Session 7 – Film fans and film personas

Chair: Prof. Andrew Higson (University of York)

Illustrating contemporary cinemagoers’ journeys through personas

Dr Tatiana Styliari (Independent)

Combining Film Studies and HCI, this research project suggests a new insight on audience research. The conducted fieldwork consists of focus groups, expert interviews, participatory design, diaries, prototyping and prototype evaluation workshops. The studies’ results reveal that cinema-going is a holistic experience, a trajectory that begins before reaching the
cinema, during one’s presence in it and after walking away from it, consisting of multiple physical and digital interactions, activities, platforms and devices that leave behind digital traces. Mapping this journey led to the segmentation of cinemagoers in four different types according to their cinema-going related behaviours. To illustrate those, I created four personas and their respective journeys by grouping users’ data according to the most prominent characteristic that all participants talked about: the social experience. A persona is not a person, it comes out of the patterns from many different users, therefore represents a certain group of people as a model, a template. The use of personas aims to build empathy and prioritise different sets of user needs (Lang and Howell, 2017), but it also contributes to profoundly understanding the cinema-going experience as a connected trajectory. The personas show that cinemagoers perform their cinema-going journeys according to what identities they choose to adopt.
The results of the procedure were “Connoisseur Damian”, “Solitary Chloe”, “Casual Audrey”, and “Meticulous Lucas”. Each persona follows a distinct cinema-going journey. All of them have the same touchpoints such as choosing movies, booking and planning, collecting tickets, watching movies in the screening room etc. Throughout these touchpoints, they engage with different activities using different channels (1) such as the web, mobile phone, laptop, social networks etc. This piece of research identified the co-existence of transitions of the users between online and physical spaces and contributes to the field of research on contemporary film audience

(1) “A channel defines the opportunities or constraints of a touchpoint and is any medium of interaction with customers or users: print, the web, mobile, voice calls, and brick and mortar locations” (Yougov, nd).

Aysegul Epengin (University of Portsmouth)
The film fan: the Cinephilia

When we try to identify the film society audience, we usually refer to as ‘members’. Are they the Cinephilia, also named cinemaphilia, filmmaker or filmophilia who play a major role in influencing film preferences rather than being only fond of the cinema? There is a kind of fan power which affects film consumption. Thierry Frémaux, the film critic and the director of the Institute Lumière in France idented the cinephilla first time: ‘The definitive essence of cinephila is a culture of the discarded that prefers to find intellectual coherence where none is evident and to eulogize the non-standard and the mino.’ (1) The film buffs or cinephiles are generally inside community cinema and film societies and they are also presenting the film critics, academics, filmmakers, intellectual people who have a certain consumption style. Their film watching stylishness is in the informal settings and more relaxing. Cinephilia classification never met with the diversity in the high and popular categories of art and consumption.
When we investigate the identification of the cinephiles, the battleground here is essentially between psychological and behavior models or sociological versions of social habits for understanding audience choices. This is sometimes not screen-specific, the cultural populist position arises from ethnographic studies, but the audience could be fans or cinema buffs. In the British cultural studies, Fiske has been consistently the most enthusiastic advocate of cultural populism. (2) However, Bourdieu’s taste culture and influence on rigid class distinction has more depth. (3) Hebdige, Thornton and Jancovich (4) were trying to find more about gendered and class-based accounts and its connection with the subcultural theory. The subculture group used values, norms in the wide society which is in different from the populist approach. A cinephilia connects with a film society and their film choices changes/develops in the collective group. It is not clear what is the cultural class of the film societies, but Sconce states:
“The weakness of such investigations is the difficulty of on subcultural capital into subjective pleasure”. As Sconce indicates this nicely “film viewers and an elite cadre of would-be tastemakers” (5) Certainly, it is difficult to measure the taste and how it connects with subcultural distinction. However, the film society audience and members have considerable influence on the film viewing and the taste making. Hills suggested that ‘this is not to argue that fans cannot discuss their feelings, passions and personal histories of fandom in any meaningful manner’, but that ’analysing the nature of the fan-text attachment means that “asking the audience’ cannot act as a guarantee of knowledge’ (6). I agree with Hill’s suggestion because being fan already brings emotions and reactions to the films. This appeared with get different meanings and pleasures in very different ways for audience. The audience: a sociologist Willis relate this more with the self-identification: “Creativity may be individual and/or collective. It transforms what is provided and helps to produce specific forms of human identity and capacity. Being human-human be-ing-ness – means to be creative in the sense of re-making the world for ourselves as we make and find our own place and identity.” (7) Sense of belonging (self –within- culture) is part of the being a member of film society or helps us to shape our own identity. Besides, the subculture groups do not wish to watch films only. They want to talk, rethink, debate, reflect and share their own experience most of the time. Their experience can develop with subject, story, colour, feeling, texture or slogan and can end with pleasures in very different ways. They want to compare the artistic and aesthetic values and develop their sense of belonging and feel contented in everyday life. Hills justifies the problems of identity and subjectivity. (8) Smith proposes that there is not a direct correspondence between cultural texts and human
sensibilities, but there are echoes of one in the other. ‘(9) These all may be connected with material culture, which are textual categories like beliefs, ideas, altitude and assumption of the audience who they belong to certain social class. Especially, internet offers endless information and sources for films, which it makes the mind of the audience numb. Where the subcultural distinction has been merged with digital cultural there are the hegemonic progressions, we cannot foresee. The mass media is creating a new personalised media culture. Smith believes “this established vocabulary of subcultural distinction has lost its critical purchase, at least insofar as this case is concerned. It may be that concepts of rank and affiliation offer more sensitive approaches to the finely-nuanced differentiation of cultural preferences.” (10) My view on this is that our choices and personal preferences make us who we are. My investigation is starting in this very point here. Film society members and their Cinephilia influence the specialised film market, which is an alternative consumer choice. Smith points that, “this is nothing more than economic exchange in the service of subjective identity-a sense of belonging. I interested more how the preferences presented to us is important investigation zone for my research. If media and marketers are using our memory and nostalgia to sell a film to us or if we see an advert inside our Facebook’s wall, it means
as an audience we are defenseless. Or, if Netflix force us to watch a certain film if we didn’t wish for, we are quite hopeless in our personal preferences. Being subjective in the preferences is difficult in the digital age but as audience how many cinephiles think carefully about film selection and consumption? How much random choice and gambling are we doing when we consume a film is important to evaluate the power of film society members and programmers. The specific audience made the choices of films titles, and where their influences come from and what is the choices’ criteria. Social class and background may be factors, but the mass media and social media may control emotions, attention and our decision making. There has been a dramatical change in film watching habits during the Covid-19 pandemic. Online streaming has become a more popular way to watch films while the multiplex cinemas have been closing their doors to business.


  1. Keathley, Christian. Cinephilia and history, or, The wind in the trees. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2005.
    Also see:
  2. P. Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste,
  3. John Fiske (Bosloxv. Utwintt.yma.TX, 1989)
  4. M. Jancovich, ‘Cult fictions: Cult movies, subcultural capital and the production of cultural distinctions’, Cultural Vol 16 No 2 /(2002)» pp. 306-322, p. Hebdige, ‘Subculture: The meaning of style , in K, Gelder and S. Thornton, (eds). The Subcultures Reader, London Routledge 199’7, pp-130-142 and S.Thornton, Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital (Cambridge Polity, 1995)
  5. J. Sconce, ‘Trashing the Academy, op. cit. p. 372.
  6. P. Willis, Common Culture Open University Press, 1990, p.10’
  7. Quoted in M. Hills, ibis., p.91
  8. M. Hills, Fan Cultures, op. cit pp.66
  9. J. Smith, Cult Films and Film Cults in British Cinema (I.B. Tauris, 2010), and the co-author (with Sue Harper) of British Film Culture in the 1970s. p.232 10.Smith. J. ibis.

Ayse Epengin has extensive experience in the film industry as the founder and non-executive director of the Portsmouth Film Society since 2010.  With over 19 years experience as a film maker, video production tutor and academic, she has a unique perspective and has been a driving force in the community cinema in Portsmouth through university and community relationships. She has completed training courses on programming and audience development from SEHub/SWHub and the Independent Cinema Office and is currently a video production tutor. At the same time, she is working on her PhD project on film audience in the non-theatrical exhibition at the University of Portsmouth, an important topic in today’s rapidly changing social and entertainment environment.  Her research focuses on the evolution and operation of film societies including collaboration on film selection and networking opportunities with similar organisations.  Her research includes social structure and the investigation of influential institutions/mass media that combine to shape our society. Portsmouth is an underserved area for cultural development and cinema exhibition where specialised programming is limited to a part time provision.  Her dedication and creativity as well as her artistic vision, leading her team of volunteers, to adapt and grow dynamic community cinema on the South coast in today’s challenging times.

Exploring everyday life experiences of diverse cultures and change in film consumption patterns in the digitally connected world

Dr Swati Bute (Jagran Lakecity University)

Technology and its easy access have increased peoples dependency on it not only for the important matters related to everyday life but also for the matters related to pleasure and relaxation. Different people watch films of different genres, accessing them through different channels and platforms and watching for different purposes. There is no common goal or set agenda when it comes to people’s choices of watching films.  In last few years with the availability of technology we have seen extreme changes in the Indian audience’s film consumption patterns. Internet is not only connecting people living far away but also increasing peoples curiosity in knowing how people on the other corner of the world lives, how they are different and similar from them, what are their struggles and how they live. They are interested in knowing different real life stories and experiences of people living in other parts of the world. Films present real life stories in a very interesting way to the audiences. India with its huge population nurtures a diverse range of culture, way of life, struggles and achievements. Indian film industry is a show business which mostly showcases way of life of different people living in different geographical – socio-economic-cultures settings and background. Indian audiences apart from their socio-linguistic differences enjoy films made in all Indian languages. There are audiences who like to watch western movies. In recent time we have seen their increased interest in films in other foreign languages such as Korean, Japanese, china, Indonesia, Vietnam and many more. If the story is well drafted and novel, language do not play as a barrier for audiences. So in recent time we have seen lot of import of foreign film content in India and lot of export of Indian film content to other countries. Not only Indian Diaspora living in other countries watching Indian film content but there are foreign audiences for Indian films and music and this percentage is increasing. This study aims to discuss and to relation between easy access of foreign film content on digital platforms and change in audience’s film consumption patterns motivated by the tendency of exploring everyday life experiences of diverse culture. Method for study will be Film theories and case studies.  

Dr. Swati Bute is working as an Associate Professor at Jagran School of Journalism & Communication, Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal. She has eleven years experience of working in academics and eight years experience in industry. She holds Doctorate in Communication and Journalism, which she did from Savitri Bai Phule Pune University and has completed short duration Visiting Fellowship from New Delhi based Government Think Tank ‘Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis’. In the past she worked with Indira School of Communication Pune & at International School of Business & Media Pune as a professor. National Institute of Health and Family Welfare New Delhi & at Amity University Noida as an Assistant Professor and with Shri Vaishnav Vidyapeeth Vishwavidyalaya, Indore as an Associate Professor. She worked with All India Radio (Public Broadcasting Service of India) for 6 years as a casual compeer. Her two edited books are indexed in Scopus. She teaches subjects related to communication, broadcasting & journalism such as print journalism, print production, radio broadcast and production, communication theories, media and culture, communication research, development Communication, health communication and Mass media industry. Her research interests are communication studies, print & electronic media, digital media communication, international affairs and media, health communication, media and society and cross cultural communication