The education of the next generation of screen industry professionals is one of the topics for the discussion at the Screen Futures Summit and Youth Festival, co-hosted by RMIT.
Working with The Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, RMIT is co-hosting the event from 1-3 July.
The summit will feature discussions on screen education, screen innovation, and the screen industry.
There will also be keynote sessions with the likes of actor Noni Hazlehurst AM, screen producer and RMIT Adjunct Professor Sue Maslin, Pioneer of Women in Games award-winner Leena van Deventer and animation scholar Professor Paul Wells.
We talked to summit chair Associate Professor Lisa French, Deputy Dean, Media at RMIT’s School of Media and Communication, about the program of events and the event’s goals.
Looking at the themes of the Festival, it appears innovation is a major focus. What are the main forms this innovation is taking?
Screen Futures looks at innovation from a range of perspectives, so for example, there is a panel on Diversity, which will examine whether diversity drives innovation.
An illustration of this is that there are business arguments for increasing the participation of women, or Indigenous Australians in screen industries because the content they are creating is doing really well.
Innovation is also considered in relation to the impact of technology, the shifts in the industry due to new modes of doing things, such as connecting with audiences.
The conference itself is innovative in that it is directly engaging industry and education in a dialogue about innovation and the future for screen industries. This kind of engagement is what we do at RMIT across our research and teaching, so this is why we have supported the conference.
Why does media education still matter? And how is RMIT contributing to this?
We focus on networked literacies, ethical collaboration and teamwork, along with literacies of learning that enable critical thinking, research skills and the like. These are always important and why media education is going to matter more and more.
Along with all of this learning is an understanding that media industries are constantly moving and in response, media education has to shift as well – so educators need to work with industry to ensure that media education is relevant.
One of the keynotes is Professor Graeme Turner. He will be talking about his new book which puts forward the idea of the media having been re-invented and needing new theoretical paradigms for analysis because the old ones no longer are fit for purpose in the face of whole new industries.
And I think that work indicates why the industry can benefit from engagement with educators who are deeply thinking about what is going on in screen (and other media) industries.
Where is the media industry, and storytelling headed? Over the years we’ve heard of Australian films made on budgets so low that cast and crew have not taken payment and then the films still struggle to find a distributor. Is this becoming the norm for the Australian industry?
Understanding how the Australian film industry works is complex. A film such as our Adjunct Professor Sue Maslin's film The Dressmaker (she was producer), took over $20 million in Australia, but the bulk of that money is returned not to the filmmakers, but to the exhibition/distribution part of the industry.
Screen producers like Sue (who is a guest at Screen Futures) are not dissuaded by this, they make good business plans and find clever, or strategic ways to reach audiences – and in this way, they are innovators because they have achieved sustainability as industry professionals.
All industries make films that don't find audiences, but it continues to be true that Australian films are a small proportion of box office, though that is not the only measure of success or business.
However, the last 12 months have been among our most successful in terms of box office for a long time-because of Max Max Fury Road and The Dressmaker. The Australian-made proportion of the national box office in the last year was around 9 per cent, but this year might drop back to about 2 per cent –ordinarily it is under 5 per cent.
How have changes in the social media sphere and the digital economy influenced the industry and the teaching of media in the past five years?
I am not a social media expert, but our students are digital natives who deliver content on all platforms and this has transformed what, for whom and how they create content, express their learning and access everything they need.
So it is constantly changing as we ensure that the next generation of media professionals are adaptable, critical, direct experiential learners who can move continuously as the mediascape and technologies change.
Story: Louise Handran