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About a Girl — Brian Percival, 2001

A teenage girl relays her likes, dislikes, aspirations and experiences of life. This easy-going chat soon takes a disturbing turn; it becomes clear that life at home is not what it seems. She is seriously alone and unwanted by her parents, a situation that becomes doubly tragic when her secret is revealed at the short’s conclusion.

Throughout, the girl talks directly to the camera, breaking the illusion of the ‘fourth wall’ but creating a sense of realism. Music is used for dramatic effect. The importance of her singing the line "not that innocent" changes drastically by the end.

Use our video tutorial on 'About a Girl' to help you get started: Lesson example - About a Girl.

You will also find a complete National 4 Literacy and English unit for 'About a Girl' here.

Classroom Activities

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  • Freeze on the opening shot. Discuss why it is filmed in silhouette. What does it tell us about the girl?
  • Freeze on the following scenes: in the café; on the park bench; at the perfume counter; on the bus. How is the girl’s position moved around the frame? How much does she connect with other people in these frames?
  • The canal shots all feature the girl on the right-hand side of the shot: does this have any effect on the way we look at her? Freeze on the final shot of the film. How is this shot different from the rest of the film? Why is this part of the story presented in this way?
  • Using pause and the Spot the Shots worksheet, ask your pupils to note any specific types of shot that dominate the film (angles, distances, movement). Discuss why the filmmaker presents the film in this way. Do different camera shots (e.g. close-up as opposed to long shot) present the girl differently? What is the effect of having so much footage filmed by a tracking camera? How does it represent the girl?
  • Focus on the colours used in the film – either actual colours, or the degree of colour saturation used. How does colour vary throughout the film and what story information does it give us?
  • Focus on the sound element of the film. Why do you think the film opens with the girl singing? What range of sound effects and music is used in the film? Where is silence used, and to what effect? What is the effect of not featuring any non-diegetic sound?
  • Watch the sequence from 02:18 to 03:52. What is the effect of cutting between shots of the girl singing alone or with her friends?
  • Who are the main people featured? Does anyone we don’t see have a role in the narrative? Why is the girl the only character allowed to speak to camera? Who are the most important people to her?
  • What does the girl’s costume tell us about her – where she comes from, what type of person she is, what dreams she has?
  • Which story events are shown, which are told about, and which are implied? Why? How many different narratives are presented? Is there a ‘secret’ story as well as a ‘surface’ story?
  • Most of the film is narrated in what might be called ‘present tense’. What would you say is the tense of the scenes where we see the girl with her dad in the park, or in the café, or at the perfume counter? How do you know? Why has the narrative been constructed this way?
  • Can you find any notable imagery or use of language? Does the canal have any symbolic function?


  • How many different places are we shown? What does this range of places tell us about the girl’s life? The main setting is the canal: why do we spend so long with the girl there? In which space(s) is the girl most happy?
  • What information or events are left out of the film? Why?
  • Is the film like any other TV show, film, novel or story you have come across? What are the similarities? What do we get from these?
  • Who do you think the film was made for? Do you feel that it is aimed at teenage girls? What evidence is there for and against this idea?
  • Does the film feature a single dominant message or theme? What do you think is the filmmaker's stance on this message/theme? How do you know? Do you agree with it?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the film's representation of teenage girls? What might you change to make it more like your own life/experience?



  • Write the official report of a police officer who is investigating the findings at the canal.
  • Write a monologue for the mother, expressing her thoughts and feelings about her daughter.
  • Consider the girl’s penultimate line: “Gotten dead good at hiding things from her since then.” What else might she have hidden from her mother? Alcohol perhaps? A pregnancy test kit? A diary of her innermost thoughts? A notebook of lyrics that she has composed? Why would she want to hide these things?
  • Devise a list of things that would form the interests and preoccupations of a typical 13-year-old girl. Use ‘pair, share and compare’ to devise a common list which amalgamates ideas.


  • Hand out a copy of the script, assigning each group a short piece of the monologue to convert into a storyboard. Highlight the importance of thinking carefully about camera use. Join the sections of the storyboard together and discuss choices and the final result.
  • Design a storyboard for a sequence to add to the monologue that might reveal more about the character. For example, the sequence might show the girl at school, or hanging out with her friends, or perhaps discovering that the dog, Lucky, has been taken by the neighbours.


  • Create a timeline of events in the story, illustrated by stills taken from the film.
  • Draw up a profile of the girl, working out her family circumstances; the names of her parents, brothers and sisters, friends; her hopes, dreams and ambitions; the things she does in her spare time; her likes and dislikes.


  • Role-play a scene between the girl and her mother: the mother has been cleaning the girl’s room and found some hidden objects. She confronts her daughter about them.
  • Imagine that the canal has been swept and the police have come to interview the girl and her family. Role-play the interview.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-002-000-039-C
Project Ref MVS-03
Year of Production 2001
Genre Drama
Curriculum Areas Expressive Arts, Health and Wellbeing, Literacy and English, Religious and Moral Education, Social Studies
Director Brian Percival
Country of Origin UK
Medium / Content Live Action, Fiction, Colour, Sound
Themes Feelings, Relationships, Loss / Memories, Health, Culture / Society, Identity / Self, Poverty / Class
Clip Length 09:53
Clip Length 09:53
Age Group S4-S6