Creative practice as a research tool: benefits and pitfalls

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications




Karpathakis, G. (2009). Creative practice as a research tool: benefits and pitfalls.


In this paper I examine how my creative practice as a filmmaker prepared me for academia. I argue that the rigors of filmmaking are transferable to other disciplines. Soon after having my doctoral research proposal accepted and cleared by the ethics committee, without really knowing or understanding the journey and task that lay before me, and fired by the bravado that is characteristic of many of the filmmakers I know (myself included), I commenced interviewing. I had yet to settle on a theoretical framework, but from my work as a director and editor of documentary films and videos, I felt I had sufficient understanding and experience of working themes and narratives into structures to tackle the general questions of my research. My approach to the interviews was, in hindsight, fairly traditional. After the first interview I abandoned the idea of working with a small video crew to gather the data and opted to interview and video the rock collectors and their collections alone. This approach had a number of benefits. It gave me greater flexibility in terms of using my time with the collector and it permitted me in some way to get closer to the collector and gain their confidence. In these circumstances there are things the collector might say in a one-to-one recording session that they may not say if others are immediately present. I videoed the interviewees, as well as the individual rocks and minerals in the collections and the collections as a whole in a conventional television documentary style: medium wide shots of the collector with their collection; midshots of the collector with individual rocks; close-ups of the rocks and groups of rocks and wide shots of the collections and their environs. Through reflecting on this filmmaking process, I aim to highlight the transferable knowledge that filmmakers may offer other academic disciplines. Filmmaking itself has always been a hybrid of science and art and this paper calls upon filmmakers to utilise their creative practices, including aesthetics, to the service of other disciplines, in the hope that the outcomes produce data that is useful and is integrated in the discourses of social sciences, cultural studies and other disciplines.

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