About the course
Our course combines hands-on practical filmmaking, creative writing workshops, and theoretical and contextual studies. We encourage you to forge links between theory and practice, and to make critically-informed choices in your own creative work through the knowledge you gain of film history, literary classics and writing across a range of genres.
At Essex we offer an unusual approach to the practice of writing, combing innovative and traditional methods in order to develop your writing skills and abilities to judge your work critically, while expanding your knowledge across different modes and genres. In our Centre for Creative Writing we encourage a culture of experiment and creativity, enabling you to feel part of a community of writers.
For your modules in filmmaking and screenwriting, you are taught by film professionals with extensive industry experience. You gain hands-on practical training in all aspects of film production, including camera work, editing, lighting, scriptwriting, and production management. You produce group films (learning how to work together as a team) as well as personal projects – by the end of your three or four years at Essex you’ll have built up a fully rounded portfolio of work, enabling you to showcase your creative potential for future employers. Your second-year module on screenwriting forms the keystone of your course, bridging the two parts. You will also have the opportunity to write a script as part of your final-year independent study.
We are ranked Top 20 in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2015).
Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you extending your education by providing the option of an additional year at no extra cost. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year studying abroad or employed on a placement, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.
Our Department has an exchange scheme with universities in Denmark, France, Finland, Greece, Germany, Spain and Italy through the ERASMUS programme. This provides our students with the opportunity to view the world, and film, from another perspective.
Studying abroad also allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.
When you arrive at Essex, you can decide whether you would like to combine your course with a placement year. You will be responsible for finding your placement, but with support and guidance provided by both your department and our Employability and Careers Centre.
Our expert staff
The Centre for Film Studies and Centre for Creative Writing are part of a unique literary conservatoire at Essex that offers talented students the support and confidence to respond both critically and artistically to the study of film and writing
Our distinctive environment is possible because we are a community of award-winning film-makers, and media specialists; our staff over the years have included Oscar winners and BAFTA winners. We have long been home to poets, novelists, translators, dramatists and actors, alongside literary critics, drama scholars and film theorists.
Our creative writing teaching staff are experienced and established writers who have a breadth of experience across literary genres, from novels, prose and plays, to poetry and song.
- View classic films at weekly film screenings in our dedicated 120-seat film theatre, equipped with digital HD projection facilities and surround sound
- Join student film societies and the Centre for Film Studies film series, which screen and discuss both recent blockbusters and less mainstream arthouse films
- Hear writers talk about their craft and learn from leading specialists at weekly research seminars
- Our Research Laboratory allows you to collaborate with professionals, improvising and experimenting with new work which is being tried and tested
- Write for our student magazine Albert or host a Red Radio show
Our graduates acquire key skills in writing close analysis, critical analysis, contextual research, time-management, and hands-on filmmaking.
In your third year, you can make your own short film – a calling card showcasing your individual, creative potential to add to a portfolio of practical work developed during your course to present to prospective employers. This puts you in a stronger position to enter film production, TV, journalism, publishing and teaching professions, amongst a host of other careers.
Recent graduates have been employed as:
- A subtitle writing for Sky TV
- An assistant director for a music video for an internationally-acclaimed band
- An English teacher
- A media studies teacher
We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.
For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.
Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.
How do we analyse moving images? What innovations have transformed the cinema experience? What moments and movements have been key to film history? Study the development of international cinema, looking at all aspects of the form, including analysis of theoretical issues, film language, and a variety of important directors and genres.
Want hands-on experience of the film process, from pre to post-production? Keen to tackle technical aspects, such as framing, lighting, sound and editing? Work individually and in small groups on your own projects, covering topics like how shots are framed through to the different editing techniques that manipulate film narrative.
What possibilities does radio offer a writer? What techniques are required? How can the main tools of dramatic construction be exploited for radio? Focusing on drama, study work currently being broadcast plus classic pieces. Make use of the University’s studio to record extracts of your own radio scripts.
How do you get started as a writer? How do you practise your writing? And how can you make improvements? Using exercises and texts, focus on your basic skills and essay writing. Cover topics like characterisation, dialogue, point of view, plotting, suspense, and metaphor and imagery.
What is contemporary writing? And how is it characterised? Don’t just study known “traditional” genres of literature, what about the emerging new genres of writing that are challenging readers? Analyse contemporary English writing, published within the last ten years, looking at themes, forms, issues and language.
How can texts be read and interpreted using the thinking of Marx? What about Freud or de Saussure? Or Derrida and Said? Study literature, theatre, and film using these key thinkers. Analyse their approaches both historically and institutionally, and understand the importance of theoretical and methodological material to your studies.
What are the practical aspects of screenwriting? And the theoretical? Explore the construction of a range of screenplays, investigating their shared structural elements. Write your own short films. Produce reports reflecting your understanding of screen writing. Participate in the creative pitching of ideas.
Building on the knowledge and skills gained in the prerequisite Introduction to Film Production, you gain a variety of production techniques, from research, script writing, adaptation, location shooting and editing. You also address key management skills, from learning how to properly plan a project, to collaborating with actors. Working as part of a small group, you conclude the module by producing an imaginative and creative short film.
What are the key theories for creative writing? And how do writers (such as Wordsworth or Pound) theorise their own work and that of others? Study a range of genres, from poetry and fiction to autobiography, with practical writing exercises. Explore “making the familiar unfamiliar” (defamiliarisation), and focus on narrative.
Documentary film makers have been unveiling new and surprising truths to the masses since the 1920s, and the genre is as popular today as it has ever been. You examine different documentary forms through the work of practitioners such as John Grierson, Molly Dineen, and Agnes Varda, and gain key production skills, including the formulation of the idea, research methods, handling techniques, legal and consent issues, recording techniques and documentary editing. By the end of the module, you will have created your own individual documentary film.
Are you an experienced writer or beginner? Interested in writing stories or poetry? Science fiction or detective fiction? We offer something for all! Explore the theory and practice of creative writing through the unique work of the Oulipo Workshop of Potential Literature, founded by Raymond Queneau in 1960.
Who makes animation? When and why? Who determines how animation should be viewed? Study film animation as both an art form and mode of social and political expression. Explore the history of film animation and gain an understanding of the basics technical aspects of animated filmmaking.
Want to acquire advanced practical skills in filmmaking? And get hands-on experience of producing a short film? Focus on the art of filmmaking by exploring technical approaches in practice. Work collaboratively and creatively to devise and realise two short films, investigating narrative, cinematography, music, sound, art design, and lighting.
How is myth used by writers? How is the creative process of writing linked to myth? Study collaborative and creative processes of writing through group work and seminars. Explore the term myth in relation to elements such as fairy tale, tradition, locality, folklore, and divination.
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
- Teaching will mainly take the form of lectures and classes of about 20 students
- Emphasis on practical exercises and creative approaches
- Hands-on experience of camerawork and film production
- Explore film theory through use of film and literature
- A typical timetable involves a one-hour lecture and a one-hour class for each of your modules every week
- Your final mark for each module is determined half by coursework and half by examination
- A mark for class participation is included in your coursework mark
- Coursework includes essays, exhibition reviews and virtual portfolios, coursework reports, individual and group presentations, book reviews, viva voce examinations, and an independent research project (a dissertation)
- Written examinations are also taken for the majority of modules at the end of each academic year
If you already have your results and want to apply for 2016 entry through Clearing, complete our Clearing application form
and we’ll get back in touch with you or give us a ring
to discuss your grades.
IELTS entry requirements
English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)
If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.
If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.
Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.