Dr Simon Weaving

Dr Simon Weaving

Senior Lecturer

School of Creative Industries

Behind the big screen

How does the filmmaking industry keep up with the increasingly digitised world? That is what Dr Simon Weaving is examining through his research into virtual reality filmmaking and efforts to keep the cinema industry relevant in light of the increasing popularity of television streaming services.

Simon Weaving

Australia has highest cinema ticket prices in the world but also has the second highest per capita rate of cinema consumption, so there’s no doubt that as a whole Australians love movies. But dig a little deeper into the statistics and you find some worrying trends.

Dr Simon Weaving, a filmmaker and academic with the School of Creative Industries, says that, with the increasing use of television streaming services such as Stan and Netflix, the frequency with which people visit the cinema is dropping. This has left the film industry asking ‘how do we make going to the cinema a habit again rather than a one-off night out?’

“My background is in filmmaking and what I’ve discovered since becoming a film academic is that there is very little research done on this industry,” Dr Weaving said. “It’s one of those businesses where people mostly go by gut feeling and there’s not a lot of emphasis on deep research. My aim is to change that by developing a research network with key organisations within the Australian film industry. It’s an exciting initiative and one that I hope will create a research agenda that is really industry focused and will help solve the problem of the moment, which is when you can buy a ten dollar a month subscription service, why go to the cinema?” Dr Weaving asked.

Dr Weaving says that the unique features of going to a cinema are not being experienced by the younger generation who are more likely to ‘Netflix and chill’ on a Friday night than venture out to the local ‘flicks’.

“People over 25 tend to already have a cinema habit because they experienced it before the introduction of television streaming and most surveys show they still think cinema is the best place to watch a movie. But the younger generation don’t necessarily think that and see the cinema as a kind of old school way of experiencing films. Which raises the question of how does the movie industry drag itself away from its 1950s model of mass communication for film distribution, which is clearly no longer valid in a user experience connected world?’

“For a number of different film genres the shared experience of watching a film in a cinema becomes very important. There’s nothing like watching a comedy or horror film in a big cinema with other people. Through my research I want to make sure the younger generation maintain the understanding of the power of that shared experience and the unique nature of cinema.”

Dr Weaving is working with the lead players in the Australian film industry to shape a research agenda that delves into the challenges facing the industry today.

“One of the key things we are going to do is map the customer journey so the industry players understand that the customer is not just thinking ‘what movie do I want to go to and where is it on’; it’s much more involved than that,” Dr Weaving said.

“There’s some fabulous research showing that a key part of the cinema experience is about memory making. For a lot of people it’s the only time they can get out without their kids and for younger people it’s a chance to hang out in a space of their own with their friends. There are some powerful memories created in the cinema, for example many people have their first girlfriend/boyfriend date at the cinema. I want to understand the dynamics of the customer journey and their experience and how the industry can tap into that to influence customer decision making.”

Dr Weaving’s network plans to use Newcastle as a test bed for detailed market research with test audiences, questioning their attitudes and conducting focus groups to understand how they perceive cinema and to provide an alternative way of understanding the user experience.

“The industry uses a mass communication model which we think is out of date. We’re saying it’s much more complex than just making a product, communicating it to the audience and then they buy it. We’re saying let’s unpack that experience and really understand it.”

The new world of virtual reality

Emerging technology such as virtual reality is having an impact on the film industry and raises never before asked questions such as ‘how do you write a script for virtual reality when the audience is immersed in the scenario’ and ‘how do you direct for virtual reality when you can’t be on the set’?

It’s these types of questions Dr Weaving set out to answer in his virtual reality filmmaking research project that saw him create a movie called Entangled.  He says it was a fascinating experience that presented many challenges.

“All the traditional filmmaking rules change when you’re using virtual reality.Firstly you’ve got to work out why you’re making something with virtual reality - a lot of the VR movies I’ve seen are better suited to traditional filmmaking. Virtual reality is to do with total immersiveness. When the viewer puts on the headset they’re in the middle of your film and they can look wherever they want, you can’t control where the viewers gaze is going to be. In traditional filmmaking you can say I want you to look at this small detail or look at this wide shot, but in virtual reality this story-telling control disappears but is replaced with this wonderful ability to immerse someone in a more sensory way,” Dr Weaving said.

“In Entangled we developed a story where you are in placed right in the heart of the experience. At a technical level the camera has to be in the middle of the set and action takes place around it. That then means the director and camera operator can’t be on set, which poses lots of technical questions to consider alongside the bigger issue of working out the immersive story telling idea.”

Dr Weaving documented his experience of making the virtual reality film and will use this research to write a journal article on the emerging industry.

“Someone recently said to me ‘virtual reality filmmaking now is where the film industry was in 1912’. Everyone is still working out the best ways to do it and what processes to use.”

Neurophysics and filmmaking

Traditionally movies that are close to being finished are shown to test audiences who then fill out a questionnaire giving their impressions of the movie. Dr Weaving and his colleague Dr Marc Adam from the University of Newcastle are pioneering a significantly more scientific way to test audience reactions to films.

“We monitor the audience’s neurophysiology while they are watching the film, and use this data to help determine the audience’s emotional state. We can then compare this data to what the film maker was intending the audience to feel,” Dr Weaving said.

The duo recently piloted this process with a Hollywood short filmmaker who had a high-budget action short-film in postproduction.

“We got him to identify 10 moments of the film and what emotion he wanted to illicit from the audience at those points in time. We then hooked up our test subjects to the system and had them watch the film. We measured their neurophysical responses and also had them self report on their feelings.”

“The film maker found the feedback most amazing. We identified moments where the audience were feeling annoyed or frustrated rather than scared, which allowed the film maker to make changes and adjust the film to try and get the desired emotion from the audience.”

Dr Weaving has produced two publications from this research and is aiming to apply for funding to expand the research further onto a larger test group and longer film.

“One of the real questions that we need to clear up is how do you know what emotion a person’s heart rate or palm sweatiness equals? Does it equal fear or excitement? There aren’t direct correlations yet between neurophysiological outputs and emotions. We’re very interested in exploring this in more detail.”

Behind the big screen

How does the filmmaking industry keep up with the increasingly digitised world? That is what Dr Simon Weaving is examining through his research into virtual reality filmmaking and efforts to keep the cinema industry relevant in light of the increasing…

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Career Summary

Biography

Simon Weaving is a Lecturer in Communication and Media at the University of Newcastle with research interests in film production and distribution, narrative theory, Australian cinema, screenwriting, and the way that film genre is used to create meaning by those involved in the production, distribution and consumption of cinema.

A filmmaker, writer, festival director, film critic and commentator, Simon was Director of the Canberra International Film Festival from 2009-2012, Founder and Co-Director of the Stronger Than Fiction Documentary Film Festival held annually in Australia’s National Capital each July, and currently curates the Winter Film Series at the National Gallery of Australia. 

Simon has made a number of award-winning short films, including Waiting For Robbo (2011) that had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012 and which won Best Film at the Canberra Short Film Festival the same year. Twice a Tropfest finalist, and runner-up in AD:05 (the national Art of Documentary competition), Simon wrote and directed the feature film The Competition in 2014.  

Simon is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association, the Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique (FIPRESCI), and was a founding member of the ACT Screen Industry Association (ACTSIA), serving on its Advisory Committee from 2010 until 2014. He was the lead film critic for The Canberra Times from 2004-2014 and appeared regularly on 666ABC Radio commentating on cinema. 

Prior to his work in the film industry Simon worked as a management consultant for a number of leading international consulting firms. He lived and worked across the Asia-Pacific region, including the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea (where he won an international award whilst working for PriceWaterhouseCoopers), as well as Fiji, Singapore and Indonesia, where he worked with organizational development theorist Professor Elliott Jacques. He also consulted to the NSW Ministry for the Arts, in projects involving regional theatre, the Crafts Council of NSW and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and worked with many of Australia’s leading theatre companies as a producer (in 1990 he produced Magpie Theatre Company’s Adelaide Festival hit Funerals & Circuses, starring Paul Kelly, and co-produced the accompanying album). His time as a management consultant left Simon with an abiding interest in systems theory, human motivation and the integrative power of communication. 




Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Canberra
  • Bachelor of Business, University of Technology Sydney

Keywords

  • Australian Film Industry
  • Cinema
  • Media Production
  • communications
  • creative industries
  • genre

Languages

  • English (Mother)

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
200212 Screen and Media Culture 100

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Senior Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Creative Industries
Australia
Senior Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Design Communication and IT
Australia
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Journal article (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2018 Weaving S, Pelzer S, Adam MTP, 'The cinematic moment: improving audience testing of movies', STUDIES IN AUSTRALASIAN CINEMA, 12 89-103 (2018) [C1]
DOI 10.1080/17503175.2018.1539542
Co-authors Marc Adam

Conference (3 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2019 Pelzer S, Adam MTP, Weaving S, 'NeuroIS for decision support: The case of filmmakers and audience test screenings', Information Systems and Neuroscience: NeuroIS Retreat 2018, Vienna, Austria (2019)
DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-01087-4_4
Co-authors Marc Adam
2016 Weaving SHB, 'No walk into paradise: the Australian film industry in the 1950s', Refereed proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association Conference: Creating Space in the Fifth Estate, Newcastle, N.S.W. (2016) [E1]
2016 Weaving SHB, 'Rethinking genre theory for screenwriting practice: using Mikhail Bakhtin¿s theory of discourse', ASPERA Annual Conference Refereed Proceedings 2016, Canberra, A.C.T. (2016) [E1]

Creative Work (15 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2018 Weaving SHB, Kingsland D, Stronger Than Fiction Documentary Film Festival 2018, Palace Electric Cinemas, Canberra (2018)
2018 Weaving SHB, Winter Film Series 2018, National Gallery of Australia (2018)
2017 Weaving SHB, Winter Film Series 2017, National Gallery of Austalia, Canberra, ACT (2017)
2016 Weaving SHB, Winter Film Series 2016, National Gallery of Australia (2016)
2016 Weaving SHB, Kingsland D, Stronger Than Fiction Documentary Film Festival 2016, Palace Electric Cinemas (2016)
2015 Weaving SHB, Winter Film Series 2015, National Gallery of Australia (2015)
2015 Weaving SHB, Kingsland D, Stronger Than Fiction Documentary Film Festival 2015, Palace Electric Cinemas (2015)
2014 Weaving SHB, Winter Film Series 2014, National Gallery of Australia (2014)
2014 Weaving SHB, Stronger Than Fiction Documentary Film Festival 2014, Palace Electric Cinemas (2014)
2014 Weaving SHB, The Competition, Australia (2014)
2014 Weaving SHB, Burnt (2014)
2013 Weaving SHB, Winter Film Series 2013, National Gallery of Australia (2013)
2013 Weaving SHB, Stronger Than Fiction Documentary Film Festival 2013, Palace Electric Cinemas (2013)
2012 Weaving SHB, Waiting For Robbo, World premiere at the Cannes Film Festival (Court Metrage) (2012)
2011 Hunter J, Weaving SHB, Tinman (2011)
Show 12 more creative works
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 6
Total funding $46,447

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20182 grants / $17,000

Cinema Industry Research Network$15,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team

Associate Professor Craig Hight and Dr Simon Weaving

Scheme FEDUA Strategic Networks and Pilot Projects (SNaPP)
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2018
Funding Finish 2018
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

11th Screenwriting Research Network International Conference, Italy, 13 - 15 September 2018$2,000

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Scheme FEDUA Conference Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2018
Funding Finish 2018
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

20172 grants / $11,000

RAPID Project - VR filmmaking$10,000

Funding body: School of Creative Industries

Funding body School of Creative Industries
Project Team

Simon Weaving, Una Rey, Andy Gallagher

Scheme RAPID
Role Lead
Funding Start 2017
Funding Finish 2018
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

10th Screenwriting Research Network International Conference, New Zealand, September 2017$1,000

Funding body: FEDUA, University of Newcastle

Funding body FEDUA, University of Newcastle
Project Team

Simon Weaving

Scheme FEDUA Conference Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2017
Funding Finish 2017
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

20162 grants / $18,447

NGA Cinema Project$16,447

Funding body: National Gallery of Australia

Funding body National Gallery of Australia
Project Team Doctor Simon Weaving, Mr Edith Young
Scheme Research Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2016
Funding Finish 2017
GNo G1501374
Type Of Funding C2120 - Aust Commonwealth - Other
Category 2120
UON Y

9th Screenwriting Research Network International Conference, UK, September 2016$2,000

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Project Team

Simon Weaving

Scheme FEDUA Conference Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2016
Funding Finish 2016
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N
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Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed0
Current4

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title Program Supervisor Type
2019 Masters Redeeming Eve, as the Disney Princess: Rewriting the Female Protagonist as a Worthy Heroine M Philosophy (Comm&Med Arts), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Principal Supervisor
2019 PhD To Explore the Nature and Process of Character Redemption in the Writing of a Screenplay PhD (Comm & Media Arts), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Principal Supervisor
2016 PhD Newcastle's Creative Industries: Investigating Performing Arts Professional and Non-Professional Creative Economies With an Emphasis on Theatre PhD (Comm & Media Arts), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2015 PhD The Evolution of Contemporary Art in a Hybrid Sri Lankan Culture PhD (Fine Art), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
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Research Projects

Cinema Audience Testing research project 2017 - 2019

Re-imagining the audience testing process for cinema

Whilst filmmakers intuitively believe that the movie experience must be emotionally engaging, audience testing of movies in the continues to follow traditional approaches involving questionnaires and focus groups with insights mainly at the level of overall movie satisfaction. Working with Dr. Marc Adam and RHD student Sandra Pelzer, Dr. Simon Weaving developed a theoretical framework for how the idea of the cinematic moment can support an improved test screening process for filmmakers, providing feedback for decisions about what narrative material is shown to the audience, what sequence it is to be ordered, and what emotional value it must carry. The project also involves the initial testing of the model using a commercially orientated 25-minute film in post-production, supported by interviews with industry practitioners.


Cinema Industry Research Network 2017 - 2018

Dr Simon Weaving and Dr Craig Hight are working with leaders of the Australian Cinema Industry to research current issues in cinema distribution and exhibition. Supported by a FEDUA (UoN) SNaPP Grant and involving an RhD student as a Research Assistant, the research examines the changes occurring in the industry as a result the emergence of online streaming services. In 2017, Simon and Craig produced a discussion paper for industry that suggested a critical need for a renewed understanding of the audience experience of cinema-going and the way it differs from the home-viewing experience.

The project is ongoing and aims to create a joint industry-university research agenda. 


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Dr Simon Weaving

Position

Senior Lecturer
School of Creative Industries
Faculty of Education and Arts

Contact Details

Email simon.weaving@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 43494591
Link Personal webpage
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