Sightlines: Filmmaking in the Academy

Sightlines: Filmmaking in the Academy

Conference DateIssue 3 2021
Conference LocationAustralian Screen Production Education and Research Association
Conference ISSNISSN: 2653-1801 (Online)

Editorial

Craig Batty, University of South Australia
Marsha Berry, RMIT University
Kath Dooley, Curtin University
Bettina Frankham, University of Technology Sydney
Margaret McHugh, University of Technology Sydney
James Verdon, Swinburne University of Technology

Issue 3 submissions

Welcome to the third issue of Sightlines: Filmmaking in the Academy Journal. This is the first of two issues following the third Sightlines Conference held at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) from 2 to 4 December, 2019. In this issue, we feature a range of screen works and additionally, we include three screenplays as an important dimension of screen production. While several of the 14 works in this issue were earlier presented at the Sightlines Conference, we also include a number of previously unseen projects. For the first time, for this and the following issue, journal submissions were not tied to presentations made at the conference, meaning participation by a wide range of scholar-practitioners across the globe, following a call for works in June 2020. As per previous issues of Sightlines, the practitioners featured are mostly academic staff or PhD candidates based in screen production disciplines. Most of the screen works featured in this issue were made prior to the onset of COVID-19 with some exceptions.

Also per previous issues of Sightlines Journal, each submission contains a research statement, creative work, two peer reviews and a final response from contributors. In some cases, this final response includes a revised research statement that clarifies the aims, objectives or methodologies of the screen work.

Creative practice research is about the doing and making works for screen production. As the discipline develops, we are largely no longer looking only at the eligibility of creative practice research to be considered as research but can focus on the quality of research. This enables more sustained discussions around rigour, methods and methodology, and contributions to the field.

The research statements of contributions show different ways of approaching screen production as a way of researching — some experimenting with new forms whereas others experimenting with content and production methods. It is clear that as the discipline has become more comfortable with producing and articulating creative works as research, we are seeing an expansion in the forms being offered. For example, while in previous issues — and indeed, in the history of screen production research more broadly — we have seen what might be considered ‘traditional’ film and screenplay works, in this issue, we have an expansion in forms that include experimental drama, video essay and virtual reality. For example, Angie Black’s The First Provocation, accompanied by the shooting script 02: BRIDGET, engages practice-led research to explore how live performance can be captured to create a narrative fiction film. Through improvisation and experimental approaches to character performance and direction, Black provides an intimate, raw, and compelling example of how her innovative methodology is translated to screen. Meanwhile, David Moore’s The Kino Paper Vs. the Digital Paper Vs. the Video Essay … An evolution in digital writing contributes to the growing field of research advocating the video essay format as a valid and valuable method for communicating academic findings through creative practice research.

Looking briefly at other contributions, we include Stephen Connolly’s Machine Space, which provides further testimony to our observations about expansions and form and methodology. Machine Space reads social relationships within the city of Detroit as a material form. It presents a poetic palimpsest that is made up of people and places and the negotiated interactions that happen in urban spaces.

Pavel Prokopic’s Non-human Flow engages with affect theory and the materiality of cameras and light. The film explores non-human intimacy through encounters between the camera lens and the body. The project is a fine example of how blurring the boundaries of human and non-human agents can expand the field of screen production research.

Patrick Kelly’s The Trouble seeks to engage with the problematics of what a queer screen production practice might look like. He does this deftly through an approach to screen production that embraces the possibility of failure and incorporates this into his practice through self-reflexivity. There is an iterative process where queer theory informs a screen practice that draws on autoethnography as its central methodology.

Trish FitzSimons’ Fabric of War: Why Wool?, commissioned by AWI expands the field of  documentary to incorporate a multidisciplinary approach. The film has been screened for a wide variety of audiences inside and outside of the academy and demonstrates how filmmaking can contribute to knowledge across different discipline areas such as history and museum studies. It is an excellent example of how documentary can become a method of inquiry, as well as a non-traditional research output for transdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research projects.

Jennifer Oey argues for films as being formal adaptations of screenplays and offers five independently produced short films by five different directors, all created from the same original screenplay for a comparative investigation of adaptation through creative practice.

James Thompson’s I Work for the Devil employs a heuretic framework and a decidedly experimental approach in exploring an early cinematic literary adaptation of Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher by Jean Epstein.

In terms of the three screenplay contributions, Chris Neilan explores unconventional and fragmented narrative structures in an action genre with A Reverie. Taking a different focus, Brenda Robles draws upon humanistic psychology to develop characters in Greta Ruiz and the Signs of Love. Finally, Indranil Chakravarty presents a feature-length biopic of Suresh Biswas (1861-1905), a little-known adventurer from a remote part of India who later became a Captain in the Brazilian army. In this work, Chakravarty explores the challenges and opportunities of telling stories of historical figures for whom there is scant information available in the archives.

Two contributions innovatively employ virtual reality technologies to bring screen ideas to fruition. Louise Harvey, Mark Douglas Williams and Peter Moyes explore music-animation relations in Ascendance, while Jill Bennett, Volker Kuchelmeister, Gail Kenning, Natasha Ginnivan, Christopher Papadopoulos and Melissa Neidorf interrogate the experience of women living with dementia in The Visit. Both of these works consider the affordances of 360-degree media to deliver spatialised experiences.

As previously stated, each submission received two peer reviews. This peer review process (occurring in late 2020 and early 2021) was a significant undertaking, and we thank the many reviewers for making time to participate in this process while they were also dealing with increased workloads and other pressures due to the impacts of COVID-19.

A maturity in understanding of screen production research is also evident in the peer reviews, as you will see, where it is clear that peer reviewers are increasingly confident in discussing creative works through the lens of research. This is indeed a progression since 2015, when many of the peer reviews at that time — understandably, given the emerging discourse on screen production research — appraised films as films predominantly, not as an outcome of research.

In previous issues, peer reviewers were named and after extensive deliberations, we decided to anonymise this issue’s peer reviews in line with the practice of peer reviewing in journals. We also decided to allow researchers to revise their creative submissions as well as their statements in response to peer review. This serves to emphasise the importance of films and screenplays as non-traditional research outputs and filmmaking, including screenwriting, as both a research method and methodology.

We thought hard about whether original research statements should be displayed alongside the revised versions, and decided that this was necessary for the peer reviews to be contextualised. Ross Gibson (2018) describes creative practice research as a cognitive two-step between theory and practice and proposes that articulating the methodology and research questions underlying the practice is crucial to the kinds of systematic enquiry that are regarded as research by the academy. Here, we follow Gibson’s position on the necessity for verbally articulating the creative works as research situated within a disciplinary body of knowledge as well as a community of practice. For this reason, we include the original and revised research statements so that readers can see for themselves how creative works are being framed as research.

As well as revising research statements, a small number of submitters have chosen to revise their creative work in response to peer review feedback. A note has been added to individual submissions where this has occurred. Post publication peer review can be inherently difficult for both reviewers and submitting researchers, as some material does not lend itself to revision after mastering due to budget or other issues.

As a whole, we believe that this issue reflects a significant evolution of screen production research, and it is our pleasure to share it with the wider scholarly community. Thanks go to research assistant Kim Munro for her work on bringing the issue to fruition. We hope that you enjoy watching and reading the submissions and supporting material.


REFERENCES

Gibson, Ross. 2018. “Foreword: Cognitive two-steps,” in Screen production research: creative practice as a mode of enquiry, edited by Craig Batty and Susan Kerrigan London, iv-xii. Palgrave Macmillan.

Issue 3, 2021

The First Provocation
Angie Black
Hometowns: A Biopic on Suresh Biswas
Indranil Chakravarty
A Reverie
Chris Neilan
The Box: Five Short Films
Jennifer Oey et al
Greta Ruiz and the Signs of Love
Brenda Robles
The Trouble
Patrick Kelly
Machine Space
Stephen Connolly
The Kino Paper Vs. the Digital Paper Vs…
David Moore
Fabric of War: Why Wool?
Trish FitzSimons
I Work for the Devil
James Thompson
Ascendance: an experiment…for VR
Peter Moyes et al
Nonhuman Flow: Audio-visual Affects…
Pavel Prokopic
The Visit
Volker Kuchelmeister et al


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