Paul MacDonald – Co-Investigator
Paul MacDonald is Professor of Cinema and Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at Portsmouth.
Screen industries are one of my main areas of research specialization. Previous work in this area includes the book Video and DVD Industries (British Film Institute, 2007) and my co-editorship of The Contemporary Hollywood Film Industry (Blackwell, 2008). I co-edit the ‘International Screen Industries’ series from British Film Institute Publishing. While my work on screen industries covers contexts of production, distribution and exhibition/presentation, my main interest is directed at how industrial conditions and arrangements influence the public circulation of cultural works and artefacts.
Developing from this concern, I am concentrating on Channel 4’s role as a distinctive distributor and exhibitor of films. This role has emerged in three ways. Starting in the 1980s, C4 staked out new ground in British television with its challenging, and often provocative, programming of film. With the Eleventh Hour (1982-8) and Ghosts in the Machine (1986 and 1988), and later the avant-garde/experimental compilations in the Midnight Underground series (1993-7), C4 expanded the range and diversity of films available to the television viewing public. Secondly, C4 branched out into theatrical film distribution, with Film Four releasing to cinemas a continuous stream of films that it helped to finance and support. Finally, in November 1998 C4 entered the pay-TV market with the subscription channel FilmFour, which was available on satellite, cable and digital terrestrial platforms, and which was later re-launched as a free-to-air service – Film4. I am interested in examining the journey which Channel 4 has taken as an innovative distributor and exhibitor of films, and the constraints and obstacles which the channel has confronted along the way.