Focussing on the Critical: Film Pedagogy in a Modern University

Conference: The Kyoto Conference on Arts, Media & Culture (KAMC2022)
Title: Focussing on the Critical: Film Pedagogy in a Modern University
Stream: Education / Pedagogy
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Gregory Sporton, University of Westminster, United Kingdom
Elizabeth Allen, University of Westminster, United Kingdom


In a post-1992 UK university, the degree offering included a BA (Hons) Film. Founded by distinguished film scholars and supported by a thriving film and television industry, it operated successfully for many years, attracting large numbers of applicants and graduating successful students into the creative industries. Technological and cultural change were slow to arrive. A small staff whose expertise and loyalties were strongly analogue, whose professional engagement declined and approach to storytelling was based in the drama traditions of the nineties found themselves increasingly remote from the needs of students and the demands of industry. Given its reputation and location graduates continued to be placed in the industry at good rates, and films produced won awards. This was often achieved by moving outside the parameters of higher education practices, making dubious claims about the industry relevance of organizational arrangements and requiring a disproportionate share of resources. The admission arrangements and curriculum design actively discouraged diversity and the intensity of the programme, conducted without evidence of its efficacy, privileged a small number of elite students from wealthy backgrounds in a way that was not seen as problematic by the course team. This study is about the problems that arise for film education models once they are drawn back into the processes, systems and norms of higher education and asked to respond to issues around fairness, diversity and power. Our experience is offered as typical rather than exceptional of incorporating this difficult and complex creative practice into a university setting.

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