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How to Establish Film Practice Research and Evidence Impact in the Greek Academic Environment?

DOI: | Issue 9 | Oct 2022

Iakovos Panagopoulos and Ioannis Deliyannis (Ionian University)


Nowadays, there are two types of scholars teaching film courses at the Greek universities. The first one is the theoreticians with a background in film studies and a PhD in film theory, who approach their teaching methods strictly from a theoretical point of view. The second type of university teachers are practical filmmakers that come directly from the industry, most of them without a PhD or formal research experience. They approach their courses from a practical point of view sharing their experience from the industry.

Greek Universities are exclusively public at the moment and fall under the Ministry of Education. The system is quite bureaucratic and difficult to adapt within and responds slowly, if at all to changes. PhD candidates are dealing almost exclusively with traditional theoretical PhDs. Over the past several years, the first art-based PhDs focusing upon performing arts or visual arts in the Greek academic environment were submitted. However, the field of film practice research is still brand new. At the same time, over the past decade the Ministry of Education established a new unit in Universities that will measure the quality of research and teaching entitled Quality Assurance Unit (MO.DI.P). MO.DI.P is an advisory body for the administration of the University which, through the coordination of procedures for internal and external evaluation of the academic units of the Institution, gathers information regarding the strong and weak points of a University. Within this framework it is really difficult for arts based or film-based research practitioners to prove the impact of their research to MO.DI.P. and to establish film practice research in general within the Greek academic environment.

Since my background is on film practice and my PhD was undertaken in the United Kingdom, I am familiar with the ways that we can measure film practice impact in the academic environment. Establishing this culture in the Greek academic environment is quite difficult but at the same time it forges new paths and exciting opportunities for new art based and film-based research practitioners. This paper will focus on the ways that we can measure impact in film practice research, through examples from my own work. I will argue how I was able to measure the impact of my own films Flickering Souls Set Alight (2019) and A Quest for Eternity (2020) but also how to measure impact in more cross disciplinary research with examples of my participation as researcher in StoryLab (Skills Training for Democratised Film Industries) research lab. Finally, I will focus on the issues and the possibilities of establishing these new opportunities in the Greek academic environment and the solutions that this alternative path will be able to provide, not only to academia in Greece but to contemporary Greek filmmakers, too.

The reality of a contemporary filmmaker in Greece

Since we are discussing the impact measuring for creative practitioners, it is important to describe the route that a young independent director in Greece has to take to create their short film. Understanding this reality, that has nothing to do with academic research, will help us understand the alternative path and solutions that practice based research can provide to filmmakers. In my forthcoming book The Third Path in Cinema: The Academic Filmmaker Model, I introduce this new path in cinema and I describe these steps. I believe that it is vital for new filmmakers to fully understand the reality of the industry and the alternative paths they can take (Panagopoulos forthcoming) and therefore the book is structured as a university course guide. In Figure 1, we can see all the steps that an independent director in Greece has to take in order to make films and find funding. The first step is to understand the trends in film festivals that might be screening points for the film. This step is vital since most of the festivals are influenced by specific trends and therefore, they are interested in films which respond to those areas. The second step is that the director needs to change their gaze and style in order to fit in these trends so the final product can be included in the festivals. This process will help the funders to find its product appealing. Then, they move to the third step. The third step is really important because it reflects the reality of a young director in Greece. Searching for funding is almost exclusively the job of the director in Greece for short films. With this task in mind, there are basically two places that a young director searches for short film funding, the Greek Film Centre and Greek National Television. Both bodies run a small number of competitions each year for short film funding. The general reality is that the director will need to change their script in order to fit in the current trends. Even though there can be exceptions, the majority of the filmmakers know that they need to tick some very specific boxes in order for their film to be considered for funding. The funding bodies don’t have any particular requirements that they state in their calls, but it is a common truth.

So, at that point the director has already, potentially, changed their concept a lot in order to fit the topics of the festivals, the production companies, and the funding bodies. Then the director moves to step 4. At this step, the director tries to connect with production companies as soon as funding is secured. Most production companies need to know that funding is secured for a short film before starting working the project. It is important to mention that production companies almost never work as funding bodies for the project or help secure further funding. Most take the role of executive producers. Despite this fact, there is a number of good reasons to work with a production company:

  1. Use the brand name of the production company to search for more funding

  2. The feeling of security that film festivals will have a better look at the film if it’s under a production company that they know

  3. To search for the rest of the crew and actors under the name of the company

Figure 1- Contemporary Greek filmmaker workflow

So, it is clear that the only reason that a director works under a production company is the brand name. Most of these companies normally don’t require change in the product but sometimes they may require some modifications if they think that the film may not fit in specific festivals. The reason for a production company to work with a short film is the potential opportunity for this film to be a part of film festival and win awards. The production company doesn’t expect to gain profit from a short film but to make the company’s name a bit more known. In addition, it is good for the profile of a company to show that it helps promising new directors in the beginning of their career. Moreover, the cash rebate regulation that has been active in Greece for the past three-four years has led most of the Greek production companies to work as executive producers for international films that choose Greece as the destination of production. This regulation has made filmmaking business in Greece a very profitable field. The only negative aspect is that Greek feature and short film directors have to try much harder to find a production company for their film. Also, the Greek production companies need some assurance that the film will have some success during the festival cycle. In most of the above cases and depending on the funding program that the director works under, he/she will need to give all the intellectual property of the film to the funding bodies or the production companies that support the film. So, if the film wins the “best film award”, that award will be claimed by the companies and not by the director, even though he/she wasn’t just involved in the direction of the film but also secured all of the funding.

At this point the director goes to step 5 and step 6 where the film is screened at festivals and (hopefully) wins awards. All the above steps are necessary so the director can gain attention which can be leveraged for the next film. If the above-mentioned model was used specifically for the mainstream cinema industry, it would totally make sense. However, this model is problematic for independent cinema. A director that wants to do independent films does, I would suggest, not do it for the money. There is a common reality that the short film director in Greece almost never gets paid. He/She is doing it to explore his/her own style and to create a product that he/she is proud of. In this current model the director doesn’t get any money, ends up with a completely different product, and loses the film as intellectual property. So, the independent cinema director only follows the above steps to be able to create something. This really doesn’t feel like independent cinema. The whole point of independent cinema, in my view, is the exploration of style, personal gaze of the director and freedom of choices. Also, as audience, we expect to see a variety of form and styles in an independent film festival and not a lineup of films the majority of which looks really similar and deal with similar topics. Even though it doesn’t feel that this process has nothing to do with film practice research, I believe that knowing this process in full depth can help to find the solutions that film practice research can provide to filmmakers that want to explore style and form through their personal gaze. I argue that it is really important because as a filmmaker the solutions that film practice research provided to me, helped me develop my own personal gaze and explore my form and style without having to compromise. Before I introduce the alternative paths that the practice-based research can provide I think that it is vital to understand the way that the Greek academic environment works especially for artists and practitioners.

The Greek academic reality for art-based practitioners

From the above we can understand that a director, in Greece, who wants to explore their practice and experiment with form and style will face some very important issues in the cinema industry. As an independent director, I faced these exact problems when I started my career in Greece. Back in 2015, most of my colleagues advised me to work in the industry as a runner or camera trainee to gain some experience, while trying to adapt my style in order to create my first film. I am not trying to argue that this path is not good, for some people, but it doesn’t provide the creative freedom to explore someone’s own style and techniques, especially for the ones that want to move to the more creative parts of the film industry. For quite some time I was working in the industry in a supporting role, while I was completing my BA degree and while I was doing my MA in the United Kingdom. I realised that this wasn’t the path I wanted to follow, because after a while I would run the risk of forgetting my dream of creating my own films. At that moment a new path opened for me when I discussed with Prof. Erik Knudsen the possibility of starting a practice-based Ph.D. under his supervision. That was the first time I realised that the Ph.D. doesn’t have to be strictly theoretical but it can also be approached from a creative perspective (Panagopoulos 2019b).

At this point, I think that it is vital to discuss the reality of the Greek academic environment, before I introduce the “Third Path in Cinema”, as I like to call it. In Greece at the moment, there are two types of teaching film courses at academic institutions. The first are the theoreticians; they hold a Ph.D. in film studies and approach their work from a strictly theoretical point of view. They publish research papers in film studies journals and are involved in research projects. The second are practical filmmakers that come straight from the industry. The vast majority of them doesn’t hold a Ph.D., and they approach their teaching from a practical point of view sharing their experience from the industry. Most of them are not involved in research publications and research projects but they produce art work and they submit it to festivals and exhibitions. Both of the above types are very important and extremely vital in order the students to gain knowledge but at the same time there is a need for an academic that will be able to work between theory and practice and produce research from a practice-based point. The only academics that can work somewhere between these lines in Greece at the moment are either theoreticians that have some experience in the film industry or filmmakers that have completed a theoretical Ph.D., something that is also quite rare.

This model has many names, such as arts-based research, practice-based research, practice-led research, practice-centered research or studio-based research (Skains 2018). Such approaches have become quite established over fifteen to twenty years in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom, but in Greece it is something that is still quite fresh. Even though some art-based PhDs have been completed in Greece over the past several years, practice-led research, especially around filmmaking, is something brand new. In part, this can be explained by the fact that the Greek universities are exclusively public, and so they inevitably work at a slow pace as everything has to pass through very specific channels with bureaucratic delays in order be approved by the Ministry of Education. For example, the creation of a new Assistant Professor position in a Greek University is a process that can take up to four years, in some cases, from the official request of the University to the Ministry until the point at which the Assistant Professor gets their first paycheck. This example makes it clear that this kind of system is not easily adaptable. Also, academics tend to prefer to work on projects that they know they can “fit in the Ministry’s boxes”, just to be sure that they will not face any issue in the evaluation of their final outcomes.

At this point, I want to state that I believe that in Greece there are some very important universities with excellent teaching staff and that any criticism focuses mostly on the way that Greek universities have to operate. However, over the past decade, Greek universities are changing and are trying to adapt to the European model while remaining in this public sphere. Depending on the party that is in power, several changes are made in the way that the Ministry and the Universities operates. These changes started during the first years of the Greek financial crisis (Varoufakis 2017) while many aspects of the Greek state had to go through modifications to meet the requirements of the MoUs. Greece is a country that is quite tense politically. People used to be very passionate about politics and over the years of the first MoUs there were many general strikes, occupation of public buildings and universities etc. During those years, conservative governments tried to change the education system and adapt it to the European Guides that were part of the MoUs. After that, center-left governments tried to change the education laws that the conservative governments created. Nowadays, those laws are in the middle of changing again from the conservative party that is in power at the moment. In my point of view, the educational system in Greece requires changes. However, radical modifications of the education laws every four years don’t provide the stability that is required in the academic community (Varoufakis 2017).

In Greece, the term “evaluation” has been demonised by a part of the society and has been beautified by another. For years, various governments tried to pass internal and external evaluation regulations at universities, most of which have not been implemented due to reactions mainly from students but also from the administrative and teaching staff. The reason for these reactions was that this part of the academic community didn’t trust that the changes can work in the Greek environment and they were afraid that this step would eventually lead to the privatisation of the higher education in general (Seferiades 2021). The concept of evaluation would enable the quality of studies of a university department to be measured at both teaching and research levels. The main idea was to have an internal evaluation by the institution itself as a first level and an external evaluation by foreign institutions to measure the work on a global scale. This thought seems perfectly reasonable and legitimate.

Despite the reactions to the evaluation, I personally believe that it can indeed help the universities to measure their quality and be competitive in the global market. As a lecturer in England, I had received several evaluation forms regarding my course both from professors of the institution and other institutions. Even though this process is stressful, it helped me to evolve and keep the quality of my course high under the guidance of my colleagues. At the same time, we had to complete and measure the REF (Research Excellence Framework) (REF 2021). Even though REF has some problematic points and is not very popular among academics, it is trying to include different types of research and ways to measure impact through creative practitioners.

In Greece, the Quality Assurance Unit (MO.DI.P) plays the above role by measuring the quality of the work produced at an academic institution. The role of MO.DI.P in the Greek universities (according to Law 4009/2011, Article 14) can be summarized as follows (MODIP 2018):

  1. Development of the Institution's policy, strategy and improvement processes

  2. Organisation, operation and improvement of a quality assurance system

  3. Coordination and support of the unit's evaluation processes

  4. Support for the external evaluation and certification processes of the curricula

The creation of MO.DI.P. is a step to the right direction for the evaluation of the quality of studies. However, the main problem we face is how the impact of research is measured. The truth is that in art schools in Greece, the so-called impact is difficult to measure. Even though the culture of practical PhDs in art has emerged in recent years, it has not been developed sufficiently in filmmaking-related fields, yet. In addition, practice-based art research is difficult to be measured in the Greek context at the moment, while the departments providing practice art provision are facing different issues.

In order to create this paper, I got in touch with Assistant Professor Agnes Papadopoulou, who is a member of the “Internal Evaluation Team” of the Department of Audio & Visual Arts of the Ionian University (Papadopoulou 2022). This team communicates with the “Quality Assurance Unit” (MO.DI.P.) of the Ionian University as well as with the Hellenic Authority for Higher Education (HAHE), an independent administrative authority which mission is to ensure quality in Greek Higher Education.

Dr. Papadopoulou provided me with many details regarding the quality assurance measurement and the ways that the ΗΑΗΕ carries out the external evaluation in accordance with the European Standards and Guidelines of the European Higher Education. During the evaluation process, the “Internal Evaluation Team” describes all the artistic work of the teaching staff. However, for the time being, this description does not have to address any specific requirements, a valuable advantage for the evaluation of an art department. At the moment, the only way to measure artistic work is either if the teaching staff has won awards for their art work or if they have presented their work in other universities, artistic projects, workshops, etc. As Dr. Papadopoulou aptly observes, research in the creative disciplines unquestionably contributes to knowledge and understanding, but methods of studying and quantifying art evaluation must be discussed.

The main issue is that there is no convincing and reliable measurement of the artistic work due to issues of subjectivity (films, exhibitions, sculptures and other forms of art that the teaching staff of an institution produces). This element raises a very sensible question, i.e.Can every artistic work be considered a research outcome?”. In my opinion, it cannot. Not every artistic project can be considered as a research outcome. Α research outcome is not just the final product but the whole journey that it has been through and has to have a tangible impact through the research process or after its publication.

During the discussion with Dr. Papadopoulou she mentioned that the way to prove research outcomes is through publishing academic papers to peer review journals, collective volumes, books and presenting in international conferences. The best way for the “Quality Assurance Unit” (MO.DI.P.) of a university to measure a researcher’s impact is through their profiles in Scopus. They measure the citation of each publication, their ranking, their h-index and so on. Here, there is a paradox; Scopus does not let a researcher to add their own publications like ORCID, for example. Scopus uses a screening process where it tracks through its own channels the journals that fit to their requirements. In its official website, it is mentioned that in order a journal to be taken into consideration, it needs to meet all of the following minimum criteria (Elsevier 2022):

  • Consist of peer-reviewed content and have a publicly available description of the peer review process

  • Be published on a regular basis and have an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) as registered with the ISSN International Centre

  • Have content that is relevant for and readable by an international audience, meaning: have English language abstracts and titles

  • Have a publicly available publication ethics and publication malpractice statement

In addition, it is also stated that Scopus Content Selection and Advisory Board (CSAB) members must have deep subject matter expertise, and are committed to actively seeking out and selecting literature that meets the needs and standards of the research community that they represent. Journals eligible for review by the CSAB will be evaluated on the following criteria in five categories:

  1. Journal Policy:

  2. Convincing editorial policy

  3. Type of peer review

  4. Diversity in geographical distribution of editors

  5. Diversity in geographical distribution of authors

  6. Content:

  7. Academic contribution to the field

  8. Clarity of abstracts

  9. Quality of and conformity to the stated aims and scope of the journal

  10. Readability of articles

  11. Journal Standing:

  12. Citedness of journal articles in Scopus

  13. Editor standing

  14. Publishing Regularity:

  15. No delays or interruptions in the publication schedule

  16. Online Availability:

  17. Full journal content available online

  18. English language journal home page available

  19. Quality of journal home page

Moreover, Scopus mentions in its webpage that the journals it accepts are re-evaluated every year in order to keep the quality of their publications high. They state that in order to determine journal quality, Scopus runs the ongoing Re-evaluation program which identifies outlier and underperforming journals in four different ways (Elsevier 2022):

  1. The journal is underperforming as it does not meet any of the three metrics and benchmarks for journals in the same subject area.

  2. Concerns about the publication standards of the journal or publisher have been raised by formal complaints.

  3. The journal shows outlier behavior based on its publishing performance in Scopus.

  4. Continuous curation based on CSAB feedback.

All the above are totally understandable in order a website like Scopus to maintain its quality measures, but they cannot work as an exclusive way to measure the quality of research for the universities’ teaching staff, especially if we are talking about artistic research. If we consider that the evaluation process comes from the Ministry itself and aims at measuring the university research ranking in the country, we can claim that it is like “shooting yourself in the foot”, because the vast majority of the research will not be able to be included in the screening process of Scopus and especially that art university departments will not be able to show any research at all. This reality creates a problem not only to artists but to the Humanities in general, since most of journals cannot fit in the tight criteria of Scopus.

What is the impact of practice-based research and how it is measured?

How can we measure the impact of an artist’s research? Is there a correct way? As I discuss in depth in my forthcoming book “The Third Path in Cinema: The Academic Filmmaker Model”, I want to share some thoughts regarding the process of measuring impact in practice-based research (Panagopoulos forthcoming). Usually, the impact of a research process is measured by publications, presentations in conferences, collective chapters, monographs, acquisition of funding and so on. Then the so-called impact factor of these publications, i.e. how important is the medium that you published on, is calculated in order to measure the impact of a research. The impact of the work also gets higher if it has many citations from other authors. What happens, though, in cases where the industry is so virgin that there are hardly any journals or other means to publish? Also, is there a different way to measure the impact of a research except for conventional measurements? The REF mentions the impact of a research as: “New insights effectively shared.” I think that this definition is particularly accurate and purposeful (REF 2021). Isn't that what the impact is really supposed to be? Professor Erik Knudsen in his publication "Research Glossary for Creative Practitioners (Knudsen 2016). A Discussion Paper" mentions that when considering the impact of a research we must keep in mind three things:

  1. who are you seeking to impact?

  2. how are you going to reach them (engagement, dissemination and soon)?

  3. what impact are you hoping to achieve and what is its significance?

In the same publication he mentions the peer review process, stating that the key to impact is that the research should be original, accurate and meaningful (REF 2021). He also identifies that a peer reviewer will review the following to evaluate a research process:

  1. has the researcher identified a gap in the knowledge of the creative practice concerned, and/or its relationships to themes and subjects and/or its processes, and are the findings evidenced in the output, therefore, making an original contribution to the practice and knowledge in this field? (For REF, they might ask, is that original contribution world leading?)

  2. have the systematic activities and exploration been rigorous and original in design and execution?

  3. are the findings of this research leading to new insights, new knowledge and new understandings that could be of significance and impact the field and beyond? (Knudsen 2016)

Finally, Knudsen offers that:

…[A] publishing gateway may itself provide a peer review process. For example, a film festival selection, an award and a peer reviewed journal publication all involve peer assessment. These are particularly useful if there is evidence that the selection decisions are somehow related to the research component in the output. (Knudsen 2016: 5).

I think the above are particularly useful and at the same time enable us to think about the issue of impact from many different aspects. As a filmmaker, I had to pitch a future film of mine several times either in panels or to producers to find funding and support in general. I think that the issues that we think about pitching are not very different from finding the impact in a research process. The main questions we need to ask ourselves about the impact of our research and why someone should support our film are: “Why?", "Why Me?", "Why now?” (Panagopoulos forthcoming).

Let's take a minute and think these questions, both about the pitching of a future film and the impact of the research we want to carry out. The question "Why?" is really important when we want to prepare a new project. Which solutions does this project provide? Why is this project important? It may be important to us but why is it important to the rest of the world? Why is it so important to support it financially against other projects? So, we might ask: What makes this project special? By answering these questions, we will also be able to answer "Why?". The main issue is that we have to put ourselves in the position of the person who decides whether we get the desired support or not. Both a film and a research project may be very important to us and maybe we have been working on it for a long time but that doesn't mean that anyone else is interested. It may sound a little harsh, but it is the reality. A film producer should feel that if he/she financially supports a plan that we have for a film, this film will be viable and successful, either through ticket sales or awards wins. At the same time, a research funding decision maker must understand the impact of the proposed research. Why should this research happen? Which new solutions will provide this research? Which parts will return to the research community? So, the concept of what the research is doing and who is impacting is of high importance.

After we have answered all the above the next question that should concern us is "Why Me?" You may have an excellent idea for a movie or a research project. What makes you unique in order to make it happen? Why should a producer trust you? Why shouldn't a funding decision maker suggest a professor at a higher level than you who might have a similar idea and much more experience? Andrei Tarkovsky said: "A book read by a thousand people is a thousand different books" (1987). It is very important that the idea is good and original, but what we are mainly interested in both in filmmaking and research is what you have to offer. What is your perspective? What is your personal connection or access in some cases? How can you take a good idea and help it take flight? For example, The Travelling Players (1975) by Theo Angelopoulos is an excellent idea for depicting modern Greek history through alternative narratives and representations by following travelling players who performed the play "Gkolfo" by Spyridon Peresiadis (2012). No one could have captured and represented this narrative in the same way as Theo Angelopoulos did. His particular style, the use of space and time and the simultaneous representation by using theatrical and Brechtian elements made him unique in making a milestone in film history (Panagopoulos 2017a). This is exactly what we must bear in mind when preparing a new project, either artistic or research, or both.

Having answered the above questions, we now have the third and final question to answer: "Why now?" What makes this moment special? Why is it now the time to talk about this particular issue or about the point of view? This question is of huge importance both in cinema and research. In cinema, a producer wants the projects they fund to be deal with current stories. Otherwise, the participation in festivals, awards and so on is reduced. At the same time, a funding decision maker must see in the project that he will choose to fund something new and fresh, something that provides solutions to contemporary problems. It is no coincidence that since the beginning of Covid-19 funding opportunities relevant to the disease have been opened for research and creation in all areas, not only in the Sciences but also to a very large extent in the Humanities. It is important to talk and suggest ― or at least to be able to argue about ― issues related to the contemporary environment we live in by giving answers and solutions (Papadopoulou 2018).

All of the above are particularly important because they enable us to escape for a while from the closed limits established by the Sciences for what is considered to be research, finding, impact, and so on. Also, by understanding all of the above, we are given the opportunity not only to use the research terminology in our artistic product in order to be able to measure it as a research process but also to be able to produce our own artistic product as a final outcome of the research to take a piece of the research funding and use it for our own projects. At this moment, I would like to analyse two cases of my own research and how I was able to link the creative process to the research methodology.

Flickering Souls Set Alight (2018) and field research on the Tejon Native American tribe in California

As I analyse in depth in my forthcoming book “The Third Path in Cinema: The Academic Filmmaker Model”, the first example is my short film Flickering Souls Set Alight (2018) (see figure 2) (Panagopoulos 2019a), which is the final product of my doctoral research. My doctoral research was about how we can start talking about a new kind of political cinema today in Greece by discovering and reimagining specific tools and techniques from the cinema of Theo Angelopoulos (Panagopoulos 2019b). This film was my example of how this new political cinema could work. Initially, there was a period within a year, before the film, during which data gathering, as we will refer to, took place. During this period, I was studying in depth Angelopoulos’s style and tools. There was an archive available to study in Theo Angelopoulos's production company, in the cinema museum of Athens, and in the personal archives of his associates. In addition, interviews with academics specializing in Angelopoulos and his associates were filmed. After this first phase, the methodology followed. At this point I had to use the above data in particular ways in order to be able to have specific results and final products. At first, due to the nature of the research and the fact that a final paper had to be written, I began to write and present some academic announcements at conferences about the theoretical part. In addition, I created a research documentary entitled A Quest for Eternity (2020) (Panagopoulos 2020b) (see figure 3), which contains the interviews I made and material from Angelopoulos's archive and the Hellenic Army Television Service to analyse and give answers to the research questions of my Ph.D. Finally, I decided to create two films. The first film, A Still Sunrise (2017) (Panagopoulos 2017b) gave me the opportunity to experiment with the cinematic tools I wanted to explore and try out my perspective, while Flickering Souls Set Alight (2018) was the final product and the main result of the experience gained by A Still Sunrise. At the methodology stage it is clear that I used many tools to process the data I had collected, such as archive research, critical and analytical reflection in the creation of presentations and practice-led research in the creation of films. The next stage is about the outcomes which are the three films and the final thesis of my Ph.D. (Panagopoulos forthcoming).

Figure 02. Flickering Souls Set Alight (2018)

So, what is the impact of this research? I would like to focus only on the impact of my final film Flickering Souls Set Alight (2018) which also represents the entire result of the above research. In this film, I wanted to use the techniques and tools that I had analysed in my research by approaching them from my own perspective. The most important thing, though, was that I wanted to present in Greece for the first time the "Third Path in Cinema”. What I found problematic in some cases of academic films is that they are low-cost films that are not submitted anywhere or cannot reach any other audience than the academics. I decided that Flickering Souls Set Alight (2018) will not be like this and after so much effort I managed to find funding to shoot it with well-known actors, a proper script structure, sets, and crew. The film was submitted to film festivals and was successful, winning amongst other awards the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival (Kalafatis 2019) and the Best Set Design Award at the Drama International Short Film Festival. According to Knudsen (2016), we can say that the film has already the necessary impact and at the same time it was aimed at a non-research audience. Nevertheless, I also wanted to reach the research audience through a peer review publication, so I decided to submit an article to the academic magazine Screenworks, which deals with research in practical cinema and is one of the few options available for publishing research based upon an artistic work. The film was published in June 2020 with a supportive text of 2,500 words (Panagopoulos 2020a). Moreover, the research documentary A Quest for Eternity (2020) was published in the same journal a year later (Panagopoulos 2022).

Figure 03 A Quest for Eternity (2020) poster

As shown by the above, I followed all the stages of a research process (data gathering, methodology, outcomes, and impact) to produce a short film which had a clear impact on both research and artistic levels, since it was screened and awarded in multiple film festivals, it was published in an academic journal and was available for the research community to refer to. Let us see a second example which is not linked to the production of fiction and can, also, work with the combination of different fields through an interdisciplinary approach (Panagopoulos forthcoming).

During my Ph.D. research Prof. Erik Knudsen, who was my supervisor, suggested that I participate as a member of his team in the StoryLab (Skills Training for Democratised Film Industries) research workshop and that I organise a field research in Bakersfield, California, with the participation of the Tejon tribe (Knudsen 2020b) (see: Figure 04). This research was conducted in the summers of 2018 and 2019. Prof. Knudsen collaborated with Dr. Robinson on his AHRC-funded Unravelling the Gordian Knot Project-, an international project aimed at understanding Native Californian rock paintings (Kotoula, Robinson, and Bedford 2018) and basketry (Kotoula et al. 2019), and also involving collaborative work with Native American in the creation of virtual reality platforms (Cassidy et al. 2019) alongside the University of Central Lancashire (Robinson et al. 2020). During these two years, I got in touch with Ethnomediaology (Knudsen 2020a). Ethnomediaology is an interdisciplinary approach inspired by practices in ethnomusicology and autoethnography. It involves the active and immersive participation of researchers in a research culture and its processes, using this profound personal engagement as a basis for knowledge generation, data gathering and evaluation (Knudsen 2018). The reason for these California StoryLab trips was to help Dr. David Robinson and his team of archaeologists to develop ways of connecting contemporary Tejon tribe members with their heritage by exploring their relationship with the land inhabited by their ancestors and archaeological findings within it (Panagopoulos 2021).

So, in this case we are not talking only about a final artistic product and the research behind it. We are dealing with something with many different elements of research and exploration. In 2018 I had three different focus groups which shared the same land. The archaeology students who had come for the excavations, the Rangers who were preserving and protecting the land under The Wildlands Conservancy and the Tejon Native American tribe who had a deeper connection with the lands since it was their ancestral home. In 2019, the workshops were held with a group of participants consisting of the Native Americans and the archaeologists (see: Figure 03). Initially, for data gathering I decided to record all the workshops and to photograph all the results of the storytelling exercises I assigned them. At the same time, I filmed semi-structured interviews with the participants for their personal connection to the area. At the methodology stage it is clear that my basic methodological tool is Ethnomediaology which includes story creation through interactive workshops and practical research. The outcomes are, of course, all the stories produced by the participants. Also, I decided to operate a little differently from the StoryLab workshops that had been held until then and to suggest to the teams to create final films which are, also, their final findings. In addition, I decided to create a website and gather all the data. In the website, I uploaded all the photos, interviews, findings and so on so that I could directly link them to the papers I wanted to publish in the future. Another possible research to be conducted in the near future is the creation of a research documentary based on the semi-structured interviews I collected. Regarding the impact, which is what concerns us the most in such projects, I had filmed some videos at the end of each cycle of workshops with the participants who mentioned how they think the whole experience helped them (impact videos). Also, six months after my first workshop in 2018, I filmed an interview with Native American Sandra VE Hernandez (Treasurer of the Tejon Native American Tribe) where we discussed how she feels the workshops of 2018 influenced the relationship between the participants of her tribe and the communication between them, and so we planned the workshops of 2019. The main impact of the above research is the writing and publication of all this process in Frames Cinema Journal in June 2021 (Panagopoulos 2021). The article includes hyperlinks connecting all the data. A future article could refer to the documentary that will be created with semi-structured interviews in an academic journal which deals with video graphic work. Also, a joint article is being discussed with the archaeologists and the Native Americans about the whole experience in California. From the examples above, it is clear how we can use research tools to produce an audiovisual work, but also for a complete field research. I consider he tools mentioned above to be the key of the "Third Path in Cinema" because they enable us to get research funding to carry out our work without the commitments of a conventional filmmaker and at the same time to combine our methodological tools with different scientific fields and to produce research without having to change our work for the trends of film festivals and the production company with which we work. Of course, the production of these films works in a different way in relation to films commissioned by production companies.

Figure 04 Filming the final product of the 2019 California StoryLab workshop

Presenting this “Third Path in Cinema”

As I stated many times above, practice-led research is a field that has evolved over the last fifteen to twenty years around Europe. Presenting this model to the Greek environment provides the opportunity to suggest some changes. I believe that practice-led research can provide solutions in Greece not only to the academic environment but also to independent filmmakers. This is why I want to give a new name to this “Third Path in Cinema” and create the model of the “Academic Filmmaker”. I think that it is important to share some thoughts about how this model could work better and what problems have been found from working within this area. Firstly, I would like to mention four key features of the "Academic Filmmaker" (Panagopoulos forthcoming).

The "Academic Filmmaker" must:

  1. be comfortable with both theory and practice, but without theoretical analysis being necessary. The theory should exist in order to support their own practice on the subject he/she is dealing with

  2. create final artistic works that can be used both at a research level as deliverables and in an artistic context in screenings, festivals, etc.

  3. provide solutions with his/her research both at an individual level by discovering their own "gaze", and in relation to the general impact he/she will offer in the field of practical research

  4. be open to research with other fields in order to create interdisciplinary research and artistic products.

Let's look at the main points one by one and try to analyse them. The first point is extremely important, as it distinguishes the "Academic Filmmaker" from the film theorist. It does not mean that if an "Academic Filmmaker" feels comfortable to analyse some theoretical points in their research further, he/she cannot do so. It is simply a good thing that the distinction is clear and that we understand that theoretical research on practical cinema is done in order to provide sufficient resources to the filmmaker for the creation of his/her final artistic products, as well as to link these works to following research publications, which, as it is logical, will include a part of theory, like the applications for funding at the beginning of each project.

The second point is equally vital for outlining the "Academic Filmmaker". The final artistic products of his/her research should be able to be used for research and artistic purposes. But what does this mean and why is it vital? It is important for the final product to reach a larger audience, provide a larger impact and try to distribute it through the film festival channels and not only through the academic ones. Maybe a really good next step would be the creation of a distribution network for “Academic Filmmakers” to screen their films in larger audiences.

The third point concerns another major problem that I have identified in the existing field of "Academic Filmmakers". As mentioned above, the final products of practical research in cinema aim at the personal change and development of the researcher-artist. However, at the same time, the researcher must be able to offer new insights in the field through their own case study and own impact. This is very important and sets basic objectives in research on practical cinema. A research proposal cannot stand on its own because the researcher “feels” that the impact of that proposal is important to him. This proposal must be able to provide solutions both in the field and, if possible, in society in general (Panagopoulos Forthcoming).

The fourth and final point I would like to emphasise is the collaboration of "Academic Filmmakers" with other fields for the creation of interdisciplinary proposals. What I have noticed during the years that I have been living and working in Greece, is the need from various other fields for research on the practical filmmaking. In the short time I have been back in Greece, I have completed my postdoctoral research at the Department of Political Sciences of Panteion University in Greece. My research concerns a multidisciplinary approach to Heterotopia with a combination of methodologies from cinema and the political sciences. I, also, participate as a researcher in the Laboratory on Contentious Politics of Panteion University and in the funded by the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (H.F.R.I.), program EPOCA "Hollowing Democracy, Party Politics and Social Protest During the ‘Great Recession’. The case of Greece, 2008-2018", in which I am in charge for the visual ethnography of the proposal. Finally, I am a research member of the Culture - Borders - Gender Lab of the Department of Balkan, Slavic & Oriental Studies of the University of Macedonia, Greece. What is clear from the variety of the projects in which I am involved is that there is a need and willingness to cooperate with researchers from other disciplines that are involved in practice-led research in cinema. I believe that this possibility, especially in a such a virgin field in Greece, can offer many possibilities for funding and research in the near future. If we manage to change the way in which academic research is measured in Greece and if we try to distribute our final outcomes not only to the academic environment but to a larger audience pool, I believe that there are many opportunities for this field to evolve in Greece and establish collaborations at an international level.


This contribution has been made possible through the financial support of the project HAL (Hub of Art Laboratories) *MIS :5047267*» code 80504, ESPA 2014-2020, EPAnEK, co-financed by Greece and the European Union and implemented at the Ionian University, Corfu.


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