On Screen Festivals: Launching a new undergraduate Unit 


This year, I introduced and launched a new unit at Deakin University: Film Festivals. It came on the heels of the teaching I was invited to undertake in Italy in 2017 and 2017, where I led professional Master's workshops on Festivals for ALMED at the Universit√† Cattolica, Milan. 

With David Robinson at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, 2019, where (with Prof. Richard Abel) I curated the French Stars: Mistinguett program


Why did I introduce the subject at Deakin? Students need access to classes that explore issues around the distribution and marketing of films, not just around film-making, theory and/or a film's critical reception. Moreover, many filmmaking students submit their films to festivals, others market and promote cultural activities, while still others are genuinely interested in the social function of festivals. Learning about festivals aids all of these students.

I have been attending, participating in and curating local and international festivals since I was a  film student in the early 1990s. I therefore I know first-hand what film festivals bring. They nurture community. They make you aware of the fundamental importance of creative choice, context and curation. Above all, they allow a diverse public to concatenate around film.

Scaffolded assignments 

The assignments I ask students to undertake involve familiarising themselves with festival case studies and then planning and implementing their own short film festival program. Students learn about the histories and contexts of festivals.They then explore the financial, logistical and thematic feasibility of building their own program. In a concluding assignment, they outline the content, theme and targeted audience/s for their festival program, also providing  a plan for the tools and promotional materials to be used. 

Industry experts  

This year, I invited a host of fabulous speakers to class:

  • Spiros Economopoulos, Program Director, Melbourne Queer Film Festival
  • Alex Hipwell, Director of Melbourne WebFest
  • Kristen Stevens, academic and deputy Director, Melbourne Women in Film Festival