Kevin and Elaine Adams, Dawn Brown and Ken Widdowson relax around the piano (all photographs by Ivan Gaal)

ATFAV’s Conference – Seminar on Film Study and Film Making at Marysville, September 1974

This weekend seminar was financed by Teacher Education through Karmel funds and also by the Film School which sent John Gleeson as its representative. The seminar was an attempt to co-ordinate and assess some of the developments taking place at all levels of film teaching in the state, to look at the work of ATFAV and the Tertiary Screen Education Association and to make some recommendations for the future. Among those present – representatives from LaTrobe University, R.M.I.T., Mercer House, C & R, A.V.E.C., secondary teachers, film students from tertiary colleges, and the Australian Film School.

Stress was laid on the need for research and the need to set up a standing committee within the Education Department to give film and television study an official standing. The variety of expectations of film teachers was, as usual, an outstanding aspect of the discussion. Everyone agreed that film and television are dominant aspects of our culture, we need to be visually literate and this determines what we teach.

Everyone agreed, too, that film is an art as well as an entertainment, one or two teachers were dubious about the wisdom of studying “film masterpieces” at schools and thought film viewing was best left outside “the morgues” of the schools and universities. Most people argued that film and television making were an important activity at schools and suggested that there should be an up-dated enquiry into equipment. In TV compatibility is important and a high standard should be set with the specifications.

Doug Ling, John Gleeson, John Flaus, Warren Thomas

Ken Widdowson from Educational Media stressed the importance of research into how film should be most effectively used. Bill Turner suggested that an authoritative body of research information needed to be gathered on the importance of film. The present value judgements cited and used by teachers of art and literature apply also to film. Teachers of art and literature have never really felt the need to have to justify their courses. It is taken for granted that they are intrinsically worthwhile. If an argument is needed to convince educational authorities of the value of screen education, justifications such as those by Herbert Read could be used.

Another justification is of course the necessity for children to understand the media when we consider the amount of time they spend in front of TV sets. John Flaus said that if one returns to the people who shape curriculum and ask them for their rationale it should be – what should be – and not – what is.

Bill Turner said that, however, political aspects do need consideration and after all the hierarchy either in tertiary institutions or in the Education Department are not in touch with film study. Hard facts are needed for hard-headed people and in order to beat authority one needs to become authority.

John Flaus

Warren Thomas said that the policy making Technical Schools Committee had noted in its minutes that Noel Watkins, Assistant Director of Technical Education, had stated that a Film Standing Committee was soon to be established. It was generally agreed by members of the weekend seminar that such a committee would go far to “legitimise” film in schools. It would produce “Document A” to reassure and convince principals for the teacher who needs such backing. The Unesco 1970 Conference had produced this sort of documentation which had proved very useful.

Byron Nicholls argued that the Standing Committee should basically present methods of teaching film and television rather than a justification.

John Gleeson, Education Officer from the Australian Film School in Sydney, said that he needs guidelines for Victoria from ATFAV to see how the Film School can assist film teaching. He gave an outline of the needs of the various states, which differ considerably.

Discussion then went on to Tertiary Screen Education Authority which was originally set up as a pressure group to gain assistance to improve availability of films, especially in foreign languages.

They regard themselves as working at a higher level with more intensity of study.

Ken Mogg considers.

Kevin Adams suggested that allowing for these two reasons TSEA need not have formed another association but could just as easily have achieved their aims through membership of ATFAV, within which they could constitute a formidable sub-group. There is a danger of proliferating groups as each new one tends to weaken the bargaining power of the others. If grants are sought or a government body is to be approached, a single voice is more likely to get a hearing. We now have ASEFT, ATFAV, and TSEA. It is even possible that new groups may start such as tertiary video, photograph etc. We all have limited resources so why duplicate output or stand in the same queue?

Byron Nicholls said it is true that there is a common meeting around between tertiary and secondary film study but the differences have also been highlighted in points raised by John Flaus and Doug Ling.

Doug went on to talk about the classroom units he has developed and said that he welcomes the chance to work with a group of teachers. He would like anyone interested to contact him at RMIT.