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Film Studies - Popular Cinema

MA / PGDip / PGCert

School of Arts

On the MA in Film Studies: Popular Cinema you will develop a historically-informed and critically aware understanding of film as an industry, art form, and cultural product. Through this course, you will build a broad portfolio of writing and research skills by combining academic and professional writing projects. We cover the history and theory of popular cinema in the US (classical and contemporary Hollywood), Europe and East Asia (especially Japanese cinema). Through modules on story development and research methods you will sharpen your writing skills in preparation for your dissertation project.

You will develop skills central to a career in either academia or the media industries. You will be taught by a diverse team of film specialists with different national and cultural backgrounds, as well as by industry professional guest speakers.

Available start dates

September 2019 / September 2020

Teaching location

Headington Campus, Headington Hill

Course length

  • Full time: MA: 12 months, PGDip: 8months, PGCert: 4 months
  • Part time: MA: 24 months, PGDip: 3 semesters, PGCert: 2 semesters

For full application details, please see the 'How to apply / Entry requirements' section.

  • The School of Arts offers a unified hub for the arts in the Richard Hamilton Building, with state-of-the-art technical facilities and 24-hour studio access.
  • All Film Studies staff are active researchers publishing widely on subjects such as: Italian films and their audiences, puzzle films, film theory, film policy, film tourism, visual anthropology, and crime films.
  • You will have the opportunity to go on the annual field trip to the Cannes Film Festival.
  • We have an advisory panel of film industry experts including leading directors, journalists, and producers and technical specialists who contribute to the programme and our annual series of Film Studies events, including an annual Careers Day.
  • Research and teaching programmes linked to some of Oxford’s premier cultural organisations such as Modern Art Oxford, the Ultimate Picture Palace, Oxford Contemporary Music, and locally held Film Festivals.
  • You will be part of a stimulating environment where creative practitioners and writers about the arts and culture work closely together to form specialist research units and interdisciplinary research clusters in diverse areas from videogaming to modernism.
Compulsory modules

Students studying for the MA in Film Studies are required to complete the following two compulsory modules:

Narration in Classical Hollywood Cinema

'Classical' film narration evolved in Hollywood during the 1920s and became the standard way to tell a story through film in the succeeding decades. This approach has been particularly successful and has had a strong influence on 20th-century storytelling. In this module we analyse the rhetorical, narrative and visual devices that make up the classical Hollywood model and consider the contexts for the rise of this system of narrative conventions. Topics to be explored include continuity editing, use of lighting, screen acting, genre and convention.

Research Methods in Film

In this research module, you learn the research conventions and practices of humanities scholarship. It is specifically organised to guide students in developing a successful research topic for their MA thesis in Film Studies.

Optional modules

MA students can then choose any two of the options below:

Popular European Cinema

This module analyses the history and organisation of European popular film production and the role of audiences within the broader context of national identity in European cinema. You will gain an understanding of the European film industries as well as insight into notions of national cinemas. You will also study critical and historical approaches to the idea of European Popular Cinema and its relation to the field of film audiences.

Professional Film Cultures

At a national level, the term 'film culture' is used to encapsulate debates around film as art or commerce, media literacy and screen heritage to name but a few. You can elect either to design and implement a research project which builds on these elements, or undertake a professional placement or short internship within the film industry which aims to help you understand the varied career opportunities available within the UK's professional film cultures. Examples include cinema management, festival administration, archives and museums, distribution companies or local multimedia production houses. 

Story Development

This module focuses on the creative aspects of writing for the screen and working with scripts. The module is split into two parts spanning the first and second half of the semester:
  • Part 1: Based on tutorials and case studies including film screenings, readings and analyses of screenplays, you will learn about narrative aspects (themes, plot, structure, sequences and scenes, characters, dialogue) and technical skills (tone, style, dynamics) of scriptwriting, reading and editing, drawing upon both traditional and alternative models (with particular emphasis on popular film genres, such as the romantic comedy, the film noir and melodrama).
  • Part 2: You can choose either to develop your own script  from an original concept, or to analyse, edit and doctor existing scripts considered for development.
Popular Cinema in East Asia

This module offers a comparative study of contemporary Japanese cinema with cinema from China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Thailand. It explores popular genres such as horror and gangster films, focusing on their themes and styles, and examines how cultural and national issues are portrayed. You will also have the opportunity to examine gender representation, visual analysis, and the question of national versus transnational cinema.

Independent Study

This module gives you the opportunity to design a course of research and writing to suit your own interests and concerns; organise and carry out a work schedule set by yourself; and determine a set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria. Support will be provided by a module leader and a supervisor. Registration on the module requires the production of a Learning Contract, to be completed no later than six weeks in advance of the start of the semester in which the study is to be undertaken.


MA students are required to complete an advanced work of independent research on an approved topic, appropriate to the MA in Film Studies. The dissertation is taught via individual tutorial support. The module follows on directly from the Research Methods Seminar, in which you will develop advanced skills in research skills and techniques. You are asked to work on your initial proposal during Semester 2. The main work on the dissertation will normally take place from June to early September.

Students taking the postgraduate certificate are required to complete ‘Narration in Classical Hollywood Cinema’, ‘Research Methods in Film’ and one optional module from the list above.

Please note: As our courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, course content and module choices may change from the details given here.

Teaching and learning

Teaching is centred around film screenings, seminars, individual tutorials and, in the case of Story Development, intensive writing workshops.

Assessment activities include writing academic essays and a dissertation.  Other assessments include professional writing activities - book reviews, feature articles, and screenplays.

Approach to assessment

Our programmes vary the forms of assessment in order to offer students the opportunity to develop many core academic skills. Assignments include: academic essays, presentations, book reviews, pitches, treatments, and screenplays. 

Specialist facilities

Brookes' Film Studies course has recently set up a specialist cinema room, with a state of the art surround sound system.  Graduate students are welcome to book this room to watch films for their research, or just for their interest.

Field trips

MA students have the opportunity to go on an optional Film trip. In 2010, Brookes film students visited New York and in 2011-12 a group of students attended the Berlin Film Festival with their Film Studies lecturers.  Since 2013, students have been attending the Cannes film festival. The cost of the trip varies, and is not included in tuition fees.

Attendance pattern

Because many of our graduate students are in part time work, we schedule all of our classes on Thursdays, leaving the rest of the week free for students to arrange their work and study timetable around what suits them.

Programme changes

On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published on the website. For more information, please visit our Changes to programmes page.

Tuition fees

Home/EU - full time fee: 2019/20: £5,780 (Masters) £5,200 (Diploma) £2,890 (Certificate) 2020/21: £8,000 (Masters) £7,000 (Diploma) £4,000 (Certificate)

Home/EU - part time fee: 2019/20: £2,950 2020/21: £4,000

International - full time: 2019/20: £14,000 2020/21: £14,700

Where part time fees are quoted this is for the first year only. Fees will increase by up to 4% each year.

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course, if any, are detailed in the 'This course in detail' window above.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

Entry requirements

Applicants should normally hold a good honours degree (2.1 or above), or its equivalent, in an Arts and Humanities subject or similar discipline. Previous study of film is desirable but not essential. Selection will be normally made following an interview.

English language requirements

IELTS requirement of 7.0 overall with 6.0 in all components. 

Please also see the university's standard English language requirements

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

International applications

Preparation courses for International and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

How to apply

Students with questions are welcome to contact the course coordinator, Dr. Lindsay Steenberg at lsteenberg@brookes.ac.uk

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

How this course helps you develop

Through the MA in Film Studies: Popular Cinema you will make invaluable contacts, with your classmates and with industry and academic professionals.  We encourage our graduate students to take advantage of the many research seminars, career development events and creative performances that take place throughout the School of Arts.


Having a master's qualification helps you to stand out from the crowd, whether you are joining the MA straight after graduating or returning to study after a break of several years.

Our MA will provide you with the skills and knowledge to embark upon a career in the creative and media industries or to improve your current position. However, an MA in Film Studies can also lead to careers in many other sectors, including teaching, lecturing, publishing, arts administration, journalism, museum work, fundraising and higher education management.

The transferable skills you acquire through studying for an MA also open up wider opportunities in business and law. Many MA students continue onto further research and careers in academia, and our course provides the necessary research training required for doctoral work.

How Brookes supports postgraduate students


The MA programme in Film Studies has a course committee meeting every semester. It is responsible for the day-to-day running of the MA programme in the School of Arts. The course committee deals with long and short term academic planning, and any changes to the programmes are first discussed in forum. The course committee includes the course director, course tutors, the head of school and the academic liaison librarian.

The course committee also includes student representatives. The reps are also invited to attend the School Board meetings, which take place once a semester. An election for postgraduate student reps takes place at the beginning of Semester 1. Reps normally serve for the duration of their time at the University. Student representation on the committee ensures that students can make their views known about the running of the course.

Support, assistance and advice

The course leader and module leaders are available to provide the support, assistance and advice that a personal tutor would offer at undergraduate level.

Course evaluation

Evaluation offers you the opportunity to voice your opinions directly to those who teach you, and to make sure that changes are discussed in the light of your experience of learning. It is therefore an important vehicle for student representation within the university and you are urged to make every effort to take part in the evaluation of elements and of the course as a whole.

At the end of each module, students have the opportunity to make a formal written evaluation of the content and teaching of the course. Many tutors also conduct an informal feedback session at which students can discuss the element with each other and the tutor.

Tutors are committed to producing a digest of student evaluations and copies are given to student representatives or are available from the course leader. Student feedback is taken seriously by Film Studies staff and it often leads to changes in the way course elements are run. The Film Studies staff undertake their own collective evaluation of elements at a meeting which takes place at the end of each semester. Student views are taken into account in their discussions.

The opportunity to reflect on and evaluate the course is offered to Film Studies students at the end of the course. Your ideas and opinions are greatly valued.

Academic advice and personal support

You may always seek advice and help about your work on specific units from unit and seminar leaders. Further advice on such matters as the choice of elements, the choice of a Dissertation or Independent Study topic and career possibilities may be sought from any member of Film Studies' staff.

Personal problems can seriously affect you and your academic performance, so be sure to talk to someone quickly if a personal problem arises. Your tutors are able to help with personal problems, but teaching staff may also be able to help; and certainly need to know if you are facing difficulties. Student Services can provide advice and support in all areas of difficulty.

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Research highlights

Dr Warren Buckland

Warren Buckland has seven books to his name: (ed.) Film Theory and Contemporary Hollywood Movies (2009); (ed.), Puzzle Films (2009); Directed by Steven Spielberg: Poetics of the Contemporary Hollywood Cinema (2006); Studying Contemporary American Film: A Guide to Movie Analysis (2002) (with Thomas Elsaesser); The Cognitive Semiotics of Film (2000); the best-selling Teach Yourself Film Studies (1998; fourth edition, 2010); and (ed.) The Film Spectator (1995). He also edits the journal the New Review of Film and Television Studies.

Research interests:

  • Film theory
  • Hollywood cinema
  • Narratology

Forthcoming projects

Data-mining world cinema (collaborative research project with Thomas Elsaesser); a book called Film Theory: Rational Reconstructions (Routledge, 2012); co-editor (with Edward Branigan) of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Film Theory; a series of essays on David Lynch’s Inland Empire; a study of the films of Wes Anderson.

Dr James Cateridge

James Cateridge’s doctoral research on film policy and the contemporary British film industry has been published in The Journal of Media Practice and The Journal of British Cinema and Television, as well as in the edited collection Sights Unseen: Unfinished British Cinema.

Research interests:

In addition to his academic research and teaching, James has also worked in video distribution for Columbia Tristar, arts administration at the Arts Council of England, film journalism for the London Film Festival, and as a research consultant for Screen East, the regional film body for the East of England. 

  • The international film industry
  • British film policy
  • Cultural institutions
  • Film music
  • Film and television-related tourism.

Forthcoming projects

James is leading an interdisciplinary research network to investigate film and television-related tourism in the UK and Ireland.

Dr Alberto Mira

Alberto Mira was born in a town near Valencia, Spain. Besides the research activities listed below, Alberto is a translator (has published critical editions and Spanish translations of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Oscar Wilde's plays). Alberto has a published a number of books and journal articles and is a member of the Editorial Board and Review Editor for New Cinemas.

Research interests:

  • History of Sexuality, in particular perceptions and constructions of homosexuality
  • Spanish cinema
  • Translation
  • Classical Hollywood Cinema (especially screenwriting and gender issues)
  • Spanish Literature.

Forthcoming projects

Alberto is coordinating an issue on homosexuality and film of the Spanish journal Archivos de la Filmoteca. Also working on article on cinematic representations of García Lorca.

Dr Paolo Russo

Paolo Russo holds a PhD in Film and Media (University of Rome III) and is currently completing a second PhD at the University of Reading. Paolo has published a History of Italian Cinema (Lindau, 2007), and several articles and chapters in edited books. He is also a screenwriter, and has worked as a translator of screenplays and videogames, and as a script reader and editor for Italian and Hollywood majors and global companies such as Columbia Tri-Star, Universal, Microsoft and Nintendo.

Research interests:

  • Italian and American cinema
  • Screenwriting studies
  • Film genres (with special emphasis on the horror, noir, and cyberpunk)
  • Alternative and cult cinema
  • Film and literature
  • Postmodernism
  • Body, science, and technology in films
  • Popular TV series.

Forthcoming projects

Paolo is currently writing several journal articles and book chapters (on C.S.I. and Tarantino; masochism and pornography in Pasolini’s 120 Days of Sodom; body and technology in Nirvana; space in Suspiria; screenwriting studies), and a book on screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. He is in development on a number of film and TV projects, and is a member of the ISO international research network on migration in film.

Daniela Treveri Gennari

Daniela Treveri Gennari has completed a PhD in Film Studies at the University of Warwick on the American influence on post-war Italian cinema. Amongst her recent publications: Did Neorealism start in church? Catholicism, cinema and the case of Mario Soldati’s Chi è Dio?, New Review of Film and Television Studies (2010); A Regional Charm: Italian Comedy versus Hollywood, October (Spring 2009, No. 128: 51–68) and Post-war Italian Cinema. American Intervention, Vatican Interests (Routledge 2008). Her current research is on Italian Audiences in 1940s and 1950s, on representation of Americans in popular Italian cinema and on the collaboration between Catholics and Left wing intellectuals in the post-war period.

Research interests:

  • Post-war Italian cinema
  • Americanization of Italian cinema
  • Catholic censorship in Italian cinema
  • Popular cinema
  • Audiences in Italian Cinema.

Forthcomining projects

Lost Italian Audiences project in collaboration with the Universities of Exeter and Bristol; a book on Catholics and the cinema; an article on Zavattini’s religiosity in film; an article on Catholic censorship.

Dr Lindsay Steenberg

Lindsay has taught in the UK and in Canada - where she received her undergraduate and MA degrees. She has taught modules on many aspects of popular film and television including classical Hollywood cinema, film noir, 'chick flicks', action television and crime television. She joined Film Studies at Oxford Brookes in September 2010. She received her PhD from the University of East Anglia where she wrote her thesis on forensic science and female investigators in crime film and television. This research was funded by the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada and lead to the publication of Forensic Science in Contemporary American Popular Culture in 2013.

Research interests:

  • American popular cinema, television and culture
  • Crime and action genres
  • Forensic science in popular culture
  • Violence on film
  • History on film
  • Feminism and postfeminism
  • Postmodernism.

Forthcoming projects

Articles on gendered surveillance in the American programme, Homeland and on warrior women in the Game of Thrones franchise. Currently working on a monograph about gladiator films and celebrity fighters in popular culture.

Research areas and clusters

PhD supervision

The Film Studies staff at Oxford Brookes University have research strengths in film history (with an emphasis on European and British cinema), in film theory, Hollywood and independent American cinemas, film policy and gender politics.  We can offer PhD supervision in all these areas.

A number of opportunities exist in the department for PhD students to teach on undergraduate film studies modules. Please contact Lindsay Steenberg lsteenberg@brookes.ac.uk for more details.

To apply for a PhD, please email a member of staff in the first instance to discuss your thesis topic.

Course downloads

  • Film DMP brochure