In the first half of the year I taught some classes at The University of Western Australia (UWA), for a so-called "broadening unit" titled Video Art: Methods and Means (coordinated by Joseph London). Despite the title, there was no restriction on form and students could produce any kind of film they chose – video art, experimental film, documentary, animation, narrative, etc., although very few opted for the latter. That said, there was an inclination towards experimental film (particularly structural film) in most of the lecture content.
Each week, there was a pair of very short and simple lectures: the first would introduce students to a particular artistic/aesthetic approach, point them towards a handful of relevant films and filmmakers (which they were free to chase up or not), and excerpt a brief reading; the second lecture would introduce a particular technique, usually relating to editing and post-production (such as using green screens and keyframes). In the labs/tutorials, students would spend most of the time playing with the ideas and techniques introduced in that week's lecture; again, they were free to test those that they felt were useful and could ignore others, although they were encouraged to try everything at some point. There were also several classes dedicated to workshopping film ideas and sharing feedback. Students had two themed videos to produce: dialogues, which would explore the notion of dialogue (it could be literal/verbal, gestural, cinematic, structural), and the self-explanatory frames within frames. (Both assignments had some additional constraints and guidelines which I won't bother posting here.) Some basic equipment (consumer-level video cameras and sound equipment) was made available, but students could film on their mobile phones or their own gear if they preferred to do so.
Overall, I was really impressed with the quality of the work produced, and by the students' enthusiasm – particularly given that they came from a huge variety of different disciplines that had little to do with film (engineering, commerce, law, science, architecture, archeology; UWA doesn't have a film school and only a small handful were visual arts students), many had no prior interest in film (experimental or otherwise), and some hadn't so much as picked up a camera that wasn't their mobile phone before undertaking the unit. It made me think that this open approach is far more conducive to students engaging with film for the first time. Like child actors who have certain habits ingrained into them through early training, I've often found that it's quite difficult for film students who'd already undertaken several years of study to see experimental and non-narrative films as anything other than a novel violation of established "rules". But in the context of this unit, film could constitute (almost) anything and students embraced this openness – even though they had barely any grounding in film practice, history or theory to speak of.
Below is a small selection of work produced by the students, in no particular order.