Diploma - Part 2

Subjects Semester Two

After completing semester one and publicly screening all the films, all students will have experienced the complete process of dramatic film from concept to completion at first hand and witnessed the response to their work. They will also be halfway through their second wave of production, with the documentaries shot but awaiting post-production.

In semester two students push on with thirty-hour specialist workshops in the aspects of filmmaking that most interested them, as preparation for making another set of more ambitious films. The documentaries are carried through post-production to completion, and students undertake their third wave of production, the thesis films.

Every student makes their own thesis film, enabling him or her to find their individual creative voice. The thesis films are crewed by the student’s peers providing numerous opportunities for every student to pick many valuable hours of hands-on production experience in a variety of roles. Where possible, the specialist electives are shaped to help build the skills necessary to undertake the specific thesis films of each group.

Again through a strong practical focus we help students to master skills that can win them a place in this industry, or arm them with the understanding, skills and contacts they will need to go on to produce their own quality work.
The school supplies all the equipment and budgets for the projects.



Screen Studies

This course is an opportunity to build on an understanding of screen language. Because students have now been directly involved in all aspects of the film production process, students take this opportunity to bring their own questions, observations, doubts and discoveries to the sessions that enhance the relevance and productivity of the sessions. Topics include storyworlds, image systems, soundscapes, staging and blocking and montage.

In response to more in depth explorations of how the filmmaker’s tools can shape style and story, students will produce and present new pieces of work, through which they will continue to explore the power of screen language. Sometimes these exercises are filmed in class, and sometimes they are filmed outside of class. The shooting scenarios will often utilize light, guerilla filmmaking scenarios and formal constraints to motivate quick, instinctive filmmaking.


Documentary Post

Under the guidance of editing teachers, students are guided through the edits of their documentaries over the course of 6 weeks. These documentaries were filmed at the conclusion of the first semester, and over the course of the 6 weeks, the students go through the process of logging rushes, identifying the strengths of the material, mapping and testing structural ideas, refining edits, shooting pick-ups and finally, sound mixing and grading the films.  The films are completed in the 6th week of semester, as the thesis films formally enter pre-production.



The thesis project subject involves each student attending a weekly class / forum with a small group of peers and a thesis supervisor in order to develop a short personal film project. This process involves screenings and discussions designed to challenge personal set notions of what cinema is and how it may connect with an audience.

Each student is helped and encouraged to go on a personal and fulfilling journey of discovery, to investigate a compelling cinematic issue, question of style, or technical challenge. Each student will seek out relevant examples of their thoughts from cinema history (visual and written references) and keep a record of their process throughout (via diary, and also through multiple drafts of production documents). This process of exploration builds up to the making of an individual short thesis film as a practical embodiment of the student’s answer to their personal challenge.

Students are given access to a range of film equipment, studio access and a cash budget to shoot their thesis project. Every thesis film is taken through to final completion and is publicly screened at the end of semester Sydney Film School Festival at a major Sydney Cinema. It is our belief that deadlines and audiences are of vital importance.

The Thesis Class is delivered over the course of the semester, sometimes with different mentors for the concept development, pre-production and post-production phases. Classes are suspended for a four-week shooting period in the middle of the semester, although mentors remain available for consultation.


Director’s Lab

The first two weeks of Part 2 are dominated by this Directing workshop. Directors with industry experience are invited in to introduce students to their practical techniques for working with actors. After instruction and with guidance from their teachers, students will work with each other to develop scenarios, short scripts and improvisations as explorations of acting / directing techniques. These will be filmed and then presented to a larger group for analysis and feedback. This Subject is delivered in nine, three-hour sessions over the first two weeks of semester 2. The workshop finishes with an extra full day of review and analysis of the filmed scenes.



Specialist Workshops Part 2

Each student is to choose two out of the following six workshops.

Note that, depending on student interest, not all workshops run in every semester.


  • Screenwriting / Script Editing Lab

      Students need to come to this workshop with a first draft of a 6min screenplay, or a treatment for one. They will develop these scripts under the supervision of their teacher / mentor and in discussions with a small group of their peers.  These screenplays will often be used as the basis for their thesis films. This Subject is delivered in eight, three-hour sessions over weeks 3 to 7. The workshop finishes with an extra full day of readings and review of all scripts.


  • Documentary 

      For students wishing to explore this discipline in greater depth, this workshop provides the opportunity for meeting up-close talented Australian documentary filmmakers, view their work, gain insights into their motivations and working methods and also to test out the student's own ideas for projects with people who have been there before. This Subject is delivered in a number of master classes and mentoring sessions spread throughout the semester in order to provide the very best support for the development and completion of the documentary projects generated within it.


  • Producing / First Assistant Directing 

      For students who wish to extend their understanding of the high level role of producers in project inception, financing and distribution; and to deepen their experience in the practical role of the First Assistant Director. This course usually divides between 6 x 3 hour sessions on Producing with an industry producer, and 4 x 3 hour sessions with a working First Assistant Director.


  • Cinematography

With further instruction and demonstrations from professional cinematographers students will develop their skills to a higher level. Using professional equipment students will explore the differences between film and digital imaging; test sophisticated lighting set-ups and gripping solutions (including dolly, crane and jib-arms). Class exercises often include shooting for green screen, SimTravel, and filming with car mounts. In teams of three, students will design, light and shoot a scene outside of class hours.


  • Production Design

This course deepens the theory and application of production design as a craft. Classes will early on decide on a set design that will serve as a model for supervised set building, and deepen the complexity of set designs attempted in part 1. This set design will then be erected and detailed for cinematography students to light and shoot for their elective. From there the elective includes exercises in costume design as well as a deepening of the theory of design as a storytelling tool. The course concludes with opportunities for design students to consult their instructor on their specific thesis films.


  • After FX

This workshop is designed as an introduction to digital image manipulation, specifically After FX. Each student will complete a challenging work incorporating a range of digital techniques. This Subject is delivered in three-hour sessions over the first section of the semester. The workshop finishes with an extra full day of screening and review of all projects, plus a short practical exam to ensure each student's working knowledge of the systems. 


  • ProTools

Under the guidance of a film sound professional students will immerse themselves in the expansive, enigmatic world of postproduction sound design. Students will also learn track laying and soundtrack mixing on ProTools. Particular emphasis will be given to the design potential of the thesis film soundtracks. This subject is delivered in five, day-long sessions. The workshop finishes with an extra full day of screening and review of all projects, plus a short practical exam to ensure each student's working knowledge of the ProTools system. 


The outline above summarises what is an extremely busy, productive and transforming year of activity delivered with passion, care and attention by the fulltime staff and the industry professionals who believe in the mission that is Sydney Film School.


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