Film Education, Post MA areas of interest

The business of film education?

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April 2012: I attended a seminar at the BFI in association with a 3-year project entitled Film: 21st Century Literacy whose aim is to develop a strategy for film education across the UK. The project pioneered some excellent research and is now coming to an end. It produced this advocacy report. The seminar’s theme was “Re/defining film education” and I had a 5 minute slot in which to talk about the European perspective – having been part of a team researching film literacy in Europe for the preceding few months. I began developing a presentation around the concepts of Purpose, Positioning and Processes (the 3 P’s) in relation to film education.

Such have been the findings so far and considering the majority of the 60 delegates may well have ‘heard it all before’, I felt that this 5 minutes might be better spent entertaining a metaphorical notion. It offers a more playful approach inviting us to look at the field through a different lens. It could highlight where energies might best be spent if film education is to gain traction as a core entitlement for all young people. The 3 P’s reminded me of a business model…

What if … in the spirit of TV’s The Apprentice, film education was a product?:

  • with abundant USP’s, massive growth potential and clear evidence of longevity
  • but whose brand, despite its relevance, suffers in most quarters from perception deficit, issues of differentiation, positioning and a crowded market
  • whose backers lack sustained R & D commitment, even taking into account excellent in-house product design skills
  • whose target markets are highly receptive, but whose market penetration continues to disappoint – despite the potential for cross-selling, franchising and international expansion
  • whose excellent market research isn’t always acted on and is, in some cases, disregarded
  • whose PR strategy, Quality Control & Sales Rep training need bigger investment
  • whose stakeholders are debating the pros and cons of a being absorbed by another associated brand with bigger European clout: ‘Does this represent a good opportunity to raise our profile? Might our product’s distinct qualities be subsumed in the process?’
  • whose creative use of new media technologies both in its delivery and consumption, make it attractive, current and adaptable, but also burdened with heavy and punitive legislation
  • whose profit margins are really tricky to measure, in fact so elusive and diffuse that to some, the product doesn’t even look viable; however, such is the manufacturers’ and consumers’ belief in the benefits, it keeps current and successful on the margins.

I’m aware that indulging metaphors in this way can come across as a bit pleased with itself, but what’s useful here is the flagging up of similarities between social processes. Perhaps perceiving of film education in more metaphorical and less essentialist ways might inspire the kind of imaginative leaps and new connections necessary to advance it. Paradoxically, film education’s very plasticity, transferability and translatability, so often perceived as liabilities under current structures, are its most ‘marketable’ core strengths.

One of the more interesting ideas advanced by Cary Bazalgette during the seminar was to compile a list of agencies, interest groups and a few large brands with common interests, who might become allies in a bid to back film education during reviews of current education provision.



2 thoughts on “The business of film education?

  1. As you know Michelle, I love this. Metaphorical thinking is so good for getting us outside of the box. The Business metaphor is one I want to pursue now, following Richard Lanham (The Electronic Word, from mid 1990s, still outthinks most media literacy pundits). He asked, of English, ‘What Business are we in?’: US railroads had to ask themselves in the late C19th whether they were in the transportation, or railroad business; newspapers are having to ask themselves if they’re in publishing, communication, or newspapers business. There are key differences, and the wrong choices might consign your product to history, or allow it to evolve. His point is about subject English: are we in the language business, or the literature business, or the Great Books business, or the texts business. So let’s apply the same question to film education: what business is it in?

    Your provocation should be cross-posted to the FLAG blog – and I’d like to use it in the Experts Presentation on Friday, with your permission, and full credit..

    Posted by markreid1895 | April 17, 2012, 2:10 pm
  2. Of course Mark, please use it. I’ve changed it since your comment was posted – keep thinking of things – but will stop tweaking… for now…. and of course, it’s also worth considering if the analogy is just so wrong, then why is it so wrong? This might be an even more generative discussion.

    James Geary is my metaphor man. Look up his “I is an Other – The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World.”

    Posted by Michelle Cannon | April 17, 2012, 3:46 pm

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