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IB Film at UWCSEA: The successful IB Film course is now well established on both campuses

Irene Malone, Head of IB Film, Theatre/Drama Teacher, Dover Campus
Kate Woodford, Senior Manager, Marketing and Business Development, UWCSEA

Since the first public film screening in 1895, film watching has spread globally, and now includes television, DVD and the Internet. It is a new and exciting discipline, one which is rapidly evolving. Film is also an important part of the cultural experience of many people.

Like many IB Group 6 arts courses, the IB Film course engages students in the creative process, providing them an opportunity to master technical skills and develop their ability to engage in a collaborative process. Broadly, the IB Film course covers: study of the film text (form, script, theoretical frameworks, semiotics, film theory, sociological and cultural context, history and reception) as well as film making—technical skills, and the collaborative and creative processes.

Rather than focus simply on practical use of technology, the course seeks to provide ways in which students can understand the relationship between artist and viewer at more than face value. They learn to look critically at what they are being shown, to mine the content for a deeper meaning, and to place these in context. They also learn how to talk and write about films, and to communicate in the language of film. It encourages students to recognise the complexity of this experience in an increasingly interconnected and globalised environment.

The IB Film course also covers the history of film, relating the development of the medium in both historical and social contexts. Students are required to study the films and film-making traditions of more than one country, and this is built into the Independent Study, a key requirement in the IB’s external assessment.

A highly practical course, students produce a film in the first week of the course. The development of technical skills culminates in the final coursework, which is handed in during Grade 12—a fully formed production, complete with documentation of the process. The practicalities mean that students do watch a lot of film. They are expected to attend a film screening one afternoon each week, where they are exposed to films from a wide variety of genres, cultures and historical contexts. Students must step outside of their own preferences in order to critically understand and analyse work that may be outside their own personal preferences—and comfort zone.

Students need not have experience in film before commencing the course, and many have little exposure to a diverse range of films, or films from a range of different eras, before starting the course. In an international setting such as UWCSEA, that can mean that the cohort has between them a broad range of cultural-specific knowledge which can be shared.

A common misperception of Film is that grading is subjective process and it is therefore difficult to do well. However, even students coming to the subject with little previous experience or exposure are able to succeed. The robust assessment process means that if a student is prepared to work hard they are able to attain high academic results. Those who succeed have the ability to write a well reasoned essay, put together a thoughtful and concise presentation, and not only undertake a film project but also organise and document the creative process of film production.

The skills students from the IB Film course are invaluable in many university and career settings—project management, experience in contributing to and managing a collaborative process, interpersonal skills, psychological insights, analytical and critical thinking and writing skills, film production techniques, and more.

While the subject is relatively new, recent UWCSEA Dover graduates have been successful in pursuit of further study in the subject. UWCSEA alumni are now studying at, or have been offered a place to study Film or Film studies (or a combined degree, such as Film studies and English) at—in the UK; York, Exeter, Kings College London, Royal Holloway, Leeds, Westminster, and the University of East Anglia; in the USA; California College of Arts, Northeastern University, School of the Arts Institute Chicago, and Emerson; and in Canada; the University of BC.