Doctors in the Movies 2nd Year SSC 2007
This SSC will explore the relationships between medicine and film, and is run by David
Memel, GP and Senior Teaching Fellow in Primary Health Care, Philip Raby a Film
Teacher and Chairman of Bath Film Festival, and Ed Ison, a professional filmmaker who
teaches in the Drama Department of Bristol University. It will run throughout the Autumn
term with ten half-day taught sessions.
It will teach you about the basics of film studies, including how to do a film review and
film analysis. You will explore the portrayal of doctors and medicine in film, including
communication skills, portrayals of illness, and patients in conflict. Finally in small groups
you will learn and then produce a short film.
A maximum of 24 students can do this SSC. If you are interested send an email
containing an account of why you would like to join the DITM course and naming any
film that is special to you and why. Total word count around 150 words. Send to
email@example.com. To formally enrol, contact Elaine Anderson,
For academic queries, please contact David Memel firstname.lastname@example.org Tel
For administrative queries please contact our Teaching Administrator Stephanie Burke
S.Burke@bristol.ac.uk Tel 10934
Timetable – ten half-day sessions in total, plus a trip to a film festival at the
1 Introduction and How to David Memel Tues 9th Oct Room 2.12
Read a Movie I and Philip Raby 2-5 Royal Fort
2 How to Read a Movie II Philip Raby Fri 12th Oct Meeting room,
3 How to make a film I Ed Ison and Tues 23rd Oct Room 2.12
David Memel 2-5 Royal Fort
4 Whole Film Analysis Philip Raby Fri 26th Oct Meeting room,
5 How to make a film II Ed Ison Tues 30th Oct Room 2.12
2-5 Royal Fort
6 Medical Narratives I – David Memel Fri Nov 2nd Meeting room,
Communication Skills and Philip Raby 2-5 Cotham
7 Students presenting film Ed Ison, Philip Fri Nov 9th Meeting room,
ideas, and editing Raby and David Cotham
8 Medical Narratives II – David Memel Tues Nov 13th Room 2.12
Portrayals of illness and Philip Raby 2-5 Royal Fort
9 Encounters Short Film Sun 25th Nov Watershed
10 Medical Narratives III – David Memel Tues Nov 27th Room 2.12
Patients or Doctors in and Philip Raby Royal Fort
11 Student Films Screening Ed Ison, Philip Tues 11th Dec Room 2.12
Raby and David 2-5 Royal Fort
Learning outcomes for the SSC.
1. To show how cinema has developed over the last 100 years, and illustrate
with some of the basic techniques of editing, and the effects that can be
2. To begin to draw parallels between the process of reading a film (or a
scene from a film) and meeting a patient or making a diagnosis.
3. To explore the doctor’s and patient’s narrative, and aspects of the medical
curriculum such as Communication Skills and Disability through the use of film.
4. To illustrate to student doctors aspects of being on the receiving end of
medical help (and medical institutions) and how this influences the outlook of the
public when faced with a visit to a doctor or a hospital
5. To learn directly about the film making process, and about teamwork,
through the planning, shooting and editing of a short film.
We will meet ten times over the course. Group learning will be based mainly around
shortish film clips accompanied by a variety of short group exercises. Phil will conduct
just-for-fun unannounced quizzes of your observational skills. The rest of the time on the
SSC is devoted to film-making, reading the background material and watching particular
films for your written assignments.
On 25th November there is an extra meeting to see the “Best of the Fest”, the winners of
the short film Encounters Festival at the Watershed, which should inspire you with your
own filmmaking. Tickets will be available from beforehand.
Self-directed study objectives
1. Complete Pre-reading. This material is drawn from a book called “How to
read a film” by James Monaco, which is a basic, easy to read introduction to
the subject. We have given you parts of two chapters to read on “Film
Recording and the Other Arts” and “The Language of Film: Syntax” –about
seventy pages but with lots of pictures. Other chapters in the book are very
interesting, and there are several copies of the book available in the Arts and
Social Sciences Library (PN1994 MON). Phil will run a short peer-marked
quiz including the pre-reading in the first session.
2. Write a film review. A film review is between 250 and 500 words, in which
you give an opinion about a specific film, whether you like it or not and why.
Look at other reviews of your film at www.imdb.com. The main thing to
remember is that you are writing for a newspaper or magazine such as
Venue at about the time the film is released. The review is for immediate
consumption and designed to encourage or discourage people from going to
see the film. You can choose any film but we prefer if it is one with a medical
theme. Most of the films that we are showing clips from together with many
other films are available for borrowing from the Arts and Social Sciences
Library (two copies, one for 3 day loan and the other for viewing in the
3. Write a film analysis with a medical perspective. A film analysis is a more
academic/intellectual piece of work up to 1500 words in which you analyse a
film more objectively and less subjectively. You must do this on a different
film from the review and one which definitely has a medical theme. You
are looking at how the film is put together as a whole and you will certainly
draw on the pre-reading material to help you do this. You can consider the
staging including lighting, set, costume and make-up and acting. You can
consider how the film is shot (cinematography) including framing, camera
angles and movement and how it is has been edited including the use of
sound. Here are three ideas to help with your analysis:
a) Nearly everything in a film comes from a decision by the director –
what decisions has the director made and why? You may be able to
compare this film to other works by the same director.
b) Before you start writing you need to watch the whole film at least
twice. During the first viewing construct a “plot segmentation” –
dividing the whole work into scenes and sub-scenes (see pre-
reading for example)
c) You can use your analysis to construct an argument – for instance
“Doctor in the House has been created as a parody of patriarchal
medicine”. You then go on to describe the techniques used to
convey this message. This approach gives a direction to your
From a medical perspective you could consider some of the following
a) What insights does the film give into the portrayal of illness and
how does it compare with learning you have had at medical school
and your experiences elsewhere?
b) How are relationships between health professionals and patients
represented in the film?
c) Is the film realistic in its portrayal of medicine?
Examples of both Film Reviews and Film Analyses by previous years’
students are available on the Primary Care website
4. Make a 5 minute film. You will be divided into four groups. Let us know if
there is a particular person you would like to work with otherwise we will do
this randomly except put those few who professed previous film-making
experiences in different groups. Sessions 3 and 5 with Ed are on movie
making. The main stages are really the same as in the professional business.
You need to assign roles, think of an idea, write a script (if you decide to have
a script), create a storyboard, find a location, decide on costumes and props,
shoot the film (with attention to sound and light) and then edit into a version
that can be shown in our final screening. That’s a hell of a lot for one person
but as a team it is do-able. None of us have any technical expertise in
Your first concern will probably be what to make the film about. It needs to
have a broadly medical theme and you will be given a choice of titles in
Session 5. You could do a medical information film, satirise some aspect of
medicine, re-shoot a famous film, stage a medical drama, what about the
medical student experience?. It doesn’t have to have a script; it can be
controversial, humorous and satirical.
5. Write a reflective account of the SSC. This should be done under the
following three headings and the total length should be around 450 words.
a) My experience of being part of a movie making team was………
b) The potential value of film studies in medical education is……...
c) My suggestions for developing DITM would include…………...
You are expected to come to all group sessions of DITM. Please contact David or
Stephanie if you have a legitimate reason for not being there.
Please email all your assignments to David Memel and hand in a paper version
1. Film review by Session 6 on 2nd November
2. Film analysis by Session 10 on 27th November
3. Short film ready for screening and hand in the reflective account at Session 11 on 11th
December. We are currently considering getting a professional director to come to the
For turning up and handing in the written work you will receive a solid pass grade of
10/20. Creativity and production quality in the film project, group session contributions
and quality in written work will attract further marks up to merit (13 and 14) and
distinction (15+). Please complain if you feel your grade is unfair. Grades will be
awarded after Xmas and can be picked up through Elaine Anderson.
The SSC is evaluated using three main techniques:
1. After each session we invite you to fill in “post-it” stickers for immediate
2. Your reflective account
3. A group discussion on the last day following the film screenings in which we
will review our learning and look at how to develop the SSC.
Phil is offering a prize for the best review and the best analytical essay. Additionally
there will be a prize for the most outstanding short film.
Medical Movies List
We will showing clips from some of these in our talks, and they are all suitable for your
Film Analysis. They are available in the Arts and Social Sciences Library, one copy as a
3 day loan, and the other for viewing in the Library.
PATCH ADAMS (1998) – Robin Williams as eponymous hero who thinks
making patients laugh is the secret of success.
WHAT ABOUT BOB? 1991 Frank Oz. A truly hilarious film about a
patient and his shrink with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss.
DOC HOLLYWOOD (1991) – Michael J Fox learns to love small town life
as the resident physician.
RED BEARD (1962) – little known film by Akira Kurosawa about learning
to be a doctor in pre-industrial Japan.
THE OFFICER’S WARD (2000)– Excellent French film set in WW1 about
a badly wounded officer.
MY LIFE WITHOUT ME (2002) – recent indie American film about a
young woman coming to terms with her imminent death
LORENZO’S OIL (1990) – Excellent medical drama based on true story
about parents looking for a cure for their terminally ill son
JOHN Q (2000) – ham fisted attempt to inject melodrama into a sob story
about dying kid
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST (1975) – Powerful film
version of Ken Kesey’s novel about life in a mental institution
AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE (1990)– based on true story about NZ
novellst’s early life
WIT (2001) - Emma Thompson stars as a terminally ill patient in excellent
THE DOCTOR (1991) – About a cardiac surgeon who develops throat
cancer and the impact on him, his family and his colleagues
A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001)– Vivid portrayal by Russell Crowe of a top
scientist who develops schizophrenia
IRIS (2001)– About Iris Murdoch and her husband and their struggles with
her dementia based on his book.
MY LEFT FOOT (1991)– Starring Daniel Day–Lewis as a young man with
COMING HOME (1978)– A post -Vietnam film dealing with the impact of
war and spinal injury
BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY (1989)- Also a film about the effects
of war and disability
AWAKENINGS (1990)– Based on the book by Oliver Sacks about a long-
term institution for people with Parkinson’s Disease
WASTELANDS (1993)- Starring Anthony Hopkins as the writer CS Lewis
and the death of his wife from cancer
WHATS EATING GILBERT GRAPE (1993) –About a dysfunctional family
and Leonardo DiCaprio as a boy with autism.