Sightlines: Filmmaking in the Academy
Issue 2, 2017
Screen Cultures Research Lab, School of Media & Communication, RMIT University
Leo Berkeley, RMIT University
Welcome to the second issue of the Sightlines Journal, featuring a range of films that screened at the Sightlines: Filmmaking in the Academy event in late 2016. The Sightlines Journal is primarily an audiovisual publication designed to showcase films made in a research context within the higher education sector. The filmmakers are usually academic staff or doctoral students, often but not always based in the screen production discipline.
Creative practice research in screen production has grown noticeably in recent years. It can be argued that this is a sector whose scale and significance deserves more visibility and recognition, both within the academy and in relation to the broader screen production industry. Within the academy the further development of screen production as a research activity requires a proportionate level of funding, which we hope will occur as the quantity, quality and impact of the research being undertaken becomes more evident. With reductions in government and other support for emerging and innovative filmmakers that have occurred over many years, a case can also be made that the university research sector is one of the few sites that exists for experimentation and inquiry into the creative use of screen media. An increased focus in this area would, of course, be consistent with the function of university research in many other fields and industries.
The films in this issue of the Sightlines Journal come in a range of formats and styles, including documentary and drama, multiscreen and mobile works, mainstream and experimental, and films produced for a range of audiences and purposes, from commercial exhibition to personal expression. But they all seek to use enquiry through the production of a film to investigate questions relevant to the screen production discipline or society more broadly. The Journal is also designed to encourage debate in how research in filmmaking can be undertaken and evaluated. Both filmmakers and peer reviewers were asked to address this issue in their research statements and peer reviews, which are published alongside the films. You will see a mix of responses (and in some cases some strongly expressed views) that reflect the diversity of perspectives in what is clearly an ongoing area of debate. Our goal and hope in this process is that through open dialogue this emerging research community of filmmaker/academics can develop a coherent and consistent position on what is required to meaningfully evaluate research in this field.
The peer review process raised the contentious issue of the extent to which one can identify and evaluate research by watching the finished film. It is clear that in many cases the reviewers felt that a supporting statement of some form was necessary. In our guidelines to the filmmakers, we left it open to them to decide on the nature of the supporting material provided. The responses varied from an audiovisual essay, to a short research statement and the equivalent of a full journal article. However, it is clear that, in most cases, the way that this supporting material is written or presented has a significant bearing on how a peer reviewer can evaluate a film as research.
Along with the films in this issue of the Sightlines Journal, we are publishing the filmmaker’s research statement, the two peer reviews and an (optional) filmmaker’s response to the reviews. Peer reviewers had the option of having their name published or withheld. We have also included the guidelines sent to filmmakers and reviewers. I hope you enjoy both the films and the supporting written material presented here. If you take the time to explore it, I believe it presents clear evidence of the development of the field of screen production research.
Issue 2, 2017
The guidelines for peer review sent to reviewers are available here.
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