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Aesthetica Short Film Festival York Trip Review

On the morning of Friday, 10th of November, 44 tired but excited students (Year 10-13) and three even more excited teachers boarded a coach at a very early hour in the morning, to set off to York for the Aesthetica Short Film Festival. The festival showed a broad spectrum of all the up and coming short films, showcasing talent from around the world, bringing everyone together through cinema. The festival also offered masterclasses, helping the visitors an insight into how the world of film works.

At the beginning of the day, the majority of Helsby High school students began with the ‘Opening Night Repeat Screening’ consisting with the best of the best, the crème de la crème of what was on offer, and boy, they did not disappoint! The first film was a French film called ‘For Real, Tho’ which was brilliantly meta and so self-aware that it made the audience question the reality and validity of film generally. I personally had a small existential crisis sat in the darkened room, as the ‘director’ sat and counted seconds, just to tell us she had wasted everybody’s time, and we were all closer to dying than when she had started.

Another of the best was a German film called ‘Backstory’ which had a brilliant voice over, narrating the life of a man, as we were shown it through his eyes, or more accurately at the back of his head. It showed the ups and downs of life, until finally, we saw an old man, and his face. It then zoomed back through the narrative, and showed the emotions of the man, showing (quite appropriately) his ‘best bits’ with the emotion on screen rather than just narration.

The majority stayed in the fantastic York Theatre Royal (one of the twelve pop-up theatres available, which were dotted around York for the festival) for the ‘Thriller’ screening, which proved especially useful for Year Elevens and Thirteens who are in the process of planning and filming our own horror/thriller trailers as part of our coursework. Our final viewing was an Irish black comedy thriller hybrid called ‘Gridlock’ which followed the narrative of a father who was stuck in traffic down a small countryside road. We realise his daughter has gone missing from the car, when he checks to see what is holding them up. We then are taken on an investigation with passers by, using brilliant handheld medium shots, putting us in the role of detective with the characters, trying to find the kid and her kidnapper.

We then were silently(ish) ushered out by Ms McGuirk, and led to our masterclass at York St. John University, where we had an interactive talk with two important people from Triforce Creative Network. The talk was ‘Inclusivity Not Exclusivity: Breaking Down Barriers’ and tackled some important issues about diversity within the industry. They then spoke about their work to help diverse groups in, and discussed gateways to getting into the film and TV industry.

After the masterclass and a spot of lunch (McDonalds – other fast food chains are available!) we made our way down to get dramatic with Drama at the National Centre for Early Music which was described by ASFF as ‘A Kaleidoscope of Emotion’. Our final sit down tackled some pretty major subjects, such as: sexuality and identity in ‘Calamity’; alcoholism in ‘The Entertainer’; feminism in ‘Zarpazo’ conflict in ‘Die Überstellung’ and morality in ‘Firecracker’.

Although the sixth-formers were allowed to stray from the teachers and choose their own route around the small city, most of us stuck with them, because of the attraction to the brilliant films, and because we couldn’t really decide where to go otherwise! However, as we made our way back to the coach, some of us strayed from the large Helsby pack to stock up on snacks, resulting in some very involuntary running to make the coach in time!

On the whole I would say a very successful and edutainment-full day. Thank you to the teachers (Ms McGuirk, Mr Mellor and Mr Kenney) for putting up with us J

Maisie N. – Year 13


E-revision link for media studies gcse 2017 exam topic: All year 11 media students should be spending at least one hour per week using this revision resource. If you have lost or forgotten your log on & password then ask Ms. McGuirk/Mr Matthews. School post code is WA6 0HY.

Media Studies Student Voice Survey

Please could ALL Media Studies students (GCSE & A Level) complete this quick survey, in order to help us establish what is going well in the subject, and what we could do to improve your experience. Your responses are much appreciated and we will do our best to act upon them.

Survey link: Media Studies Student Voice Survey

Ms McGuirk

Media Studies trip to the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York

By Ellie H. 12LBO

On Friday 4th of November 2016, 43 Media Studies students from Year 10-13 visited the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in the beautiful city of York. The event offered a diverse range of short films of different genres to view in various ‘pop up’ locations, ranging from thrillers and comedy, to animation, experimental and even dance. The event also offered a variety of different ‘masterclass’ workshops, two of which were attended by Helsby students, ‘The Changing Landscape of Women in Film’ and ‘Top Tips For Directors’.

It was a very early start (we left the bus park at 7am!) but this meant that we arrived in York just before 9:30 in plenty of time for the first masterclass. Whilst sixth formers had a completely free choice of what they wanted to choose to watch across all 15 locations, the year 10’s and 11’s were split into two groups, one led by Mrs Montague and Mrs McGuirk (Ms McGuirk’s mum!) and the other by Ms McGuirk and Mrs Newman.

Even though as a sixth former I was able to go to whichever screening I chose, I chose to follow the group led by Mrs Montague who were going to ‘Opening Night Showcase’ which was a compilation of some of the best short films of the entire festival. These short films included all sorts of topics from a personal story about the thoughts and feelings of a refugee, to one about a mosquito called Anabel Shine who wanted to speak to humans before she died. While the film about refugees was thought provoking and moving, the film about the lonely mosquito offered a light-hearted feel and was one of my personal favourites.

We then went onto our master classes of which I chose ‘Top Tips for Directors’. The master class was led by a top director who was brought in to lead the master class at short notice after the original director, Justin Chadwick, was unable to attend. His replacement however was more than qualified and gave his audience an insight into what it is like to be a director. He shared his experiences with us as to how to make an actor connect with their emotions and how to channel events that had happened in their lives and how they felt at that moment, into their performances. He continued on and revealed that he was also a script writer, however he was quick to mention that not all directors are.

After the master class, a group of sixth formers and I headed to the Yorkshire Museum to watch a compilation of comedy shorts. These included ‘Kissy Lips man’ by Will Webb, ’90 Grad Nord’ by Detsky Graffam and ‘Stalkers’ by Fred Tilby-Jones. ‘Kissy Lips Man’ was by far the most bizarre piece of film I have ever seen. It began with a ‘horror-esque’ feel as the main protagonist was being stalked by a man who ended up finding his way into the protagonist’s house. The stalker then proceeded to watch the protagonist sleeping and when he woke up, the stalker puckered his lips as if to kiss the protagonist. At this point, a large, purple hand and arm came out of the stalker’s mouth and reached for the protagonist, at which point the film ended. The audience was left feeling bewildered to say the least. ’90 Grad Nord’ however was my favourite comedy piece although it was not because of its comedic values but because of the cleverness of the plot.

To finish the day, everyone decided to meet up at the Friargate theatre to watch some drama shorts of which included ‘Fata Morgana’ by Amelie Wen; a heart-wrenching film about a Chinese mother and father who lost their only daughter. It explored political issues such as the ‘one-child’ policy whilst also showing the true feelings that some people had towards it and ultimately the faults within it as this couple was now left childless. Another film that was shown, and my personal favourite out of the two, was ‘The Sky Is Blue Everywhere’ by Gina Wenzel. This German piece was subtitled however this didn’t affect its dramatic power and its ability to touch an English audience as it explored issues such as disability and relationships, both family and friends.

Overall, the trip was a great success, despite being a very long day, it was well worth it, with students finding it an enjoyable and educational experience.


Business Studies, Economics and Media Studies London Trip 2016 Report

Report by Jenny B (Year 12 Media Studies student)

On Tuesday 28th June, 32 of our Business, Economics and Media Studies students travelled to London for a two day stay. During our time, we walked a number of miles, visiting places and areas in our capital city we had never seen before and in some ways had never even known existed.

After we departed Runcorn Station at 9am we arrived at Euston Station at 11am, giving us plenty of time to check into our Hostel (The Generator) and receive our travel passes in order to use the tube (which we did…a lot). After an hour of free time, we partook in our first activity of the trip; the Silicon Roundabout Tour. Starting at Shoreditch Grind (a funky little coffee shop come recording studio), a professional and knowledgeable tour guide took us on an entertaining loop of Silicon Roundabout’s (or ‘Tech City’s) many businesses. For two hours, we learned about the unique relationship between Silicon roundabout’s tech businesses and the areas artists and musicians, this was particularly exciting when we were able to see a genuine Banksy piece! The award-winning tour opened our eyes into the education if how Shoreditch spawned a tech monster to rival San Francisco’s Silicon Valley.

The evening was full of entertainment: after a fifty minute shopping spree in Oxford Street, we made our way to Planet Hollywood, located near the exciting area of Piccadilly Circus. It was here we had a delicious dinner, relaxed our aching feet and enjoyed the ability to send the texts to the TV screens perhaps a little too much. Afterwards, we had the unexpected pleasure of witnessing a Brexit Protest where thousands had gathered in Trafalgar Square. We listened to them yell – “Migrants in! British out!” – and watched the news anchors prepare to report on the ledge where we stood.

This was well received by the many of us who agreed with passion at the Protest; however we fought the urge to join them in favour of a west end show. The Lion King was enjoying its 17th year at the Lyceum Theatre and a simple word to describe the performance would be ‘outstanding’. It was an incredible privilege to witness a real west end show, however I have still proven unsuccessful in my attempt to rid ‘the circle of life’ from its repeating mantra in my brain…

The second day was just as energetic as the first. We were up bright and early in order to make our way to the Houses of Parliament in time at around 9:50 for our tour. We were lucky enough to have an extremely intelligent and professional guide leading us through the halls lined with awe-inspiring paintings. There wasn’t an inch of the walls, ceilings or floors that were without detail and history. The guide also shared some interesting anecdotes along the way, for example the chip in one of the statues was caused by a suffragette chaining herself to its foot. We also stood in the exact spot where Spencer Perceval was assassinated (the only Prime Minister to be assassinated in history). Afterwards, we moved to the Great Hall (which amazed us with the fact it was built in 1097-99!) to have a lively and thought provoking Q&A with local MP Graham Evans
After a quick (and slightly ‘breezy’) lunch, we were able to ride the London Eye, which stands at a staggering 135 metres high. The views were simply phenomenal and allowed us to see London in a completely different and beautiful light. We then split into two groups; the Business and Economics students travelled to the Bank of England, whereas the Media students (such as myself) went to the London Film Museum (AKA ‘The James Bond Props Museum’). It was here that we were able to manipulate our ‘civilian’ identity into our alter egos of MI6 Agents for a short photo-shoot. It’s fair to say that we had a licence to look suavy.

Overall, the trip was a fantastic experience filled with unforgettable laughs and information. I would like to take the chance to thank the teachers who made the experience possible and managed to guide 32 students through the busy London tubes/streets safely, as well as somehow managing to convince us not to join the Protests. I don’t know how you did it, but thanks. London 2016 was a truly memorable trip for all.


Media Studies trip to the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York

Report by Alex U in Year 11

On the 6th of November 2015, a large group of over 40 sixth formers and year 11’s visited the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in the city of York. The event offered a diverse range of short films of different genres to view in various ‘pop up’ locations, ranging from thrillers and comedy, to animation, experimental and even dance. The event also offered a variety of different ‘masterclass’ workshops, one of which all Helsby High students attended, called ‘Finding the Right Angle’, presented by Camera Operators who had worked on a huge variety of well-known film sets.

Although the 2 and half hour trip seemed long, tiring and dull to the distant city of York, it turned out to be completely worth it due to the high quality of short films. Although the sixth formers had a completely free choice of what they wanted tio choose to watch across all 15 locations, the year 11’s had to decide which of the two teachers who were leading the trip (Ms. McGuirk and Mrs Chalmer, accompanied by Ms. McGuirk’s mother) they wished to go with. I personally went along to the comedy screenings instead of the ‘Opening Night Show Reel’, that celebrated the best of a wide variety of genres within the short space of an hour.

The comedy screenings varied from extraordinary and original, to almost dramaesque. Films such as ‘Tea for two’, ‘Satan has a bushy tail’, and ‘Acoustic Kitty’ were firm fan favourites of the hour. ‘Satan has a bushy tail’ seemed to get the most laughs, as we see a granddad and his grandson chase a ‘possessed’ squirrel around the old man’s house. The film offered a large amount of gags and laughs throughout its run time, and seemed to get the most laughs. However, the short “Snorkels and Sparrows” intrigued me the most, as the Swiss film used a large quantity of awkward humour mixed with stunning shots, as various stories occur around the site. It wasn’t a revolutionary comedy, as it looked very much like Wes Andersons 2014 masterpiece “Grand Budapest Hotel”, and the humour didn’t appeal to everyone, so it had a very ‘marmite’ reaction.

After viewing the comedic short films, we attended an interesting talk at the Grand Opera House, presented by members of the British association camera operators, who talked about their careers and what the job involved. The camera operators were involved with very well-known big budget films such as Avengers: Age of Ultron, Layer Cake and Kingsman, and showed some interesting clips.

Not Long after this workshop and having lunch, we split again to attend either the Advertising workshop or the Drama short films. I attended the Drama genre screening, which showed two ‘longer’ short films. One focused on a gay relationship between two young men who had recently moved to London in pursuit of happiness with ‘no strings attatched’, hence the title of the film itself, which actually was quite ironic, as the young men discovered that emotional intimacy was actually very desirable. The other was a French film about a group of young Muslim men travelling to their home country to bury their brother and friend, but encountering many dramatic obstacles along the way before they could lay him to rest in peace. Both films were shot beautifully, especially the French one, conveyed powerful messages which visibly moved some members of the audience.

Finally, almost everyone chose to attend the Thriller screening back at the Grand Opera House. This was generally very popular as many of the short thrillers actually incorporated elements of other genres, such as the French thriller black-comedy hybrid ‘On The Road’ which centred around a group of young women harbouring murderous intentions, and the rather gruesome and gory, but also darkly funny ‘A Stranger Kind’ which featured a severed autonomous hand, to the more conventional and incredibly chilling German film ‘The House’ inspired by a Steven King short story.

Overall, the trip was a great success, despite being a very long day, it was well worth it, with students finding it an enjoyable and educational experience.

York Film Festival Photo


Film Club Listings Poster Autumn 2016-001


Upper School Film Club is only for students in Year 10 and above, as some of the films to be shown are of a more challenging and controversial nature, and may contain scenes that are unsuitable for younger pupils.


United Utilities UCreate Final: Helsby High School students named official runners up.

Just before the Easter holidays, on Thursday March 26th, a group of Helsby High English and Media Studies students visited the United Utilities HQ in Warrington in order to take part in the final stage of the UCreate competition and pitch a radio advert that they had created warning young people and their parents about the dangers of swimming in reservoirs. The group was one of just three finalists, chosen from hundreds of entries that the competition had received from schools and colleges across the whole region.

Back in December, English and Media Studies students across the school had taken part in workshops, led by Ms McGuirk, to improve their understanding of the dangers of swimming in reservoirs; many were shocked and visibly moved by the first person accounts they heard from the bereaved relatives of children who had drowned in recent years. Students had then spent time analysing the key conventions of radio campaigns, such as the various THINK! road safety adverts, before putting the theory into practise as they subsequently went on to create, record and edit their own radio adverts.

The talented finalists were Sam M, Jake P, and Lauren R in Year 9, and Lewis W in Year 10, who had worked together to write, perform and produce a very moving, and highly effective, entry for the competition. Their task at the final stage of the competition was to formally pitch their advert to the board of directors at United Utilities, and to then answer questions about it, so the judges could decide upon which out of the three finalists would have their advert broadcast on regional radio to hundreds of thousands of listeners.

The four students conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism and were truly a credit to themselves and the school. Although the winning entry was eventually judged to be one from Oakfield High School, the judges were so impressed with the quality of Helsby’s entry and the students’ performance on the day, that they have decided to not only name us as official runners up, but also to broadcast our advert too, as they described it as being so “powerful” and “effective”.

Listen to the advert on vis this YouTube weblink:

The primary goal of Media Studies is to allow students to explore, develop and expand video, imaging, web design, and audio production skills, in the context of a real world, project oriented setting.   As well as creating independent projects in the specialties of their choice, students spend time analysing professional work in video, film, digital media, and the music industry, as well as examining the cultural, legal, and ethical implications of the industry and their craft.

“Femme Fatale”

Due to the inherently collaborative nature of contemporary media production, the subject also prepares students in a wider sense by developing aspects of leadership, teamwork, communication, and critical thinking skills in a positive, and functional environment.

GCSE Media Studies

Pupils follow the WJEC specification and will explore at least three topics for GCSE Media Studies, including at least one print–based and one audiovisual–based form.  Examples of different media will therefore include film, television, animated film, radio, magazines, music videos, websites and computer games.

Pupils will complete a detailed study of narrative, representation and genre in order to complete two pieces of controlled assessment.  They will then further utilise this knowledge to sit an external examination which will test their ability to reflect on the theory and analytical skills that they have developed and analyse an unseen media text and create one of their own.

For more information about the WJEC Media Studies GCSE syllabus please visit:

“The Show”

A Level Media Studies

At KS5 Media Studies is designed to allow media students to draw on their existing experience of the media and to develop their abilities to respond critically to the media. It enables students to explore a wide variety of media, including digital media technologies, drawing on the fundamental concepts informing the study of the media: texts, industry and audiences.

The subject also encourages creative work to enable students to gain a greater appreciation of the media through their own production work and to develop their own production skills. At A2 in particular, students are given the opportunity to research a topic which will then form the basis for their production, thus encouraging them to create productions informed by an awareness of contemporary media issues.

For more information about the WJEC Media Studies A Level syllabus please visit:

Extra-Curricular Activities

York Film Festival trip Friday 6th November 2015
London trip (with Business Studies & Economics) July 2016
Upper School Film Club every Wednesday week 2 in S6 at 3:15pm
Support sessions (particularly aimed at AS students who didn’t take GCSE Media Studies) every Wednesday lunchtime in S6 at 1:30pm
York Film Festival trip Friday 4th November 2016

Departmental Staff

Subject Leader

Ms McGuirk

Departmental team: 

Mr D Mellor
Mr M Matthews
Mrs S Montague