Screen Production Research: THE BIG QUESTIONS

Past Conference Details

Conference Date5-7 July 2016
Conference LocationUniversity of Canberra and Maps
Conference ProgramConference Program (PDF)
Conference ProceedingsConference Proceedings

ASPERA Annual Conference 2016 : The Big Questions

President’s Welcome

Welcome to the 13th annual ASPERA conference and Annual General Meeting hosted by the University of Canberra.

The presentations at this conference raise big questions for researcher-educators in screen production in Australia, as do changes currently taking place to the very constitution of academic activity. As the university sector is recast within the ‘triple helix’ of universities-industry-government, academics will be increasingly accountable to private rather than public interests. Increasingly, priority will be given to programs that can secure support from ‘end-users’. The challenge for researchers is now shifting from publication and peer review (areas that ASPERA has channelled much of its effort into) to benchmarks of impact and engagement – measured primarily in dollars. Meanwhile, high-profit transnational corporations are seeking to diversify their product by making ‘local content’ for global online consumption. Are we witnessing the beginning of an aggregation of the world’s entertainment, IT and educational industries in a scenario of total ‘engagement’?

As demonstrated by a number of presentations at this conference, ASPERA member institutions and their staff are already highly engaged with industry. Industry stands to benefit directly, for example, from research into affordable virtual cinematography and into creative processes in screenwriting, editing and the actor-director relationship. Industry is engaged in helping to develop our curricula, workplace-based learning experiences and pathways into the professional world. Practice-based postgraduate research activity is becoming a very significant avenue for meaningful collaborations. Much of ASPERA’s activity has been directed to this area – through its Research Subcommittee, HDR and ECR Boot Camps, Creative Practice Research Seed Grant and the RMIT/ASPERA Sightlines projects. Of course ‘industry’ refers to a very broad range of professions and enterprises, and engagement can include communities beyond industry. Within the helix, how will funding be raised to facilitate initiatives of social and cultural value that do not attract corporate or philanthropic dollars?

In the legislative literature that accompanies the ‘marketization’ of academic work, the social good continues to be reiterated especially through values of diversity, participation and equity. What can we do to improve our performance in these areas in an increasingly competitive environment? There are some interesting correlations and miscorrelations between what happens in industry and the academy. We are devoting a roundtable discussion to this matter – hoping to openly and honestly explore our best practices and the areas where we need to improve. This is NAIDOC Week. The theme for 2016 – Songlines: The living narrative of our nation – is apt for an exciting year of Indigenous screen production in Australia. Are we keeping up by embedding Indigenous content and cultural awareness into our courses?

Research-led production and practice-led research interrogate the language and processes of both established and experimental practices. As Drs Glisovic, Berkeley and Batty pointed out in a paper at this conference last year, “a key value in this kind of work is the ability to communicate implicitly and differently from what can be articulated within the parameters of written, academic language”. A destabilisation of conventional storytelling by new technologies, genres and viewer/listener practices is creating a climate suited to the exploration of nonlinear and even non-narrative forms. As industry scrambles for expanded, inter-disciplinary methodologies, academic researcher-producers are able to quietly and open-mindedly explore some options. This conference attests to a reinvigoration of personal, essayistic, participatory, co-authored, hybrid and experimental modes of production. It will also prompt us to consider new possibilities for old and familiar technologies such as the university television studio.

Dr Andrew Pike OAM, film historian, writer, filmmaker and exhibitor (and co-founder of the independent distribution company, Ronin Films), leads our contingent of distinguished industry guests at this year’s conference. Andrew is a pillar of screen culture in Canberra and a great supporter of independent production and screen education across Australia. The international participants in the conference include Joanna Callaghan from the University of Sussex and Trevor Hearing from Bournemouth University. Thanks to all those who are presenting here, especially to those who submitted papers to be referred for publication on the ASPERA website.

Thanks to Tim Thomas and the team at the University of Canberra for organising this years’ conference and hosting the ASPERA annual general meeting. ASPERA operates on volunteer effort and we encourage all conference participants from member institutions to get involved. If your institution does not yet have a formal representative, please consider offering to take up this non-executive role. It is not onerous but provides an important point of contact. Also consider standing for an office-bearer or ‘ordinary’ position on the executive committee at the AGM. Please speak to one of the outgoing committee about this opportunity. The executive meets for two hours monthy on Skype with one face-to-face working bee each year. All positions on the executive committee, apart from president, will be open to nominations. In accord with ASPERA’s constitution the outgoing Vice President, James Vernon, will take-up the position of President for the next year.

John Cumming ASPERA President

Supported by the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research
Faculty of Arts and Design University of Canberra

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