I am lucky to have a job that I love. But in the eighteen months of settling into full-time academia, I seem to have lost sight of the ‘love’ and become fixated on the ‘job’. A weird thing has happened in recent weeks, in that I’ve tried to become more focused on what is actually important about my work — and what feels the most rewarding.
There are two main strands to the workload of an academic at my level: teaching and research. Research covers the writing and publication of scholarly work — be it journal articles, book chapters, conference presentations, monographs. Teaching is what it says on the tin.
In 2011, mid-PhD, I took my first class at Western Sydney University (then UWS). It was a boring compulsory course, but I caught the bug, and have loved teaching ever since. With the transition to full-time employment, I’ve always tried to have time for my students, time to sink into my pedagogy, but that time has always felt sapped by other commitments. I say felt, because I’ve realised that the sapping of time has only occurred because I’ve let it.
This semester, I’ve turned a corner. The most important commitments I have, during semester time, are my students. Everything else is secondary. To be clear, I don’t think the time I spend on teaching or research will change this semester (I have a book chapter to finish, a presentation to write, and a monograph to approve all by September). Rather what has changed is where my head is at most of the time: ensuring my students are, if not blissfully happy, then at least reasonably clear about what I’m trying to teach them, and the experience I would — ideally — like them to have.
As previously alluded to, I’m in the very strange process of having to think through my own comprehension of the cinematic medium. In a way, I’m taking baby steps towards my own theory of film. I’ll be taking these initial explorations to a couple of conferences in New Zealand in a couple of months, and I’m also running a studio around the same topic in the second half of the year.
The basis of this new research is that throughout film history, film theory, the notion of the ‘frame’ is never questioned. So much of this is due to the fact that up until very recently, the frame itself was a tangible thing: there’s little need to theorise or philosophise about something you can cut up and hold in your hand. While my research goes out on multiple tangents, the ones we’ll be looking at in the studio have to do with our framing of the world, and how we can link this notion of framing to our conception of self, and our own thought process. It sounds pretentious, I’m well aware, but I’m hoping that through exploring what a cinematic frame is in 2015, we can move towards a comprehension of digital cinema that is either entirely new or, at best, a – ahem – reframing of older theories of film form and philosophy.