My interest in film in education began in the early 1990s with a course for year 9 students devised by a teacher in my English department at Parkside Community college in Cambridge. The teacher, Melissa Horn, wanted a course which would engage students’ interest in horror films, and focus specifically on the representation of women in horror. The programme was built around Neil Jordan’s film of Angela Carter’s short story The Company of Wolves, from The Bloody Chamber. As the course evolved over the years, it became clear that, while the representation of female agency was a central feature of this feminist re-working of the Red Riding Hood tale, the popular horror trope of werewolf transformation was a parallel motif, equally appealing to the teenage students.
In the mid-90’s, the course became the subject of my PhD thesis. While these twin motifs of strong girl and lupine mutability were developed, the course was also intriguing as an early instance of the exploitation of digital film. It used a video digitiser with the Acorn Archimedes computer to enable students to grab their own selection of images from the film to analyse and interpret. One of the publications below, ‘Grabbing the Werewolf’, explores this use of the cinematic still.
Since then, the general move from the analysis of film in education to the production of moving image work by students, made possible by the advent of the then new digital authoring technologies has been the focus of much of my research. When Parkside became the first specialist Media Arts college in the UK, my colleagues and I looked for suitable solutions to our digital video production aims, and chose the professional editing software Media 100. With this, we developed a range of projects: music video, animation with both primary and secondary students, advertising projects, reverse engineering of film footage in ‘trailer’ projects, and so on. Examples of the range of moving image work produced during this period, much of it under the supervision of my colleague James Durran, can be seen on the site he developed, Parkside Media.
Here’s a video made by my last GCSE media studies group, advertising the Fairtrade chocolate bar, Dubble, from a collaborative project with Comic Relief and Divine Chocolate’s Kika Dixon.
This chapter, from Media Literacy in Schools (Burn & Durran, 2007), analyses the video and its making.
Since then I have worked with other colleagues on the development of moving image work in education, not least Mark Reid of the British Film Institute, and John Potter of the Institute of Education. I have also found over the last fifteen years or more that conventional theories of film do not fully account for the range of expressive functions employed by young people (and indeed professional film-makers). I have looked to multimodal semiotics to expand the underlying theory, and coined the term the kineikonic mode with David Parker in the late 1990s, to signify the moving image as a multimodal form. I’ve had the opportunity to develop this theory recently within a project led by my colleague Carey Jewitt: the MODE node in multimodal research methodologies. The concept has also been developed by a range of scholars internationally, mostly in relation to youth-produced moving image work: the history of the theory and its current uses is described in its Wikipedia entry.
These experiences, collaborations and theoretical propositions are considered and worried away at in the selection of publications below. This general field of practice and research still seems important to me. The moving image, one of the most significant art-forms of the twentieth century, is still marginalised in educational curricula in the UK, in Europe, and indeed across the world. Meanwhile, it is a vital popular cultural form, and continues to be reinvented in new genres and practices, and in the explosion of creative production in the era of the participatory internet, has become a quotidian mode of poetic expression, political rhetoric and short-form commentary. Though these developments are now well-known, their implications for education, for young people’s engagement with moving image culture, and for the evaluation, preservation and public recognition of such creative work are relatively undeveloped.
MULTIMODALITY, STYLE AND THE AESTHETIC
Multimodality, Style and the Aesthetic: the case of the digital werewolf.
Andrew Burn and Gunther Kress
In Tønnessen, E & Forsgren, F (2018) Multimodality and Aesthetics. London: Routledge.
A set of proposals for ways in which the category of the aesthetic may be retought through social semiotic theory in relation to the domain of multimodality. We use the example of an animation made by 11 year-old children to exemplify our argument.
Burn, A & Reed, K (1999) ‘Digiteens: Media Literacies and Digital Technologies in the Secondary Classroom’, English in Education, 33:3, Autumn 1999, pp 5-20
This is one of the earliest pieces I published on what was then the quite new use of digital editing software (in this case Media 100) in schools. Written with Kate Reed, who was then Head of Media Studies at Parkside, it analyses the making of a trailer for Hitchcock’s Psycho by three 15 year-old GCSE students, taking into account the cultural interest of the students in contemporary horror film and the affordances of the non-linear editing system.
REPACKAGING THE SLASHER MOVIE
Burn, A (2000) ‘Repackaging the Slasher Movie: the digital unwriting of film in the secondary classroom’, English in Australia, Spring 2000, pp 24-34
This is a kind of companion-piece to the previous article. It looks at the same project – making trailers for Psycho – but this time in relation to the work of two boys perceived as under-attaining in the conventional curriculum.
MAKING YOUR MARK
Burn A & Parker D (2001), ‘Making your Mark: Digital Inscription, Animation, and a New Visual Semiotic’, Education, Communication & Information, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp 155-179
This collaboration with David Parker, then research officer for BFI education, analysed an animation made by primary school students in Cambridge, part of a large animation project run by the Cambridge Film Consortium. The analysis helped us to begin to map out what we first referred to in this piece as the kineikonic mode: the moving image as multimodal design. This allowed us to look in detail at the semiotics of the moving image in relation to established models of ‘film language’, as well as at the digital properties of the animation software and vector-drawing software used by the children; and to relate both to their social interest in the horror components of fairytale and the representations of girlhood made possible by the figure of Red Riding Hood.
The children’s animation can be viewed below.
GRABBING THE WEREWOLF
Burn, A (2009) ‘Grabbing the Werewolf: digital freezeframes, the cinematic still and technologies of the social’, in Burn, A, Making New Media, New York: Peter Lang. Originally published in Convergence, 3:4, Winter 1999, pp 80-101
This article analyses the interpretation of still images from The Company of Wolves (Jordan, 1984) by 13 year-old students. The analysis is located within a discussion of the functions of the cinematic still.
THE SKATER AND THE OLD MAN
Burn, A and Parker, D (2003) ‘The skater and the Old Man: multimodal design and moving image production’. In Burn, A and Parker, D (2003) Analysing Media Texts. London: Continuum
This analysis of a teenage skateboarding video develops our model of the kineikonic mode as a theory of the multimodal moving image.
The video analysed in the chapter, a skateboarding tribute video by three Year 11 students, appears below.
TWO TONGUES OCCUPY MY MOUTH
Burn, A (2003) ‘Two Tongues Occupy my Mouth – poetry, performance and the moving image’, English in Education, Vol. 37, No. 3, Autumn 2003, pp 41-50
An analysis of films made by 16 year-old bilingual students of their own bilingual poems. The poems were inspired by a poem of Sujata Bhatt on the theme of bilingualism. The students’ languages were Bengali, Korean, Cantonese and French. The article explores the integration of spoken language and the moving image, as well as the borderland between English and Media education.
TIGER’S BIG PLAN
Burn, A & Parker, D (2003) ‘Tiger’s Big Plan: Multimodality and the Moving Image’, in Kress, G. and Jewitt, C. (eds.) Multimodal Literacy, New York: Peter Lang; reprinted in Goodman S and O’Halloran K (eds) (2006) The Art of English: literary creativity.
An account of animation-making by primary school children. The production of the moving image here requires movement between a vector- drawing art package and a frame-based digital animation software.
Burn, A & Durran, J (2006) ‘Digital Anatomies: analysis as production in media education’, in Buckingham, D & Willett, R (eds) Digital Generations, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum
We use the metaphor of anatomy here to suggest how 12 year- old students use a digital video-editing software to take apart sequences from Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and remake them – an example of how film analysis and production, often separated in film education, can be part of the same process.
A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT
Burn, A (2010) ‘A Very Long Engagement: English and the Moving Image’, in Wyse, D., Andrews, R. and Hoffman, J. (eds) The Handbook of English, Language and Literacy Education. London: Routledge. Pp 354-366.
An account of the relationship between film and literature in the context of the English curriculum.
THRILLS IN THE DARK
Burn, A (2010) ‘Emociones en la Oscuridad: imagen y alfabetización mediática en jóvenes’ (Thrills in the Dark: Young People’s Moving Image Cultures and Media Education). Comunicar, No.35, v.XVIII, 2010, 33-42.
A study of the peculiar pleasures of horror films for young people, and what media educators can learn from them.
Reid, M, Burn, A, Wall, I et al (2013) Screening Literacy: Film Education in Europe
This study of film education in the member states of the European Union was commissioned by the European Commission. It was led by the BFI, in partnership with the Institute of Education and Film Education. It provides profiles of the situation in each country, and an overview of policy, practice, curricular and extra-curricular provision, and take-up.
Access the report here.
THE KINEIKONIC MODE
Burn, A (2013) ‘The Kineikonic mode: towards a Multimodal Theory of the Moving Image’. A working paper for the MODE NCRM node in multimodal methodologies (a shorter version also published as a chapter in Jewitt, C (ed) The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis (2nd edition). London: Routledge (2013). It analyses sequences from two films: Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film of Hamlet (the relevant sequence can be seen below); and a machinima film by a group of 11 year-olds made in 2012, which you can also view below.