Friday, 18 November 2011

How To Study Film: Part Two

Cidade de Deus, 2002


I don't want to unduly harrass or upset any Media Studies students, but to be honest, it isn't really that undue. To quote, once again, my A Level Film Studies teacher, the great Stephanie Muir (and this time I'm pretty sure I'm word perfect): 'Media Studies is for pussies'.

I did Media Studies for GCSE, but my excuse is that I was forced into it. I wanted to do Latin, as it seemed to be the only language I actually enjoyed learning, however pointless. But, there were only three of us in the entire year who actually wanted to do it. So, the Latin course did not take place. I was forced into doing my back up choice: Media Studies, which I'd only chosen because it was either that or some bullshit like Information Technology (who knew that the internet was going to get so popular? Certainly not me). From what I can remember, it was mostly watching and dissecting ads for hours on end, which I found inexpressibly boring. The only saving grace was the section we did on horror movies, which made me realise just how much I was into cinema. No, I agree with my old teacher; Media Studies is for people who don't have the balls to do Film.

The confusion between Film and Media is a continuation of the misconception that Film Studies is a part of that modern school of 'subjects that aren't really subjects'. Media Studies, like Business or Sport Science, is one of these, another subject that older generations will dismiss out of hand simply because it was unheard of in their day. Film is an Art before it's anything else. I'm sure that Media Studies must have value for some, but in my opinion it's just a load of lightweight crap with no real meaning or substance to it. Unless you're thinking of going into advertising, or marketing (and I really can't understand why any sane human being would want to do that) I'd advise you to stay the hell away from Media Studies in all its forms. Saying that you have a Media Studies qualification is basically the equivalent of saying 'well, I don't have any real knowledge or passion about me, but I sure can cook you up a mean air-freshener ad.'

As well as that, being involved in anything that even smells like Media Studies at A Level tends to sour some of the more snooty universities against you from the get go. Oxbridge, for example, if deciding between you and another candidate with a more 'real' sounding qualification, will throw your file in the recyling without a second thought. They'll hotly deny that, of course, but if you're thinking of applying to either Oxford or Cambridge to do a Film degree, think better of it; there are far better universities for Film, and ones where you'll have a lot more fun doing it (Exeter, Kent, or Queen Mary for starters).

In Film Studies, looking down on, and indeed, discriminating against Media Studies is so widespread it is almost fashionable. When I was doing my A Level in Film, our classroom was next to one which was used for Media Studies during the same period. The wall between our rooms was one of those fake ones that can be dismantled for conferences, and was very thin, so much of the time we were disturbed by noise coming from the other room. There was one day in particular (I think we were studying City of God at the time) when we started hearing  deafening cheers about every ten minutes or so, and a friend of mine said to the room at large, 'bloody Media students. They must be watching 'Cillit Bang' adverts again.' The most amusing thing about this is that it's probably not that far from the truth. If analysing the strengths and weaknesses of 'Cillit Bang' advertising isn't really your cup of tea, then I'd advise you to steer clear.

Most university level Media courses include some vague reference to Film, usually peppering years two and three with a few modules on certain schools of Film, or certain auteur directors. Just one more word of advice; don't study Media to study Film. Study Film for its own sake or not at all. Film Studies isn't the kind of thing you can just try out for giggles and an easy 2/1; it pisses me off when people do that. It clutters up the seminar groups with idiots who are just along for the ride. When choosing a degree, choose something you love, and not just something you think will get you a job. Otherwise, what's the point? (And anyway, I hate to be the voice of doom (again) but in this day and age even so-called 'useful' degrees probably won't get you a job. So, you're better off being unemployed with an interesting degree than unemployed with a dull one)


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