Diploma - Part 1

Subjects Semester One

Drama Production 
These subjects teach the practical aspects of single camera drama production using film technology including:

•    structure of film crews and the associated tasks
•    breaking down a script and production planning
•    developing a project
•    studio and location lighting
•    studio and location sound recording
•    film cameras, their use and care
•    the properties of film, lenses and filters
•    film editing and soundtracks
•    film laboratory liaison
•    titles, contracts and copyright

These Subjects are delivered in weekly, three-hour classes.

In addition there is a full-day practical master class where students rotate in key crew roles to reinforce skills and knowledge gained during class in preparation for the major film shoots. It is also expected that students will use supervised workshop time and downtime in the cutting room to borrow equipment to practice their skills and complete set exercises.

Drama Projects

The major film projects are produced by student crews of twelve, using a cash budget allocated for the purpose. Each student fulfils a key crew role on two film projects. Three weeks are set aside mid semester for the final preparation and shooting of these films.

The Selection of Major Projects

On Orientation Day, at the commencement of the course all students will be given a selection of five-six short scripts. These scripts were considered to be the very best written by the students of the previous semester. From this group of scripts every student must choose one to interpret and to pitch.

In week 3 every student will pitch to their peers their vision for one of these scripts. A panel of staff will independently assess each pitch and will then create a shortlist of potential directors to go for a second round of interviews.

One of these projects will be chosen for every twelve students. Selection is based on the project’s clarity, feasibility and creative potential.

After the directors of projects have been selected they are teamed up with producers and production managers selected from the students that have attended the Producing specialisation.

Around this core team a crew of twelve students is assembled. The twelve key roles include: camera operator, clapper loader/camera assistant, director, director of photography, editor, first assistant director, focus puller, producer, production designer, production manager, and a sound team of two-recorders/designers. Creative contributions from all crew members are necessary if the project is to reach its full potential.

Over and above these roles there are extra opportunities for second roles such as composer, design assistant, gaffer, grip, location manager, makeup, standby props and more.

Students get to witness the complete production process from the vantage point of their particular role. Through production meetings, casting sessions, rehearsals, location scouting, the shoot itself, through watching the editing, production reports (presented in class) and finally the public screening of the final film students gain valuable insights into all aspects of production that cannot be achieved in any other way.

Documentary Production 
These Subjects teach the practical skills of digital video production in the documentary context including:

•    forms and styles of documentary films
•    interviewing skills and techniques
•    researching, planning and pitching a documentary proposal
•    location sound recording, camera operation and coverage
•    digital video sound and picture editing with Avid Media Composer

The Digital Production Subject is delivered in 14 weekly three-hour classes, while Digital Editing is a two-day intensive introduction to Avid Media Composer. It is expected that students will use supervised workshop time and downtime in the editing suites to practise their skills and complete set exercises.

Documentary Projects

To reinforce the skills and knowledge under industry conditions, each student will work as part of a crew of four on a documentary project over the term of this Subject.

The Selection of Documentary Projects

On Orientation Day, at the commencement of the course all students will be given preliminary guidance for finding an engaging subject for a short documentary.

In week 4 of the course, after further instruction all students will pitch a documentary project that they have researched to their class and teacher/s. These projects are discussed and then voted on in order to select the projects with the most promise for production.

One of these projects will be chosen for every four students. Selection is based on the project’s clarity, feasibility and creative potential.

Once the projects and directors have been selected they are teamed up with a camera operator, a sound recordist and an editor. Although each has separate responsibilities, the group is encouraged to work closely together through all aspects of the production so that each has the opportunity to experience the complete production process from the vantage point of their particular roll. Creative contributions from all crewmembers are necessary if the project is to reach its full potential.

In production meetings, filming on location, the editing, and finally the public screening of the final film students will gain valuable insights into all aspects of documentary that can only be learned by the doing.


Story Through Sound & Image (Screen Language & Context) Part 1

Sydney Film School’s course addresses the importance of learning practical skills in context. To perform filmmaking tasks well, we believe students need to understand the reasoning behind effective practices. Good camera operating is to a purpose, good lighting is to a purpose and good sound etc. In this Subject we teach from historical examples and through practical exercises how films are pieced together through:

•    film styles, genres and the ways we watch films
•    shot design and mise en scene
•    understanding qualities of editing and movement
•    the value and uses of sound and forms of music
•    stories, styles and production in the Australian context

Students will produce and present pieces of work that explore the power of these elements of screen language and context.

  • Directing Character (first seven weeks)

  • Students will study the varied work of several important directors, teachers and performers before embarking on class workshops to explore techniques of directing and acting in video recorded scenes. The course covers:
    •    ethical issues of working with actors
    •    different approaches to ‘acting’ and proven processes
    •    creating scenes through actions and subtext
    •    the nature of characters and story
    •    casting and rehearsing
    •    acting and directing for the screen

  • Writing Character (next weeks)

  • Important principals of writing for the screen are taught and tested through each student writing a screenplay. The scripts are shared and edited within and beyond these classes. Students will cover:
    •    the special nature of a screenplay
    •    formatting a screenplay
    •    finding ideas
    •    creating characters
    •    structuring and story
    •    script editing and re-writing


Meet the Filmmaker Part 1

Sydney Film School introduces students to a variety of working professionals on a weekly basis. At the conclusion of the presentation by the featured filmmaker students are encouraged to participate in a question and answer discussion.

Digital Editing 1

Students will learn the foundation principles of digital editing (image and sound) including:


  • The Role of the Assistant Editor
  • How to set up a project
  • Avid Elements
  • Importing media, video, picture and audio files
  • Synching audio and importing sound effects and music
  • Three point editing
  • Basic video effects and transitions
  • Compositing and nesting effects
  • Timewarp and motion effects
  • Basic colour correction
  • Audio mixing and panning
  • Basic title creation using the Avid title tool
  • Adobe photoshop overview
  • Exporting sequences for Sound Mix, Composer and Colour Grading

Digital Equipment Workshop

Students will learn the following components of digital camera operation:

  • Setting up a camera and accessories
  • Mounting a camera on a tripod
  • Data wrangling
  • Mount lenses
  • Take focus measurements, mark focal points
  • Record image
  • Adjust exposure
  • Operate tripod

Pitch Preparation

Students will learn how to make presentations for pitching a major project and learn how to prepare, deliver and review a presentation to a targeted audience. Students will study the following components:

  • Gain an understanding and techniques of pitching
  • Plan and document the presentation approach for a pitch
  • Choose strategies for pitching, delivery methods and the targeted audience
  • Select presentation aides, materials and techniques
  • Learn how to deliver a presentation
  • Explain desired outcomes of a presentation
  • Use persuasive communication techniques to gain audience interest
  • Summarise key concepts and ideas strategically
  • Review the presentation
  • Utilise feedback from the audience/panel in your presentation


Screen Legals and Ethics

Students will gain a general understanding of the application of the law and ethical principles on film and television productions across different aspects of the production process. Students will learn the general legal principles relating to filmmaking and the resources that can be used to assist in understanding and working through legal and ethical issues in filmmaking as they relate to Australian Law.

16mm Equipment Workshop

Students will learn the following components of film camera operation:

  • Setting up a camera and accessories
  • Mounting a camera on a tripod
  • Load a camera
  • Mount lenses
  • Take focus measurements and mark focal points
  • Capture image
  • Adjust exposure

Students will use 35mm SLR Cameras and 16mm film cameras.

Specialisation Workshops Part 1

Each student is given the opportunity to explore in greater detail two aspects of filmmaking through the specialisations. These workshops are of great assistance in preparing students for their key roles on the film productions.

These Specialisation are offered over two full days on selected weekends:

•    Producing – getting the most out of your budget and team. Students will break down a short script for the purpose of budgeting, scheduling, and managing a film project. They will explore crew structures and the creative dynamics across all stages of the production process.

•    Cinematography – the art and responsibilities of the cinematography department. Students will light and film a variety of interior and exterior set ups, testing film stocks, exposures, filters and shutter speeds to achieve a range of moods and cinematic effects. The film rushes of the test shooting are then processed, screened and reviewed.

•    Documentary – deciding, researching, developing and directing. Students will develop an understanding of directing techniques for documentary filmmaking.  A professional documentary director will present one of their own films and then tease out your ideas through practical workshops for directing documentary - research, finding the story thread, constructing the story for written and pitching presentation.

•    Film Editing – history, styles and challenges of creative editing. Students will be shown clear examples of different editing techniques from the history of cinema, all the rushes of major projects are viewed side by side and discussed from an editor's perspective, students watch contrasting edited versions of short films and meet with a prominent Australian editor to view and discuss their work and career.

•    Music for Film - film music and how to talk to composers. Students will share this class with composition students from the Australian Institute of Music, be shown clear examples of different types and uses of music in films, work with a student composer to add meaning through music to their set of images, meet with a prominent Australian composer to view / listen and discuss their work and career.  

•    Experimental Film –the playful and abstract possibilities of projected light. Students will view and discuss wide ranging examples of experimental film techniques from the history of cinema and will collaborate in the ‘construction’ of an experimental short film to be screened at the Sydney Film School Festival at the end of semester.

•    Production Design - story telling through film design. Students will explore the scope and potential of the many facets of design in filmmaking, break down scripts into the design elements of the story and character, learn the management of an art department, and be mentored on the design of a major project.

Students choose any two of these weekend specialisations.

In the lead up to the major production shoots the school runs extra workshops for a number of other key crew roles including script supervisor / continuity, location sound recording and first assistant directing.


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