Cambridge Shorts Turning excellent research into engaging films
Alina Loth – Berlin School of Public Engagement and Open Science. Germany
Diogo Gomes – University of Cambridge United Kingdom
We present a selection of short research films from the most recent Cambridge Shorts competition and critically discuss the assessment of their potential for public engagement. Cambridge Shorts brings together early career university researchers and creative filmmakers to visualise research processes and outputs through the medium of high-quality short films. In an increasingly digitised and networked environment, short films can capture a viewer’s imagination and curiosity, and present an ideal entry point to the communication of cutting-edge research to wide audiences. After a competitive application process, researchers are supported in drafting innovative, accessible and engaging research stories in a guided co-production process. Filmmakers are recruited through open calls, film festivals (including Watersprite, the student film festival), and Film Studies Departments. The co-production experience of the short films pushes beyond traditional filmmaking to enable a dynamic process with high quality, creative, and innovative outputs. Networking sessions between filmmakers and researchers throughout the project period enabled a creative exchange, which resulted in accessible and engaging stories via cinematic media. Interacting with filmmakers and artists allows researchers to develop visuals and narratives that transform the traditional research story. At the same time, it improves research communication skills and builds researcher confidence. In turn, filmmakers learn to visualise complex processes, mechanisms and outcomes in a short, visually compelling product. The process enables a profound understanding of creative and cross-disciplinary collaboration. The resulting films have been recognised nationally and internationally: Pain in the Machine received online media coverage and won the AHRC Best Research Film of the Year Award, Morphogenesis was discussed in a Nature Plants article, and Dish life was awarded third place in the Raw Science Film Festival 2016. After Cambridge Shorts, several of the teams have continued to collaborate in subsequent film projects.
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