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Decoding the BA Film & Media Production Degree

by admin

Looking beyond

I recently graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Bachelor’s degree in Film and Media, specialising in Print Journalism Production. My university adventure started off with a general Bachelor’s degree in Humanities and soon after led me to a structured degree in Print Journalism Production.

Nowadays a certain stigma is attached to the Humanities degree and many people will tell you that it’s a ‘bugger-all’ degree. Some may even tell you it’s for hipsters or that your chances of finding a job is hopeless. These comments are ignorant and I’m here to prove them wrong. This article will show you how valuable a Humanities degree can be for people who are interested in and who have a passion for what Humanities offers.

Where to start?

So we’ve probably all, at least once in our lives, been faced with a question along the lines of, “So, any idea of what you want to study or do after school?” The decision-making process begins with a mind full of questions and the whole world set out in front of us. In all fairness, it’s completely normal – and to be honest, the life-questioning phase never ends. We, as humans, will always be seeking deeper answers to the meaning of our lives.

For me, the decision-making process started in high school and took me on a confusing roller-coaster ride. I’ve always been one with multiple interests and especially one who gets bored quite easily. This meant I knew I needed to find something that pushed the right buttons. As it were, a general bachelor’s degree in Humanities is what was best for me initially, before I decided to narrow it down to a structured bachelor’s degree in Film and Media specialising in Print Journalism Production.

My decision on doing a general Humanities degree started out after I took a gap year. My gap year was, above all, one of travelling where I became associated with different cultures, languages and understandings of life. I was drawn to the different ways of thinking and I wanted to learn more about cultures, languages and societies. Since the Humanities offer students courses that allow us to question life and society, it seemed to be the ideal fit for me.

What to expect in a humanities degree?

So to start off, Humanities is the study of the human culture, such as languages, philosophy and history. The Humanities faculty at UCT offers students courses in Social Sciences, the Arts (e.g. languages, literature and religion) and the Performing and Creative Arts (e.g. dance, drama and music). These courses can often be combined with each other. For example, film can be combined with anything – e.g. sociology, to analyse how a certain documentary depicts social issues etc.; or English literature and journalism; or religious studies and psychology. Different electives give you the chance to really broaden your general knowledge too.

I completed several subjects across the social sciences and the arts, which expanded my knowledge in multiple areas and helped me move towards choosing my preferred career path. Some courses included Psychology, Media Studies and Social Anthropology. I even completed a year of Spanish. My first intention was to explore the vast amount of subject choices in the humanities field, as I wasn’t entirely set on what career I wanted to pursue.

What you need to know?

If you’re looking to apply to a general humanities degree or a structured degree, there’s one thing you need to know. Your studies mainly consist of writing and lots of reading. A general Humanities degree consists of a lot of reading, essay writing, analysing and communicating. You choose your courses and the best part about a humanities degree is the flexibility it gives you. I was able to swap and change courses, choosing subjects I believed would contribute to my life.

Even though I was studying, I still changed my mind about five or more times about the career I wanted to pursue. It went something like this: One day I wanted to become a psychologist, the next moment I thought of going into the media industry or that maybe even becoming a social anthropologist would tickle my fancy. Eventually, I discovered my passion for writing and was drawn to the idea that I could make a difference through words, photography and social skills. I’m still not on a set path and it will definitely keep changing along the way, but I know Humanities helped me along my journey. I acquired skills that I can use in everyday life, as well as in multiple job areas.

Humanities provides the opportunity to test different areas of studies and give us a little more time and flexibility to get to know what we want to do. Even though there is that flexibility, Humanities is still a very worthy, structured, and serious faculty for students who are invested in getting a valuable university degree.

Key attributes of a Humanities degree:

  • Flexibility
  • Interesting
  • Develops movement for a different way of thinking
  • Questions life and society, critical thinking
  • Communication and people skills
  • Writing skills
  • Scoping out different fields and areas of interest (e.g. Psychology, Spanish, Media Studies, Social Anthropology)

Moving towards Print Journalism Production

I was thrilled when I learned that I qualified for the Print Journalism Production stream. The course teaches students the required journalistic and media skills needed for the media industry, specifically focusing on magazine production. Within the general Humanities degree, students can apply for various Film and Media Production streams during the course of the second year of their studies. These streams consist of Film and Media production courses, such as film, radio, interactive media, screenwriting or print journalism.

The Print Journalism Production degree contains compulsory courses such as Journalism and Media Studies. A third elective course can also be added, which works as a filler course. In my case that was Social Anthropology. Always be sure to keep your interests at heart. Choose subjects that speak to you or compliment your other courses. Applying to Print Production or any structured degree needs some thought and should be chosen knowing you really feel passionate about the industry.

What you need to know?

The core work of the Print Journalism course is the making of one’s own magazine. Each student has to create a magazine from scratch – everything from their own writing, photography as well as design. This is the end of year project in third year and the courses leading up to that project teach students the designated skills needed to create a magazine. The application process for the production course takes place during the beginning of the second year of studies and is offered to students who have completed media or film studies in first year. To qualify, a tedious process needs to be taken and multiple requirements are necessary. But once completed and if you succeed, the degree will prepare you for the media industry.

The best part about the degree is the fact that you have a worthy piece of work ready for your portfolio. In the media industry it’s all about showcasing your work. Since it is a competitive industry, your portfolio of work is worth gold and so is work experience.

My advice to you:

If you’re looking to scope out different areas of interest or you are unsure of what career you would like to pursue, then a humanities degree is a good bet. If you are looking to pursue journalism or you have a curious mind for the media industry, then practise your writing and don’t stop. The media industry is harsh and critical, but criticism is necessary for learning curves to take place in your life. Confidence is key and standing up for your own work is a must. Be sure to remember your areas of interest, for that is one of the most important things when choosing a niche to study.

Writing skills are of utmost importance according to Professor Don Ross, Dean of  the Faculty of Commerce at the University of Cape Town. Have a look at what he has to say on the importance of writing skills here.

Useful links:

Humanities handbook for 2016.


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