Valuing the societal contribution of screen production

By Associate Professor James Verdon, Dr Bettina Frankham and Dr Kath Dooley

As the national peak body for teaching and researching of screen production practices in the tertiary landscape, the Australian Screen Production Education and Research Association (ASPERA) represents academics from 18 institutions across the country. Membership is formally currently held at an institutional level, but the ASPERA community comprises an active group of academics working in regional and metropolitan centres, who are connected via an annual conference, symposia, and collaborative project work in hardspace and online.

One of the key immediate challenges for ASPERA is how to best contribute to tangible and meaningful cultural and societal change regarding diversity in screen production ... There is much work still to be done both behind the camera to ensure opportunities and creative freedom for a more representative group of practitioners and in front of the camera to celebrate the multitude of stories, voices and faces.

Contemporary screen-based creative practice is increasingly employed inside (and beyond) the academy. It forms part of teaching delivery, preparation, online teaching and equally, contributes to research in data gathering, outputs, engagement and impact. Screen production has a significant reach in communicating knowledge and plays an important translational role in disseminating knowledge across the breadth of academic disciplines in addition to having strong merit in its own right as a teaching and research form.

ASPERA is working towards better recognition of the myriad practices occurring in teaching and research by screen production academics nationally.  We would like to work more closely with policy makers to better support screen production inputs and outputs in the overlapping spheres of arts, culture and education across not only our disciplines but also more widely across humanities and STEM disciplines in the academy and industry. We see much of our screen production practices as collaborative and so seek out opportunities to partner with industry, with government, and with each other in research, teaching and engagement contexts equally. ASPERA promotes the equivalence and value of creative Non Traditional Research Outputs alongside more traditional text-based research outcomes and feels there is still much recognition work to be done at individual institutions going forward.

As practitioners, researchers and teachers ... we have impact in this field that is significant in shaping how we all, as Australian and global citizens, think about ourselves, the world, our place in it and scope to influence it.

One of the key immediate challenges for ASPERA is how to best contribute to tangible and meaningful cultural and societal change regarding diversity in screen production. Our industries and individuals within them have been some of the most publicly visible called to account regarding diversity in recent times. There is much work still to be done both behind the camera to ensure opportunities and creative freedom for a more representative group of practitioners and in front of the camera to celebrate the multitude of stories, voices and faces that reflect the talent, cultures and society we co-create.

Tertiary institutions have an important partnership role to play in working with industry and government toward more diverse representations both on screen and in production. We engage in this set of issues through our teaching instruction and research activities in which we establish and maintain positive cultures and professional expectations alongside reflecting on this when we come together at conferences and through project work. We live this in our external engagement and most importantly, nuanced understandings and dealings between the education and screen industries. We aim to better document what diversity looks and sounds like for us in screen production and establish enforceable diversity standards with the joint support of industry and government.

Moving image has secured a prominent place in the communicative vernacular of our current visual culture - a position that is set to continue. As practitioners, researchers and teachers in screen production we have impact in this field that is significant in shaping how we all, as Australian and global citizens, think about ourselves, the world, our place in it and scope to influence it. We would like to see cultural, arts and education policies that value screen production as much for its intrinsic value as for its utility so that we can continue to promote critical engagement with the form, responding to the realities of current issues and imagining new possibilities.


Associate Professor James Verdon is President of the Australian Screen Production Education and Research Association (ASPERA) and Chair of the Department of Film and Animation at Swinburne University of Technology. His industry background and teaching experience is in post-production for film and television, and screen production for gallery and museum contexts. James' research interests are concerned with relationships between screen reality and other realities, particularly as mediated and differentiated through technologies of representation. It takes a broadly materialist approach and is realised through a combination of screen-based outcomes and more traditional publishing.

Dr Bettina Frankham is a creative practice academic researching and teaching digital media arts and production in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UTS. She has a background of industry experience spanning multiple forms of media including television, radio and web production. Her moving image projects have screened at international media arts festivals and she has published scholarly journal articles and book chapters. Her research interests include art and documentary intersections, expanded documentary practice and the impact of digital culture on creative media production. She is currently the Vice President of ASPERA and a member of the ASPERA Research Sub-Committee.

Dr Kath Dooley is a creative practitioner, senior lecturer and the Discipline Lead for Theatre, Screen & Digital Media at Curtin University. She is also a member of the ASPERA Executive. Kath has written a number of short and feature-length screenplays, and has directed several award-winning short films and music videos. Her research interests include screen production methodology, screenwriting, virtual reality and screen education.