A colleague of mine when our team were to introduce our grade eleven students’ first practice presentation produced a document he called ‘How not to suck at the oral presentation’, I guess his point in doing this is that it’s all too easy for IB film students to suck at this. The point of his guide and this year’s examination report for this component is that with some reasonable preparation they needn’t.

The main issues raised seem to be;

  • The presentation should be essentially an exploration of how specific film sequences create meaning, in the context of the film as a whole and the broader socio-cultural context of production. Demonstrating your students’ understanding if this will necessarily require them to discuss their sequence using appropriate film terminology. Where there’s doubt over the grade of candidate’s presentation, use of appropriate film terminology will always demonstrate understanding.
  • There is absolutely no need for candidates to make any mention of awards, actors or characters, this is not analysis, and unless it has any direct bearing on their analysis, any time spent talking about nominations is time wasted or worse, padding, the examiner knows this so discourage students from the very start. Film studies is not fan studies.
  • Likewise, plot summaries are a waste of the allotted time, this is not analysis, and adds nothing to demonstrate understanding. Try to make this clear to students from the very start of the course.
  • The presentation is based on research. Obvious I know, but thitis is worth reminding students that their main research source should be the film and the chosen extract, primary source material. Their argument should be based in the first place on their findings from this analysis. If they wish to demonstrate some understanding of the critical or theoretical context they can use research from appropriate secondary sources.
    Appropriate secondary sources may be discussions of film theory or critical approaches, these will to be more scholarly than wikipedia or IMDB, I take a couple of approaches to these, firstly my students are required to verify these sources with a different source, this doesn’t altogether ban their use, but effectively makes more work using the laziest of sources. In this way I hope students become accustomed to more rigorous research.
  • Students need to keep their eye on the big picture, you can try encourage this in practice presentations. Their extract needs to be chosen with care, so it can provide the ‘mileage’ or scope for analysis in their presentation of ten (standard level) or fifteen minute (higher level).
    Students should be able to make a well argued case for their choice of extract, on the basis of how its filmic codes have been used to communicate ideas which have a direct baring on the themes, generic location and how the film reveals some of its socio cultural context.

So, to the extract itself.

better candidates coped competently with how film creates meaning and discussed this in appropriate film language. However, weaker candidates made general observations about film language, for example shot type, framing, lighting or editing without discussing the intended effects of specific choices made by the director or cinematographer

Candidate should remember that films create meanings in negotiation with audience competence and cultural context, film makers have a clear understanding of this. The the idea that film makers express feelings or views on a theme without regard to the audience is a very narrow perspective, and frankly, wrong-headed. Film makers try to use all the expressive means at their disposal to construct meanings and to make a specific impact on the audience understanding. Thus the more specific the study of how films use their expressive means to do so, the better the oral presentation can be is the main function of the Oral presentation.

The report told of how many candidates accomplished some level of detailed description of mise-en-scène and cinematography, although often without clear enough analysis, many seemed to overlook any significant reference to the uses of editing or sound in the construction of meaning.

A serious consequence of these failings in the proper preparation for the presentation was that many were just too short, (some even lacking in basic information about the film makers).

Other remarks offered a fairly unequivocal recommendation of the approach that can prove most effective in organising the material for the presentation so that it has a logical flowing dialectic, and may be planned so that it meets the formal requirements for duration.

Although it is possible to follow the extract through shot-by-shot this is rarely the most efficient or effective method. It is better to identify key elements in the extract and explore how meaning is constructed. Even if they do not simply describe the extract shot-by-shot too many candidates show lack of planning and preparation by jumping from thought to unrelated thought.

The recommendations for teaching of future candidates mostly refer to precedural and technical issues, and seem mostly self-evident. These were as follows:

Teachers or supervisor must not allow candidates to read their presentations. Brief notes are acceptable but teachers should check these before commencing recording. Should it be suspected that a candidate is reading their presentation this will be considered to be a possible case of malpractice.

Candidates should be shown the markbands, the subject reports and the current guide so that they are fully aware of what is required of them.

It should be made clear to candidates that they must make best use of their time allotted. Ten minutes at standard level and fifteen at higher level.

Candidates must be given ample opportunities to practice textual analysis before embarking upon their examination piece. Many candidates appear to be undertaking this task for the very first time during the recording to be assessed.

The timing of the Presentation commences after the candidate has given the school and candidate numbers and has identified the film that they are going to address.