Research Film Competition

Can you collaborate with 9 PhD researchers and produce 9 short films that show their research in an accessible and engaging way; with no budget, and no sound person?

And by the way it’s a competition and you have got 4 weeks to do it …

I expect a lot of people would just say no.

To survive as a freelancer I think you have to have an optimistic view of how the world works – otherwise you would never say yes in the first place. You have to believe fully in the vision that you have or you will never be motivated to try and achieve it.

I said yes because I felt that it was an opportunity to practice and explore, and shine a light on something that has only ever been dimly lit before.

The process

Finding the stories was a conversation or series of conversations in which I prompted the researchers to discover something that was uniquely theirs. Initially, I encouraged them to think broadly:

What does this research mean to you?
What is the reason that you are doing this?
In what ways are my experiences meaningful to other people?

Then we looked for moments we could narrow in on: where change had occurred. This gave us the basic external plot:

something happened to someone

The tricky part was persuading them that the story also needed an internal plot, about their (or someone else’s) thoughts and emotions.

It was not easy for this group to allow the lines between their academic and personal lives to blur. I wanted them to share and be in touch with their humanity, so often a secondary consideration for academics. One of the lecturers I know refers to her PhD students as ‘the robots’.

Here are some of the films we came up with:

No Matter What


Robots and Religion

Several of the researchers who took part in the project, wrote reflections about the process:

Claire Mitchell on the PSRS film competition

Scott Midson: My experience of making a short film


Did it achieve the vision that I had imagined in the first place?

Sort of.

I am still in the process of mulling this over, it has been put into the stockpot with all of the other ideas.

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