Insider/outsider positions at Glasgow Film Festival: Challenges, issues and opportunities in industry-partnered ethnographic research
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Dickson, L. (2017) Insider/outsider positions at Glasgow Film Festival: Challenges, issues and opportunities in industry-partnered ethnographic research. In: Vallejo, A. & Paz Peirano, M. (eds.) Film Festivals and Anthropology. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 261-276.
In his seminal thesis, Julian Stringer calls for more ethnographic approaches to the study of film festivals (2003, 242).Stringer adds that the key to effective ethnographic inquiry is the researcher's access- to the particular festival of interest. Generally speaking, lack of access to objects/subjects of study can be deeply problematic for the researcher, resulting in tension between research aims and realistic methods. In contrast, access can allow the researcher to adopt methods that will [bridge] the broad spaces between questions that [he/she/they] want[s] to answer, and the pragmatics and possibilities of [his/her/their] research- (Egan and Barker 2006). In the context of film festival research, one could argue that access is in fact critical due to the often exclusive nature of these events. Indeed within the growing field of film festival studies a tacit view has emerged which suggests that research that does not go behind the velvet rope--gaining access to insider information and materials-is blatantly recognisable to festival insiders (practitioners and scholars alike).2 For practitioners in particular, there can be significant disparity between scholarly accounts of exhibitions and the actual practices taking place on the ground. Consequently, lack of access can lead to questions about the comprehension, depth and reliability of the work, which suggests a link between questions of access and questions of authenticity.3 Thus, research with access arguably emerges as the preferred methodological condition within film festival research. This chapter charts my experience of film festival research from a position behind the velvet rope. Between 2010 and 2013 I conducted ethnographic research at Glasgow Film Festival as part of an academic/industry collaborative project. Here, I reflexively present the methodological issues and opportunities I faced, with particular emphasis on the complexities of insider/outsider positioning. The chapter also addresses the challenges of conducting industry-partnered research in which both industry agendas (operational usefulness-) and academic agendas (intellectual contribution-) are in operation.