The University of Bristol has a longstanding reputation for innovation and excellence in the study of film, television and theatre. The Department was founded in 1947 by eminent scholar and theatre director Professor Glynne Wickham. In 1951 Professor George Brandt introduced film and television studies to the curriculum. Bristol was the first department in the country to do so, establishing the main disciplinary areas of our undergraduate and postgraduate degrees which are taught using a variety of methods from using archives to practice-based workshops. Over the years the department has fostered the talents of some notable alumni in the fields of film, theatre and television including filmmakers Alex Cox and Michael Winterbottom, actor Tim Pigott-Smith, playwright Mark Ravenhill and ‘Little Britain’ television comedians Matt Lucas and David Walliams.
The undergraduate degree in Drama: Theatre, Film, Television continues to enjoy widespread recognition. The curriculum ranges from historical contexts and theoretical perspectives to practice-based activities, using our two theatres and cinema for presentations. These venues are also used by visiting performance companies, as well as for screenings and public lectures. Single Honours students work on a number of optional projects designed to deepen their critical and practical skills. Recently these have included making a short clay-animation film, producing plays of the Jacobean period, adapting a Raymond Chandler novel for performance, writing a detailed investigation of contemporary Spanish film, exploring issues of gender and sexuality in film melodramas and making a series of Dogme-style short films. We have strong and dynamic links with a wide range of arts organizations, theatres and media companies. Final-year students are given the opportunity to experience workplace environments via placements with our partner organizations. Roles have included assistant directing and performing with Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, working on the Mayfest performance festival at the Bristol Old Vic, being a researcher for Endemol Media Productions and assistant producing for Pervasive Media Studio. As well as being trained in scholarly investigation and critical thinking, students learn to work collaboratively in groups and develop practical skills relevant to employment in the creative industries. Students taking joint degrees combine core elements of the curriculum with another discipline in English or Modern Languages.
We offer a wide range of taught postgraduate MA degrees in Film and Television Studies, Film and Television Production, Archaeology for Screen Media, Documentary Practice, Composition of Music for Film and Television and Performance Research. Postgraduates make up a large cohort and our programmes attract students from all over the world. These offer specialist insights into key areas of film, television and performance studies. Many graduates from our screen practice MAs are employed as directors, cinematographers, editors and designers in the contemporary film and television industries. Students from our critical and practice-based MA programmes regularly proceed to PhD studies. Those who have studied at Bristol have produced theses on topics including Counter-cinematic appropriations of Shakespeare; On-line fan cultures around TV’s The Sopranos; Documentary Practice; Screenwriting manuals in the 1920s and 1930s; Creating critical meta-theatre in Shakespearean performance; Home movies made in India during the 1930s; Television drama of the 1980s; Asian television in the UK; The body in performance.
In addition, the Department houses an internationally-renowned and museum-accredited archive, The Theatre Collection second only to that of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It contains documents, ephemera and visual materials relating to British theatre since the 19th century, including the London Old Vic archive, the Beerbohm Tree collection and the complete audio-visual record of the National Review of Live Art, a collection It also has the John Vickers collection of celebrity photographs from the 1940s and 1950s. Besides attracting scholars from around the world, the archive is regularly used by our students. We also have close links with the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture in Exeter which complements many of our collections.
Over the last ten years Drama: Theatre, Film, Television has remained one of the leading departments in Britain, noted in particular for the significance and impact of research undertaken by staff specializing in film, contemporary performance practice, television and theatre. Major grants have been attained by staff developing innovative research areas including Practice as Research in Performance and Screen, the history of Colour Film Technologies and the impact of High-Resolution digital cinematography. A dynamic and thriving portfolio of partnerships has been established with many leading arts organizations including the Arnolfini, the Watershed Media Centre, the Bristol Old Vic and Inbetween Time Productions, an experimental performance company. These links offer students unique opportunities to work with leading media and contemporary performance organizations. Two members of staff are directors of contemporary performance companies, the Uninvited Guests and Bodies in Flight. Members of staff have been commissioned to make performances or produce films and videos, while some have worked as cinematographers, costume designers and film editors. The Department’s staff are also authors of highly respected, ground-breaking scholarship in their respective fields, including books on South African National Cinema; Chromatic Cinema and the History of Colour Films; Renaissance Drama in Action; British Cinema History; Female Performance Practice on the fin-de-siècle Popular Stages of London and Paris; Cultural Dissemination and Translational Communities; The Body in Hollywood Slapstick and Practice as Research in Performance and Screen. The current staff and full details of their achievements and research expertise are listed on the Department’s website.