“If the study of film just becomes film history, then film will be history!”

– Me, Breaking Cinema with a Selfie Stick

Constructive Film Studies, a.k.a. Film Studies 2.0, is my endorsement for a new discipline that can best be summed as ‘Film Studies with a leg to stand on.’

If you look at my BA (hons), my A-Levels and my general interest in films, I come from a traditional Film Studies background, but I have always had a nagging problem with the field of Film Studies, and which I think many critics of Film Studies can agree with – it’s a discipline that does relatively little, if anything at all, to progress the medium of film. 

Film analysis, criticism and appreciation, that’s basically its primary purpose and that is pretty much all it teaches. Now in and of themselves, on a personal basis, film analysis, criticism and appreciation are very fulfilling things to do, if you are so inclined, as indeed I am myself, they can make for a very good blog, such as this one.

“A focus on the meaningful and socialogical side of Media [and Film] Studies also means that we are required to discourage the self-indulgent and pointless textual analysis which was once central to the average Media Studies textbook. Occasionally some commentators do manage to make interesting observations about the composition or meaning of a particular culturally significant text. But requiring our students to make pretentious statements about trivial aspects of unimportant bits of media content was always a silly idea, and bound to draw sharp and reasonable attacks from critics of the discipline. The defence that this activity is parallel to what they do in Literature Studies was correct, but its often a waste of time there too. Our students should at least have an ambition to be on the front line of creative activity – not following along behind, making comments to an audience of no one”

– David Gauntlet, Media Studies 2.0 and other battles around the future of media research

However, times have changed, we largely no longer need professional film critics, theory is only half the story which makes employment in film-related sectors next to impossible if you lack any practical experience and Film Studies as a whole has a terrible tendency to just repeat theories that were originally orchestrated thirty years ago!

Where’s the innovation?

Where’s the validation for the continuing existence of the Film Studies discipline?

Film Studies has accumulated a great deal of film-centric knowledge, but for what end?

Media Studies 2.0 was a huge influence on my thinking for Constructive Film Studies

I believe that Film Studies is a discipline that can do more and should do more, it’s a discipline that examines an art-and-usiness form that is consumed by all and influences all – likewise Film Studies should be obligated to be vastly more constructive in its approach.

Towards the end of my BA (Hons) in Creative Writing with Film and Screen Studies I started to become very frustrated with the limitations of the Film Studies discipline. 

A frustration that very much fuelled what ended up becoming the award-winning theoretical dissertation I wrote for my BA (Hons), Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle

“An attitude of indifference has largely found its way into Film Studies… it is an academic subject that is increasingly feeling very dusty. It does not invest enough energy into progressive thinking or into examining the practical aspects of how film entities are constructed… The discipline is too focused on cave-like thinking and film theory of the past; a pantheon of knowledge that is becoming continuously outdated and finding itself at odds with new advancements and diversifications”

– Me, Ways of Being, 2013:105-07

The same frustration also went onto inspire the creation of the Breaking Cinema podcast which was the most direct expression of my thinking behind Constructive Film Studies.

It’s also not an acident that the module devote to film in my Multimedia Studies and Creative Technologies concentration is called Film Studies 2.0

Ultimately, I feel that the concerns of the Film Studies discipline, which currently exists, should no longer be a discipline in its own right.

What it should be is a single module component of a much broader and proactive discipline, which for lack of a better name I have termed Film Studies 2.0 a.k.a. Constructive Film Studies…

“The Constructive Journalism Project aims to innovate and strengthen journalism by developing methods for journalists to bring more positive and solution-focused elements into conventional reporting. We equip journalists, media organisations and students with the knowledge and skills to practice constructive journalism – enabling them to produce engaging and rigorous reporting that presents a fuller picture of the world.”

Constructive Journalism

Very little originality aside, Film Studies 2.0 is Media Studies 2.0 combined with Constructive Journalism, but with the focus starting with film.

Film Studies 2.0, as with the growing manifesto for Media Studies 2.0, will have a strong focus on…

  • Learning through doing and personal reflection, so there will be a lot of content creation, i.e. filmmaking, not just essay writing and discussion, the students will get their hands very dirty, theory and practice in equal measure.
  • Film being brought out of its comfort zone and studied in relation to the broader media canvas of other forms of audio-visual content and the world wide web, because films now exist through extended pieces of content interspersed throughout an extended network.
  • Teaching by active experience, so all of the tutors will be active practitioners and creators of their own content in order to enable and nature a culture of collaboration between tutor and student, opposed to an authority and subordinate relationship, this is how you eliminate the passivity in students.
  • Fusing a relationship with other disciplines, such as business and emotional intelligence, in order to produce Constructive Film graduates who can market themselves as a brand and a service to be engaged with in whatever way they decide to use their expertise as a career.
  • Be open to transdisciplinary approaches by fusing a study of film with other disciplines, such as big data, psychology and neuroscience in order to uncover and correlate the larger implications of film culture and cinema…

I have always been fascinated by films, I mostly adore them, but do you know what has always fascinated me more?

Two things…

  1. Other people’s reception of films and their experience of film experience (film experience encompasses an experiential understanding larger than an individual film) and not just the film experiences of film-centrics, I mean everyone! It’s amazing how unoriginal film-centrics can be in their reports of films and their film experiences, a non-film-centric will give you a truly vibrant report, precisely because they have not been saturated with the dusty conventions of Film Studies.
  2. How films are embodiments of human consciousness…

Amazingly, human consciousness is still something we do not know that much about and the study of what a human consciousness is has gained considerable attention thanks in no small part to the advances of neuroscience and brain imaging technologies, but even so, it is still a mystery.

If you look at my research interests, human consciousness is top of the list and I think all audio-visual content, as embodiments of human consciousness, has something to say about what human conciousness is, how it arises and how it operates.

I also think that all those Film Studies theories that have built up and gathered dust over the years may also prove to play a part in the uncovering of human consciousness when they are actually tested and produce empirical data – that would make Film Studies into a very constructive discipline.

That’s my theory, but something that I think is worth pursuing!

This reflection on Constructive Film Studies originally came from a blog post I wrote at the beginning of 2016 and also included in the Pulling Teeth and Breaking Blindness vision document for the Breaking Cinema podcast.