a significant impact on everyday life, and the 'Screen Media' element of this course allows students to get a grasp on the commercial elements of this content creation, such as distribution and strategy. The most valuable aspect of the course, which has dramatically assisted me, is the entrepreneurial element that subtly exists within this degree: students are required to think for themselves on projects before making them come to light. This experience can be applied to everyday life and continues to be a benefit as I'm not afraid to bet on myself in any given situation.”