Until August 2012 I was Senior Lecturer in Film in the Department of English at the University of Exeter. I have recently relocated to the Netherlands, where I teach in the Depart of Media Communications at Webster University, Leiden.
I started this blog in 2008, partly to store my responses to films I was teaching, researching or watching for fun. I also wrote for my students, in the hope that they might find these articles useful in getting through my classes. It was also a more casual way to write about films than the long process of researching, writing, re-drafting and re-writing an academic essay.
Most of my work has been concerned with issues raised by special effects technologies in film. My PhD thesis ‘Special Effects and the Aesthetics of Illusion’ (2003) connects discourses around 19th-century magic theatre and the reception of early cinema to the development of sophisticated mechanisms for the production of visual illusions up to the present day. This research has led to the publication of a monograph about special effects, Performing Illusions: Cinema, Special Effects and the Virtual Actor (Wallflower Press, 2008), and a number of articles on related subjects. Some of these are listed below, but you can find a complete list of publications, an updated c.v. and copies of many of my published articles on my page at Academia.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter.
Prior to my appointment as a lecturer in film at the University of Exeter, I was employed by the School of English as a research fellow working with papers donated to the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture by the British film-maker Don Boyd. This extensive archival project produced a preservational space and online database for several thousand items of interest to scholars of British cinema. Inspired by this archival work, I have put together a collection of essays by leading British cinema scholars, Sights Unseen: Unfinished British Films (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008). This project foregrounds the role of archival materials in recovering incomplete film texts and rendering them valuable to historians as cultural moments.
Aside from these academic pursuits, my interest in cinema can be diverted in almost any direction. I have a fondness for martial arts films, East Asian (un)popular cinema, animation, Godard, Ozu, Tarr, Chaplin, Keaton and more. Though I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, I’ve dabbled in studies of early film, which still fascinates me. All of these sideline interests seep into my teaching from time to time.
- ‘Evidence of Things Not Quite Seen: Cloverfield’s Obstructed Spectacle’ in Film and History 40.1 (Spring 2010): 75-92.
- ‘Don Boyd: The Accidental Producer’ in Seventies British Cinema, Robert Shail (ed.) BFI, 2008.
- Performing Illusions: Cinema, Special Effects and the Virtual Actor. London: Wallflower Press, 2008.
- Sights Unseen: Unfinished British Films (editor). Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007.
- ‘Illusory Bodies: Magical Performance on Stage and Screen‘ in Early Popular Visual Culture, July 2007.
- ‘Kill Binks: Why the World Hated its First Virtual Actor’ in Culture, Identities and Technology in the Star Wars Films, Carl Silvio & Tony Vinci (eds.) McFarland, 2007.
- ‘From Android to Synthespian: The Performance of Mechanical Life’ in Multimedia Histories: From the Magic Lantern to the Internet, John Plunkett & James Lyons (eds.) University of Exeter Press, 2007.
- ‘Virtual Actors, Spectacle and Special Effects: Kung Fu Meets “All That CGI Bullshit”‘ in The Matrix Trilogy: Cyberpunk Reloaded, Stacy Gillis (ed.) Wallflower Press, 2005.
- ‘Magic and Illusion in Early Cinema’ Studies in French Cinema, vol.1 no.2 2000.