The film and theatre industry employs thousands of people and contributes millions to the national economy via tourism and associated marketing and promotions. The Arts, film and theatre, combined with media studies, is a popular area for study for many who wish to be more attuned with political and social events, enjoy looking at the history of the development of the arts and who wish to gain a better understanding of people.
Should you be considering a dissertation on the theme of theatre and film studies then it is important to connect to a topic that is contemporary, engaging and with enough scope for you to engage with the literature available.
The following sections will highlight some of the key issues and debates concurrent within the field of theatre and film studies, including issues related to COVID-19, and digital innovation.
Technological innovation has changed the face of film, it seems a different world watching Harold Lloyd cling onto the clock in “Safety Last” (1923). From the pioneering Lumière brothers and their innovation of the illusion of movement, to modern CGI and 3D, the film industry is in a state of constant adaptation, trying to keep ahead and looking to retain cinema audiences. In theatre, Knifedge have controversially introduced computer generated sword fighting to the stage in the show ‘Pippin,’ taking theatre into the avatar computer generated world of the gaming industry. Is this a positive step for theatre?
- Does the digital nature of Video on Demand make it accessible in a way that cinema can never be? Discuss with reference to Martin Scorsese releasing The Irishman via Netflix.
- As the rise of VR has changed the face of the gaming industry, to what extent can it be seen to potentially impact film and live theatre/music in 2021?
- Is computer generated action for the theatre, as seen in ‘Pippin’ a step too far for the stage?
- 3D on stage, and the wearing of 3D glasses for theatre, has had an uncertain status. Analyse the potential, or otherwise for 3D in theatre and live performance.
- Does the film audience expect to always have more impressive technology, or is this too often seen as a cover up for a lack of script?
Gender and Race
2020, as well as being the year of the pandemic, has been the year of Black Lives Matter and of gender (and race) neutral casting. This is a controversial area, and recent casting decisions such as black actress Jodie Turner Smith playing Anne Boleyn for Channel 5 has opened up a race debate in the media. Does this actually matter, or is it an issue worthy of academic debate? Entering these zones are interesting for debate, and there has been much media attention to both of these areas in the Arts.
- Is gender and race neutral casting in theatre an issue that is worthy of debate?
- Is theatre leading or following trends in the current directions of social movements, how does theatre reflect these trends?
- In 2019 the RSC cast a female actress as King John. Is this following a theatrical tradition of cross gender casting dating back to the all-male Elizabethan theatre, or is it (as one critic said) an “eccentric measure” that adds nothing to the production?
- Quentin Letts, theatre critic of the Daily Mail, has been critical of the “RSC’s clunking approach to politically correct casting (which) weakened its stage product.” Is this assessment based on valid concerns over recent casting decisions, or a concerning lack of appreciation for modern diversity?
- To what extent does modern theatre continue to confront gender and racial stereotypes?
- Applying Mulvey’s (1975) theories of the male gaze, are popular films still made in ways that satisfy masculine scopophilia?
- Discuss whether there is a direct female equivalent of the male gaze in cinema today.
Connecting to the Public
Theatre sometimes struggles with an elitist brush applied to it, with Panto and West End Musicals seen as more for the masses. Getting the public into theatre became impossible as they were closed during the pandemic and the future is uncertain. Likewise, the closure of cinemas has seen the likes of Amazon and Netflix fill the void with their own productions; further down the chain, fan-made films on outlets such as YouTube have shown new avenues for film, outside of the main cinema and producers. Does this herald a new world of film making and direction? Lastly, both theatre and cinema need to reconnect to its audience again when Covid is over, how difficult will this be? An audience that may have changed its habits, and with an economy in trouble, will people still be prepared to pay for live theatre?
- To what extent do fan-made films such as ‘Dark Jedi’ (a fan created Star Wars Film, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cn1o9lPTSbY ) create a new type of film making made possible through platforms such as YouTube?
- If cinemas need to engage with the public and turn them away from made for TV drama, has this been derailed by the 2020 Covid Pandemic?
- An analysis of street theatre and its contribution to theatre for the people.
- Discuss the adaptation of theatre performance in a mediatized age.
- Are the performing arts still for the people, or have they become expensive luxuries for the educated middle classes?
- Has Covid-19 created a new form of film media increasingly produced independently away from the big studios?
The Politics of Theatre and Film
Covid-19 has seen the government close theatres and cinemas, the arts have suffered perhaps more than any other sector, and those employed in the sector were told to consider retraining. However, this has meant new innovation from the industry, musicians taking their performances online, and some private performances available as pay per view. Given that some of the leading theatre companies in the UK are partly state funded, and that the theatre and film industries bring in considerable funds to the national coffer via tourism, the role of the arts in representing the national mood is often studied, from propaganda films in the 1940’s onward.
- How can presenting traditional theatre such as Shakespeare reflect modern political concerns?
- Does modern film retain the ability to shock, or has become blunted by commercialism and the need for sequels?
- An analysis over whether star actors now control the modern film industry, to its detriment. With reference to Tom Cruise and The Mummy (2017)
- Is society still reflected in the modern film, or is the industry more about escapism?
- An analysis over the impact film has over youth culture today.