DIGITAL CINEMA IN TRANSITION
The Digital Cinema project is part of a series of efforts to chart the productions and reception of contemporary film, audiences, and their impacts on and importance for the outlook and flow of culture today.
An essential backbone for our research is formed by the Centre for Cinema Studies at the University of British Columbia.
This page is intended to give you some ideas of our credentials and our beliefs.
Here are some examples of our previous efforts, so you can check our credentials:
Film in a Post Cinema-World. From 2010 to 2012, Doris Baltruschat researched the impact of multi-media on Canadian film production and its connection to global cultural industries, in particular with regards to interactive, digital technologies and 3D entertainment. The project highlighted challenges (esp. for independent filmmakers) and opportunities, (esp. Canadian and Aboriginal content across platforms). Case studies focused on new forms of film and trans-media production, including Late Fragment (2007), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009), Pandemic 1.0 (2011) and Pina (2011), as well as short films on the Internet, viral marketing initiatives and experimentation with 3D as expressions of innovation. The project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada as a postdoctoral fellowship.
Core outcome/publication: the project provided the basis for a book titled Film in a Post-Cinema World: A Critical Perspective on Film and Multimedia Production in the Digital Age, currently being finalized, as well as a co-edited volume with the title The Meaning of Independence: Independent Filmmaking around the Globe (University of Toronto Press, 2013).
More information: additional case-study publications related to the project are listed here members.shaw.ca
Hot, Cool & Cult: the Reception of Cult Film Today. Between 2009 and 2012 Ernest Mathijs researched the receptions of five contemporary films that may or may not become cult films. His project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The aim: to establish and analyze the modes, channels, and rhetoric that lead to tags such as ‘cult’ (or ‘hot’ or ‘cool’). The films were In Bruges (2008), Paranormal Activity (2007-2009), Splice (2010), The Social Network (2010), and The Adventures of Tintin (2011). In total, the project gathered 1368 online survey responses (about 270 per film), and thousands of ancillary materials.
Core outcome/publication: the conclusions of the Hot, Cool & Cult project are still being finalized. A book with the provisional title Hot, Cool & Cult: Tagging Film Culture is being prepared.
More information: the project’s outline, background, original questionnaire, and more information, is available HERE: cultmovieresearch.com
What is the 100th Cult Film? In the margin of the Hot, Cool & Cult project, a small research initiative arose out of the search for the most recent film to be included in the book 100 Cult Films. Twenty-five films, released between 2004 and 2010, were nominated. The winner was In Bruges, followed closely by Let the Right One In, Grindhouse, and Juno. Twilight was the film voted least likely to be a cult film.
Core outcome/publication: the background for the poll, the full list of 100 films, and essays on each one of them, are in 100 Cult Films, co-authored by Xavier Mendik and Ernest Mathijs, and published by the British Film Institute and Palgrave-Macmillan, in 2011.
More information: the full outcome of the poll, its methodology, short essays on notable results, and more information, is available HERE: cultsurvey.org
Global Media Ecologies. From 2005 to 2007, Doris Baltruschat conducted a research project into international co-productions, television formats, branded entertainment and crowdsourcing. The project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s doctoral fellowship program. It focused on the social and working relationships between media and cultural agents, in particular with regards to creative labour in reality-TV production and peer-to-peer networks. Amongst the co-productions and formats analyzed were Cold Mountain, The Chronicles of Narnia, Canadian Idol (and other exponents of the Idol franchise), as well as the docudrama Sex Traffic.
Core outcome/publication: Global Media Ecologies: Networked Production in Film and Television (Routledge, 2010).
More information: several of the case-study publications that came out of this project are listed here: members.shaw.ca/baltruschat
Lord of the Rings Audience Research Project. You may have heard about it. In 2003-04, a team from Aberystwyth University in Wales did an online survey of responses to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The project was directed by Professor Martin Barker, with Ernest Mathijs and Kate Egan as immediate collaborators. It was funded by the Economics and Social Sciences Research Council of the United Kingdom. The entire network of the project encompassed 20 countries, and 14 language versions of the questionnaire. The film won a record number of Academy Awards, and the survey garnered about 25,000 responses. It made the project the largest film audience research project thus far.
Core outcome/publication: Barker, Martin and Ernest Mathijs (eds) (2007), Watching the Lord of the Rings: Tolkien’s World Audiences, New York: Peter Lang Publishers, 297 pages.
More information: the database, user guide, original questionnaire, and more information, is available HERE: esrc.ac.uk
Big Brother Audience Research Project: there were two projects on the viewers of the reality tv-show Big Brother, one directed by Ernest Mathijs (with Wouter Hessels and Lara Verriest as collaborators), and one directed by Janet Jones (with Daniel Chandler and Merris Griffiths as collaborators). Combined, the two projects surveyed about 4,000 viewers of the show (mainly the first two seasons).
Core outcome/publication: Mathijs, Ernest & Janet Jones (eds) (2004), Big Brother International: Formats, Critics, Publics, London: Wallflower Press, 261 pages.
Audiences and Receptions for Sexual Violence in Contemporary Cinema Research Project. This project was commissioned by the British Board for Film Classification, the BBFC. It investigated the naturally-occurring audiences to five films – À Ma Soeur, Baise-Moi, The House on the Edge of the Park, Ichi the Killer, and Irreversible – chosen because the BBFC had cut scenes of sexual violence. The central issue for the project was to explore how audiences’ response[s?] to the films were/was affected by the existence of different versions of the films, and the impact of the cuts required for four of the films. The study analyzed 243 websites, 760 questionnaire responses, and 20 focus group discussions.
Core outcome/publication: Barker, Martin, Ernest Mathijs, Jamie Sexton, Kate Egan Russ Hunter, and Melanie Selfe (2007), Audiences and Receptions of Sexual Violence in Contemporary Cinema, London: BBFC.
More information: the database, user guide, original questionnaire, and more information, is available HERE: bbfc.co.uk
There have been other, smaller research projects:
Doris Baltruschat has researched the production and reception of films such as The Red Violin (Girard, 1998), eXistenZ (Cronenberg, 1999), Atanarjuat: the Fast Runner (Kunuk, 2001), Away From Her (Polley, 2006), The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008), and Hugo (Scorsese, 2011).
Ernest Mathijs has researched the production and reception of films as diverse as Daughters of Darkness (Kümel, 1971), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Hooper, 1974), Shivers (Cronenberg, 1975), The Fan (Schmidt, 1983), The Fly (Cronenberg, 1986), Man Bites Dog (Belvaux, Bonzel, Poelvoorde, 1992), S. (Henderickx, 1998), The Wisconsin Death Trip (Marsh, 1999), Hannibal (Scott, 2001), Donnie Darko (Kelly, 2001), The Room (Wiseau, 2003), and Ginger Snaps (Fawcett, 2000).
Every project has some concerns underpinning it. All our research projects have been influenced by the same philosophy. Here are a few of our starting points (cards on the table):
- We do not believe that popular culture is inferior to artful, or highbrow, or proper culture. We think that those who claim this are all too anxious to either gain or preserve some form of superiority over those who cannot afford the same exclusive access
- We see digital culture as a special development across popular and highbrow culture, worthy of investigation not only because of its economic opportunities but also, and foremost, because of the ways in which it re-designs channels and platforms of cultural communication.
- We love films, all films, all the time. We do not think they are superior to other forms of culture, but we do think they have a special reach, an easy access that makes them highly valuable, as a subject for study, but also as a social force.
- We believe that engagement with cultural products, whether in the form of active engagement in the making of films, or in their distribution and consumption (including fandom) is a form of enrichment, personal as well as social.
- We do not believe that disturbing material on screen has only negative effects. If it has effects (and we’re not too sure it does so blanketly), it has all kinds of effects: good, bad, silly and significant, dumbing down as well as emancipating, inciting violence as well as inciting kindness.
- We do not believe that by asking questions about films and audiences we should be seen as either for or against the films or the viewers. While sympathetic to the audiences we study, we remain objective. Above all, we respect the people we study, and their opinions. It’s a free world.