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August 2005, Week 4


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Kate Bowles <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 23 Aug 2005 16:45:39 +1000
text/plain (67 lines)
In response to this very interesting question of how and why students 
ought to watch films, I'm struck by the ways in which we seek to 
calibrate this to some kind of imagined "normal" movie-going 
experience -- the value of the big screen etc.

Jason Grant McKahan suggests that we might start to see this argument 
losing ground a little.

>changes in the film industry with the increase in windows (pay-per, home
>video, etc) and the accompanying changes in production methods (e.g.
>televisionization of film) have brought the ecological validity argument
>into question...

This correlates strongly to the reported decline in movie-going -- 
which outside of the US has in any case been a problem for a range of 
national cinemas like Australia's, which typically captures less than 
10% of its own annual domestic box office, and more recently has 
slumped to below 2%. So as someone teaching Australian film, I have 
to think seriously about whether projecting Australian films onto 
something larger than a television isn't a significant distortion of 
their usual exhibition circumstances.

Because I'm also interested in students learning to evaluate the ways 
in which movies are consumed, I have tried a couple of different 
approaches. Firstly, I have required students to see a film of their 
choosing in a movie theatre, and to report on both the movie and the 
experience.  If they want to do this on a date, or in a group, that's 
fine with me.  I've found that this has encouraged a more sympathetic 
grasp of the work that movies have to do in general to capture the 
attention of audiences, as well as of the ways in which movie types 
find (or fail to find) their corresponding audience types.

Secondly, I have required students to construct their own viewing 
syllabus, choosing a minimum number of movies in given categories 
(genres, periods, country of origin -- whatever the focus of the 
syllabus) over the course of a semester.  Students find these films 
wherever they can, and report on them weekly in a collaborative 
electronic journal, each adding to the previous reviews of the same 
film.  In the case of Australian film, the experience of searching 
for movies in rental stores, pay-TV schedules, K-Mart bargain bins 
and library collections has been a useful part of demonstrating the 
dispersed nature of exhibition for a national industry effectively 
relegated to the margins of its own domestic theatrical market.

As well as removing the problem of mandatory screenings, this has 
usefully shifted the presumption that in order to have a meaningful 
discussion of film, we have to be discussing the same film -- 
sometimes the comparison between similar films is just as useful.

Best wishes,


Dr Kate Bowles
Senior Lecturer, Media and Cultural Studies
School of Social Science, Media and Communication
Faculty of Arts
University of Wollongong
NSW 2522 Australia
tel: +612 42 214651     fax: +612 42 215341    email: [log in to unmask]

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