Workshop Film Festival Categories

Workshop on Data Collection and Operationalization of Film Festival Categories

27-28 May 2021

As part of our research project we are hosting a two-day virtual workshop on festival categorization. The event was originally planend to take place in Potsdam Babelsberg in April 2020, but due to the still ongoing Covid-19 pandemic had to be cancelled. Now, we are taking this issue up again with four input presentations on Day 1 and a hands-on discussion of specific issues on Day 2.

Abstract: The main goal of this workshop is to discuss approaches to delineating relevant characteristics of a film festival within the context of an empirical quantitative study. Most importantly, the workshop aims to highlight possible links and gaps between theoretical concepts and empirical realities. The paper stems from the project “Film Circulation in the International Festival Network and the Influence on Global Film Culture” funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research that focuses on festival runs of a diverse sample of 10.502 films. Existing approaches to collecting data on film festivals often include in-depth research and the curation of festival lists with a specific thematic or geographical focus and, therefore, of an easily manageable size. In contrast, the Circulation project needs to handle a large number of festivals of various geographical and thematic clusters. Therefore, a comprehensive theoretical approach is required that needs to be reconciled with empirical challenges of data collection.

Workshop Program  

Day 1 as the 6th Film Festival Research Seminar
Thursday, 27 May 2021, 17:00-19:00 CET  

Approaches to Film Festival Categorization: Existing Projects & Data Sets

How do existing theoretical models and our research questions translate into forms of operationalization in empirical research?  What are the questions for analysis in the various projects? How can we define: impact, hierarchies and their effects?  How can we objectively, empirically measure the “impact” / reach / hierarchy factors? 

In tackling these questions we want to learn from existing data sets and projects.  What are the challenges?

Input presentations

1) Ann Vogel (HU Berlin): Why We Operationalize

Vogel received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington and holds three Master-level degrees: in sociology from the University of Amsterdam, in social work/social administration and education science from the Technical University of Berlin, and in university and science management from the German University of Administrative Sciences at Speyer. Her research works include a doctoral thesis on the historical rise of philanthropic fundraising for US higher education, a monograph manuscript on the function of festival curations in aesthetic capitalism, and articles in organizational and institutional analysis covering her key areas, including civil society, higher education, philanthropy, work and occupations as well as socioeconomic development and remittance migration. Vogel has taught sociology, methods, and social theory at universities around the world, including mentoring international students in interdisciplinary schools. Vogel is a practicing sociologist but for state-licensing reasons currently on a four-year social work practice term in a refugee consultancy in Germany, as she prepares to combine sociology and social work into a new area of teaching.

2) Maria Paz Peirano (Universidad de Chile): What counts as a “festival”? Categorising small film festivals in Chile

María Paz Peirano is an Assistant Professor in Film and Cultural Studies at Universidad de Chile, with a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Kent. Her research involves an ethnographic approach to film as social practice, focusing on contemporary Chilean cinema, film festivals, and the development of Chilean film cultures. She is co-editor of the volume Film Festivals and Anthropology (Cambridge Scholars 2017) and co-creator of She was the lead researcher of “Film festivals: exhibition and circulation of Chilean cinema”, which mapped Chilean film festivals, and of “Film Festivals, educative experiences and the expansion of the Chilean field”, looking at festivals’ training hubs and audience development. She was part of the team of “Historic billboard: Film exhibition and reception in Santiago between 1918 and 1969” and she is currently the lead researcher of “Chilean film audiences: film culture, cinephilia and education” (FONDECYT 1211594).

3) Aida Vallejo (UPV/EHU): Delimiting the Boundaries: For a Taxonomy of Film Festivals in the Basque context

Aida Vallejo is a film historian and social anthropologist. Associate Professor at University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) She holds a PhD in History of Cinema by Autonomous University of Madrid with a study of documentary film festivals in Europe, and a MA on theory and practice of documentary film by Autonomous University of Barcelona. Aida is the founder and coordinator of the Documentary Work-group of the European Network for Cinema and Media Studies (NECS). She has published extensively on documentary and film festivals, narratology and ethnography of the media, and with María Paz Peirano has co-edited Film Festivals and Anthropology. Her two co-edited collections Documentary Film Festivals Vol 1 and Vol 2 have been published by Palgrave MacMillan’s Framing Film Festivals series. She is principal investigator of ikerFESTS, a research project to map the Basque film festival landscape, funded by University of the Basque Country.

4) Jasper Vanhaelemeesch (Antwerp): Film festival research in small and precarious cinemas: Central American film festivals

Jasper Vanhaelemeesch (Belgium, 1991) obtained his doctoral degree in Film Studies and Visual Culture at the University of Antwerp’s Visual and Digital Cultures Research Center (ViDi) in April 2021 with the thesis Common Ground: Common ground: Film Cultures and Film Festivals in Central America. Jasper obtained his bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and Literature (English-Spanish) at KU Leuven in 2012, a master’s degree in Western Literature in 2013 and an advanced master’s degree in Cultures and Development Studies in 2015, both at KU Leuven. In May 2016, he started as a PhD researcher on the Vandenbunder Baillet Latour chair for Film Studies and Visual Culture under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Philippe Meers (University of Antwerp). From 2017 until 2019, Jasper performed a total of five months of fieldwork at film festivals in Central America and Cuba, supported by a travel grant from the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). Parts of his doctoral research have been published in international peer-reviewed journals such as Studies in Spanish and Latin American Cinemas, NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies, Transnational Screens and Comunicación y medios.

Day 2: Friday, 28 May 2021  17:00-20:00h CET

17:00-17:20 CET   Introduction to Workshop & Operationalization in the Circulation Project

How do we negotiate between data-driven research approaches vs. theory-driven approaches in film festival studies?  How does (un)availability of data impact our research and theorizing (That’s what we have vs. that’s what we want to know)?  Which questions can be answered by data (that we have)? Brief input based on the pre-circulated paper on questions of Operationalization

What are our research objectives? Which data sources and data are available? How can we make use of existing categorizations?

17:20-18:00 CET   Question / Discussion Block 1: How does (Film) Theory translate into Empirical Festival Research

Challenges and limitations in categorizing festivals using existing characteristics such as genre & film types (Horror film festivals, short film or documentary), production contexts (independent film) or audience & community contexts (queer film festivals).

18:10-19:00 CET   Question / Discussion Block 2: Operationalizing Industry Knowledge

How can seemingly “self-evident” industry (insider) experience and expert knowledge be translated into neutral, objective characteristics?  E.g. how do we know that Sundance, Oberhausen and Sheffield [or “xxx”] are relevant festivals for independent, short or documentary films and how can this relevance or importance be operationalized? 

19:10-20:00 CET Question / Discussion Block 3: Tackling nitty gritty details: Variables, data quality, missing data?

Which features and variables are collected and analyzed in film festival research? How do we deal with temporally specific data in a very dynamic field?  How do we deal with retrospective evaluation of past events?  What if for a specific edition no data can be found? How to account for collected data for future use?