How do People Develop an Interest in Film and Create Personal Film Journeys?

What is a personal film journey?

Beyond the Multiplex demonstrated that personal film journeys are the social and cultural processes through which individuals develop their own personal relationships with film as an ongoing process throughout their life. As people progress through different life stages, from childhood and adolescence (-18), early adulthood (18-24), midlife (25-54), and then into older age (55+), their relationship with film changes. Although there are broad patterns in how people engage with film at each life stage, it is nuanced and slightly different for every person. The relationship a person has with film can be shaped by their interactions and relationships with other people, where they live, the professional, educational and cultural resources and experiences acquired throughout their life, as well as various social and economic factors.

What are the aspects of these journeys?

Beyond the Multiplex found that there are six key aspects that can shape and/or alter the trajectory of a person’s personal film journey as it develops:

  1. Active introductions to film. People are often actively introduced to new types of film by others, often those with linked lives such as family members, partners, friends, and other peers. Here, films can be used as pedagogical tools or as a way of sharing the experience of watching a particular film or genre of films. It is within this process that people are opened up to new stories, narratives, themes, and types of film.
  2. Relationships with venues and platforms. People often develop a relationship with particular cinema venues, television channels, video-on-demand (VoD) platforms and/or online media such as YouTube, as well as film discussion and reviews websites, and social media over their lives. This can range from taking part in a venue-specific film audience through to deciding to subscribe to one VoD platform but not another. It is within these relationships that people encounter different opportunities to access particular films, types of film, and film-watching experiences.   
  3. Education and learning. Learning and teaching through film are key aspects in the development of many people’s personal film journeys. Formal education provides a set of skills for making sense of film, while films themselves (as a relatable medium) enable people to learn about other people and places throughout all stages of their lifecourse as an informal mode of learning. Here, film is meaningful as a cultural resource for making sense of the world.
  4. Moments and spaces of personal discovery. People often watch films as a form of escapism, or for introspection, as part of a process of personal discovery. Although people can do this at any life stage, it tends to be more so when people transition from early adulthood into the pressures of midlife, or away from those pressures into old age. At such times people find spaces and moments of personal discovery in taking risks and trying new films and genres. 
  5. Social environment. Where a person lives can affect the range of films available to them locally, as noted in the different geographies of film provision. Similarly, the interactions people have with others (especially those with linked lives, such as friends, family, and other peers) can change their knowledge and understanding about particular films. These two factors act as a social environment within which a person’s relationships with film are shaped. These relationships are not fixed, but develop as people relocate and/or change how and who they interact with around film.
  6. Continuity, change and disruption. The relationships people have with film can change suddenly during moments of disruption to their biographical narrative, such as periods of illness, a break-up or divorce, meeting a new partner or having children. During these moments people tend to watch either more or less intensively than they did in the past, doing so to gain a sense of wellbeing and escapism, or to share films as part of a group audience. 

How are these journeys developed?

Personal film journeys are developed throughout a person’s lifecourse though their interaction and relationships with other people, with particular films genres and types of film, with particular venues and places, and through the experience of participation in film audiences in different ways:

  1. In childhood and adolescence (below the age of 18), developing a personal taste in film is important in developing one’s identity. For children, this can often be shaped by parents or other close family members, in which film they choose to share. For teenagers especially, film taste acts as a status symbol, shaping the subgroups or cultures people choose to align with. It also acts as an expression of the social self, where creativity can become a key aspect of individuals configuring their relationship with film through various interactions with friends, peers, family members, and other people with linked lives who can introduce new films and types of film.
  2. In early adulthood (18-24), people tend to go from school or college into either higher education or their first job, or leave home for the first time, in order to start a career. This often involves relocation or travel, and as such is a stage of life characterised by change, transition, and identity formation Each opens up new sets of social relations, friendships and interests that influence how people engage with film, including active introductions to new films and film types.
  3. In midlife (25-54), people often have to carve out time for their film watching from a busy schedule of commitments, such as going to work, having children and/or moving to a new house. At this stage, films often provide a form of escape from the stress or strains of daily life, as well as a way of socialising with family and friends by sharing the experience of watching a film together as part of a group film audience.
  4. In old age, a stage of life (55 and over) characterised by semi-retirement or retirement, having grandchildren, and (to varying degrees) taking up hobbies, people often have more disposable time to watch films and greater flexibility over when they can watch them than in earlier stages. They also tend to meet new people to share films with, which can expand and develop their personal tastes. Here, the personal journey with film develops through increased opportunities to share film with others, whether as part of a group film audience or as part of the exhibition process (e.g. through voluntary work at a cinema). In taking up these opportunities, people in old age often ascribe social value to film watching as an activity that helps to avoid social isolation.

Are there different types of journeys, and how are these developed throughout the lifecourse?

While there are patterns in how people engage with film at different stages in the lifecourse, and a discernible set of aspects that shape and alter people’s personal film journeys, they are unique to each individual. 

What are the key resources of these journeys, and how do they configure in supporting people’s development in film?

It is the relationships and interactions that people have with other people (especially those with linked lives, such as family members and friends), as well as venues, places and particular films that shape their personal film journeys. Each serves to configure in a particular way: (1) other people actively introduce people to new films and types of film, and share the experience of watching and discussing films together in group audiences; (2) venues can provide a sense of community, and are places where people go to watch films in particular ways, for instance, as an individualised or group audience member; (3) the level of film exhibition provision in different places provides greater or lesser opportunities to access a diverse range of films; and (4) engaging with particular films and film types and genres introduces people to different narratives, ideas, and stories.