Chief Investigator with Swinburne’s Centre for Transformative Media Technologies and Senior Lecturer in Cinema and Screen Studies, Dr Jessica Balanzategui, discusses her research, teaching philosophy and the opportunities for Cinema and Screen Studies students at Swinburne.
Why do you enjoy teaching?
Teaching and engaging with students gives me so much energy. I feel so lucky that I get to teach about my greatest passion in life, and my students tend to be very driven and passionate about cinema and screen as well. Our major goes well beyond the classroom and we often have events at places like Lido Cinemas (which is across the road from campus – again, we’re so lucky!) and the Australian Centre of the Moving Image (ACMI).
Can you tell us more about your teaching successes/milestones and research with ACMI?
I conduct research with major screen organisations including ACMI, the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF), the streaming service Femflix, and Village Roadshow. The kind of research I do with these organisations includes contributing to major exhibitions about film and TV history, examining how audiences connect with new cinema exhibition technologies like 4D theatres, and investigating the effects of changing policies around children’s media in Australia.
Why is industry engagement a key part of your teaching philosophy?
Industry engagement with organisations is crucial so that students gain experience, contacts and insider knowledge. It also sets them apart from other screen graduates in Australia. Our students have an edge over other graduates because our industry-engaged curricula provides them with such unique opportunities.
Dr Balanzategui’s working from home setup includes Samus the pug, who regularly appears in her lectures.
Can you tell us about a stand-out teaching moment?
I was very proud when a student landed a well-deserved internship with the Melbourne Queer Film Festival in 2020, during the worst of the pandemic when the festival had been forced to swiftly transition to online delivery. Also during 2020, my students contributed to a cutting-edge visitor experience app ‘Constellations’ for ACMI’s new permanent exhibition, The Story of the Moving Image.
The award was a lovely recognition of the work I, along with my colleagues, have put in to ensuring our students gain valuable real-world industry experience. The cinema and screen studies major prepares students for jobs in a range of domains that they might not be very familiar with when they start their degree - domains such as film festivals, cinema exhibitions, museums and cultural venues like ACMI. I have worked hard to ensure students have opportunities to gain knowledge about as well as experience in such domains. The award recognises how valuable this experience has been for students as they develop not just knowledge but real-world skills.
We want to know what you’re enjoying outside of work. What are you watching/reading/listening to?
My work and leisure time often overlap because I research and teach about movies and TV! I love this overlap, but I’ve got to be careful, because often I’ll be watching a movie on the weekend and planning the journal article I’m going to write about it in my head, or thinking about how I’ll incorporate it into an upcoming lecture. I am loving the new horror-genre specific streaming video app, Shudder, which launched in Australia last year (I’ve already written a journal article about it!) Now we can attend cultural events again, I’ve really enjoyed going to ACMI to see their new Disney exhibition and can’t wait to attend events as part of the new winter arts festival, Rising, here in Melbourne.