Conference Report

One of our attendees, Shannon Magness, has written the following conference report:

‘Refresh’ Reinvigorating Film and Media Teaching in the Digital Age

Watershed Media Centre, Bristol, Wednesday 26 June 2013, 10am-5pm

Organised by Dr. Charlotte Crofts (UWE Film Studies), with funding from UWE Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education Widening Participation and Support from the Digital Cultures Research Centre.

“An opportunity to share best practice, network, and let the Government know that film and media should be a priority” – Charlotte Crofts

The conference introduction by Charlotte Crofts expressed the need to join together as educators in Film & Digital Media to assert both the value of media literacy and that of the film and digital creative industries in the UK. A major theme was the diversity of learning opportunities enabled or made available through studying Film & Digital Media. There was a focus on envisioning the continuum of Film & Digital Media learning from primary school through to higher education, and on thinking about what leads Film & Media studies students to study these subjects at university. The devaluing of Media study was contrasted with the advantages the media industries bring as contributors to the economy and exporters of culture.

First thing in the morning was the main panel of three presentations focussing broadly on bringing film and media education to children in all years preceding university, from primary school to 16-19 year-olds (and “not only for the cleverest” students). Cathy Poole spoke about the START programme, which works towards “unlocking the arts for children”. In this programme the old Curzon Community Cinema (which contains shrapnel from WWII) is used as a learning site to so the children can learn about the various aspects of a working cinema and also feel at home in this art-world surround (for more information go to http://www.curzon.org.uk/content/public/main/Learning.aspx). In the second presentation of the panel, Dann Casswell spoke about the BBC programme “Talent Ticket” which provides work experience in the media industry for students in selected secondary schools in Bristol to “show young people the benefits of education to getting a job that doesn’t feel like work” and to provide the BBC with a “staff in waiting” (for more information go to http://www1.uwe.ac.uk/aboutus/thepartnershipuniversity/helpingraiseaspirations.aspx). Thirdly, Nikki Christie spoke about the BFI Film Academy for 16-19 year olds, which includes a residential programme with visits to Pinewood Studios, BAFTA and the BFI National Archive (for more information go to http://www.bfi.org.uk/education-research/5-19-film-education-scheme-2013-2017). Nikki was especially interested in giving students access to archive materials.

After lunch, there were two afternoon sessions. From 2-3pm I attended a session led by Josie Dolan of UWE Film Studies. Her talk focussed on the British Film industry, with special attention to the way Film 4 fostered art cinema. She then discussed how certain films helpfully trouble notions of British identity, focussing on the way The Crying Game (1992) ‘queers’ British identity using post-colonial themes. In the second afternoon session from 3-4pm I attended a talk given by Michelle Henning from UWE. She focussed on digital social media and its uses in and implications for student learning. Topics such as access, student expertise, and digital skills both in and out of education were addressed. Both of the sessions I attended were informative and engaging. Indeed, they could have been longer to accommodate introductory and case study elements.

In the final plenary session, Charlotte Crofts asked for attendees’ ideas on how to impress upon Government that British media education and literacy are important. I suggested that we might emphasize film’s place in teaching History—as the ‘new historicism’ as already popularised the teaching of seminal novels as supplement and counterpoint to traditional history study. I proposed that we might build and nurture links between Film/Media lecturers and lecturers of History who are interested in Film. I also suggested that materials such as archive film could be incorporated into students’ work, especially that related to history and identity—and that this could be done in conjunction with bodies such as BFI. Following this was a discussion of educational copyright allowances; the University of Sussex’s Catherine Grant was mentioned for the critical essays she creates, and her ongoing project, Film Studies For Free.

Other sessions that were running also looked interesting, but I had to choose! I was interested in sessions on iPad filmmaking, DSLR filmmaking and a Pecha Kucha session with the theme of ‘Sharing Best Practice’, but I think the sessions I chose represented the overall purpose of the conference.

Finally, I enjoyed networking with Film & Digital Media lecturers like Charlotte Crofts, Josie Dolan, and Michelle Henning, as well as other Film and Media tutors, freelance journalists and other conference attendees. The venue of Watershed Media Centre was an excellent setting for a relaxed day of serious consideration for this area of study. It was an intimate and productive day, and I think all who attended were happy they did.

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