The electron backscatter diffraction technique has been used to study the depth distribution of the structural strain in a-axis oriented films made by a self-template method. It has been found that the structural strain was mainly formed in the upper layer near the interface between the template and upper layer. In contrast, there is little strain in the template layer. The strain can be relaxed when the thickness of the upper layer exceeds a certain value. The results agree with the observation of a dramatic improvement in the transition temperature and metallic behaviour when the upper layer was thicker than about 200 nm. Such a depth distribution of strain has been discussed in correlation with the degradation of in a-axis films. The microstructures of these films have been investigated by transmission electron microscopy.