The experimental television studio: new opportunities for practice as research?

Authors: Hearing, T.

Start date: 15 June 2018

This paper seeks to show how multi-camera television studio production and exhibition might contribute to the progression and the reconceptualization of knowledge in Higher Education and in the wider world.

Whilst much of the focus within practice-as-research has been on location filming with a single camera in documentary and drama genres, I am interested in how the creative ‘blank page’ space of a studio environment and the immediacy of multi-camera and/or live events might contribute to the complexity, contestation and debate that is the hallmark of academic endeavour.

The paper considers the context of the decline of multi-camera television studio drama in the early 1980s coinciding with the rise in naturalistic, cinematic filmed drama following the arrival of Film Four and Screen 2, and asks if television has been trapped in a prison of naturalism in the past three decades as it has tried to emulate the perceived appeal of Hollywood originated cinema. I draw on the work of a previous generation of experimental television producers and directors from the 1960s and 1970s to articulate my thinking as a practitioner and academic about how we can communicate complex ideas, narratives and feelings and apply scholarly methods using television studio forms. I discuss what might be the place of reflection, imagination and fiction as well as factual forms of inquiry, illustrated with clips from my recent practice. Finally I consider the irony that cinemas are now offering an opportunity for the return of theatre-style events to the screen through livestreaming and wonder whether this might prompt broadcast television to do the same as video-on-demand libraries such as Netflix take over the exhibition of cinema-style premium drama series. Will the concurrent repositioning of broadcast television as a medium of live and event programming in sport and entertainment mark another step change in the evolution of television drama and present an opportunity to re-think the role of the multi-camera studio as an imaginative space for broadcasting a different sort of ‘event’ drama which might look to the legacy of theatre rather than naturalistic cinema?

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