Film

Second Semester on the Film MA

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For the second semester of the course, I took two modules – the compulsory core class and a module at UCL called Genre in Italian Cinema. As part of the Intercollegiate Screen Studies Programme, MA Film students can take a module from a selection offered by various London universities, so it’s a good opportunity to try something a bit different and get a feel for another university (and I must say, UCL has a great canteen…)

The Italian class focused on two areas of Italian cinema: in the first half of the semester we looked at commedia all’italiana, then in the second half the focus shifted to Italian crime film. I learnt a lot about Italian politics and society in the twentieth century, from the post-war years of the ‘Economic Miracle’ to the anni di piombi (Years of Lead) in the seventies, which saw unprecedented levels of terrorism, with nearly a thousand people killed. The decade saw numerous bombings and assassinations, including the kidnapping of ex-prime minister Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades in 1978. We discussed these events in relation to Elio Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970), a Kafka-esque black comedy about a murderous inspector, parodying the widespread police corruption and ineptitude.

While the first semester of the core module was concerned with space, the second shifted focus to time. We started the semester with a discussion on the cinematic construction of time and a screening of Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962), a short film about time-travel which primarily consists of still images. The film draws attention to the inherent stillness of the cinematic image – of course, films usually consist of twenty four still frames a second, giving only the illusion of movement. We spent a week looking at Gilles Deleuze’s ideas of the ‘movement-image’ and the ‘time-image’, notions which attempt to account for a change in the representation of time before and after World War II. Time and temporality were also discussed in less direct ways in relation to reception studies and how Douglas Sirk’s work has been viewed across time, filming death and dying, and phenomenology, amongst other topics.

The third semester runs from now until the end of August and involves writing the dissertation. I’ll keep y’all posted on how that goes!

PASS with Flying Colours

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I’ve been mentoring with SLLF PASS since I was in my second year and it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done while at QM, so I thought I’d PASS on some information about the scheme.

PASS stands for ‘Peer Assisted Study Support’ (and as you’ve seen, facilitates some highly amusing wordplay) and involves trained second year students and above helping first years with questions about assignments, exams, their course or university life in general. We have weekly mentoring sessions which are usually themed around the topics being covered in first year classes at that time. The nature of the sessions varies from one department to another, as do attendance figures.

Some PASS schemes attract scores of students, regularly having 50+ mentees (STEM subjects tend to be very popular), whereas the figures are much lower for the humanities. For Film, we recently held a special ‘Production Skills’ session with a panel of 2nd year students who screened some short films they’d worked on and offered advice on filmmaking – this attracted about 15 students, which I think is the most we’ve ever had. Still, there are advantages to having smaller groups – we can establish a friendly atmosphere and have more time to focus on individual students’ questions.

I think PASS is useful for first years while they’re still adjusting to being at university – it provides a less daunting place for them to come with questions and concerns that they might not want to raise with their personal advisor. It’s reassuring for them to speak to second and third years who’ve survived first year and bought the t-shirt, and it’s also a lot of fun – once the hard work is out of the way, we usually just end up chatting about movies.

It’s not just the mentees who benefit, the mentors get a lot out of it too: the chance to meet new people, gain confidence, attend the annual PASS conference and certificate ceremony, etc. It’s also very gratifying to feel that you’ve been able to help someone; my fellow-mentor Ethan told me that ‘I’ve enjoyed PASS because it gave me an opportunity to help students do better than I did’.

You get more information on PASS here:  http://www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/schools/wp/qmul-students/index.html

Best cafés and places to work from in London

Best cafés and places to work from in London

I often find myself lacking focus when working from home. I constantly get distracted by food (lots of snacks!), things on my desk and messages on my phone. The worst part of it is, I get bored of my room, which (I think) instigates this lack of focus, and consequently demotivates me. Working in an environment in which you sleep in, just does not help. Instead, I force myself to go out for some fresh air and find a cosy little café, so I can get settled into the ‘working groove’. There are so many cool, calm and quirky work cafés/places in London and I am going to share my favourites with you…

 

East London

As a university student from East London, I am forever on the look out for the trendiest coffee shops to suit a chilled, afternoon work session. You’d be amazed at how many there are in East London.

The Attendant:

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This little food bar space was formerly a Victorian toilet (can you believe it!) The Attendant is one my absolute favourite places to work and to go for brunch with friends. It has been transformed into a unique and comfortable space, and is the perfect setting to get started on that dreaded essay you’ve been assigned. The cosy seating area, which features gigantic armchairs and wooden tables, along with the green Victorian floor tiles, really makes it extra special. It is the ideal place to retreat to on a Wednesday afternoon. You must try the banana bread and the mocha! (Thank me later!)

(Awarded Runner Up Best Coffee Shop in London 2013 and 2015)

 

Ace Hotel:

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If you don’t mind a communal workspace, then the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch is just right for you. It is situated in the lobby of one of London’s chicest hotels. Not only that, but this workspace is available to you for 24 hours with free Wi-Fi! So instead of pulling an all-nighter in your university library, upgrade yourself and head down to this swanky hotel. The different zones are separated with furniture, glass and steel screens, which are used as partitions. If you have a group presentation or a work meeting that needs to be organised, this is the best workspace location for you. It features a long 16-seat table and even has a bar so you and your workmates can treat yourselves to a pint or two after a hard-core work sesh! There are also sofas at the back of the room, where you can put your feet up and relax. This workspace has the best of both worlds; a chilled, yet brilliant working environment.

 

The Book Club:

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Now I know this may seem like an odd suggestion, since The Book Club is a great place to go to for a fun night out, but in fact, it is also a funky café. If you yearn for a more enthusiastic and energetic working environment, then this is your place. It is spacious, bright and airy; the ideal location to get creative thoughts flowing. You and your friends canlinger in a soft modern, minimalist space packed with eccentric antique. If work gets too much, you can play a game of ping pong with a group of friends and grab some lunch or even a yummy milkshake. (I recommend the Mixed Mushroom Gnocchi’ – it’s to die for. The best kind of fuel for productivity is ‘food fuel’ right? – well, I think so anyway!)

 

Central London

 

Mozzino

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Located in my favourite place in London, (Carnaby Street), this cute little coffee shop is one of my greatest finds. I always come here after a long day of shopping or to escape from my uni/home area. There’s something about this place that is really special. It’s cosy, vintage feel and acoustic music, is just absolute bliss. They play all sorts of acoustic music along the likes of Jack Johnson, Lianne La Havas and from time to time, they whip out some old school, smooth classics. I love coming here with friends for a catch up, or on my own to have a light-hearted study session. Their home-baked cakes are delicious and their coffees are made with a smooth caramel dark roast, accompanied with a medium body and sweet finish. What more could you want?

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Joe and the Juice

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Not only does Joe and the Juice sell the most insane shakes and scrumptious flatbreads, but the working vibe is perfect for young adults, seeking to complete that deadline by the end of the day. If you’re looking for a more contemporary feel, then this is ideal for you. The store is filled with simple, brown leather interior and captures an element of Nordic design. Whilst working, you can tuck into an Avocado Flatbread (a favourite among all of my friends) and the ‘Hell of a Nerve’ shake; a beautiful blend of strawberries, bananas and elderflower.

 

Flatplanet

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If you’re looking to be inspired, feel energised, share good ideas and hatch plans, then Flatplanet is here to help! Their purpose is to provide vitality and inspiration, which are essential qualities that are needed if you want to be productive and successful with your work. They serve nutritious, yet delicious food all day to assist you in getting through your work load. Downstairs, there is a lounge/dining area which even features a guy on a piano! So, maybe after you’ve completed your work, you could head downstairs and get into good spirits! Flatplanet really captures that earthy, airy and motivating feel, which as a student, I would take full advantage of! Why not try one of their healthy topped flatbreads, whilst you’re at it?

 

South London

 

The Lido Café

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This is a picturesque and charming little café to work. It has a charismatic Parisian feel, which creates the perfect working vibe. The good thing about this place is that is overlooks Brockwell park which is ideal, if you fancy escaping out into the fresh air to get away from revision/work. If you happen to be here during the summer, you can take a dip into the Lido pool after a long, hard day of studying. The Lido has free Wi-Fi and is not too busy, so you should be able to get down to work without any distractions. Spoil yourself with a mimosa or two to keep you going throughout the day!

 

Birdhouse

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Equipped with retro furnishings and jovial images, this coffee bar emits a vibrant ambience thanks to its joyful colour scheme. It has everything you need to unwind and relax. Whilst working, you can indulge into their yummy banana bread, tuck into their hearty sandwiches or enjoy a smooth espresso. You can do all of these things, whilst working in a laid-back, easy going environment. So next time you’re in South London one afternoon, take a trip to the Birdhouse, open that laptop and work away!

 

Zack’s Deli

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Situated in the stylish streets of South Kensington, Zack’s Deli provides a delightful ambience for those looking for organic homemade food and a fine, little place to retreat to for an afternoon work session. In the deli, there is a communal table where you and your friends can work from and enjoy the benefit of the free WIFI.  They also serve delicious food ranging from pancakes to stews, so don’t worry about bringing a packed lunch! If you’re working hard, you need to make sure you reward yourself with an exquisite juice, along with a cake or two – right?

 

 

 

 

 

Get with the lingo!

 

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Now, I know that around 90% of you would ‘jaw drop’, tumble to your feet and blush eccentrically if a gorgeous Parisian raised your fingertips and gingerly brushed his lips on the front of your hand, greeting you with the French salutation enchantée’. Recently I’ve decided I’d rather swap places, and become the mysterious femme en rouge walking through the colossal doors at the French, Spanish or even Mandarin Ball. Just to utter a single phrase in a second language can make you feel, intelligent, sophisticated and refined. Not only that, many jobs recruiters are now looking for extra hobbies and attributes in a person before they offer jobs out to applicants. So rather than let them skim-read my application that I spent hours and hours perfecting, I decided to do something about it, and learn new languages to stand out from the crowd.

It is only now that I fully understand the importance of learning a language. We use language as a medium to communicate with the world and share our thoughts and emotions. Why not change “Hello” into “Bonjour, Hola or Guten Tag? As a learner, the different accents and pronunciation really fascinate me; you can utter a phrase and completely surprise yourself with a finalised reaction of “Oo that sounded good” which motivates you further into continuation with the language.

We are at a pivotal point in what is increasingly called world-language education, poised to regain a measure of competitiveness with innovative tools and programs that promote cross-cultural understanding. Unless we shed our reluctance to speak any language other than English, the potential of this renaissance may not take hold, and we could lose our edge.’ (Fost. D Edutopia) Due to advances in technology over time, new opportunities and experiences have been created, providing communication with those speaking other languages; encouraging and motivating students to learn to communicate in a foreign language. With the help of government funding, student-exchange programs are now being created to maximise learning and to prepare students for international work, which is continually progressing and is present in all industries.

I have built a solid passion and desire to travel around the world, spluttering out linguistic phrases and embracing rich cultures. Learning a language has been very inspiring and enjoyable, as well as being beneficial to my education. My English writing skills have improved, I can make conversation when I visit particular countries and overall the French language has also assisted me in my third language Spanish, so now, I’m not just sticking an ‘o’ on the end of every word in English, hoping that it will be ‘correcto’.

There are various ways in which you can learn a language, you can find a teacher, purchase CDs/DVDs or even better, visit the country! It’s astounding how much you can pick up within two weeks. Here’s a little fact for you, “If you want to learn French or German, you know 40% of the vocab already”. Stop the gamut of excuses such as “I don’t have the time to learn the Spanish verbs” or “ I’m too busy”. Think of it this way: it’s beneficial for your future career, it is very rewarding when you can hold a conversation with a speaker from another country and even better, it’s an excuse to get out of England right? You can return cultured, experienced with the language and maybe even with a handsome beau. Who knows?

What I learnt in my first year

Everybody tells you that university is where you really grow up, where you find out what you like, who you like and what you want to do for the rest of your life. My first year at uni was a very eye-opening experience, as I think it is for most people and I thought I’d share with you a few things that first year taught me.

– First and foremost, how to keep myself alive. If you’re not used to cooking/cleaning/washing at home, having to do it all for yourself at uni is perhaps one of the biggest learning curves students come by. I personally never realised how much thought had to go into meal-planning, how often you need to clean the bathroom or how inconvenient washing really is! However, truth be known, these are definitely skills we ALL need in later life, so learning them before you hit your twenties is no bad thing!

remember that take-out every night is not the best way to live...

remember that take-out every night is not the best way to live…

How to budget. I think every student realises in their first year – that living is expensive! You all of a sudden have to pay for things like food, transport and cleaning supplies – all things you just found in the cupboard at home! As your student loan only comes in at the start of every term, its very important to budget for the rest of the semester – nobody enjoys that “Mum, Dad, I’ve run out of money” call.

How to manage my time. Although A-levels gives you a taste of this, you by no means have the kind of attention paid to you at university than you might’ve had from your teachers at school. University professors expect you to have your own initiative when it comes to doing your work, no ones going to tell you to do your reading or start your assignments, so it’s up to you to make sure you leave enough time to do it and stay on top of everything (something students often learn this the hard way).

– My limits. I mean this in many respects, not just my limit of alcohol consumption (which as I learnt, is very small). But more how hard I can push myself with work, with extra curricular and with my social life. It’s important to have a balance of everything, but to also make sure you aren’t spreading yourself too thin. Sometimes balancing uni work, societies, part-time work, seeing uni friends, seeing home friends, seeing family and whatever else – can just be too much. You shouldn’t overwhelm yourself, and simply keep a happy balance of everything.

– How important it is to get out. I found especially in my first year that I could get really down when I thought I had too much work to do, or I didn’t have enough money to go out and have fun. As important as doing your coursework and revision is, I think it’s just as important to keep your social life at a level you’re happy with – that’s why a lot of us came to uni, after all.

The friends you make in freshers will probably be your friends throughout the whole of uni

The friends you make in freshers will probably be your friends throughout the whole of uni – mine were!

– How much I appreciate home. This was a big one for me. Growing up in the middle of nowhere in the Yorkshire Dales, I’d always been absolutely dying to get out and move away from what I thought was probably the most boring place in the entire world. But living in a city as big as London has made me realise how much I love and miss my little village in the countryside. I miss everyone knowing my name, taking the dog for a walk, my mum’s home cooked meals, my bed, a warm fire, sofas, having a TV. You don’t realise how great home is until you leave!

Sunday roast's was probably what I missed the most

Sunday roast’s was probably what I missed the most

and this view!

and this view!

I think my first year taught me some pretty important life lessons, while undoubtably having one of the best years of my life. If you’re going into your first year this September or even just finishing it – I hope it was a good one!

Billie 🙂

Moviegoing in London

As an avid cinema-goer and having now studied in London for over three years, I know a thing or two about the best places to go to the pictures in the capital. London is one of the best cities to be a film student, partly because there are so many cinemas. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourites, keeping the student budget in mind:

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Barbican Cinemas, Beech Street, EC2
In addition to its theatres, exhibitions spaces and countless cafés, the Barbican Centre also has three cinemas, mostly showing new releases. If you’re 14 – 25, then you can get £5 cinema tickets from Monday to Thursday with a Young Barbican account, which you can sign up for online for free.

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British Film Institute, Southbank, SE1
The BFI is the cinephile’s Mecca, showing 2,000 films a year across four screens and if you’re under 25, then it’s probably the most affordable cinema in London – bring ID and get a £3 ticket, available 45 minutes before the film starts. I can’t overstate how great this place is, on any given day there’ll be something worth seeing: classic Hollywood movies, the obscurest of obscure World cinema, experimental film, old TV series even. Upcoming seasons include retrospectives of Jean-Luc Godard and Quentin Tarantino. They also have two restaurants, a shop, library and Mediatheque where you can access an archive of film and TV for free.

Ciné Lumiere, Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, 17 Queensberry Place, SW7
The Ciné Lumiere, located in the Institut Français near the Natural History Museum, specialises in French, European and World cinema, hosting Q&As with filmmakers and actors and showing a classic French film every Sunday. It’s like a corner of West London that is forever France; the box office staff greet you with a ‘bonjour’ and the signage is all in French, c’est charmant. The building itself is very nice and the seating is spacious with ample legroom. Student tickets are £6 for matinee screenings.

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Close-Up Film Centre, Brick Lane, E1
Having recently moved into a new premises just off Brick Lane, Close-Up houses a café, a DVD library with 19,000 titles and a small cinema which seats 40 and shows films in ‘glorious 35mm’ (as the chalkboard outside declares). Tickets are £10, which sounds pricey but it’s worth it for the experience; every time I’ve been there’s been an exciting atmosphere and a sense of occasion. As well as films by the likes of Cassavetes, Tarkovsky and Fassbinder, Close-Up specialises in little-known works which are yet to be digitised.

Genesis, Mile End Road, E1
Genesis is the go-to cinema for every QM student – just five minutes down the road and tickets are only £4.50 on Mondays and Wednesdays. It has five screens, one of which is the luxury Studio5, as well as a bar and pie shop, and the films are a mix of blockbusters and more niche fare, including NTLive broadcasts. It’s something of a carrot-cake cinema, recently refurbished with distressed wallpaper and exposed lightbulbs and serving that most hipster of pastries, the cronut. Genesis also hosts monthly Cinema Italia screenings where you can see brand new Italian films which are yet to get a UK release (as well as some classics) and generally there’s a Q&A afterwards.

The Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, SW1
Secluded from the hustle and bustle of Trafalgar Square, the ICA is easily missed from the outside, but it’s worth looking out for. On its two screens you can see arthouse new releases, art films as well as retrospectives (previous retrospectives include Chantal Akerman, Luis Buñuel and Paul Thomas Anderson). There’s a bookshop where you can stock up on Derrida, Sartre and all your critical theory needs. Student tickets are £8, and a cinema ticket will also grant you ‘day membership’ to the art gallery.

Odeon Panton Street, SW1
While this list is mostly independent, arthouse cinemas, I’ve included this crusty little Odeon because it primarily shows films which were released a few months back. Located on a backstreet just off Leicester Sq., if you missed something when it was released but you still want to see it on the big screen, then it’s worth checking the Panton St listings. It could do with a lick of paint, but it has a certain ramshackle charm; one gets the sense that the place is aware that it can never compare with its fancy Leicester Sq. cousins, so it’s given up making an effort. Student tickets are £6.00

How to occupy your summer holidays whilst at uni

What shall I do this summer?

This is a question I asked myself towards the end of my first year, and again now, halfway through my second year. At university, summer breaks are long (around 3 months!) which is obviously a lot of time to fill. Some choose to work, others go on holiday and some students just go home and don’t do anything at all. I thought I’d talk you through a few options, in case you, like me, want to occupy your summer doing something productive!

1) Get an Internship – this is the primary thing on my mind at the moment. As a second year student, I’m aware that time is quickly running out at uni and I’m beginning to worry slightly about what I’m going to do in the future. I don’t think that it’s generally enough anymore to just get a degree when you’re looking to qualify yourself for your future prospective career. You need experience in that field! You need to know if you’re going to like it, and you need something under your belt to show a future employer that you’re keen, you’re experienced and they should hire you. Universities themselves can offer may opportunities for summer work experience, but theres also plenty online at your fingertips too. I’ve even started doing an internship during term-time as well, just as an extra boost to my CV.

2) Work – Students are renowned for not being the MOST financially stable, so working over summer and actually earning some money for yourself (so you aren’t so dependent on your overdraft or mum and dad) is never a bad idea. I actually spent the summer after finishing my first year doing a summer working season in the French Alps. Although working a season doesn’t mean you earn the most money, it does offer the opportunity to meet a tonne of new people, work abroad (!!!) and it keeps you busy. I thoroughly enjoyed last summer and I would always always recommend to anyone to do the same/or a similar thing, I think it taught me so much about myself (cliche, I know, but true), and it did allow me to start my second year of uni with a bit of extra cash and a bunch of new friends from all over the country. But alternatively, you could just work at home (which admittedly, would make you earn more money) and make paying your own bills the next year a whole lot easier!

3) Find a New Hobby – Summer is the perfect time to find something new to get yourself stuck into. It’s three months, without the stress of uni and the freedom to do whatever you like. So get stuck in and enjoy yourself! Theres nothing worse than coming back and not having any stories to tell your new friends!

4) Go on Holiday – as important as I think it is to be productive in your summer break, it is also important to relax too! You’ve spent the last however-many months in the library or in your little uni room working your socks off, so do take a well deserved break to detox, relax and have fun.

5) Use it as an Opportunity to Read Ahead – Through summer it’s very easy to forget uni exists and to be honest, forget everything you learnt the year prior, so maybe spend an hour or so a week just reading through old notes, reading ahead for next years modules, or just reminding yourself of a few key concepts to help yourself for the next term.

But more importantly – have fun!

I hope if you’re looking for something to do this summer these have been helpful, if anyone has any more suggestions, please leave them in the comments. Or alternatively, if you have any questions for me about anything I’ve mentioned here, please go ahead and ask in the comments too!

Billie 🙂

First Semester on the Film MA

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In my first blog post I thought I’d reflect upon the modules I took during my first semester on the Film Studies MA course. I took two modules: one is the compulsory core module which everyone on the course has to take, the other was a class run by the History department called Hollywood and the Second World War. In both instances, the class sizes are quite small (fewer than 10) and instead of a lecture followed by a seminar, as you might get as an undergraduate, the format tends to be a sort of lecture-seminar hybrid for 2 hours, with ample time for in-depth discussion.

The core module lasts for two semesters, the first semester focusing on space and the second semester on time. The first couple of weeks consisted of a whistle-stop history of film theory as well as all the key concepts necessary for film analysis. After this, each session was taught by a different lecturer and covered a topic (directly or loosely) relating to space, including spatial theory, marginality in cinema, set design and deconstructing the city. The great thing about the module is the variety; we’d be watching Code Unknown (2000) one week and Dredd (2012) the next. In the first essay, we could pick from the different topics covered and apply it to a film of our choice, so if a particular week sparked your interest you could spend more time exploring it in greater depth.

The Hollywood and the Second World War module looked at the impact of the war on the studio system while also covering some key approaches to film history and theory. Though you may expect from its title that we’d be watching lots of war films, the set viewing didn’t include any combat films, and many of the films didn’t even make direct reference to the war. In addition to classics like Casablanca (1942) and The Big Sleep (1945), we also watched a few titles which I was less familiar with, like Since You Went Away (1944) and Gaslight (1943). Each week we’d discuss the set film in the light of a different approach: star studies, genre, auteurism, reception studies, etc. I found the week on reception studies especially interesting as it involved reading responses to a Mass Observation survey from 1942-3 about people’s favourite movies from the past year. The general consensus was that the respondents didn’t like films about the war or anything they perceived as propaganda. Generally, the responses express a low opinion of contemporary filmmaking, with the exception of Fantasia and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (though one respondent didn’t like it, saying that ‘I don’t like colour and I can remember that the cinema was cold’). A few avoid movie-going altogether because they don’t want to catch flu at the ‘germ-exchange’.

Germany In The Sun

I booked my final journey home last week. Since I arrived it’s felt like I have forever to explore and learn the language. Now I am in panic mode, trying to fit everything into the next four and a half weeks. One thing that is especially hard is the language. When I make mistakes or forget words I feel even worse because I know that in a month I won’t be here to ask my housemate what words mean or be able to practise speaking every day! I am also planning for moving. I arrived here with a small suitcase and a large ‘gap-year’ rucksack and will leave with the same.. but packing it all again is going to be a challenge! I will also have to do some administrative tasks before heading home which I will tell you about in a separate blog for those also going away on a Year Abroad. One of the truest pieces of advice about the Year Abroad is that is goes really quick. I cannot explain how unbelievable it is to think that I have been here for a whole year! It has been one of the most wonderful experiences and it is clear why so many people recommend it. Since the summer has arrived in Germany, we have spent a lot of time going outdoor swimming. It is in the woods and a section of the river is protected for open swimming. There is also a little pool and chairs for sunbathing and reading. Our heatwave started during exam time, so people would bring revision notes to read in the sun!   This town seems to get more and more beautiful:

Room with a view- the river you can swim in from the terrace

Room with a view- the river you can swim in from the terrace

 

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