What Resources do Audiences Draw on when Engaging with Specialised Film and Mainstream Narratives?

The project’s film-elicitation groups reveal how people make sense of films in personalised ways, drawing on various resources.

What do people draw on to interpret film?

  • Life experiences, such as past employment or lived experiences of being immersed within a context relevant to a particular film. For example, in the film-elicitation groups some participants drew on past experience of unemployment and frequent visits to the Job Centre to make sense of the film clip shown from I, Daniel Blake.  
  • Formal education gained at school, college or university provides a set of analytical tools (as cultural resources) for making sense of film texts in particular ways. For example, some participants drew on their education to make sense of the subtext within a scene from Happy End.
  • Media resources often enable people to make sense of film content. Here, critical reviews or the discussion surrounding a film can influence the way it is interpreted, as can knowledge and experience of watching other films. 

What are the relative influences of education and life experience in interpreting film?

People with fewer formal education qualifications tend to draw on a broad range of life experiences to interpret and make sense of film content, whereas people with a formal education in film studies draw on that knowledge to make sense of films. This is notable in the film-elicitation transcripts, especially those that have been coded using the data ontology’s concepts for interpretative resources JAMIE TO CHECK: formal education.  

How do people find ways into types of film that are not familiar to them?

Throughout their development of a personal film journey people find ways into new films and film types/genres in one of three ways. They are either: (1) actively introduced to films by other people; (2) take risks in a process of personal self-discovery, often as part of their identity formation during periods of change and transition in early adulthood; or (3) through serendipity, such as when they watch a particular film because it is showing at a venue whose programming they trust at a time when they have an opportunity to watch a film there.