BA Film Studies and Music

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Screen Acting & Stardom

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM33301
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course develops an understanding of the screen performer as actor and star. It will approach Screen Acting and Stardom from a range of critical perspectives. It will initially map out the field of star studies and identify the most influential works associated with it, and move on to consider the actor on film and challenges associated with analysing the actor’s screen performance. We will look in depth at a range of case studies, ranging from Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Bruce Lee and Will Smith adopting both a star studies and a performance studies approach as appropriate to the material in hand.

The course will deepen students’ grasp of key concepts from film and performance studies and develop their understanding of the historical context and traditions of screen performance that have evolved from the silent era up to contemporary developments in digital performance. Although the focus is predominately on Hollywood stardom, the course will also examine the case of the British star and briefly consider stardom from a transnational perspective.



Pre-requisites:    Any L1 film core course unit.

                             Any L2 Drama Study core unit: Theatres of Modernity; Screen, Culture  and Society


  • To investigate the subject of screen acting and stardom through an examination of carefully selected examples.
  • To explore how screen performance and stardom has been traditionally theorised by film and cultural studies, alongside recent extensions of these perspectives.
  • To develop awareness of the different ways stars are constructed within national cinemas with specific focus on Hollywood filmmaking but also considering other national perspectives, including a British perspective).
  • To explore the changing industrial contexts in which stars are produced, by considering the changing practice and image of the star performer from the 1930s to the present day.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand screen actors’ practice in historical, cultural and national context.
  • Analyse modes of physical and vocal expression and how these contribute to the construction and communication of meaning in performance for the camera.
  • Critically evaluate the historical circumstances within Hollywood cinema that gave rise to the concept and cultural phenomena of stardom.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of key theoretical concepts in the field of star studies.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the key approaches to understanding the work of the film actor.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of key historical moments in Hollywood cinema with regard to film acting and stardom.

Intellectual skills

  • Demonstrate an understanding of and ability to apply theoretical concepts commonly used in analyses of film stardom.
  • Develop their critical thinking skills and express these in written and verbal forms of assessment and in seminars.
  • Produce detailed arguments about the subject using discipline appropriate language, concepts and style.
  • Develop advanced research skills through opportunities to search, retrieve and evaluate sources both on the web and in the Main Library and apply these to the development of analysis and argument.
  • Develop their skills of evaluation and analysis of research materials in seminar contexts.
  • Identify key areas of tension and debate in the field and respond to these in formulating their own analyses and argument.

Practical skills

  • Research academic and non-academic materials/contexts, and evaluate sources
  • Plan, undertake and evaluate independent critical work
  • Engage in discussion of significant cultural phenomena
  • Present complex arguments in front of a group

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Take responsibility for managing their own learning by preparing work independently for seminar sessions and final assessment.
  • Independently locate and evaluate sources to support a research process, building on general and specific reading lists and other resources distributed throughout the course.
  • Engage sensitively the arguments and opinions of others and reconsider initial ideas where appropriate
  • Develop advanced oral communication skills through seminar sessions, including via individual and group contributions.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Awareness of the importance of contributing to public life and demonstrating good citizenship ¿ our curriculum is socially and politically engaged, and encourages students to develop a sense of social responsibility in their professional and social life; Understanding of professional cultures/environments our students are supported to develop professional approaches to timekeeping, peer support/review, self reflection/evaluation and dealing with sources of concern/complaint.
Group/team working
Ability to work independently and as part of a team, often as part of creative and critical projects that present unpredictable and challenging scenarios
Emotional intelligence. Our teaching environment encourages students to develop self awareness, and an ability to use emotional and cognitive capacities when approaching new challenges
Ability to present self and ideas effectively, including when dealing with complex and sensitive topics; Ability to utilise engaging and dynamic forms of self-presentation
Project management
Our teaching environment demands that students plan, undertake, manage and evaluate projects independently and as part of teams
Oral communication
Advanced communication skills: verbal, written; prepared/rehearsed and `off the cuff/improvised
Problem solving
Creative thinking - our teaching environment enables students to develop creative and critical approaches to problem-solving
Students undertaking undergraduate study and practical courses in Drama have an opportunity to develop a range of skills relevant to the creative and cultural industries. Many of these skills are highly valued by employers in other contexts.

Assessment methods

Individual Research Project30%


Feedback methods

Office hours

One to one support for planning assessment

Post assessment feedback as required by students

Recommended reading

  • Babington, Bruce (ed.)(2003) British Stars and Stardom  Manchester: University of Manchester.
  • Baron, Cynthia Ann (1999)  ‘Crafting Film Performances:  Acting in the Hollywood Studio Era’ in Screen Acting, eds. by Alan Lovell and Peter Kramer, London: Routledge.
  • Bandhauer, A. and Royer, M. (2019). Stars in world cinema¿: screen icons and star systems across cultures . In London, England: I.B. Tauris.
  • Bogle, D. (2001). Toms, coons, mulattoes, mammies, and bucks¿: an interpretive history of Blacks in American films . 4th ed. New York: Continuum
  • Hooks, B.  (1996) . Reel to real¿: race, sex, and class at the movies . London: Routledge
  • Dyer, Richard,( 1998),  Stars, London: BFI.
  • Shingler, Martin, (2012) Star Studies: A Critical Guide , London: BFI

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Victoria Lowe Unit coordinator

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