How to read a film: a brief beginners' guide to cinema

Course Dates: 20/03/21 - 27/03/21
Time: 10:30 - 13:00
Location: Online

This course will introduce you to new ways of looking at film, focusing on the techniques a director with their team of creatives use to help tell the story, manipulate the viewer, add further meaning and establish a personal vision. In this beginner’s guide you will gain an appreciation of Film Form (cinematography, editing, sound, mise-en-scène etc) and the way in which two key directors work.

This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.


What is the course about?

Have you ever sat in a darkened cinema to the end of the movie? I mean right to the end of the movie. Through the endless list of people who worked so hard to bring you two hours of entertainment – the best boy, the dolly grip, the animal wrangler, to name but a few. In the first session we will focus on some of the key members of the creative team including the cinematographer, editor, composer, production and costume design whilst we explore how they work together in the creation of the film’s look and sound – Film Form.

In the second session you will be introduced to the Auteur Theory, as we look in detail at two film directors (Alfred Hitchcock and Ang Lee) who have a strong and identifiable visual style and recurring narrative or character tropes. Through these two ways of looking at film you will gain an understanding of how to read a film, and key film theories.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

A starting point for ‘reading a film’ is to consider all the essential decisions the director and key creative personnel use when planning the visual and aural elements of a film. These elements, known as Film Form, are cinematography, mise-en-scène, editing, sound and performance. By examining these in close detail, you will gain further insights into the characters, narrative structure, themes and messages that you may have missed when you first watched the film. These elements serve to create a mood and add to the overall aesthetic of the film.

Another way to study film is to look at the body of a work of a director. By doing this you will begin to see recurring visual styles and motifs, directors with a strong aesthetic have become known as Auteurs.
Some directors, for example Alfred Hitchcock, relished the notion of the Auteur and his place within the pantheon of Auteur directors. Whilst others completely disown the theory, acknowledging the input of everyone involved in the filmmaking process, such as Ang Lee.

In the first week we will study shots and scenes from a variety of films from around the world, from the past 100 years to gain a greater understanding of how filmmakers use film form to tell their stories.

In the second week we will focus on two filmmakers Ang Lee and Alfred Hitchcock.
Key films to be discussed will include:

Alfred Hitchcock
The Lodger (silent) (1927)
Rebecca (1940)
Rear Window (1954)
Psycho (1960)

Ang Lee
The Ice Storm (1997)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2016).

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- evaluate stylistic choices available to filmmakers in the construction of mise-en-scène
- conduct a basic formal and thematic analysis of an individual film
- understand and accurately articulate specialist terms used in the language of film
- demonstrate skills in close textual analysis.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This is beginner lever course for anyone with an interest in learning more about how films are made and keen to make the transition from passive ‘viewer’ of a film to an active ‘reader’ of a film.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The format of the course will be PowerPoint Illustrated Talk with film clips and opportunities for discussion and questions around each example.

Watching films directed by Alfred Hitchcock and Ang Lee would be useful but not essential.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

Links to online reading and viewing will be made available, including additional reading and viewing materials.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Please see Film Studies courses on our website at, Culture and Writing/Film Studies.

Tutor Biographies
Ellen Cheshire

Ellen Cheshire is a freelance film writer and lecturer. She has written books on Ang Lee and Jane Campion for Supernova Books, and Bio-Pics for Wallflower Press, and Audrey Hepburn and The Coen Brothers for Oldcastle Books. She has contributed chapters to books on Charlie Chaplin, James Bond, War Movies, Fantasy Films, Counterculture, Silent Cinema and an A Level Film Text Book.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.

Book your place

Course Code: HF088

Sat, day, 20 Mar - 27 Mar '21

Duration: 2 sessions (over 2 weeks)

Full fee: £59.00
Senior fee: £47.00
Concession: £36.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

Any questions?
or call 020 7492 2652

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.