The Sound/Image Cinema Lab, Long Way Back. Developing working principles for crewing feature film production with higher education students.

Marshall, Kingsley ORCID logoORCID: (2023) The Sound/Image Cinema Lab, Long Way Back. Developing working principles for crewing feature film production with higher education students. Film Education Journal, Educating Independent Filmmakers (7.1). ISSN 2515-7086 (Submitted)

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Abstract / Summary

The first filmmaking collaboration between Falmouth University’s School of Film and Television students and the Cornwall-based production company O-Region took place in 2010 with the British independent feature film Weekend Retreat (Dir. Brett Harvey). In the decade since the film’s release, students, graduates, and staff from the School of Film and Television have collaborated in the making of over a dozen short, feature film, and high-end TV projects. These opportunities have arisen primarily through staff connections with industry partners and have been enacted through an array of British production companies including Film4, Early Day Films, BBC Films, Quiddity Films, Grasp the Nettle Films, Elation Pictures, Piece of Cardboard Productions, and Unstoppable Entertainment. Projects with these external partners have been further supplemented by productions closer to home, through staff-owned companies based in Cornwall including Simon Harvey’s O-Region, Denzil Monk’s Bosena, Independent Film Unit and Awen Productions, Neil Fox and Justin John Doherty’s Baracoa Pictures, Laura Giles’ Storm Force Films, and Kingsley Marshall’s Myskatonic. In addition, since 2015 the School has supported a Graduate Shorts Commission with the regional agency, Screen Cornwall – where alumni work with an executive producer from the Lab to create short films supported through student trainees, and with equipment and post-production support from the University. This ongoing culture of film production practice was consolidated in 2019 into the Sound/Image Cinema Lab, a research grouping based within the Centre for Pedagogy Futures at Falmouth University. The establishment of the Lab was documented in an Impact Case Study submitted to REF 2021 and corresponding journal articles (Fox, 2018, 2022). The Lab describes itself as a partner, funder, resource, and research centre dedicated to the production and education of independent cinema (Falmouth University, 2018).

This paper makes use of a recently released Sound/Image Cinema Lab co-production with O-Region – Long Way Back (Dir: Brett Harvey, 2022) - as a case study. We apply a production studies approach in the vein of that highlighted by Banks, Conor, and Mayer (2016) that values the manner with which communities of makers interpret their experience, and considers how the Lab’s structured, yet extracurricular, projects serve as a catalyst for learning gain for our students, alumni, staff, and professional participants. We make use of interviews with participants in the filmmaking case study to contextualise principles of practice of institutional support for production through a research overview that ‘take[s] the lived realities of people involved in media production as the subjects for theorizing production culture’ (Mayer, Banks, and Caldwell, 2009: 4). Through this methodology we provide students and graduates the space to articulate in their own words the impact of their engagement in a Lab project on their confidence in their own filmmaking practice, and consider the impact of that experience on their subsequent employability. We also consider how reported limitations of the experiences within the production have informed and improved our processes in an ongoing cycle of project continuous improvement. Secondly, through detailing these practices and through discussion with industrial partners we outline several working principles that have emerged over the decade of collaborative filmmaking that has taken place in the Lab. As Duncan Petrie and Rod Stoneman identify ‘creative work within signification can and does generate new and explicit forms of knowledge, moving viewers and makers from distracted reception to conscious interpretation’ (2014: 241). The implications of this lived practice of generating knowledge through making extend beyond the participants in each project and our conclusions offer some observations of what we have learned within our university, and how rewarding this has been for staff within the Lab in terms of personal and professional development. More broadly, our study offers some insight into how such practices of collaborative production between higher education institutions and external partners can further inform approaches beyond formal film education to extend to working with entry-level talent outside of the academy.

We summarise four working principles that have been emerged throughout a decade of production, and outline how approaches to production partnerships undertaken by the Sound/Image Cinema Lab have developed in recent years. These principles detail how we select and manage projects for the slate, the selection and management of crew during production, maintaining a slate of projects from development to distribution, and documenting the impact of this activity through traditional research and the creative practice outputs born as a result of these collaborations. Here, we consider the impact on those involved in these productions and how universities and production companies can better manage such opportunities. We articulate how a clarity in the terms of engagement between the partners can simultaneously service both the needs of the film and television industries and those of current students, recent graduates, staff, and early career filmmakers.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Film education, screen education, student placement, student trainee, emerging talent, mentoring, sound/image cinema lab, o-region, long way back, independent, film production
ISSN: 2515-7086
Subjects: Film & TV > Film > British Film
Courses by Department: The School of Film & Television > Film
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Kingsley Marshall
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2023 09:40
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2023 09:40


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