Refresh: The Value of Teaching Film and Media

Thanks to all of you for coming together today to share best practice and celebrate the value and diversity of teaching film and media in the digital age.

Thanks to UWE Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education (ACE) Widening Participation for funding this event – in particular Marie-Annick Gournet; the Digital Cultures Research Centre, especially Nick Triggs, and colleagues in Film Studies, Media Culture Practice, Linguistics and Education; UWE student helpers and alumni, and we’re also joined by youth from Knowle West Media Centre. And of course thanks to the Watershed Events team.

The fact that our funding has come from WP is significant and I would like us to think about the importance of film and media in this respect as an underlying theme of the day.  Film and Media are powerful educational tools with the potential to explore and celebrate difference. The BFI Media Literacy Charter calls for an integrated approach which combines the “3Cs”, which I’m sure you are all familiar with: “Critical Understanding, Creative Activity and Cultural Access.” So I’d like to think about Cultural Access when we talk about the value of what we do – and our first three speakers this morning will all touch on this in various ways.

My motivation for organising this event was the feeling that across all sectors of education, from primary and secondary to FE, HE and Arts, Media and Cinema educators – what we do is being devalued both culturally and economically – in the current political climate. Humanities and Arts subjects receive less funding and kudos than STEM subjects at all levels of the education sector, and film and media are often dismissed as “Mickey Mouse” subjects – so much so that at a recent MeCCSA 2013 conference (the subject association for Media, Communications and Cultural Studies) one of the speakers wore Mickey Mouse ears whilst fiercely refuting this nomenclature.

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But, as was pointed out by a colleague in another subject association BAFTSS (British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies) – it’s a false separation – film and media teaching engages with the disciplines of science, technology and engineering in its exploration of the histories of moving-image technologies, the theorisation of technological determinism as well as systems of representation, textual analysis, etc. which equip young people to navigate the rapidly changing media environment.

In terms of economic impact, the film and media industries make a substantial contribution to GDP – with industry growth outstripping the rest of the UK economy according to a UK Film Council report of 2012 – as well as being a valuable cultural export – promoting British cultural life and film tourism. The report, by Sam Moore (Oxford Economics), stresses the opportunities for diversifying and growing the export base beyond EU and US markets – again demonstrating the potential for Cultural Diversity.  Yet there is a danger that the reduction of investment in education in this area – part of a wider side-lining of arts and humanities subjects within the school curriculum, HE and beyond – from the highly controversial eBaccalaureate; to the ruthless undermining of undergraduate places and postgraduate bursaries (not to mention academic research funding) in the Universities and the dwindling resources available to Moving-image educators in informal and industry settings – if we don’t invest in these areas it will adversely affect our ability to compete in this market both economically and culturally, further down the line. See the reflection on the making of I Melt the Glass With My Forehead a film about the introduction of tuition fees:

Despite all of this there is excellent work going on across the field.  The BFI / DCMS Film Policy Review recommendations are gradually coming to fruition, with the imminent Birth of a Film Nation UK – excuse the DW Griffith reference 😉 – having the potential to broaden access to film and media education for 5-19 year olds on a national scale.

My motivation for organising this event then, is to celebrate the work that we do – to see it as a continuum (rather than divide and rule) – to share best practice, network with each other and to send a message to government that arts and humanities subjects in general, and film and media in particular, should be a funding priority, not subject to relentless cuts. If UK culture underpins a thriving economy then its educational base must be nurtured, not neutered.

So just a few words about the structure of the day.  This morning we’ve got three juicy speakers – Cathy Poole from the Curzon, Nikki Christie from the BFI and Dann Casswell from the BBC, who are each going to talk for about 20 minutes and field individual questions, followed by a half hour Q&A with the whole panel. We’ll then break for lunch at 1pm in Waterside 2. During the lunchhour we’ll be hosting a Tweet Chat on “The Value of Teaching Film and Media” to #refreshevent which will be beamed on a Tweet Wall. In the afternoon we’ll divide up for CPD workshops in here, in Waterside 2 and in the Pervasive Media Studio Event Space and Meeting Room. We’ll come back together in here at 4.30 to debrief and reflect on the day and then I hope you’ll join us for a drink in the bar at 5pm.

Charlotte  Crofts (Conference Convenor)

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