Filmmaking in the Academy 2023
Sightlines Journal, Issue 5: 2023
Welcome to issue four of Sightlines: Filmmaking in the Academy. This is the second of two journal issues that have been published in follow-up to the third Sightlines Conference, held at RMIT University from 2 to 4 December 2019. As with issue three, we feature a range of screen works as well as three screenplays that interrogate, as research, a different aspect of screen production. While some of the featured works were previously presented at the Sightlines conference, others were not, this being the result of an open call for contributions made in June 2020.
Following on from issue three, the 14 moving image and screenplay works in this issue provide further evidence that creative practice research in these areas has matured. This enables a broader range of experimentation with formats and approaches, as well as more rigorous discussions around methodology, engagement and impact.
For the screenplay contributions, Tom Carter’s Into Dust, seeks to break new ground as a record of a British screenwriter writing for mainstream Korean cinema. Part of Carter’s PhD in progress, while the screenplay stands alone as a creative work in and of itself, it is the product of ongoing practice-based research that investigates the complex negotiation of cultural, geographical and language considerations in transnational screenwriting.
Through the writing of the feature film screenplay Flying, Charles de Salis explores the adaptation of his own novel of the same name, an act that questions the validity of the ‘traditional, hierarchical source/palimpsest model of the adaptive process’. The draft novel employs modernist tropes that present challenges for the screenplay writer, such as the translation of characters’ interior worlds for the screen.
In Golems Inc, Maxine Gee explores the ways storytelling is used as a defining feature of what it means to be human in posthuman noir science fiction. Taking as its departure point the idea that humans use storytelling to make sense of the world around them, to construct and project their identities, and to interact and connect with others, this screenplay examines how a posthuman character can employ storytelling abilities to successfully pretend to be, or simulate being, human.
In terms of the moving image works, Keith Marley’s fleur de sel: étude numéro 2 examines experimental techniques within documentary, aiming to foreground expression, particularly pattern, over exposition. This is a research experiment that unashamedly privileges sensation over cognition.
Exploring the social and individual tensions around reconciling religious faith with LGBTQI+ identities in Brazil, Márcio Andrade’s documentary, Prayers out of the closet, presents a moving account woven from the insights of his own experience and those of three other young, thoughtful and devoted people of faith. The piece is structured around the director’s poetic voice over, addressing his mother regarding his own struggles, journey and identity.
Short documentary Between the Tides by Dr Aaron Burton and PhD candidate Madeline Goddard considers the relationship between science communication, documentary practice and bricolage media production during a pandemic. The dynamic between documentary storytelling and scientific information is explored through the parallel narratives of Darwin based recreational fisherman Hiroaki Nakamura and insights from environmental scientist, Madeline Goddard, on the mangrove forest ecosystem functions.
Nick Cope takes us to the roof of the world in his experimental triptych displaying Tibetan prayer flags, Sarva Mangalam! In collaboration with electroacoustic composer, Tim Howle, Cope has produced a compelling work that extends ideas of visual music into a form that the pair describe as electroacoustic movie making. This is an ethereal piece exploring the elemental aspects of wind, sun, sky and earth, treating the moving image as material that can be engaged with through audio composition frameworks.
In Characters, Interrupted, Catherine Gough-Brady explores the tensions associated with character portrayal in documentary, exposing her own thought processes as practitioner. This video essay probes the concepts of ‘transition’ and ‘performance’ to question the constructed nature of character.
Gwen Isaac’s documentary triptych, Tokyo Woman, exposes gender inequity in Japan through the lived experience of three Japanese women. Using participatory and observational documentary methods the film explores gendered challenges faced by Japanese women in home and work environments through a feminist lens.
Addressing key issues regarding how to make the lines of inquiry in creative practice research evident, Dominic Lees focuses on a ‘Design-Centred Mode’ of filmmaking in The Burning. One of three directorial modes explored by Lees in more detail through academic journal articles and chapters, a design-centred approach to direction means that collaborations with design departments, such as production design and wardrobe, become even more significant. The Burning is a demonstration of how this approach can manifest and its impact on other elements within the directorial toolkit.
Drawing together archival family images and sound with stylistic nods toward hallmarks of multi-channel video presentation, Fragments by Katherine Lorenzoni tackles memory as a construct by self and others. The work seeks to evoke and provide insights into the sensation of remembering lived experiences.
Nico Meissner engages with filmmaking culture in South-East Asia through a series of micro-docs titled Paths Untold: Sketches of South-East Asian Filmmaking Careers. In this series of 27 shorts (six of which appear in this issue of Sightlines), Meissner takes up the theme of screen industry careers outside of the global mainstream. He argues that these filmmakers have important lessons to share regarding resilience and determination in establishing sustainable creative careers.
A further two works explore emerging technologies and platforms for screen production research. Shuai Li’s Ice City: Harbin is an interactive video work for networked social media platforms such as TikTok and YouTube and is composed of 15 videos in the city film genre exploring sights and sounds of Harbin. The work explores and contributes to mobile media storytelling forms and how these are constantly adapting within a dynamic mediascape and ecosystem.
Simon Weaving presents Entangled, a two-part VR work that explores the way that the 360-degree medium can best service dramatic storytelling. Weaving presents a narrative that places the viewer at the centre of unfolding events and gives them agency to choose their viewing direction, an approach that he has also explored in his screenplay construction.
Thanks go once again to Dr Kim Munro for her work in bringing the issue to fruition. We hope that you enjoy the contributions, and we look forward to continued conversation and debate going forward.
On Queer Selfies
Patrick Kelly: Director, Producer, Researcher
Length: 8 minutes and 25 seconds
The screenplay Into Dust (2020) is an apocalyptic family-drama written as the major component of my PhD project to investigate and record the creative process of transnational screenwriting. The screenplay as presented has been shaped through ongoing practice-based research under the mentorship of industry professionals at Lancaster University, UK, and showcases screenwriting practice in the academic arena.
Kukunor ni Tsu
Felix Gyebi: Director, Producer, Researcher
Length: 24 minutes 37 seconds
My research explores the adaptation of a novel employing modernist tropes into a film screenplay, questioning the validity of the traditional, hierarchical source/palimpsest model of the adaptive process. The source work – my draft novel, Flying – employs the techniques that make the modernist novel challenging for screen narrative, including shifting internal realities, dreams, fluid frames of reference, dreams, stream of consciousness, interior monologue, multiple points of view, non-linear subjective and linear objective time.
Aliens Among Us
Liz Burke: Director, Producer, Researcher
Length: 12 minutes 16 seconds
Golems Inc explores the ways storytelling is used as a defining feature of what it means to be human in posthuman noir science fiction. The subgenre posthuman noir can be summarised as: a screen text set in a future with posthuman technology which uses multiple tropes of traditional film noir—aesthetics, structures, characters and themes—to validate the human qualities of emotional awakening and storytelling as crucial for survival (Gee 2016). Although the screen texts within this subgenre touch on transhumanism and posthumanism, they ultimately privilege anthropocentric human qualities of emotion and storytelling.
Amrywiaethau Cafflogion #3: Uniongyrchol, Esgair Fraith, Alun
Words: R Gerallt Jones
Performance: Roger Owen
Camera & Editing: Dafydd Sills-Jones
Length: 12 minutes 19 seconds
In 1991 film theorist, Bill Nichols, developed a typology of documentary film, which aimed to identify the different types or categories of documentary, by identifying the aesthetic tropes associated with each individual mode. For this project, emphasis is placed on what he called the poetic mode.
The poetic mode has many facets, but they all emphasize the ways in which the filmmaker’s voice gives fragments of the historical world a formal aesthetic integrity peculiar to the film itself (Nichols 2001b, 105).
Creating 70+: Film Production Process as Relational Acts
Catherine Gough-Brady: Director, Producer, Researcher
Length: 11 minutes 43 seconds
Every life narrative is composed of reflections that weave the itinerary of experience and feed a tension between the singular and the universal, acting on the possibility of inventing the history itself and arising from motivations such as confession, justification and elaboration of meanings (Calligaris 1998), spreading in formats such as biographies, autobiographies, letters and diaries. In the film Prayers Out of Closet (Preces Fora do Armário, 2018), I create a relationship between autobiographical act and other characters to address my difficulty in reconciling religion and sexual diversity.
Aparna Sharma: Director, Researcher
Length: 3 mins 07 seconds
Between the Tides is a short documentary film that follows recreational fisherman Hiroaki Nakamura in the lead up to catching his 1000th barramundi from waters around Darwin in the Northern Territory. Wild fish stocks depend on healthy vegetation and Darwin Harbour has some of the most extensive and diverse mangrove forests in the world. Featured in the documentary, environmental scientist Madeline Goddard provides an outline of mangrove forest ecosystem functions and imminent threats to their future.
Ngannelong / Hanging Rock
Martin Koszolko: Director, Researcher
Length: 3 minutes 35 seconds
Electroacoustic composer Tim Howle and filmmaker Nick Cope have been collaborating on a series of visual music films since 2002. Cross-disciplinary and inter-departmental in nature, the work contributes to creative media practice-based research in the academy. Specifically, the collaboration, and this work, contribute to audiovisual/visual music practices and their contexts; video art histories and practice, sonic arts and acousmatic/electroacoustic composition, screen media practices and audiovisual composition and cross-disciplinary collaboration.
Videopharmakon Mobile Filmmaking as Therapeutic Creative Practice
Anna Chiara Sabatino: Director, Lead Researcher
Gianluigi Foglia: Director, Researcher
Antonio Iannone: Director, Researcher
Length: 6 minutes 2 seconds
In this digital paper Characters, Interrupted (2020) , screen theorist Stella Bruzzi says documentary is the ‘triangular relationship between the subject, the filmmaker and also the audience’ (6:07), and that ‘a documentary comes into being when it is being made’ (5:58). I agree with Bruzzi that documentaries can be viewed as being created, and when they are viewed in this relational way that it becomes important to understand more about the relationships that contribute to the creation of the work.
Miranda Wilson: writer, director, camera, editor, researcher
Length: 10 minutes 58 seconds
Gender imbalances in contemporary Japan are intimately observed through multifarious character studies in Gwen Isaac’s current documentary research project, Tokyo Woman. As a practising filmmaker and lecturer at Massey University’s School of Creative Media Production in New Zealand, Gwen focuses her lens on urban women who embody facets of gender inequities in modern Japan. Gwen’s approach to filming informs her teaching practice, positioning future filmmakers to be ‘glocal’ in outlook. The term ‘glocal’, when appropriated by screen production, argues for equipping new filmmakers to capture global stories while adjusting their practice to local conditions.
David Cowlard: Director, Producer, Researcher
Length: 3 minutes 38 seconds
The Burning is a short drama that sits identifiably in the traditions of historical film. However, I must emphasise that this work does not seek to demonstrate innovations in film form or storytelling. I am presenting The Burning not as a text for analysis, but as part of a research enquiry into ‘Modes of Creative Practice’ in fiction filmmaking. I have developed this concept as part of my research interest in how filmmakers create films. It is an enquiry that is quite separate from a textual approach to film practice research.
Justin Harvey: Director, Producer, Researcher
Length: 2 minutes and 2 seconds (seamless video loop)
This research begins with Jo Spence and Rosy Martin’s notion that the selective nature and the subsequent ignoring of aspects of family life such as power imbalances and contradictions creates a gap between our family images and our own memory (1992, 50). It aims to aesthetically explore the experience of such disjuncture and the drive to reconcile this. As such, it looks at the need to reassert against our family images as Fabien Arribert-Narce discusses, “the violence of a personal history, of desires and fantasies, and of shameful secrets…to write everything that is not shown” (2008, 56).
Pau de Selfie
Hiran Matheus: Mobile Filmmaker, Researcher
Length: 18 minutes 50 seconds
As a film school educator and a keen proponent of cultural enterprise, a question that has always been close to my heart is: How do independent filmmakers build and sustain a career in the global screen industries of the 21st century?
Shuai Li: Director, Producer, Researcher
Length: 563 seconds
This practice-led PhD project explores the TikTok short-form video format in the context of the city symphony phenomenon (Jacobs, Hielscher and Kinik 2018). Ice City: Harbin will develop an original storytelling mode for the emerging format of networked mobile media. To this end, the research applies a creative arts method and will involve the creation of a series of 15 short videos on the video-sharing platform TikTok.
Simon Weaving: Writer, Director, Researcher
Length: Entangled Orange– 9 minutes;
Entangled Blue– 9 minutes
As a screenwriter and film maker I was drawn to VR when content started to become more freely available at international film festivals in 2017-2018. However, I felt constantly disappointed at the experiences on offer, which didn’t seem to be making the best use of the technology and the immersive environment it could create. In particular, VR filmmakers were constantly using “tricks” to make sure the viewer was looking where the creator required them to look at any given moment. It occurred to me that many of these new experiences could be compared to the works of early filmmakers who were exploring the new technology of film with their existing knowledge of drama from the world of theatre: the “grammar “of filmmaking had yet to be developed.
Issue 5, 2023
Australian Screen Production Education and Research Association
ISSN: 2653-1801 (Online)
Max Schleser, Swinburne University of Technology
Pieter Aquilia, Australian Film, Television and Radio School
Marsha Berry, RMIT University
Kath Dooley, University of South Australia
Bettina Frankham, University of Technology Sydney
Phoebe Hart, Queensland University of Technology
James Verdon, Swinburne University of Technology