Eye of a Cinephile

12 March 2021

Explore the commerce and aesthetics of film and television across cultures and history.

The Film and Television Studies major offered at The University of Queensland (UQ) does not teach students film and TV production, but something perhaps more valuable: an understanding of the conventions films and TV use to tell stories, express realities, change viewpoints, persuade, and tap into our emotions. It also makes visible and audible the impact of technological, cultural, and industrial change over time.

The major equips students with the tools to critically analyse film and television, looking at how meaning is made through various cinematic techniques and the contexts within which they were produced.

From the negotiation of light and shadow on screen to the impact of significant industrial change, this major affords students the opportunity to engage with film and TV discourse on an academic level. Students interested in the historical context, theory and aesthetic principles of cinema are strongly encouraged to apply.

This major is for inquisitive minds who want to know why and how a film can elicit such emotion in its viewers. The topics covered range anywhere from analysing the aesthetics of Dario Argento’s ‘Suspiria’ to casting a critical gaze upon the disruption of the Australian film industry by online streaming platforms.

The courses offered in this major will equip you with more than just the tools for analysing cinema; it will equip you with skills for life as a communications specialist. As technology continues to advance at camera shutter speed, media begins to consume us at a greater magnitude than we can consume media. It is important now, more than ever, to become adept at critically analysing media. 

Just as it is expected for a communication specialist to be on top of current media trends, it is equally important to be able to identify the intentions of media products. For example, what is the shaky footage of a breaking news story actually showing? More importantly, what is it not? How has the clip been edited to provoke a specific response in viewers?

Melanie Piper, who currently teaches several tutorials within the major, comments:

“These skills are going to make you adaptable in an increasingly uncertain future where the jobs that you might eventually have may not even exist yet, particularly in the rapidly changing media world. If you have an interest in, or a passion for, the technical and artistic capabilities of film and television, then you should spend your time at university doing something that is going to capture your attention and ignite your imagination and make you want to put the work in every day.”

Hear from our students

Melissa Hampton is a Bachelor of Communication/Arts graduate and current Honours student at UQ.

“The Film and TV Studies major, to me, is a degree that allows you to understand and critically engage with cinema in a way that isn’t possible without the information it teaches because it gives you a really strong language catalogue to refer to when watching films and television shows. Everywhere, every time you log into social media or you pick up the newspaper, people are commenting on the world, just like how filmmakers make commentary in their films. The major allows you to enhance your viewing experience.”

For Melissa, television has the power to make its audiences change their views on the world. 

She recalls,

“I was a teenager in the 2010s and so much film and TV came out during that time, it was crazy. With social media thrown into the mix, it just changed the way everybody thought about everything. Like the Game of Thrones show ended horribly but we literally talked about it for so long afterwards.”

Film and television are intrinsically linked to cultural discourse on social media. Each informs and influences the other so, as a communications specialist, it is helpful to be able to understand how cultural media artefacts comment on social issues.

Melissa explains that with film essays,

“You are required to to make a lengthy analysis and you’re asked to look for subtext and make major claims on your own with the appropriate justification...I think that having the ability to sit down and make those assertions is an incredibly important skill to have in the communications workplace to understand, for example, the influence of spin doctoring...It also means that when I’m writing content for the organisation I work for, I know how it’s going to be interpreted by my audience and that’s a very helpful PR skill.”

For those who are currently taking the Film and Television Studies major and want to continue their studies at UQ, Melissa recommends participating in the Bachelor of Arts Honours program. Under the Communication and Cultural Studies Field of Study, students can work with an academic supervisor to design a thesis topic under Film and Television Studies.

“I decided to do an honours because I feel like it’s the final summation of all the work I put into my degree. I spent four years learning how to critically examine film and make assertions about it and now I can make a real contribution to that industry and mode of education.”

Her advice to future Film and Television Studies students is not to be afraid to give your own two cents despite not having watched every single film “classic” in history.

“There’s very much this idea that if you don’t recognise, or you haven’t seen, or you don’t respect certain films that you don’t have a true understanding of what film is and that’s just not true. This major gives you the opportunity to look at films critically and just because you don’t agree with the professor, that doesn’t mean that you’re wrong.”

Michael Raftery is a UQ graduate who studied Film and Television Studies.

“I really liked how there wasn’t really a right or wrong with what I was studying so a lot of the courses were quite flexible in delivery, especially with the topics you wanted to cover in assignments. I think it helped me figure out what I wanted to do a lot more in my career.”

Michael is an assistant manager at Palace Cinemas in Fortitude Valley and says this major has amplified his passion for cinema and helped him clarify his career pathway.

“I’ve learned a lot about projection and audio visual stuff from working there that I applied to my academic work. Likewise, the content and discussions from the courses in Film and TV on the history of cinema and quality of filmmaking through the years has helped me to make better, more informed recommendations to moviegoers. Now, I feel like my recommendations are quite sound because I can back them up with my knowledge of films and the random trivia I’ve gained.”

Michael wants to open his own independent art house cinema one day. He says this major helped him realise that his passion laid in film distribution rather than film production, as he originally thought.

Katelyn Martin is a current undergradute student and yet another cinephile who chose to study Film and Television Studies. 

She reflects,

“For me, it’s about learning how to see meaning behind the text. It’s very similar to the English major except instead of finding meaning in the words on the page, you’re also taking into consideration what you’re hearing and how things are visually presented and how it all comes together...I feel like in class, I can really participate in a lot of interesting conversations that open up meaning on different levels.”

Media has become vital to how we evaluate the cultural products of our time and it is crucial to develop the critical analysis skills necessary to comprehend them. 

Story by Dianne Mai

Interested in studying Film and Television Studies?