Filmmaking Research Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Media, Film and Music


The purpose of the Filmmaking Research Network is to create an international forum for research and exchange between the UK and Australia that explores the methodologies and frameworks for filmmaking research. The network will ask; 'What is needed to improve understanding and consolidate the field of filmmaking research?'

Filmmaking research is a form of practice research that enquires into production practices, techniques, modes and genres used in cinema, television and online. The outputs are films that may include fiction, documentary and hybrid forms. Filmmaking research pushes at the boundaries of traditional filmmaking and traditional research methods by adopting distinct approaches to professional and critical practices. This is in contrast to typical industry research where commercial pressures dominate. There have been spectacular success stories that demonstrate this potential such as the Academy award nominated 'Act of Killing', Oppenheimer, 2013.

Filmmaking research is a developing area and films produced within the academy are growing in number. In both the UK and Australia, this 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, sometimes difficult to identify and subject to different forms of support and engagement. Researchers come from a range of backgrounds, many moving from industry into academia seeking to reframe their work within Higher Education. As an evolving mode of research, filmmaking research is often attempting to satisfy multiple and competing academic purposes and agendas for example as interdisciplinary research collaborations or as 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 confusion over methodologies and a lack of expertise on research assessment panels and in peer review colleges.

The aim of the Filmmaking Research Network is to develop understanding and consolidate the field of filmmaking research by sharing best practice internationally and developing resources. We will examine how the UK and Australia use filmmaking research to generate new knowledge and will produce resources to improve capacity and research infrastructure. The network will focus on three areas; How can filmmaking research be better defined? How is filmmaking in the academy measured and valued as a research output? What research infrastructure is needed to consolidate the field?

The network will conduct research and knowledge exchange through workshops, visits, meetings, a public screening, conference panels and a survey. Resources will include a register of films, case studies of best practice, a tool kit, resource lists and a training seminar in reviewing practice research. A special edition of the Journal of Media Practice in 2018 will be dedicated to the project. The Filmmaking Research Network will run for 18 months and will include over 40 members from more than 20 institutions including industry and third sector representatives. The network will stimulate new debates, foster a deeper understanding of filmmaking research and develop resources to sustain the future of the field.

Planned Impact

The overall impact strategy of the Filmmaking Research Network (FRN) is to involve the beneficiaries of the research from the outset, incorporating their knowledge and experience into the research which will also inform the production of appropriate and accessible outcomes. Some specific Impact Areas (IAs) that will benefit are:

IA1: Cultural and Creative Industries
Films produced in the academy are research intensive, independently produced, often free from commercial restraint or pressures. As a result these films can demonstrate new forms of artistic, literary, linguistic, social, economic, religious, and other expression. The FRN will showcase unusual, inspiring and innovative films that have been produced in academia, as indicators of the particular and unique environment that academia provides for research and content development. Partner CINECITY, a Brighton based film festival will curate a screening of films from the film register compiled by the FRN. This public screening can demonstrate to the wider public and to cultural and creative industries representatives, that academic institutions are sites for the production of creative capital. This in turn can generate new ways of thinking about academic research and open fresh possibilities for collaborations outside of the academy.

IA2: Commercial or Private sector
The FRN will apply and transfer the insights and knowledge gained into the commercial sector through involving commercial production companies and distributors from the outset. For example Ronin Films is an Australian film distributor and Illuminations is a UK independent media producer, publisher and distributor. The aim of their involvement is is twofold; to inform and educate the commercial sector on the quality and quantity of film production going on inside the academy and secondly to share examples of co-financing and co-production models that may lead to new business. The FRN's survey, film register and case studies can provide commercial companies with new films for their catalogues, new contacts and new possibilities for collaborative endeavours. In the longer term the FRN activities can contribute to innovative and entrepreneurial activity through acting as a scoping exercise for the demand, design and delivery of a new product or service for example a portal for academic films, an online channel of films or a virtual agency to distribute and disseminate films produced in the academy.

IA3: Third sector - educational content providers, curators, museums, libraries and art venues.
The mapping of current practice by the FRN will provide this sector with an up to date picture of the field of filmmaking research and in doing so uncover content for collections, libraries and users. Partner, the British University Film and Video Council (BUFVC) is a representative body that promotes the production, study and use of moving image in higher education. They will provide specialist knowledge and expertise in audio visual data collection, specialist content, storage and access issues, copyright and IP. This will ensure the research generated by the FRN is applicable and technically possible. The FRN will provide new assets for collections and examples and models of curatorial/thematic approaches to the material generated with the festival screening acting as a pilot.


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