Filmmaking in the Academy

Guest Editors:
Joanna Callaghan, University of Sussex, UK
Susan Kerrigan, University of Newcastle, Australia

Over the last 15 years the academy has struggled to agree on the nomenclature of ‘practice as research’, ‘practice based research’, ‘research through practice’, ‘applied research’ (Crofts, 2007 p. 2). In spite of this practice research has consolidated its status as equal to traditional research outputs at research assessment level in the UK Research Excellence Framework report though Australia is still arguing for similar recognition (2015 p. 112).Filmmaking Research is one form of practice research, enquiring into production practices, techniques, modes and genres used in cinema, television and online and produces film outputs that may include fiction, documentary and hybrid forms. Filmmaking research pushes at the boundaries of both traditional filmmaking and traditional research methods by adopting unique approaches to professional and critical practices and pursuing forms of content creation that might otherwise fall outside of industry production modes and dissemination. As an emerging mode of research, it is often attempting to satisfy multiple and competing academic purposes and agendas (e.g interdisciplinarity, impact). The result is a field of research that is not well defined. Qualitative measures are often locally determined with few universal standards of best practice, there is a lack of expertise on research assessment panels and in peer review colleges and some scholars believe the term practice itself is confusing debates. (Knudsen, 2016; 2). There is also misunderstanding around methodological approaches – reflective practice, Participatory Action Research (PAR), Practitioner Based Enquiry (PBE) and auto-ethnography – and conflation between practice as subject of enquiry, practice as methodology and practice as outcome.

In Australia and the UK, filmmaking research is gaining momentum evident through activities such as the AHRC Research in Film awards, conferences such as Sightlines and some spectacular success stories (Act of Killing (2013)). In both countries filmmaking research has tended to reside in one of two disciplines, creative arts (fine art, experimental, video art) or media, communication and film studies (fiction film, documentary). This has made it fragmented and subject to different forms of support and engagement. Researchers come from a range of backgrounds, some moving from industry into academia seeking to reframe their work within a HE environment. In the UK, filmmaking research is taking place in a large dispersed sector that has arisen from post 92 expansion and been subject to significant policy developments (creative industries, employability, widening participation). In Australia, filmmaking research has come to be known as screen production research and a new methodology for filmmaking research may be emerging. (‘Screen Production Enquiry’ (Kerrigan et al. 2015)).

The purpose of this special edition is to stimulate new international debates that will foster a deeper understanding of filmmaking research and how this research can inform and transform work in educational, cultural and industry contexts.  It arises from the research undertaken by the Filmmaking Research Network (FRN), a UK-Australian network funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The creative practice surrounding the making of films and how these completed works reach and impact its audiences are of interest. We are encouraging co-authorship, so that researchers/filmmakers can mount one argument and draw on a number of examples from each author’s work to demonstrate both academic research outcomes and impact. To this end, arguments could be built from a common perspective based on these suggestions:

  • methodological approaches,
  • fiction or non-fiction films,
  • the making of genre films, (horror, comedy, drama, thriller)
  • creative practice enquiries into production of feature films, short films, multi-camera production, television practices or digital media
  • narrative, aesthetic or technological enquiries that focus on professional practices
  • interdisciplinary filmmaking where filmmakers work with experts in their field to reach larger audiences and to change social behaviors.
  • Compare and comparison studies of research assessment criteria’s in relation to filmmaking research (e.g. REF and ERA)
  • Creative industries and filmmaking in the academy
  • Topics arising from the FRN jiscmail discussion list


We are open to formats that could include but are not limited to: traditional journal articles, short opinion/provocation pieces, dialogues and interviews.   

15 September 2017  – Abstract submission deadline
1 November 2017 – Notification of acceptance
30 March 2018 – Articles due
From 1 April – Peer review / revisions
1 September 2018 – Edition published

Please email 300 word abstract and 150 word biography to:



ASPERA 2017 Conference Panel

Panel Members:
Susan Kerrigan – University of Newcastle,
James Verdon – Swinburne University of Technology
Sean Maher – QUT,
Craig Batty – RMIT University
Trish FitzSimons – Griffith University
Alison Wotherspoon – Flinders University

Members of the panel addressed how filmmaking research generates new knowledge and what resources or research infrastructure are needed to improve research capacity. Discussion will focus on case studies of best practice and FRN register of films.

Presentation Outline

FRN Update of Activities – Susan – Developing multiple strands of Filmmaking Research (workshops, survey, online screenings, JMP Special Issue for 2018)

FRN Membership Participation – Sean – Summary of online discussions (Jiscmail audit)

FRN Methodologies – Craig – Creative Practice Research Degrees and the Forming of New Identities

FRN Genres – Alison – Tensions within Interdisciplinary Research (having your filmmaking research recognised)

FRN Research Frameworks – Trish and James – How Australian universities currently express and reward research priorities, how disciplines like filmmaking should best respond to this.

Discussion (15 minutes)


Sightlines Conference

RMIT Melbourne
29th November 2016

Workshop notes and transcripts are available here

University of Sussex Workshop

Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts
7th December 2016

Workshop notes and transcripts are available here



A research assessment training seminar in reviewing practice research will be developed and held in London in early 2018.




Case studies, survey findings and other research arising will be developed for publication in a Special issue of the Journal of Media Practice for end of 2018.

Papers will be presented at conferences and as panels including:

  • Sightlines, RMIT, November 2016
  • ASPERA, Bond University, June 2017
  • NAHEMI, London College of Communication, July 2017
  • MeCCSA, London Southbank University, January 2018
  • Journal of Media Practice and MeCCSA Practice network symposium, Lincoln, June 2018




Monthly online screening

We are open to nominations for the monthly screening slot. In order to qualify for this the film

1. must be available online,
2. nominated by a member, other than the filmmaker, who provides a paragraph on the film/project in relation to the research content
3. have a 300 word research statement written by the filmmaker.

All of this information will appear on the website alongside the film.

From the register we will curate screening programs for festivals, conferences and other events.
We will work with our educational distribution partners, Illuminations (UK) and Ronin Films (AUS) to develop strategies to effectively disseminate of the outputs of filmmaking research.

We will work with  curator and lecturer Tim Brown to hold a screening at the Brighton based festival Cinecity in 2017.