Melbourne Cinemagoing: Festivals, Exhibition, Distribution

RMIT University, Building 80, Level 10 – Room 80.09.09

Finding Money and making audiences: The twin challenges for Melbourne based filmmakers

Aidan Stewart, Swinburne University

Australia’s film industry, and in particular the distribution sector, has been mired by several significant developments in consumer and industry practice, configuration and policy (Carroll Harris, 2012). In recent years a new screen media ecology has begun to emerge that challenges these norms. This forms the foundation for a project concerned with examining potential ways of bridging academic and practical concerns around financing, supporting and driving distribution of Australian screen media content. Investigating processes of decentralisation and disintermediation within a new media ecology, my project will look to identify key ways in which Australian independent filmmakers can adapt and flourish within an unstable industry.

This paper will present initial findings from interviews with Melbourne based filmmakers and a survey of consumers. It will highlight the disconnect in the ways filmmakers and consumers are thinking about the economics of film. It will then demonstrate the ways in which critical analysis may contribute to pushing the local industry forwards. Responses will be compared to international film industries, other media industries and emerging technological responses to such issues. Concerns raised will include: supporting consumer and creator rights as non mutually exclusive, supporting the enhancement, diversification, decentralisation and proliferation of a cultural commons and encouraging innovation and efficiency in production, delivery and economics. This research is important in regards to current disruptive discourses around piracy and maintains the potential to feed back into the industry itself.

Aidan Stewart is a second year PhD researcher at Swinburne University of Technology. His academic interests centre on decentralising technologies and practices and developments in digital film distribution on the fringes.


Screening the Street: Projection Festivals and Screen Culture

Stephanie Hanon, University of Melbourne

Melbourne has developed a rich screen culture supported by a network of cinemas that provide a fixed destination to watch films. Like other cities though, the screen is increasingly fluid and mobile. Projection art is one technology, which moves the screen beyond the frame of the cinema and onto the expanse of the street. However, this movement of the projector and screen from the darkened theatre out to the bustling streetscape necessitates a reconceptualization of the relationship between screen and viewer. This paper will discuss the characteristics and experience of public spectatorship in the context of cinema scholar Francesco Casetti’s concept of ‘almost’ cinema. It will discuss the continuity and change in spectatorial practices in public screen cultures, specifically those involving projection art.

The Gertrude Street Projection Festival (GSPF) in Melbourne’s inner city will be used as a case study to explore these ideas. This festival was established in 2007 and features a range of artistic practices include projection art, performance works as well as installations in shop windows along the street. The paper will draw from qualitative research undertaken at the 2016 festival, specifically interviews with attendees who described their experience of the projections. This research is part of a larger project which is looking at the impact of media infrastructure, specifically large screens and projections, on the function of public spaces.

This paper seeks to contribute to research that situates spectatorship as a social as well as aesthetic practice. It aims to highlight the influence of cinema spectatorship on the emergent public viewing cultures. As screens increasingly shift beyond the frame, there is a need to reconsider approaches to spectatorship and assess the continuity and change as what we know as screen shifts from a fixed destination to a mobile encounter.

Stephanie Hanon is a PhD candidate with the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. She is also a member of the Research Unit in Public Cultures Graduate Academy at The University of Melbourne. Her research is examining how media infrastructure, specifically large screens and projections, are affecting the perceptions and experience of public space. This involves empirical research at two public spaces in Melbourne, Dandenong and Gertrude Street. Part of this research, will also seek to provide recommendations to policy makers and industry about how media can be better used to facilitate greater civic engagement and public participation. Alongside these research interests, she is also a senior adviser with Infrastructure Victoria, an independent statutory body, which advises on infrastructure matters.


Creative exhibition in Melbourne through digital projection: The Turning as a case study of super-diegesis

Lauren Carroll Harris, University of New South Wales

This paper will explore how mobile digital projection is allowing filmmakers to creatively screen their works in locations that extend the boundaries of their story-worlds into the exhibition space. Using a case study of the Australian arthouse-anthology film The Turning (various, 2013), this paper will show how creative exhibition in unconventional sites can influence the terms of reception and shift how a film’s meanings are interpreted by viewers. After a theatrical distribution plan hinging on roadshow presentations at gala screening nights, The Turning was taken outside of commercial theatres and presented at all-night arts festival White Night in the city of Melbourne. Rather than presenting the film sequentially, its producer Robert Connolly divided the film into its chapters, presenting them in spaces that expanded their story-worlds. The thematically central chapter ‘The Turning’, which climaxes in a religious conversion, was shown in Collins Street Baptist church, with viewers seated in pews. The road-trip chapter ‘Big World’ was presented in a screen in the trunk of a kombi with the trunk-door wide open. ‘Sand’ was screened in an alleyway transformed with a floor of sand covering the asphalt. The result of this exhibition experiment falls somewhere between cinema and installation, using an arts festival as a way to present a series of pop-up cinemas that had to be discovered by audiences willing to wander through the streets of Melbourne over the course of a night. The exhibition settings became a framing device or an extension of the film’s chapters: the expanded margins of a film’s world. As they are not apparent to the characters within the world of the film, these creative exhibition settings are not diegetic, rather, they are super-diegetic. In this way, inexpensive digital projection can allow a more explicit and deliberate link to form between a film and the space in which it is exhibited. Historically, cinema as a modernist medium has prompted scholars to attune themselves to the sensibilities of time, developments in digital distribution and projection attune us to consider aspects of space. I will use aspects of art theory to consider the creative, spatial and aesthetic aspects of film exhibition, citing other instances where digital projection and unconventional screening environments can heighten or continue a film’s themes and textual properties.

Lauren Carroll Harris is a final-year PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales. Her monograph, ‘Not at a Cinema Near You: Australia’s Film Distribution Problem’, was published by Platform Papers (Currency House) in 2013. She has been published in Metro (of which she is a contributing editor), International Journal of Cultural Policy, Studies in Australasian Cinema (forthcoming) and Senses of Cinema, and has co-edited three collections of essays on Australian film distribution and film festivals for Studies in Australasian Cinema.