The best of times for emerging filmmakers, screen producers and creatives

By Dr Max Schleser

With current trends and transformations towards an increasingly dynamic mediascape and disruptive innovations, there has never been a better time for Creative Arts research. As the new marketplace for immersive technologies and entertainment at the Marché du Film, Cannes XR demonstrates, graduates who have an understanding of how to apply their emerging media and screen production skills into creative concepts, will have a number of prospects in the job market internationally.

These projects demonstrate that Creative Arts researchers not only respond to a brief but can create innovative processes to engage diverse communities and society more generally.

In the Digital Narratives Unit, which is part of the Screen Production course at Swinburne University of Technology, students engage with Interactive Video, VR and AR for storytelling. This year (2019), second year Undergraduate students had the choice to work on an industry brief in collaboration with Medibank. In the first week Medibank representatives presented the Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) project to the students in our studio class. The students spend the first four to six weeks researching various possibilities to effectively communicate OSHC and the Australian Health System through storytelling; to their peers using Interactive Video, AR, VR (360° video production) and Social Media. After testing their storytelling approaches with specific international student communities, the students pitched their ideas back to our ‘client’ Medibank at their offices in Melbourne. At the end of the semester the final presentation featured a panel of Medibank representatives and Swinburne University of Technologies Student Service Team, who all provided feedback for students. Medibank Partnership Manager, Susan Cullen, confirmed the value of this collaboration: 

“Throughout the project the quality of the student’s ideas, their approach and their willingness to listen and respond to feedback was exceptional. All the students presented their ideas in a professional manner and there was no doubt that they were committed to providing the best possible outcome and producing high quality work. The final video pieces were of high quality, they were original and all unique in their own way.  The students clearly demonstrated that they were able to respond to a brief and deliver a useful and relevant piece of work. I would have no doubt that this group of students are making excellent progress towards their job readiness and will have successful future careers.”

It was also great to see how international students could share their experience and inform the classroom about Social Media like Weibo or TikTok, which are used in China for example.

Screen Production content produced by peers for peers is a strong advocate for driving engagement, as a number of recent case studies show. These non-traditional research projects include; a Cinematic VR project exhibited at the SF3 Film Festival in the Sydney Opera House, the InstaWorkshop concept, which I developed for Inner South-East Metropolitan Partnerships (Victorian Government) (instagram.com/isemetro), Pasifika Youth workshops as well as a project commissioned by Yarriambiack Shire Council to create webisodes in a community context. Tales from Yarriambiack includes drone cinematography, 360° video production and explored co-creation and participatory processes. These projects demonstrate that Creative Arts researchers not only respond to a brief but can create innovative processes to engage diverse communities and society more generally. Within this context one could also point at the two edited collections Mobile Media Making in an Age of Smartphones (2014) and Mobile Story Making in an Age of Smartphones (2018), which can provide inspiration and identify a number of rigorous approaches to non-traditional research outputs.

With more and more interactive, AR, VR and immersive media applications becoming available for second year students to experiment and create work with ... the entrance point to immersive media has become more accessible than ever before.

Within interdisciplinary contexts, creativity and storytelling can be identified as a catalyst to give research projects novel impulses and directions.  For example, working as part of an interdisciplinary team for the Pasifika Youth workshops, I developed a framework for mobile storytelling and 360° videos to promote wellbeing in Pacific Youth in New Zealand/Aotearoa. Recently, I also contributed to a research project commissioned by Telstra, which demonstrated how storytelling can be utilised to increase participation among senior citizens, who according to the Digital Inclusion Index represent the most disconnected part of society (youtube.com/watch?v=n4ggq78XuzU ). 

With more and more interactive, AR, VR and immersive media applications becoming available for second year students to experiment and create work with, i.e. working with Premiere Pro to edit 360° videos or with the recently announced Adobe Aero, which will allow the development of AR projects, the entrance point to immersive media has become more accessible than ever before. At the recent ASPERA conference (Australian Screen Production Education & Research Association) a panel on VR in the classroom illustrated that great classroom and studio sessions are inspired by Creative Arts research.

The experimentation and engagement with immersive media and novel frameworks to refine aesthetic choices and creative approaches to any given changes or challenges in the creative industries and beyond are thus becoming our currency and day-to-day business. Students, as much as researchers, need spaces for blue-sky thinking, speculative futures and opportunities to contribute towards defining creative innovation. The knowledge gained from aesthetic explorations influences the emerging screen languages that are currently showcased at international film festivals, community screenings and galleries as much as in the online environment(s). Providing students pathways for building networks (on and offline) in an international context and gain confidence to explore international opportunities is another key element. Most students have LA and London on their radar, but there are various opportunities for creative content and screen producers in a number of parts in the world. 

As graduates, students and researchers continue to produce content for the creative industries and other sectors and represent some of the dynamic and disruptive developments in the film, TV and digital media industry, there has never been a better time for emerging Filmmakers, Screen Producers and Creatives.


 Max Schleser (B.A. Hons, M.A., Ph.D.) is Senior Lecturer in Film and Television at Swinburne University of Technology (Melbourne, Australia), Adobe Education Leader, Co-Founder of the Mobile Innovation Network & Association (www.mina.pro) and Screening Director of the International Mobile Innovation Screening & Festival. Max’s research expertise are Immersive Media and Creative Arts 4.0 with a focus on Cinematic VR and interactive filmmaking. His research explores Screen Production, Emerging Media and Smartphone Filmmaking for community engagement, creative transformation and transmedia storytelling. Max’s experimental films, moving-image arts and cinematic VR projects are screened at film festivals and exhibited in galleries and museums (www.schleser.nz). His community engaged documentaries are broadcasted on TV and online (https://www.behance.net/maxschleser).