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How to Read a Film

Delve into the devices used to create meaning in film as you gain a deeper understanding of what we see on screen.

2,174 enrolled on this course

How to Read a Film

2,174 enrolled on this course

  • 5 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

  • Duration

    5 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • 100% online

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    $244.99 for one whole yearLearn more

Master film studies as you learn how films create meaning

When you watch a film there are many elements working together to produce what you see and hear. The different elements, known as devices, have been carefully constructed so that your attention is drawn to certain things at certain times, forming the way in which a film communicates its story.

On this five-week course, you’ll unpack these elements to discover how they work, what they are called, and how they work together.

You’ll watch a range of short extracts from films and hear from filmmakers to understand why different devices have been chosen and the ways in which film creates meaning.

Understand how a filmmaker uses mise-en-scène to create a narrative

To help you gain practical skills in reading a film, you’ll start by exploring the story world.

You’ll unpack elements of mise-en-scène as well as shot choices to understand how a filmmaker creates a narrative.

Explore the importance of continuity editing

Next, you’ll delve into editing devices to understand how films create sequences. Exploring techniques such as continuity editing, you’ll learn how a film ensures consistency in its narrative.

Through different examples, you’ll see how these devices are used in practice to ensure you gain skills you can take outside of this course.

Delve into different film genres

Finally, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how plots are created in film as you explore different genres. You’ll also understand film from an audiences’ perspective as you uncover theories of spectatorship.

Guided by the experts at The Film Distributors’ Association, you’ll finish the course with the knowledge and skills to read a film and its devices.

What topics will you cover?

  • The ways in which film creates meaning
  • How we as members of an audience understand what is happening on screen
  • How a filmmaker uses such things as mise en scene, framing, sound and editing to create both meaning.
  • The ways in which filmic narratives are constructed. The idea of a film.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Apply your learning to a range of film extracts.
  • Compare the different ways in which filmmakers convey meaning on screen
  • Reflect on the ways in which film stories are constructed.
  • Develop a of critical thinking, aesthetic appreciation and production of knowledge by analysing and interpreting films.
  • Explore, identify and interpret the meaning of camera angles, sound and mise-en-scène using film extracts.
  • Discuss the genre of a film and interpret and evaluate its use.
  • Investigate important elements of the narrative of selected film extracts (e.g. characters, conflict, narrative, story, plot, key scenes
  • Compare the function and effect of different narrative forms and structures.
  • Describe important rules of shot composition and their effects.
  • Evaluate the importance and impact of individual elements of the mise-en-scène, and their interaction in various settings and sequences
  • Identify and interpret the acoustic design of a film
  • Reflect on the particular importance of editing as a fundamental filmmaking element through close-reading of film sequences
  • Debate the various issues surrounding the idea of film viewing and spectatorship.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in films.

It may be particularly useful if you are studying film either at A level or degree level.

Who will you learn with?

Ian is a teacher, author, producer, screenwriter and director and has worked on a number of European projects, including the Framework for Film Education. He has won 2 BAFTA's.

Who developed the course?

Film Distributors' Association

Film Distributors’ Association Ltd. (FDA) is the trade body for theatrical film distributors in the UK - the companies that release films for UK cinema audiences.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save

$244.99 for one whole year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 24 Jun 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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