Don't study for essays by writing and memorizing - this may mean you do not clearly answer the actual question during the exam because you are trying to make your learned essay "fit."
Instead, know some key areas of the film very well, so that you can use what you know for many different questions. Use the following aspects to guide you below. Collect as much information as you can for each aspect - important scenes and details along with the key film techniques that the director uses to show this aspect in the film.
Setting: We have spoken extensively about the role of the river as a setting, how it helps develop conflict as well as the character's journey. Revisit your notes here and look for three film techniques to apply.
Character - Think about how Sam, Millie, Clyde connect to the river and what journey they each take over the course of the film (setting or character question). Then decide why they have changed and have some evidence from before and after the change (character or conflict question). Finally, think about how each of these characters is showing an idea in the text (character or idea question).
Conflict - Consider what the main conflict is and the director's purpose in developing the conflict (method and purpose question). Next, look at where the conflict came from - what was the root cause of the main problem? How does this connect to the world? (idea and conflict questions) What scenes show the conflict the best? (Truth or Dare, the opening scenes)
Idea What are some of the big, important ideas that the director wanted you to remember after viewing the film? (important idea and director's purpose) How does the director choose to show the idea - through setting or character? or both? Look at the variety of ideas and how each character may reveal different ideas in the film (Marty - culture of bullying; Sam - making adult decisions; Clyde - knowing who we are; Millie - struggling to know what is right or wrong)
What is the director's purpose and intended audience? This interview with Jacob Aaron Estes might help you decide.
Check out this teacher's website with some nice resources and writing ideas
Download this essay planning chart: