This post is a transcript of a presentation (above) which I made to my own students following feedback on their first attempts in identifying topics and tackling a rationale for their Independent studies.

The Independent Study

  1. The rationale – maximum 100 words
  2. The screenplay –  8 to 10 pages (no gaps or unnaturally large margins – examiners have seen this all before)
  3. The annotated list of sources

What is the IS?

  • A research paper
  • A highly engaging potential documentary film
    • Engaging for whom? Your audience?
      • According to the film guide
      • Your actual audience

Your rationale

  • What you’ve done so far
  • The relationship of this to your final version
    • be prepared to revise this in the light of your research and learning

The list of sources

  • Your b-roll (endnotes not footnotes)
  • Your research sources
  • Annotations

The screenplay

  • Duration
  • Format
  • Documentary style (words of warning)

Your documentary screenplay (continued)

  1. Demonstrate control over the documentary form
  2. Content – be sure of your argument
  3. Form – Using the twin columnar screenplay format for the best results

Documentary Content

Your argument – based on the topic outlined in your rationale (once you’ve written the screenplay this may need refining)

  • Ideas developed rationally and supported  with evidence based on.
  • Primary research sources (analysis of actual film sequences)
  • Secondary research sources written and other sources (everything you use MUST be cited properly)

Planning #1 Your argument

  1. Figuring out your argument.
  2. What are you trying to say about your topic?
  3. Developing your ideas rationally

Planning #2 – Supporting evidence

  • You understand what you want to say about your topic?
  • You understand how your  ideas develop logically?
  • Find evidence to support your ideas
    #Tip – be flexible with your argument – be prepared to change the order, to modify, or discard and replace ideas.

Planning your screenplay

  1. Your running order – Based on
  2. The development of  the argument
  3. The supporting evidence – research source material you’ve located.
  4. Setting your running order
    #Tip  – begin with a powerpoint use slides for supporting visual evidence and have a written script for your written narration/commentary
  5. Before committing to the word processed version, refine your running order if necessary – try it out on a friend, seek constructive and meaningful feedback.

The twin columnar screenplay format

  • Insert broad descriptions of your visual material, matched to the appropriate narration in the audio column.
    #Tip – On screen narrators waste space in the visual column, and are distracting from the argument, avoid these, if your match your visuals to the V/O narration well, you will score well.
    #Tip – Never include transcriptions of dialogue unless absolutely vital to the point you’re making, instead write SoE (Sound of Extract).
  • Happy with your running order?   Refine it

Refining – Visual Column

  1. Descriptions of visual material – What the examiner looks for; the assessment descriptor
    Visual and audio elements are detailed, clearly and coherently described, and are aptly and proficiently linked.
  2. Use appropriate terminology, which link to the point you’re making
    Thus if your point is about cinematography describe cinematographically, if editing describe using appropriate editing terminology
  3. Permit no white space in your screenplay.
    The length of your descriptions of visual material should match that of your narration.
    White space shows poor planning in your linkage of visual and audio material and attracts an equivalent grade score


  • Your narration (V/O only please)
    Allow your visual elements film extracts to help make your points, but draw the audiences’ attention to how this point is made, and how it develops your argument.
  • Use an appropriate register, tone and appropriate subject terminology – think about your audience – Notional and actual (see slide 2)
  • Never use transcriptions of dialogue.

I’ve also attempted to post a screen capture of my online presentation which you should be able to download and transcribe or use directly with your students.