Research Methods in Film Studies: Challenges and Opportunities

ECREA Biannual Conference
Ghent, 18-19 October 2019

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The academic study of film has involved looking at generic conventions, authorial features, and the use and function of different aspects of film language, including mise-en-scène, narrative, editing and sound. Film Studies has also examined the relationship between film and society, by contemplating issues such as race and gender, the on- and off-screen construction of stardom, the association between cinema, ideology and propaganda, and the way in which films mirror and shape national and transnational identities. The industrial features of film, film policy and legislation, as well as matters of film reception, distribution and exhibition, venues and audiences (cf. the New Cinema History Movement) have also been extensively considered by scholars, within and beyond the discipline.

Research questions and methodologies from the humanities and social sciences have often been used in conjunction in the analysis of this multitude of topics. The history of Film Studies is thus one of transdisciplinarity. As the discipline moves forward, and its future is called into question – both in relation to debates about the post-cinematic era (Denson and Leyda 2016) and the changing academic context (Fairfax 2017) – methodological considerations have been given greater attention in academic discussions. This is at least partly connected to the rise of the Digital Humanities, which has afforded the study of film with a variety of new digital sources, tools and methods, as well as a growing interest in quantitative data, which allows for new forms of analysis of film texts, industries, audiences and cultures. At the same time, more traditional methods, such as the multiple approaches to textual analysis, the use of interviews and surveys, as well as archival research, retain their important place within Film Studies. The wide variety of methodologies adopted by researchers of film across the globe have meant the discipline is now faced with a series of challenges and opportunities.

Aiming to explore a wide range of approaches, this conference invites contributions that engage with current methodological challenges and opportunities in Film Studies. We welcome theoretical contributions on methodological issues in Film Studies, papers or workshop sessions on specific methods, as well as research papers paying considerable attention to the methodological framework at stake. The conference will also host a special panel organized by the ECREA Television Studies section.

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