Moreover, despite the differences between film and these other media, the production of television or YouTube content still primarily relies on techniques and conventions developed in film, for instance editing and cinematography. This curious aspect has led me to conclude that film is a stubbornly persistent medium. Film has been pronounced (almost) 'dead' several times from the threat posed by television in the 1950s to the recent digital changeover that rendered celluloid obsolete. But yet, filmmaking and film culture are still alive and kicking! This is a fascinating fact that prompted me to study film in the first place. So, how can we study film? Before I took film specialization courses at the UG, I thought there was only one feasible way to study film: to interpret its 'content' through the lens of cultural theories.
Through the programme I was exposed to a myriad of approaches. But one in particular has been really helpful to my understanding of film. I have learned from the programme that before we are able to decode what meanings a particular film suggests we need to understand how that film works narratively and stylistically. This approach to film study encourages us to look at film as an art form first and foremost. That is to say, it is an artwork designed and constructed by a number of individuals (in most cases) in a collaborative setting with the film director taking the lead. The film director and his/her collaborators make creative choices that result in the way the film tells its story and the filmic techniques chosen to facilitate it. So, with this film-as-art perspective in mind, I have been able to 'reverse engineer' whichever film I am analysing in order to grasp what the film suggests and what experiences it offers. More importantly, through this critical lens I became interested in studying the creativity of filmmakers in shaping their films' look, and the role of constraints in that creative processes.
OK, all of this sounds great, but what can I do with it? Having studied film this way, I can use the knowledge and skills honed during my master's education for my current research as well as for my practical filmmaking venture. I learned how to analyse films through the programme, and now I am using this analytical skill in my PhD research on contemporary Indonesian films. By learning how to analyse films, I have become more sensitive to techniques and conventions of film. Furthermore, I have become more responsive to the ways in which filmmakers sustain, modify or reject the conventions. In turn, this has helped me to structure my own film with a 'design conscious' outlook. For instance, in the screenwriting, pre-production, production and post-production phases I think about how to make my film coherent but not predictable in its attempt to elicit viewers' responses. In this way, the practice-theory synergy can be strengthened. All in all, the film programme at the RUG has opened my eyes theoretically as well as practically.