2021 – A1: Changing Practices & Priorities in Creative Production

Chair: Virginia Crisp

Shadow Sites, Peripheral Spaces, Embodied Places: the 48-hour film challenge as a locus for film industry project networks
Roy Hanney (Solent University)

Abstract: The article argues for a break with the notion of cinema as temporally located space and reconceptualises it as an embodied place. A shadow site, mirroring elite forms of cinema in microcosm, a locus for communities of practice that intersect primarily through project networks. A case study of a long running 48 Hour Film Challenge in the UK asks how identity formation contributes to an embodied sense of place within peripheral production communities. Identity formation is crucial to the acculturation of entrants into a community of practice. The socialising process that confers membership provides a basis for the development of relationships that cement the interconnectivity of a peripheral project network. The research draws on a rich mixture of auto-ethnographic reflection, observation and qualitative data gathered over a four-year period via video recordings, surveys and semi-structured interviews. The paper evidences the contribution that place as an embodied locus for project networks within a peripheral film industry can make to the evolution of a regional creative economy. It attests to the ways in which participation in a filmmaking and screening activity such as a 48-hour film has value for early career filmmakers through an engagement with their own personal narratives.

Bio: Roy Hanney is employed at Solent University as a Course Leader for their Media Production programme. With close to twenty years higher education teaching experience he specialises in story, documentary, drama and transmedia production. His research interests include project-based learning and live projects which has formed the basis for a recently submitted PhD at Portsmouth University. He is a co-founder of DVMISSION 48 Hour Film Challenge and also works collaboratively with other organisations within the Solent area to promote opportunities for engagement with media practice.

The South as the Site of Production: Socio-economic Development and Chinese Cinema Since the Late 1970s
Siqi Liu (King’s College London)

Abstract: This research focuses on the development of the south as a site of production for different generations of Chinese cinema from the late 1970s towards the 2010s. Since the economic gaige kaifang (reform and opening-up) in 1978, this term nanfang (south) in the Chinese cinema does not merely indicate a geographical region or a site of production, with unique customs, landscapes, and climates. Rather, as film critic Yu Yaqin argues, it also indicates exoticism, xianfeng (avant-garde), and economic prosperity, which is in contradiction with the north as a monopolistic centre of power and authority. The formation of such symbolisation is closely associated with various sociopolitical and economic policies proposed during these three decades. In general, the south in the Chinese cinema has conveyed different implications and consciousnesses among different generations. For the generations that were active from the late 1970s to the 1980s – including some of the Third-Generation directors, the Fourth Generation, and the Fifth Generation – the south often conveys a critical and rebellious consciousness through rural and working-class women as revolutionary fighters. For the Sixth Generation, who were active in the 1990s and 2000s, the south becomes a place for escape, a new start that is filled with possibilities, and a space for mental drifting with no sense of belonging. In the 2010s, with the emergence of a new film movement called the Nanfang xin langchao (South China new wave), the south becomes the central site of production, which generates a local awareness, concerning rural demolition and urban expansion, and expressing their generation’s depression and longing for rebellion. In short, my research elaborates on how the south as the site of production gains new significance in different generations since the late 1970s, and how different socio-economic policies contribute to these different characteristics and implications of the south.

Bio: Siqi Liu is a PhD student in Film Studies at King’s College London. She is currently carrying out a comparative study between Daoist philosophy and Euro-American film and media theories, researching on the topic of ‘The South China New Wave: Re-examining Film Philosophy and Aesthetics via Daoism’ under the supervision of Dr. Victor Fan. She has completed her MA study with distinction in Film Studies in University College London, with her dissertation focusing on the film aesthetics of the Fifth-Generation cinema. She has received a BSSc in Communication (Film and Television concentration) and double minors in Chinese Literature and Theatre Studies from Hong Kong Baptist University. Her undergraduate study was in the practical direction (including directing, scriptwriting, cinematography, and TV production), while her dissertation is related to the features and development of the Chinese documentary. Liu’s research interests include Chinese philosophy and aesthetics, comparative philosophy, film and media theories, film aesthetics, documentary, cultural studies, and interdisciplinary studies.

Behind the Streams: The Off-Camera Labour of Twitch.tv Live Streamers
Mark R Johnson (University of Sydney)

Abstract: The live streaming of gaming has emerged as a major new topic in games research and internet research, with millions of individuals broadcasting their gaming activities to a combined audience in the hundreds of millions. A key strand of live streaming scholarship has come to address questions of political economy, such as platform infrastructure, surveillance, and especially labour. In particular, however, I note the absence of research into what we might call the “off-camera” labour of live streamers. What goes on behind the camera which streamers’ viewers are unaware of? What sorts of activities are required to make streams run smoothly and crisply, to create a streamer’s on-camera personality, to generate and maintain their fame? What are the expectations, motivations and pressures? What other actors are involved in these processes? Drawing on extensive interview data with over one hundred professional and semi-professional live streamers, this paper examines the four main types of off-stream labour. The first is labour that goes into stream aesthetics, especially so-called “overlays” which help make a channel visually distinct from others. The second is networking, through which streamers look to connect with other streamers broadcasting similar content, also scoping out competition in similar channels, and in some cases even trying to “poach” viewers from other streams. The third involves work on other platforms beyond Twitch such as maintaining and supporting communities of loyal viewers on social media platforms like Discord, or uploading content to YouTube. The fourth covers activities such as handling large volumes of email traffic, managing channel moderators, and pursuing sponsorships. With live streamers becoming increasingly slick and professionalised and live streaming playing an increasingly central role in gaming culture, these are important dimensions to understand about some of the most visible and influential gaming content creators in the world.

Bio: Dr Mark R Johnson is a Lecturer in Digital Cultures in the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney. His research focuses on live streaming and Twitch.tv, esports, game consumption and production, and gamification and gamblification. He has published in journals including ‘Information, Communication and Society’, ‘New Media and Society’, ‘The Sociological Review’, ‘Convergence’, ‘Games and Culture’, and the ‘Journal of Virtual Worlds Research’. Outside academia he is also an independent game designer best known for the roguelike ‘Ultima Ratio Regum’, and a regular games blogger and podcaster.

Live Virtual Documentary: Ephemeral Forms for Precarious Times
Kim Munro (RMIT)

Abstract: In 2020, as festivals, conferences and live events around the world started to be cancelled, documentary organisations found ways to quickly reconfigure their in-person events to be virtual, or online. This adaptation to the emergent events demonstrated that the pre-planned show must go on. And with this, the documentary events which followed throughout the year found new ways to respond with innovative modes of production and exhibition designed especially for our new online realities. Rather than being limited to the rectangle boxes of Zoom, live-streamed talks and on-demand screenings, new kinds of immersive, virtual and interactive work began to be both adapted from in-real-life events, or specifically produced for this medium. This presentation takes as a starting point, the study of interactive and immersive documentary, using Bristol-based i-Docs team Aston, Guadenzi and Rose’s idea of an “expansive concept than can provide a platform for interrogating diverse forms and embracing variety of emerging trends” (2017). Through this framing, I explore some of the evolutions in live and immersive documentary that have occurred during 2020 and continue into 2021. These forms transcend spatial limitations and make use of various online platforms. Presented as a continuation of the relatively under-theorised live documentary performance genre, I will discuss a selection of works from different festivals including Open City Docs and IDFA (2020) and CPH:DOX (2021). I claim that the adaptations and inventions that emerged during this time occupy a liminal space between the material and virtual, audience and participant and domestic and public. More broadly, I present these works not in their reduced form, but rather as an emerging field that foregrounds invention and resistance and reinstates this types of documentary as collective experiences that has the capacity to outlive the current pandemic and present new possibilities for more sustainable and accessible practices in the future.

Bio: Dr Kim Munro is an award-winning academic based in Melbourne Australia. She has a PhD in Media and Communication from RMIT (2019), specialising in immersive and interactive documentary. Kim teaches a range of documentary and media courses across the Bachelor of Media and Communication and the Master of Media at RMIT University. She is currently writing a book on sound in interactive and immersive documentary (Palgrave MacMillan) and co-editing a book on the intersection between documentary practice and research (Intellect). She has published broadly on such topics as the essay film, technology and documentary, virtual reality, participatory practices, live performance and documentary, feminism and posthumanism and sound theory. Kim is the Conference Programmer at the Australian International Documentary Conference, Australia’s largest documentary and factual television event, on the selection panel at Melbourne International Film Festival and a member of the Melbourne Cinematheque committee. She was on the Grand Jury at Melbourne Webfest (2020) as well as a documentary judge in the Australian Teachers of Media Awards (2019-20). She was also the co-founder of Docuverse – a forum for expanded documentary which runs regular events and symposia as part of the non/fictionLab and Screen and Sound Cultures research group at RMIT University.

Music for a Virtually All Seeing Audience: Capturing Musical Performances with 360° Cameras
Miguel Mira (Coimbra / Leiden)

Abstract: The following paper proposes a presentation that investigates cinematic virtual reality (CVR) 360° music videos, as a new form of music video consumption. Now that virtual audiences can choose how to perceive CVR 360° music videos, by directing their gaze in the direction they wish to view, how have musicians and music video directors, navigated this new paradigm? And what mechanisms have they employed to illustrate a musical performance, for this new, virtually emancipated audience, that can now consume visuals in all directions? The affordances of a 360° panoramic view transport the viewer’s feeling of presence and, immerses them in a new location. Ever since the proliferation of 360° photography, in the early years of the XXI century, musicians have experimented and attempted to create with this new medium a closer relationship between their audience and their music. This investigation will use CVR 360° music videos case studies to begin evaluating a potential grammar for CVR 360° music videos, in order to determine what is the optimal spatial relationship between the audience and the musician, in virtual reality. Findings of this research could potentially serve as a blueprint for future auteurs to create their own CVR 360° music videos, and more importantly, this research will begin investigating if this new form of musical communication can be utilized as a means to mitigate the disastrous impact the COVID pandemic has had on the music industry. In a time without music concerts, when we must all be distanced, can CVR 360° music videos transport the audience’s sense of presence closer to their favorite musicians?

Bio: Miguel Mira is a digital artist, researcher and lecturer. As a digital artist he creates pieces testing the limits of software, using projection mapping, and virtual reality to investigate our contemporary digital age. As a researcher his interest lies at the intersection of different mediums. Namely: film, VR and the digital revolution. As an educator he is a frequent guest lecturer at the University of Lisbon and has taught workshops at multiple institutes. Currently, he is a PhD candidate in both Coimbra University and Leiden University in Art and Media studies and is undergoing a co-tutelage between both institutions. His PhD research focuses on investigating VR in comparison to cinema in regards to ontology, cognition, history, narrative and perspective.