NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Collaboration and authorship

By Alejandra Canales and Susan Danta — It is truly an honour and privilege to collaborate with NiTRO to co-edit an edition on the topic of Collaboration and Authorship. The ideas for this topic grow out of a lecture series within the capstone subject in the Master of Arts: Screen at Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS).

These lectures aim to shed light on the complex creative collaborations in relation to innovation, interdisciplinarity and inclusion, and involve case-studies of industry projects that demonstrate innovative approaches to collaborations and complex notions of authorship. Examples include R&D approaches for a VR documentary project that was shortlisted for Sundance New Frontier Lab, and a multi-authored community-based feature film project. Within these lectures questions are raised around a number of assumptions about authorship – particularly in highly collaborative spaces of creative production, live broadcast and performance – and raise issues relating to intellectual property, moral rights and representation, to community consultation and attribution of credits. The ends do not justify the means, and these classroom discussions of ethical collaboration and notions of “authorship” are critical in the development of future practitioners and their practice.

The deeply interconnected nature of collaborative practice, as well as the deeply interconnected nature of our contemporary world, brings together many different sets of knowledges, values, approaches, and expertise to exciting, innovative, and sometimes, volatile ends. Therefore, as creative practice educators, we have responsibility to ensure that cultural and emotional safety, respectful consultation, and authentic representation are present throughout our curriculum and studio practice. One such approach is to redirect the notion of creative “authorship” to “custodianship,” by taking responsibility of creative work from conception through to its ongoing interactions and impact in public life. More and more, this idea of custodianship is already prevalent in young people who are actively participating in a rhizomic socially networked environment that is built on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things, actions and relationships. Will “digital natives” soon be superseded by “social network natives”, who demand accountability and social responsibility? We are already seeing this in our classrooms, where students are more confident than ever to challenge long-established conventions.

This edition of NiTRO aims to bring together different perspectives on collaboration and authorship in the many facets of creative practice education. Some issues covered in this edition include how a creative, strategic pedagogy may: define and design an inclusive and culturally safe curriculum; equip students to be ethical practitioners; support students to reflect on the positionality of their storytelling that provides insight into other knowledge systems; give students the knowledges to navigate questions of cultural IP, cultural consultation and their ethical relation to representation and story; establish ethical collaborations when working with communities outside our own; balance professional and educational expectations while developing new pathways to knowledge and: develop more inclusive, ethical and sustainable creative educational practices in this complex environment. It is our intention that these investigations will provide a starting point for further discussions, and research partnerships, to discover more about this important topic.

In this edition of NiTRO:

Romaine Moreton (AFTRS) discusses the “pathways and protocols” for producing media with, for or about Indigenous peoples and communities

Stacy Holman Jones (Monash) outlines the curriculum design approach to knowledge, skills and practices at Monash University

Cathy Henkel (ECU) and Isabel Turner (ECU) explore debate as a teaching tool to reveal and understand student bias and preconception

Julia Prendergast (AAWP and Swinburne) shares how Literary Industry Practice brings individual understanding and builds a community of practice

Rowan Woods (AFTRS) and Duncan McLean (AFTRS) consider the demise of the traditional authorship model within a rapidly changing film industry environment

Kath Dooley (Curtin), Marsha Berry (RMIT), Margaret McHugh (UTS), Craig Batty (UNISA) and James Verdon (Swinburne) discuss the ASPERA study into diversity within Australian tertiary screen production curricula and offer advice to instructors and for curriculum design

Sue Joseph (UNISA) explores the tensions present in the relationship between industrial and academic ethics practices in creative writing and journalism

Karen Pearlman (Macquarie) considers the challenges to gender equity culture change in the film industry, starting with film history education

Pearl Tan (AFTRS) shares the benefits to teaching and learning offered by recognising diverse student cohorts as marginally situated knowers

Deborah Turnbull Tillman (UNSW) and Anna Tow (UNSW) discuss their pedagogical approach based on Artist as Accomplice and Curator as Collaborator

Beata Batorowicz (USQ) and Linda Clark (USQ) unpack the ‘Students as Partners’ approach as a way to empower women artists

EO Gill (AFTRS) explores the TransAuto practices which are potentially reparative, collective experiences of making and theorising that complicates normative notions of authenticity and representation, collaboration and authorship


Dr Alejandra Canales is an award-winning documentary filmmaker with an extensive career in directing, producing, curating, and programming, and teaching and curriculum development. She holds an MA Hons from AFTRS (2005) and a Doctor of Creative Arts from the renowned Institute of Culture and Society at Western Sydney University (2011). Alejandra is an experienced educator across documentary and screen media, both practice and theory. She is currently Acting Course Leader (Masters) and Senior Lecturer in Documentary at AFTRS. Previous teaching roles include NYU Sydney, Western Sydney University, Sydney Film School, and The National Institute of Dramatic Arts, NIDA. Alejandra was co-founder and co-Director of the inaugural version of Antenna Documentary Film Festival (Sydney, 2011) and was part of the programming team for several years. She is currently working across virtual reality, immersive storytelling and recently presented her work at AIDC Australian International Documentary Conference, Sheffield Doc/Fest in the UK, and NewImage Festival in Paris.

Susan Danta is the Head of Research at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) and has previously held the role of Course Leader (Postgraduate) overseeing the Master of Arts: Screen, Master of Arts Screen: Business Leadership and Graduate Diploma in Radio. She completed a Masters of Digital Media at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (2007) and a Postgraduate Diploma (Animation) at the Victorian College of the Arts (1999). Susan is an accomplished content creator and animator. She was the series creator, director and animator of the acclaimed documentary interstitial series Heirlooms and animation projects for Shine Australia, SBS Television and Disney Channels AUNZ. Her other award-winning films include documentary and experimental short animations Mother Tongue, Driving Home and Shadowplay. She has exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery (animated self-portrait exhibition); Australian Centre for the Moving Image (Australian Culture Now); The 4th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (Seeing There – Diasporic Sites); and the Smithsonian Institute USA (Animated Shorts Down-Under – An Australian Retrospective).

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What’s the point?

By Dr Julia Prendergast — Jared Diamond asked the acclaimed evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr (1904-2005) why Aristotle didn’t come up with the

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TransAuto

By EO Gill  — As COVID-19 corrodes our creative industries, I find myself scrambling to identify anything that might signal

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By Dr Julia Prendergast — Jared Diamond asked the acclaimed evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr (1904-2005) why Aristotle didn’t come up with the theory of evolution. Mayr’s answer was “Frage stellen” which Diamond translates as “a way of asking questions [sic]” (Byrne 2013).
By Anna Tow and Deborah Turnbull Tillman — In a world where there is daily anxiety around the economy, our health and public engagement, we offer a pedagogy that promotes resilience, self-reliance and employability. As Collaborator, Deborah Turnbull Tillman is curator concerned with disrupting conventional process and situating her students as expert in their own practice rather than as subjects within hierarchical models of curating.
By Professor Stacy Holman Jones  — Collaboration, authorship and preparing a new generation of storytellers who critically question and ethically engage with knowledge systems and representations is at the heart of a new minor in critical performance studies at Monash University.
By Associate Professor Cathy Henkel and Isabel Turner — Diverse and equitable representation, both on and off screen, is the subject of considerable debate in the screen industry sector. Screen Australia’s Seeing Ourselves report (2016) was a milestone study in representation on screen and prompted the formation of Screen Australia’s Equity and Inclusion Strategy and multiple state and industry initiatives to foster a culture of inclusive story-telling.
By Dr Romaine Moreton — Indigenous media production at the cultural interface is the ancient application of what is already known, an accumulation of knowledges gained through throughout millennia for the purpose of producing and reproducing Indigenous values of balance, harmony, and sustainability.
By Associate Professor Sue Joseph — My first experience of a university ethics committee was as a candidate in the latter days of my doctorate, investigating voicelessness and the media. I was a new academic, teaching into the journalism school.
By Associate Professor Beata Batorowicz and Dr Linda Clark — Women-artists often encounter a “double-bind” which involves an irreconcilable social demand of being “too much or not enough” within their personal lives and professional careers (Catalyst 2007; Williams 2018). The pressures of juggling family responsibilities and career are further exacerbated by making this undertaking appear effortless, with this overall set up leading to never being “good enough.”
By Dr Karen Pearlman — Film industries have poor records of treatment, opportunities, and recognition of women (see Loist & Verhoeven 2019). The Screen Australia media release on Gender Matters of 15/10/2020 states that “we aren’t seeing enough meaningful change in the sector”. It calls for “cultural change” to address the gender equity issues in the screen industries.
By Dr Kath Dooley, Associate Professor Marsha Berry, Margaret McHugh, Professor Craig Batty and Professor James Verdon — In recent years, cultural movements such as #metoo and #OscarsSoWhite have drawn attention to low levels of diversity on screen and behind the camera in the global screen industries.
By Pearl Tan — The push for diversity in many arenas is stronger than ever. In higher education, one way this can manifest, is in higher numbers of students from diverse backgrounds. With more diverse student cohorts, it’s certain that teachers will encounter students who are telling stories from cultures that we do not have lived experience of or are intimately familiar with.
By EO Gill  — As COVID-19 corrodes our creative industries, I find myself scrambling to identify anything that might signal a brighter future. At the same time, I am wary of pandemic-born states of panic, since rapid-response initiatives often work to further disenfranchise already vulnerable members of the arts community.
By Rowan Woods and Dr Duncan McLean — Film school programs are only useful to students and industry if attention is paid to the winds of change surrounding screen authorship.