Hello all! This week’s “So You Want To Study” post, in fact, comes from yours truly. I spent four glorious years studying Film and Television Studies at the University of Glasgow, and I had an absolute ball. So today I thought I’d tell you all about it, in case you are considering taking the leap and studying it yourself!
I like to think the incredible television show 24 is responsible for my decision to study Film and TV. Sure, I’d loved films and television all my life, but it wasn’t until I watched that first series, seeing Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer for the first time, experiencing the revolutionary style of the show, and becoming consumed not only by the storyline, but by the entire process of the show, that I realised I was more than just your regular TV fan. I was fascinated, watching the behind the scenes features on the DVDs time and time again, reading interviews with the producers and writers online, and writing my own little reviews (which the world never saw – I didn’t have a blog back then!). I just thought it was incredible, and I remember thinking – I could keep watching and talking about this forever, and never run out of things to say.
The first thing I’ll say about making the decision to study film and TV, is that you have to figure out whether or not you are interested in the technical side of things. This will decide which sort of course you should apply for, and will therefore affect which university you attend.
I, however, wanted to write about films and television, learn about the history of these two mediums we take so much for granted nowadays, and explore the ways in which they interact with and influence our society. I wanted to study different genres, and talk about different writers. Basically, I wanted to do an English Literature degree, but studying the big and small screens instead of books.
So if you decide that sounds like the kind of course for you, keep reading! It was one of the best experiences of my life, and while I might have gone on to study a Masters in something different, I wouldn’t change those four years for the world.
One thing to expect from a film and television studies course is that, despite the fact it is a widely respected subject now, you will still meet the odd person who, when you tell them what you’re studying, will say: “Is that even a thing?!”, or “Yeah, because sitting watching films all day counts as studying.” Ignore them. Films and television shows have a huge impact on our society, from the traditional notion of “Water Cooler” conversation pieces, to the way news is reported (which is particularly interesting in terms of politics at the moment). Today, social media allows us to share in global television experiences, and even things like the certification process of movies is inextricably tied to our ideas of what is age appropriate – something which, I can tell you, has changed a lot over the years. The types of films and shows made in different countries can tell us so much about different cultures, and don’t even get me started on the gender and sexuality implications of what we see on screen (trust me, the Gender and Sexuality module, which was part of my second year course, was one of my favourites – we could be here all day!).
Don’t Study Film and Television if…
1) … you don’t like the idea of the way you view films and TV changing. It sounds obvious, but once you study something, it becomes very difficult to view it in the way you did before. Once you’ve broken down film conventions, TV trends, audience engagement, and all of the other things you will look into over the three or four years of your studies, it inevitably changes your relationship with it. I’ve had people say to me countless time “But surely you can’t enjoy it if you’re analysing it all the time? Can’t you just sit and watch a film?” The answer to that is, I don’t know. In some ways, I don’t think I can just watch a film any more, but truthfully, I wouldn’t change that. I LOVE talking about and analysing television (if you’ve seen my original YouTube channel, you’ll be only too aware of this fact!). I still get completely caught up in the story of whatever I’m watching, but I do always notice the writing and the camera work, and I always question why certain decisions were made behind the camera. And nine times out of ten, I will go online afterwards and start reading up more about whatever I’ve just watched.
2) … you don’t like watching subtitled films. This is one I’ve heard a lot – people saying they “just can’t concentrate on watching the film and reading the subtitles at the same time”. If you choose to study film and television, you will be viewing subtitles on a very regular basis, sometimes doing entire units worth of foreign cinema.
3) This leads me on to point three – don’t study film and television studies if you only like Hollywood blockbuster movies. They will make up a very small portion of what you watch over the years. You will watch a lot of incredible indie movies, as well as some very strange, often very disturbing films. Eventually you will become somewhat immune to these, but prepare to be slightly mentally scarred to begin with. Ever heard of Jean-Luc Godard’s “Weekend”? Yeah. That was an experience.
4) … if you think it’s going to be easy. I once did an entire module on Children’s Television and spent five hours at a time watching and analysing In the Night Garden and Lazy Town – in theory, that sounds like a breeze, but (aside from the fact that after an hour of Lazy Town you’re already close to losing your marbles), the critical theories involved are far more complex than you might imagine. There are a lot of essays, even more reading, and, quite possibly because there are still some people out there who question the subject, your lecturers will be sure to really challenge you, so you have to be prepared to really put in the work. It so worth it though!!
What might you study?
Every course will be different, but the following list makes up the modules I studied over the course of my four years of uni:
In first year, we studied two large modules titled “Reading the Screen: Cinema”, and “Reading the Screen: Television”. In second year, our modules were titled “History, Aesthetics and Genre”, and “Spectatorship, Audiences and Identities”. Then, in our Honours years (3rd and 4th year), we were free to select individual modules from a long list. I chose: Film Analysis, Television Analysis, Contemporary Television Drama, Media and Cultural Policy, Asian Cinema, Screen Audiences, Screen Performance, Animation, Scotland: Film and Television, Children’s Television and, my compulsory Dissertation.
My dissertation was 12,500 words long, and examined the representation of familial relationships in teen television. I studied Veronica Mars and Gossip Girl, examining the trend of complicated parent/child relationships on television aimed at a young audience. I can say, hand on heart, I loved researching and writing my dissertation, and it makes me sad that I don’t hear more people say that.
I should also mention at this point that on my particular course, by third year there were a couple of more practical modules to choose, which involved some behind the camera work for the more practical-work-orientated students!
The best things about it?
One of my favourite things about my course was the passion everyone felt for what they were studying. In my experience, film and television students are an incredibly passionate bunch. Yes, you will meet a few pretentious people along the way – but I’m willing to bet that’s the case with every creative subject. The love we all had for films and television led to fascinating conversations, lively debates, and some brilliant essays. Secondly, I got to write about such a wide variety of film and televisual texts, and discovered films and genres I would never have found, or given a chance otherwise. But most importantly, it completely widened my horizons, gave me much more cultural awareness (not only of our own media and culture, but of cultures at an international level), and taught me so much about how interconnected our society is with what we’re watching on screen. It also opened my eyes more than ever to issues of gender inequality and feminism, thanks to some of my absolutely incredible lecturers.
All in all, it was an amazing experience, and I was genuinely heartbroken when we graduated and it was all over. Aside from the course itself, I met some of my best friends during those four years , and it was our love for what we were studying that brought us all together *cue sentimental music*…
So, to any of you out there considering studying Film and Television Studies, I hope this post was helpful! Let me know in the comments if you are on a similar course at the moment, or if you’re heading off to study it after the summer!
Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!