Researcher Blog by PhD Candidate, Emma Bolland on 17th Screenwriting Research Network Conference

Still from Le Silence (work in progress) [cropped] Emma Bolland. Digital video. 2017.

About the author

Emma Bolland is a doctoral student in the Art & Design Research Centre (ADRC) where she is pursuing a practice-led PhD. Her PhD project entitled Truth is Structured Like a Fiction: Auto-fictive Practice and the Expanded Screenplay interrogates screenwriting materiality and process as a space for Fine Art practice.  Emma’s supervisors are: Dr Sharon Kivland (Reader in Fine Art and Director of Studies) and Dr Peter Jones (Reader in Language and Communication).

In August this year Emma was invited to deliver a paper at the 17th Screenwriting Research Network Conference at the University of Otago, New Zealand. The theme for the conference was Screenwriting: Fact and Fiction, Truth and RealIn this post, Emma reflects on the value of attending conferences as a doctoral student.


The theme of this year’s conference, Screenwriting: Fact and Fiction, Truth and Real, sought to examine how we approach and frame our storytelling, within and from different contexts. These concerns are closely related to themes in my PhD research. This helped to ensure that my presentation was favourably contextualised by being placed in a panel with other speakers who were addressing the screenplay as research artefact (Associate Professor Craig Batty, RMIT Australia, and Louise Sawtell, RMIT Australia).

Still from Le Silence (work in progress). Emma Bolland. Digital video. 2017.

Still from Le Silence (work in progress). Emma Bolland. Digital video. 2017.

After the panel, I was invited by Professor Batty to co-author, with Louise Sawtell, a chapter for a book he is editing: Script Development: International Perspectives, (forthcoming 2019). I was also been invited by Dr Márta Minier (University of South Wales) to submit my paper Le Silence: Auto-fiction, Art Practice, and the Expanded Screenplay to the Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance, and this is currently under peer review. Louise Sawtell and I also discussed the possibility of co-curating an exhibition of scripts and screenplays as visual artefacts.

Obviously, I was very pleased to have returned from the conference with two opportunities for publication, not least because the conference is highly regarded, and strictly speaking outside of my discipline; so to be able to address specialists in Film and Screenwriting history, scholarship, and practice, and to bring a contribution to knowledge from a Fine Art perspective, was more than I had hoped for. In this regard, attending conferences (where relevant) is of real value for PhD researchers: invitations to publish only come from people who are exposed to your research, and in an interdisciplinary context this is even more vital. However, there is a greater value than tangible outcomes: exposure to other peoples’ research; the opportunity to take part in discussions with scholars you might otherwise not have access to; to make valuable connections for future work and research; and to experience those key moments that take your research and career in unexpected directions.

Rehearsal of performance paper presented at SRN2017, Emma Bolland (2017), photo credit J.R. Carpenter

Rehearsal of performance paper presented at SRN2017, Emma Bolland (2017), photo credit JR Carpenter

This year’s conference made a point of inviting speakers from both academia and industry, and it was incredibly exciting to be at the interface of those two discourses, mapping the tensions and overlaps between languages, constraints and concerns, to be sat at a table, for example, with the head of the New Zealand Film Commission, Australian TV executives, academic experts in such areas as the history of silent era scenario development, and scholars and practitioners working in very new areas such as theorising visual grammars of narrative in VR.

On a personal level, it was very validating. The conference was packed full of older women filmmakers, screenwriters, and industry executives (some well into their seventies) in positions of power, producing remarkable work. As a mature female student one can often feel invisible, but there I most certainly didn’t. I left the conference more confident of making a real contribution to research, in new and unexpected areas, and more able to see forward to a continuing contribution and career.



Please note: Views expressed are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of SHU, C3RI or the C3RI Impact Blog.