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
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.
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
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