2021 – B2: Film Tourism: Selling (Imagined) Spaces and Places

Chair: Gabriel Menotti

Harry Potter Film Tourism and the Representation of Britishness
Sarah Watts (University of Bristol)

Abstract: The relationship between film and national identity is an enduring topic of scholarly interest. Focusing on British national identity in particular, Sarah Street emphasises the important role of film in this case: ‘we have inherited a dominant conception of what it is to be British…which has, in part, been constructed by cultural referents including cinema’ (2009: 1). In this case, the focus is on the way Britain is depicted on the big screen and how this contributes to ideas about what is considered typically British. However, with more occurrences of multi-text film franchises, it is also important to look beyond the film itself and to the role of parallel materials, or ‘paratexts’, which extend these depictions: this includes preview literature, trailers, posters, merchandise and materials produced for film-related tourism. The latter is a particularly important area to explore in relation to constructs of national identity, since they explicitly anchor a film text to a geographical location. When it comes to investigating recent film tourism and representations of typically British, or ‘Britishness’, the Harry Potter films (2001-2011) present a key case study. This is a hugely successful franchise depicting an abundance of British characters and settings, which have become prominent aspects of British tourism as well as, arguably, representing Britain abroad by featuring in international theme parks. This paper looks at materials related to Harry Potter tourism (2001-2011) as well as the sites themselves, treating them as ‘experiential paratexts’ in an attempt to understand how they may have constructed ideas about Britishness.

Bio: Sarah Watts has just finished her MPhil in the Film and Television Department at the University of Bristol. She is interested in the ideas about Britishness that are represented in modern, internationally successful film franchises such as Harry Potter. Her research is concerned with the role that the films’ paratexts play in framing these representations.

Friends and Corporate Spaces of Fandom
Abby S. Waysdorf (Utrecht Unviersity)

Abstract: One of today’s most popular television shows is now nearly 30 years old. Friends, a massive success for its 10 years on the air, has found an afterlife as an anchor of reruns and streaming services, keeping its old audience while attracting many who weren’t born when it first aired. Decades later, the brand of Friends is seemingly stronger than ever. Friends’ continuing popularity has lead to the creation of several spaces to capitalize on it. The first, FriendsFest, is a touring “festival” organized by cable channel Comedy Central UK that originated in London six years ago as a pop-up and has since spread across the country and into Spain, Poland, Germany, and Russia. The second, the Friends pop-up in New York City, ran for a month in the fall of 2019 as part of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the show’s first airing. Both places feature re-creations of sets, photo opportunities, and other activities, run by professional experience marketing companies under the supervision of Warner Bros. and/or Comedy Central UK. They are fan places, designed with fans in mind—but deliberately created ones, rather than places appropriated by fans or even used in filming. What kind of fandom is encouraged by such corporate places of fandom? As fandom is increasingly commoditized and made mainstream, how can place be used to shape fandom? These are the questions that I look at in this paper, through an exploration of the FriendsFest and the New York Friends pop-up marketing in US and UK sources. Through this exploration, I show how place becomes part of official fan management strategies in the age of the “experience economy,” and what implications this has on fandom and film tourism into the future.

Bio: Dr. Abby S. Waysdorf is a postdoctoral researcher at Utrecht University, where she is part of the European History Reloaded – Curation and Appropriation of European Audiovisual Digital Heritage (CADEAH) project, researching use and reuse of European audiovisual heritage. She has published in Popular Communication, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Convergence, Transformative Works and Cultures, and Participations. Her research interests include fan cultures, media use and reuse, place, and the interaction between audiences and the media industry. Her monograph, Fan Sites: Film Tourism and Contemporary Fandom, comes out later this year with University of Iowa Press.

Experiencing Cinematic Itineraries: Analyzing Sights, Sounds, and Sites of Popular Hindi Cinema
Apoorva Nanjangud (Erasmus University)

Abstract: Increasingly, Bollywood cinema has gone from being a national-level cinema industry of India, to a more transnational and trans-textual phenomenon that enjoys a large audience base. Not only is it consumed by the members of the Indian diaspora, but also consumed and appropriated by a wide variety of audiences from a host of countries Bollywood cinema is exported to- making it a truly transnational phenomenon in terms of production, circulation and consumption. This European Research Council funded PhD-project (2016-2021), looks at the case of Bollywood cinema, and the kind of transnational mobilities it generates under its influence. I research “How does Bollywood and it’s allied media inspire transnational tourism flows? How do these tourists’ engage with the locations (and the media) on site? And finally, to what extent do these different media formats result in comparable on-site experiences for these media tourists?”. I do so by contextualizing my research in a trans-textual enquiry. This research firstly looks at 1. Bollywood cinema itself- by analyzing the discourse of travel in contemporary Bollywood cinema, secondly, looking at Dutch-Indian diaspora conducting return trips to India. 3. Bollywood music-videos looking at the case of growing Indian tourism to Iceland and 4. Bollywood theme Park located in Dubai, visited by Indian tourists on holiday. Together, these questions allow me to explore the Mindscapes, Mediascapes and Powerscapes- i.e the Personal, Social and Political dimensions of this phenomenon with the idea of tourists’ embodied experiences at the heart of the project.

Bio: Apoorva Nanjangud is a PhD candidate and lecturer at the Department of Arts and Culture studies, Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication, at Erasmus University Rotterdam. She is a part of the ERC-funded project ‘Worlds of Imagination’ within which her project investigates transnational tourism mobilities inspired by popular Hindi (Bollywood) cinema.

Down Into the Vaults: Drillable Immersion at Franchise Lands
Carter Moulton (Northwestern University)

Abstract: There is an emerging trend in the Hollywood theme park industry: the construction of architecturally- and sensorially-“authentic” lands based on blockbuster media franchises. Given their many multi-sensory and interactive offerings, franchise lands are not surprisingly described by fans and scholars as highly-immersive places, as sites that facilitate sensations of “enter[ing] into the world of the story” (Jenkins 2009) and of passing from one realm to the other. This presentation activates Jason Mittell’s concept (2015) of “drillable engagement”—a mode of reception which involves “a vertical descent into a text’s complexities”—in an effort to theorize how experiential immersion is designed at franchise lands. Throughout the presentation, I analyze park rides, paratexts, and industry discourses to develop the concept of drillable immersion, or the logic of layering immersive sensations through multiple physical, conceptual, and economic thresholds so as to construct an experiential center—a “core” which functions as the most potent experience of immersion. It outlines three distinct ways in which drillable immersion is being built into the experience of franchise lands. First, franchise lands invite drillable forms of engagement by encouraging modes of “forensic fandom” where fans might “apply their forensic efforts … to connect the narrative dots” of the text (Mittell 2015). Second, drillability is spatialized in ride queues and narratives in ways which discipline fan bodies and construct a sense of inward movement through layers of physical, narrative, and phenomenological space. Third, the logic of drillable immersion is ultimately mobilized to encourage additional capitalistic consumption through an increasing number of economic thresholds, each designed to unlock heightened “levels” of immersion. Through this process, access to experiential cores are reduced, and immersion is stratified into various tiered pricing structures, in-park purchases, and gate fees. Thus, in addition to being a set of forensic-minded exploratory practices and a spatially-layered arena of play, drillable immersion is also being mobilized as an industry strategy to further entrench conceptions of awe and wonder into commercialized experiences by preserving the core for those who pay more. Ultimately, by highlighting how convergence culture logics are being mapped onto physical sites of experience, the presentation raises a set of ethical concerns as it provides new insights into the relationships between contemporary media industries, fans and places.

Bio: Carter Moulton is a PhD Candidate at Northwestern University, where he researches media industries, audiences, the experience economy, and media tourism. He has published on topics such as 3D cinema (CineAction), Blu-Ray special features (Media Fields Journal), “TV Everywhere” apps (The Popular Culture Studies Journal), midnight movies (The Routledge Companion to Cult Cinema), Hollywood’s cooption of cult fandom (The New Review of Film & Television Studies), the convergence of nostalgia and speculation in promotional media (The International Journal of Cultural Studies), and most recently, theme park promotion during the COVID-19 pandemic (In Media Res). His work on the sense of “eventfulness” that surrounds the release of blockbuster movies is forthcoming in Popular Communication.