NiTRO + Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Screen Production Research: Where to Next?

Following a period of research consolidation in 2015 and 2016, 2017 saw the Australian Screen Production Education and Research Association (ASPERA) ‘up the stakes’ with regard to its capacity for disciplinary research and, importantly, its future. We launched the report Screen Production Research Reporting: An ASPERA Scoping Project ... to capture some of the long-standing discussions and issues the discipline was facing.

By Associate Professor Craig Batty and Dr Bettina Frankham

Following a period of research consolidation in 2015 and 2016, 2017 saw the Australian Screen Production Education and Research Association (ASPERA) ‘up the stakes’ with regard to its capacity for disciplinary research and, importantly, its future. We launched the report Screen Production Research Reporting: An ASPERA Scoping Project, which, while for some disciplines might seem obvious, for screen production sought to capture some of the long-standing discussions and issues the discipline was facing. Following this, the question of ‘what does quality look like in a screen production research artefact?’ arose, and a set of guidelines for addressing this question is currently in preparation.

While we try and catch our breath and enjoy screen production research – now that it has been variously and rigorously defined – we are being asked to consider a new dimension of it. This has ramifications not only for those of us already working in universities, but also, as the ACOLA report on the future of research training in Australia indicates, for our research degree candidates, present and future. And so, in 2018, how might we begin to address this?

No sooner had we ‘caught up’ than another research issue arose – engagement and impact. With no real time to bed down the ideas and principles highlighted above, it was time to press ahead again … and this is one of our main tasks for 2018 … At the end of 2017 we ran an event, ‘Engagement and Impact in Screen Production Research’, at UTS. This one-day symposium, which featured academics, research leaders and figures from the screen industry (e.g., NITV, SBS, Screen Australia), aimed to unpack people’s assumptions about what engagement and impact is or might be, and map them against how the Australian Research Council (ARC) is measuring them. With over 60 delegates, this event was thought-provoking and inspiring and also allowed everyone to get on the same page. With the assistance of keynote speaker Distinguished Professor Jen Webb, who served on the ARC’s E&I pilot project, we sought to bring the sector together around what is really going on and dispel some of the sometimes wild or misinformed ideas that can emerge in the panic of major policy change such as this.

While we try and catch our breath and enjoy screen production research – now that it has been variously and rigorously defined – we are being asked to consider a new dimension of it. This has ramifications not only for those of us already working in universities, but also, as the ACOLA report on the future of research training in Australia indicates, for our research degree candidates, present and future. And so, in 2018, how might we begin to address this?
One way is by theming our 2018 annual conference, at the VCA in Melbourne (June 27-29). We have chosen to focus our theme of ‘Screen Interventions’, in a way that might encourage debate and examples of engagement and impact already taking place. Our hope is that people will share ideas and case studies about things such as: how screen production is being used to ‘intervene’ in social, cultural, political (and other) contexts; and how aspects such as technology and policy are being used to intervene in the practice of screen production. We also expect discussions focussed on teaching and learning, which for most screen practitioners is where it all begins.

As we move through 2018, we need to keep a close watch that we are not letting Government-level policy shifts change what we do, but rather use them as leverage to ‘tell a different story’ about what we are already good at.

While ‘interventions’ might seem somewhat grand, perhaps speaking to the ARC’s discourse, we know our members will interpret it creatively and authentically. For example, some of the abstracts that have already been submitted for the conference focus on the role of filmmakers in mediating social concerns through their practice; the possibilities of practice to re-write or ‘correct’ history; and the potential for new technologies to change the way that the screen industry operates. These are all ‘interventions’, but they stay close to the discipline and try not to take screen production away from its core goals. As we move through 2018, we need to keep a close watch that we are not letting Government-level policy shifts change what we do, but rather use them as leverage to ‘tell a different story’ about what we are already good at. 

There will, of course, be new and exciting opportunities afforded by this new research agenda, such as those who seek active collaboration with disciplines such as health, law and economics. But for those screen production researchers who are passionate about their own discipline, there might be ways of re-orienting or re-framing what we already do. Might this then lead to invitations to collaborate with others?

Without disciplinary excellence, creative practice researchers are at risk of being subsumed as service providers to other research agendas. While this can be fruitful terrain for many researchers, it is also important that there is scope for screen production research to be recognised as having value in and of itself. For ASPERA, then, we need to work out what it is that we are really good at – and can offer to others – before we start jumping the gun too soon.


Craig Batty is Associate Professor of Screenwriting and Creative Practice at RMIT University, and Chair of the ASPERA Research Sub-Committee. He is author of over 60 books, chapters, journal articles and refereed conference proceedings; editor of two books and 10 journal special issues; and has worked as a writer and script editor on various film/screen projects. In 2016 he received an AAUT Citation award for his contributions to excellent HDR outcomes in creative writing, and in 2017 won the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research Supervision Excellence. Craig is also an Adjunct Professor at Central Queensland University and the University of Southern Queensland, and Visiting Research Fellow at Bournemouth University in the UK.

Bettina Frankham is a creative practice academic researching and teaching digital media arts and production in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UTS. She has a background of industry experience spanning multiple forms of media including television, radio and web production. Her moving image projects have screened at international media arts festivals and she has published scholarly journal articles and book chapters. Her research interests include art and documentary intersections, expanded documentary practice and the impact of digital culture on creative media production. She is currently the acting President of ASPERA and a member of the ASPERA Research Sub-Committee.


More from this issue

More from this issue

The sleeve notes for a 12 inch vinyl record – or the ‘liner’ as it’s known in the US – comprise on average 700 words ... thrice that of the ‘textual descriptor’ – the Research Statement - which is all that’s allowed when describing the content of a non-traditional research output [the INTRO] for the forthcoming research assessment exercise...

The arts have always been at the center of human life and civilisational progress in African communities. In the pre-colonial period, the arts defined cultural expressions, mediated community structures, and facilitated the generation, articulation and flow of knowledge within communities

A conversation between Clive Barstow, and Professor Chen Huagang, Dean of Art & Design at Guandong Baiyun University in China (with thanks to translator Jie He).

An ongoing state of wonderful “little ease” might be the best way to sum up 2017. What that ongoing state of “little ease” continued to reveal and what is exciting moving forwards is the very extraordinary ways in which dance training produces truly ‘agile beasts’ – capable, intelligent, resilient, adaptable and inspiring collaborators and artistic leaders.

Thinking about tertiary creative arts in 2018, it is worth reflecting on the 2017 ACUADS Conference at the ANU School of Art and Design, which probed the theme ‘Value’. At a time when Australian tertiary art and design schools are facing increasing economic and political challenges, this was a vital focus, and resulted in the sharing of key research, and productive discussions.

Art and research, typically, have their own focal points and contextual understanding of relevance for their fields. But there is at least one strong overlapping area, and artistic research is at the core of this today. Artistic Research is multi-coloured, curiosity driven, open to apply and adapt methods and reach out for topics challenging the given

As we settle into the 2018 academic year in Australia, surrounded by the confused faces of new students (and staff) and enmeshed in ERA statements, research impact and engagement justifications and the uncertainty of government plans for teaching and learning funding, we can forget that our world of creative arts education is bigger than the institutionally created boxes that immediately surround us.

I was recently introduced to a verb I hadn’t encountered before. I was attending—as a supervisor—a session looking to create opportunities for doctoral researchers (mostly of a STEM kind) . . . . the session (for me) had one good outcome, and this was learning this new verb. Angular, gauche and graceless, with zero poetry, it is however precise and pulls no punches: to self-select-out.

On Tuesday December 12, 2017, in unceded Wurundjeri territory, a group of 40 artists/designers/researchers/curators/educators from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand came together at RMIT University to start to discuss the future of Social Practice in Art and Design. Using human relations as method and content across art and design, social practice connects creative practitioners with communities, industries and institutions to address contemporary social and political issues.

Here in Australian higher arts education, we are presiding over some ‘interesting’ times ourselves. With a divided polity, seemingly, but not only, separated along education and value and belief system lines, we are finding an astonishing and baffling suspicion of ‘expertise’ and what has been called ‘wilful ignorance’ or the US legal term ‘wilful blindness’.

Like many of us who supervise research in Creative Arts practice, I spend a lot of my time navigating what I do not know. Perhaps this is part of the attraction of mentoring research at this level. Although I have been supervising Creative Arts PhDs for almost 20 years, I have become aware in the last decade of a rich interface between our disciplines and indigenous inquiry

The extraordinary growth in both quality and quantity of Asian arts education arrived with a distinctly new edge in 2017. After more than 15 years of identifying needed aspects of Western contemporary arts and arts training, the last decade has been focused upon catching up, on inviting Western experts to teach, sending staff abroad, and in establishing conferences that allow arts training to be discussed within Asia. There is now a wealth of quality arts colleges and universities across Asia, and activities and publications on arts education now surpasses Australasia.

Friends, relatives, colleagues and past students are mourning the death of Debra Porch, until recently an Associate Professor of Fine Arts at Queensland College of Art.

I’m writing in the weeks following the end of Singapore Art Week 2018, and the full schedule of exhibition tours and meetings with international museum, gallery and education professionals it marked at the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore. The ICA Singapore is the curatorial division of Lasalle College of the Arts. Art Week’s many and various artists and visitors are reminders of the increasingly global context for our programme but also of the capricious field into which Lasalle fine arts graduates will emerge.