Research Overview

Leo’s research interests include the practice of screen production, low and micro budget screen production, improvisation, video essays and machinima.

Leo completed a Doctor of Philosophy (Communication Studies) degree at RMIT in 2011. The title of the research was “Between Chaos and Control: a practice-based research project that investigates the creative process of micro-budget screen production”. The main component of the research was the production of a 75 minute film called ‘How To Change The World’.

Refereed Journal Article
The problem of peer review in screen production: exploring issues and proposing solutions

Abstract: With traditional academic work, the process of peer review is seemingly clear – work is refereed as a way of gatekeeping ideas and research contributions, to ensure it is not publicly available until it has passed a test of rigour, originality, clarity and significance to the field. Those with assumed knowledge of the discipline are the said gatekeepers, tasked with assessing the work on the basis of disciplinary knowledge and general research expertise. This often rests on the notion that the research and knowledge are made explicit in the writing. This is problematic for non-traditional academic work, such as screen production and media art, because a key value in this kind of work is the ability to communicate implicitly and differently from what can be articulated within the parameters of written, academic language. This tension between implicit and explicit knowledge claims has been one source of difficulty for evaluating and therefore rewarding creative practice research. In this paper, we draw on a recent gathering of screen production academics, the two-day Sightlines: Filmmaking in the Academy festival and conference, to help us discuss the complexities of peer reviewing screen production works for the academy, and to help us point towards possible solutions. In short, how research and new knowledge in a screen work might be illuminated, and how an academic peer might therefore evaluate it. We conclude by discussing an approach we are currently taking to develop an online, refereed publication for screen production works, the Sightlines Journal, in response to both the current literature on the topic and the gathering of discipline academics. Given the various contexts in which these questions arise in relation to screen production research (during the writing of a PhD, in the examination process, and in professional environments), we address them accordingly as individual yet interwoven discussions driven by the shared need to find workable solutions to recurring problems.

‘The problem of peer review in screen production: exploring issues and proposing solutions’


Smiljana Glisovic, Leo Berkeley, Craig Batty Studies in Australasian Cinema Volume 10, Issue 1, 2016 Pages 5-19

Refereed Journal Article
Reflections on a post-doctoral career in screen production

Abstract: Having just completed a PhD involving the production of a feature-length drama and the writing of a 40,000 word exegesis, I am now regarded by the academic community as a qualified researcher. However, it is unclear whether there is a viable post-doctoral path for filmmakers who wish to develop their creative practice and have it considered as research. Given the practicalities of screen production, there seem to be many obstacles for screen production academics to find the necessary time to produce appropriate works in either the academic or external professional environment. The essay film, a form that can integrate creative and academic perspectives in a hybrid style and that can incorporate documentary, drama and personal reflection, seems to be a genre with potential to address many of the difficulties identified. This article will explore the relevance of this style of creative practice to the contemporary academic environment, in both conceptual and pragmatic terms.


Berkeley, L 2013, ‘Reflections on a post-doctoral career in screen production’, IM: Interactive Media, no. 9.

Refereed Journal Article
Situating Machinima in the New Mediascape

Abstract: This article investigates the emerging internet phenomenon of machinima, which has been described as an example of the convergence occurring between computer games, films and the Web. Looking both forward and back, machinima uses 3D game engines and networked environments to produce work that is primarily traditional, linear and narrative. The use of the internet by the machinima community to promote the form was evaluated and the apparent conservatism of machinima’s approaches to visual storytelling was considered. Through my research, which combined a critical viewing of key works, a review of relevant literature and a practice-based component producing a machinima work entitled ‘Ending With Andre’ – which screened at the 2005 Machinima Film Festival in New York – I have argued that one of the most distinctive features of the form is not apparent in the finished work but occurs during the production process, in the ways the user/filmmaker interacts with a 3D game environment.


Berkeley, L 2006, ‘Situating Machinima in the New Mediascape’, The Australian Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 65-80.

Refereed Creative Work
How To Change The World

Abstract: How To Change The World is a playful tapestry of stories woven around a decaying neighbourhood pub called The Junction Hotel. At the heart of the film is Max, the pub’s ageing owner, and his struggle to keep the Junction open for the sake of his loyal but diminishing band of regular customers. As part of his increasingly desperate efforts, Max renames the pub The Progress Bar, brings in young bands and introduces contemporary international cuisine. But things don’t turn out exactly as he hoped. Swirling around Max are a series of other events at the pub, from the troubled emotional life of a young Indian barmaid paying her way through uni to the appearance of two dead television journalists, whose ghosts present a news story featuring an ethereal angle on the social and political issues of the day. A disillusioned dishwasher, a juggling salesman and a creepy cleaner who believes there is truth in rubbish are among the other characters who have an impact on the unfolding events surrounding the future of the pub. Meanwhile, a wide range of customers drink at the bar and tell stories, reflect on world problems and chat about their everyday lives. Like the film, these pub conversations don’t find any easy answers to the issues being discussed. But when it comes to changing the world, things are often not as easy as they seem.


Berkeley, L 2008, ‘How To Change The World’, Triple peer review through the Australian Screen Production Education & Research Association (ASPERA).

Refereed Journal Article
Creative destruction: Screen production research, theory and affect

Abstract: The documentary film 600 Mills was explicitly funded and produced as an academic research project, designed to investigate, through cinematic means, the decline of the textile industry in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick. Drawing on the work of Thrift, Deleuze and Guattari, Massumi and others, it is argued that the film production process uses ‘affect’ as a form of sensory knowing that can engage with relevant theory and be used to conceive of film-making as a valid form of academic research. This article discusses the approach taken by three film-maker researchers in making a film that, instead of using the medium to convey information or communicate research findings gathered through other means, seeks to use the creative possibilities of film production to convey knowledge about a complex human, social and historical process.

‘Creative destruction: Screen production research, theory and affect’


Leo Berkeley; Martin Wood; Smiljana Glisovic Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, Volume 9, Numbers 1-2, 1 March 2016, pp. 7-31(25)

Refereed Journal Article
Screen Production Enquiry:A Study of Five Australian Doctorates

Abstract: Within Australian universities, doctoral research in screen production is growing significantly. Two recent studies have documented both the scale of this research and inconsistencies in the requirements of the degree. These institutional variations, combined with a lack of clarity around appropriate methodologies for academic research through film and television practice, create challenges for students, supervisors, examiners and the overall development of the discipline. This paper will examine five recent doctorates in screen production practice at five different Australian universities. It will look at the nature of the films made, the research questions the candidates were investigating, the new knowledge claims that were produced and the subsequent impact of the research. The various methodologies used will be given particular attention because they help define the nature of the research where film production is a primary research method.

‘Screen production enquiry: a study of five Australian doctorates’


Susan Kerrigan, Leo Berkeley, Sean Maher, Michael Sergi, Alison Wotherspoon Studies in Australasian Cinema Vol. 9, Iss. 2, 2015 pages 93-109

Refereed Journal Article
Between Chaos and Control: improvisation in the Screen Production Process

Abstract: There is nothing new about improvised acting in film. It has a significant but relatively minor position in the history of screen drama. The prevalence of improvisation is arguably increasing in an era where the costs of filming are reducing, which previously was a strong disincentive to take the looser, less controlled approach of shooting unscripted dialogue and action. Through looking at the recent production of a film drama where unscripted dialogue was used, it will be argued that approaches that more explicitly engage with concepts of improvisation offer both risks and possibilities for the creative process of screen production.


Berkeley , L 2011, ‘Between Chaos and Control: improvisation in the Screen Production Process’, TEXT Special Issue No 11 ASPERA: New Screens, New Producers, New Learning.

Refereed Conference Paper
The Anonymous Actor: ethics and screen production research

Abstract: All research in Australian universities involving human participants needs approval from human research ethics committees, who make judgments consistent with accepted ethical principles that have recently been captured in the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007). Making a film as an academic research project is a relatively recent phenomenon and there are apparent contradictions between the requirements for ethics approval and the accepted practice of screen production.


Berkeley, L 2009, ‘The Anonymous Actor: ethics and screen production research’, National Conference, Australian Screen Production Education & Research Association (ASPERA), Adelaide, July 8-10, 2009.

Journal Article
Telling Tales: the absence of drama on Australian community television

Abstract: Why is there virtually no drama on Australian community television? Within this sector of the Australian media, the potential of fictional screen narratives to powerfully and imaginatively explore human experience in relation to issues of cultural diversity, social equity and community change has been unrealised. Are the demands in time, money and effort of this form of production too great for predominantly non-professional and un-funded program creators and producers? In the digital era, the blurred media space between the professional and the amateur has been expanding and changing. In relation to film and television, this increasingly significant space is occupied by community television and a range of independent producers with alternative creative and cultural perspectives. This paper discusses the research I have been undertaking into the practical and creative possibilities and constraints of “no-budget” television drama production and the impact a lack of money has on the creative outcomes of a project. Drawing on the work of writers such as Bourdieu and Bakhtin, as well as filmmakers such as Alexander Kluge, my practice-based research has been investigating the production process for a no-budget television program, which has a particular focus on issues of social change and formal innovation.


Berkeley, L 2007, ‘Telling Tales: the absence of drama on Australian community television’, Global Media Journal Australian Edition, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 65-80.

Research / Scholarship Funding, Grants & Awards
  • 2015 ‘Investigating the Use of Film to Evoke Organisational Innovation’: An RMIT Global Cities Research Institute 2015 Project Funding Program grant to make a film exploring the textile industry in Brunswick (with Professor Martin Wood and Dr Smiljana Glisovic).
  • 2011-13 Australian Learning & Teaching Council Grant: Developing a collaborative national postgraduate research program for 22 Australian film schools (Participation in research project as one of six partner institutions with Murdoch University, Melbourne, UTS, Griffith University and Flinders Universities).
  • 2008 Chief Investigator: Protospace Design Project, Australasian CRC for Interaction Design
  • 2008 RMIT University Learning & Teaching Investment Fund: Screen Production Project – the development of a cross-sector, cross-School and cross-disciplinary elective.
  • 2008 Australian Learning & Teaching Council Grant: Assessing Graduate Screen Production Outputs in Nineteen Australian Film Schools (Participation in research project as one of six partner institutions with Murdoch University, VCA, UTS, Griffith University and Flinders Universities).
  • 2008 Australian Teaching and Learning Council Citation: For the collaborative delivery of a program that enhances student knowledge through integrating process based learning with practice, and fostering links between pedagogy and industry (as a member of the Media program team).
  • 2007 Certificate of Achievement, RMIT University Teaching Awards: For a significant contribution to teaching in the category of ‘Innovation in Curricula, Learning & Teaching (as a member of the Media program team).
  • 2007 DSC Learning and Teaching Communities of Practice Fund, RMIT University, Creating a Community of Practice: Film & Television@RMIT, (with Molloy, V. & Lesinskis, J.).
Book Chapter
The 57 Tram: smartphone video production and the essay film

Abstract: The use of the smartphone as a high quality video camera has opened up a range of new creative possibilities for documentary filmmaking, taking advantage of these mobile devices’ extreme portability to move closer to Astruc’s dream of the camera-stylo, ‘a means of writing just as flexible and subtle as written language’. This paper will look at the production of a short essay film called ‘the 57’, about a tram route in Melbourne, using it as a case study to explore the opportunities for mobile phones to support new forms of filmmaking about the experience of everyday life. ‘The 57’ was shot entirely with an iPhone. Through images and sound, the film reflects on the feelings, sensory experiences and material practices associated with everyday tram travel. The paper will extend this reflection into considering the aesthetic possibilities associated with smartphones and the ways they can support a sustainable approach to micro-budget filmmaking in an academic research context.

Berkeley, L. (2014). The 57 Tram: smartphone video production and the essay film In M. Berry & M. Schleser (Eds.), Mobile Media Making in an Age of Smartphones. New York: Palgrave Pivot.
Refereed Journal Article
Community Media and Ethical Choice

Abstract: The internet provides a means for non-professional media-makers to produce and publish their own video and audio content, as community television and radio have done for several decades. While the web seems to exemplify the principles of media access and diversity championed by the community media sector, it also raises challenges for broadcast community media participants and their online equivalents, not least being the co-opting of the term ‘community media’ by large commercial interests. A symposium held in Melbourne by Open Spectrum Australia (‘Quality/Control’, State Library of Victoria, Oct 2008) brought together people with a wide range of community media experience to discuss this and other issues, particularly the possibilities for greater cooperation between broadcast and online community media participants.

Rennie, E., Berkeley, L. & Murphet, B. 2010, ‘Community Media and Ethical Choice’, 3CMedia, no. 6, pg 11-25.
Refereed Conference Paper
A Good Take: the process as a site for screen production research

Abstract: Leo Berkeley’s paper A Good Take – the process as a site for screen production research raises issues about the challenges involved in developing screen production as a distinct field of academic research. Drawing on his experiences making the film How To Change The World, he argues for a focus on the production process as a site where screen production research can both define itself as a distinct field of study and produce knowledge that is of relevance and value to the screen production industries.

Berkeley, L 2008, ‘A Good Take: the process as a site for screen production research’, National Conference, Australian Screen Production Education & Research Association (ASPERA), Melbourne, July 15, 2008.
Refereed Journal Article
Media education and new technology: a case study of major curriculum change within a university media degree

Abstract: The Bachelor of Communication (Media) degree at RMIT University has been in existence for 30 years. It has offered students both an academic education in humanities and communication fields and a professional education in practical television and radio production. However, until recently, there have been virtually no links between the academic and production components of the degree. Concerns about this educationally schizophrenic structure, combined with a realization of significant changes in the media production industries, prompted a comprehensive review of the degree. The degree that emerged from the review has an emphasis on process-based learning and network literacy. Every student has a blog, which is a fully public networked document used in core subjects and all year levels. Video and audio are incorporated into blogs and students are encouraged to produce academic texts that include all forms of media. Through these and other changes, the curriculum encourages students to become independent learners in a rapidly changing media environment.

‘Media education and new technology: a case study of major curriculum change within a university media degree’

Berkeley, Leo; Source: Journal of Media Practice, Volume 10, Numbers 2-3, 1 June 2009, pp. 185-197(13)