Essay Awards

Essay Awards

Screen offers two Awards running in alternate years.

The Annette Kuhn Debut Essay Award recognises emerging scholars in the field publishing in any journal. It was established in 2014 to mark Professor Kuhn’s contribution to the development of screen studies. The Award is currently paused and not accepting submissions until further notice.

The Screen Award recognises the best paper submitted to the journal during a specified period. The Award was established in 1994; following a 12-year hiatus, it recommenced in 2019. All articles published in Screen during the relevant period are eligible by default. The latest Award, covering volumes 63 (2022) and 64 (2023), has been announced. See below:

Annette Kuhn Debut Essay Award

The award is not currently accepting submissions. 

Entry criteria

The submitted essay should provide an original contribution to the theoretical or empirical exploration of screen media, but there are no requirements in terms of specific content or methodological approach.

  • It is the debut single-authored journal essay by the scholar
  • It has been or is due to be published in a refereed journal
  • The date of first publication falls between 1 January and 31 December of the relevant years (n.b. the date of first publication may be an online publication date in advance of a print issue)
  • It is written in English

 We will still consider your debut article under the following circumstances, although we request that you flag these up on your submission form:

  • You have previously published a different essay as a book chapter
  • You have previously published a different essay in a journal under special circumstances (such as an undergraduate essay prize where you did not compete in an open, blind peer-reviewed forum)
  • You have previously published a conference report, book review or similar short piece in a peer-reviewed journal
  • You have previously published no more than one co-authored essay in a peer-reviewed journal
  • You previously published this essay in another language, but both the initial publication and the English-language publication fall within the relevant calendar years


Previous Debut Award Winners


The Editors are pleased to announce the results of the Annette Kuhn Debut Essay Award for essays published in 2018-9. 


  • Lucia Nagib (University of Reading) 
  • Alastair Phillips (University of Warwick) 
  • Jackie Stacey (University of Manchester) 
  • Will Straw (McGill University) 

Joint Winners 

  • Mal Ahern (Assistant Professor, University of Washington) 
    ‘Cinema’s automatisms and industrial automation’ (Diacritics, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 6–33) 
  • Rachel Fabian (Visiting Assistant Professor, Purchase College) 
    ‘Reconsidering the work of Claire Johnson’ (Feminist Media Histories, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 244–73) 

Highly Commended 

  • Jennifer Hessler (PhD candidate, University of California, Santa Barbara) 
    ‘Quality you can’t touch: Mubi Social, platform politics and the online distribution of art cinema’ (The Velvet Light Trap, no. 82, pp. 3–17) 
  • Rakesh Sengupta (PhD candidate, SOAS, University of London) 
    ‘Writing from the margins of media’ (Bioscope, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 117–36) 

On behalf of the panel, Professor Jackie Stacey congratulates the Award winners. 

Judges’ comments: 

Mal Ahern 
‘Cinema’s automatisms and industrial automation’ 

  • This piece offers a truly innovative approach to the fundamental question of the film medium’s automatism. The author places cinema between artistic automatism and industrial automation in order to align it with other arts – notably conceptual arts. This very original and exciting article is bound to inflect the debate on the very definition of cinema. 
  • Through a sparkling combination of theory and history, this article offers an excellent intervention into debates about cinema’s automatism in relation to other recording media. 
  • A very erudite, interesting and original treatment of the concept of mechanical registering in cinema in relation to other arts. 
  • Wonderfully detailed readings are carefully blended with an expansive conceptual reach, and the focus on the history of film form – balanced with an extensive interdisciplinary scope – is judiciously delivered. 

Rachel Fabian 
‘Reconsidering the work of Claire Johnson’ 

  • This is an excellent essay that resituates the contribution of ‘cinefeminist’ Claire Johnston beyond her canonical essay ‘Women’s cinema as counter-cinema’. 
  • The article skilfully articulates Johnston’s militance on theory, film practice and social activism, historicising the evolution of her concepts in relation to women’s filmmaking in general and the nascent feminist film movement in particular. 
  • This original study of the work of Claire Johnson makes a highly significant contribution to our understanding of the history and contexts of feminist film theory and practice. This is an extraordinarily well-researched, insightful and important article. 
  • Meticulously researched and beautifully written, it offers an exemplary combination of theoretical and political contextualisation that returns us to a reframed 1970s. This article will become a key text in its field. 

Jennifer Hessler 
‘Quality you can’t touch: Mubi Social, platform politics and the online distribution of art cinema’ 

  • This is a timely and necessary appraisal of the current VOD sphere, by means of a critical history of the Mubi artfilm platform. It is fascinating to read how Mubi changed from a focus on auteurism to another on individual films, and from an essentially interactive service to a patronising one. In the process of retelling how this happened, the author ends up producing a revealing diagnosis of the workings, strategies and targets of streaming services in general. 
  • Every step of the argumentation in this article is substantiated with evidence collected from online discussion forums and abundant documentation, in a piece which is sophisticated, yet easy to read, well-structured, yet accounting for all the contingencies of this market. 
  • Concise and carefully substantiated, this article will become a key text in its field. A perfect example of how the close reading of one platform (Mubi) can demonstrate both its own specific evolution and reach out to map a broader set of historical and conceptual concerns with changing mediascapes in contemporary digital cultures. 
  • This article is very engaging – especially in the current moment, when so many of us in quarantine are engaging with on-line streaming. I learned a great deal, and the invocations of taste theory and platform analysis are very well handled. 

Rakesh Sengupta 
‘Writing from the margins of media’ 

  • This article takes a particular practice – screenwriting – and uses it to reconstruct the history of almost the entirety of Indian film industries at a key point in their transition. The notion of intermediality is well deployed without overwhelming the historical detail. The level of research seems impeccable, and there are fascinating side themes, like the international sale of film story treatments in the 1920s. It’s been a long time since I read an article from which I learned so much. 
  • This is an extremely well-researched paper that unveils the wealth of ‘spectral’ scriptwriting practices for film in the early talkies in India. It also seeks to develop a more encompassing historical narrative of Indian cinema by understanding the modes through which scripts were conceived of in connection with theatre and other printed narratives. 
  • There is an admirable breadth of research in this article and the recourse to scriptwriting manuals is ingenious. 
  • The impressively detailed research in this article on the history of screen-writing in a key transition in Indian cinema presents an abundance of original and fascinating sources. Deploying an intermedial approach, it delivers a major challenge to existing assumptions about the organisation of the industry at this time. 


Virtual Healing: Militarizing the Psyche in Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (Television and New Media, 2017) by Sasha Crawford-Holland, University of Southern California


  • Professor Dimitris Eleftheriotis, Screen Editor
  • Professor Karen Lury, Screen Editor
  • Professor Erica Carter, Screen Advisory Board
  • Dr Helen Piper, Screen Advisory Board

Sasha's winning essay focused on the use of virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. On the one hand, this might appear to be outside of what is regarded as more familiar ‘territory’ to screen and media studies scholars; on the other hand, its focus on virtual reality, trauma and psychoanalysis means that it could not be more timely and more resonant for our various disciplinary interests. 

"This is an extraordinary article. It told me a thousand things I felt I should already have known about gaming technology and war, and it did so in ways that were both persuasive and horrifying.” She continued: “The essay was important … as a window on a world that isn’t regularly focused on in screen studies, but that needs critical attention of the kind it receives here (and with considerable flair and energy)."

"A fascinating, rigorous, well-structured and entirely cogent argument which uses secondary insight from a wide range of material … [and] which I found entirely convincing. Challenging the inherent logic of the psychotherapist's assumption that anything of proven benefit must be positive, the author demonstrates the critical and therapeutic implications of fighting fire with fire."


The Asexual-Single and the Collective: Remaking Queer Bonds in (A)sexual, Bill Cunningham New York, and Year of the Dog (Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies 31, no. 1 91, 2016: 27-63) by Marc Francis, PhD candidate at the University of California, Santa Cruz


  • Professor Tim Bergfelder, Screen Editor
  • Professor Alison Butler, Screen Editor
  • Professor Claudia Gorbman, Screen Advisory Board
  • Professor Belén Vidal, Screen Advisory Board

"This essay explores genuinely new territory. In the process, it interrogates even the most progressive existing paradigms of discourse on sexuality. The three films it treats are aptly chosen and the theoretical and critical landscape it traverses is fascinating and new. In eloquent and accessible prose, Francis makes an important and inspiring case for the potential of representations of asexuality and singlehood to disturb the larger legitimating sexual and romantic order of things, giving rise (perhaps paradoxically) to create new possibilities for collectivity. The essay resonates with one of Screen’s strongest traditions, challenging normative representations of sex and gender and theorizing progressive alternatives."

The judges also offered their highest commendation to runner-up Kirsty Sinclair Dootson, PhD candidate at the University of Yale, for The Hollywood Powder Puff War: Technicolor Cosmetics in the 1930s (Film History 28, No. 1, 2016, pp. 107-131).

"This was a great example of detailed materialist historical research, excavating the industrial history of an apparently minor aspect of film production in a way that opens out into wider social and cultural histories, going beyond the technological and aesthetic questions signalled in the title, to engage with labour relations in the film industry and racialised constructions of beauty in Hollywood."


To Infinity and Back Again: Hand-drawn Aesthetic and Affection for the Past in Pixar's Pioneering Animation (Alphaville Journal of Film and Screen Media, issue 8) by Helen Haswell, Queen's University Belfast


  • Professor Tim Bergfelder, Screen Editor
  • Professor Sarah Street, Screen Editor
  • Professor Laura Rascaroli, Screen Advisory Board
  • Professor Ravi Vasuvedan, Screen Advisory Board

"This article takes a fresh look at Pixar’s output, identifying a nostalgic sensibility in its conscious employment of hand-drawn aesthetics within digital animation. The award panel was very impressed with how the article confidently balances aesthetic evaluation and analysis of corporate strategies, showing how these mutually reinforce each other. The number of pertinent examples and attention to technical contexts is impressive. The article is also written clearly and with a confident grasp of the interrelated issues in evaluating the persistence of stylistic modes that might be regarded as regressive within new technological development. In all, the article achieves an excellent balance of breadth, originality, coherence of argument, quality of analysis, contribution to knowledge and potential to generate scholarship."

Luci Marzola was highly commended for 'Better Pictures Through Chemistry: DuPont and the Fight for the Hollywood Film Stock Market' (Velvet Light Trap, 76).

"This is a very sophisticated, thoroughly researched example of materialist film history at its best: original and illuminating, and filling a real gap in our understanding of film history. The award panel was very impressed by the terms of this article’s reach, scholarly apparatus and sophistication of argument. In all, the article is an accomplished archival account of the move of armaments industry into the raw stock market and contributes an excellent addition to film history."



  • Professor Alastair Phillips, Screen Editor
  • Professor Jackie Stacey, Screen Editor
  • Professor Christine Geraghty, Screen Advisory Board
  • Professor Catherine Grant, Screen Advisory Board

The prize was awarded jointly to Maggie Hennefeld and Peter Snowdon as follows.

Slapstick comediennes

Camera Obscura 86, vol. 29, no. 2 (2014), pp. 85–116

Maggie Hennefeld, University of Minnesota

This is an engagingly written piece of original and scrupulously researched scholarship, which argues that early silent film comediennes’ bodily performances played an instrumental role in the negotiation of significant industrial transitions in cinematic form. The article explores how these comediennes simultaneously intersected with the shifting and contradictory meanings of femininity at the time of production and reception. The author demonstrates a profound level of engagement with the field and argues her case through a nuanced combination of detailed and revealing close film analysis and carefully presented social contextualisation. The essay possesses a mature and fully realised critical voice that has the capacity to reach well beyond the immediate confines of the discipline and speak to wider significant concerns regarding femininity and cultural history.

The revolution will be uploaded: vernacular video and the Arab Spring

Culture Unbound, vol. 6 (2014), pp. 401–29

Peter Snowdon, University of Hasselt

The author succeeds admirably in the very difficult task of writing genuinely scholarly work about very recent media texts. Powerfully written and carefully structured, this is an exciting and original attempt to bridge theory/practice, aesthetic/politics divisions and to intervene in broader debates about vernacular online video produced by the Arab revolutions. Prompted by Judith Butler’s work on the performativity of ‘the people’, the article makes a strong and important argument that these videos are examples of what Jacques Rancière calls the ‘redistribution of the sensible’. The article stands out for the clarity with which it develops its argument for a re-definition of Ivan Illych’s writing on ‘vernacular video’ and for the careful and creative ways in which it makes its close readings of one particular video from the Libyan uprising.

The judges also offered their highest commendation to Annie Fee for ‘“Gaumont offers La Russie Rouge and all Paris takes sides”: working-class activism in Paris cinemas, 1921–1922’, Early Popular Visual Culture, vol.12, no. 2 (2014), pp. 238–59. They remarked,

This is a thoroughly absorbing and sustained piece of original historical scholarship, which draws on an impressively wide range of archival material. The article weaves together a detailed commentary on the specificity of cinema space and audience engagement, giving a real sense of what it might have been like to be in the audience for the screenings of La Russie Rouge. At the same time, the essay develops a thoughtful and persuasive argument about what this case tells us about French cinema culture more generally during this period. As such, it thus has much to say about wider relevant debates within the field concerning film exhibition, social class and the emergence of cinephilia as a major critical discourse.


Screen Award Winners & Honourable Mentions 2023

Panel: Professor Tim Bergfelder (Screen), Professor Lucía Nagib (University of Reading), Professor Jean Ma (University of Hong Kong), Professor Joshua Yumibe (Screen)


Melanie Bell:

Feminist histories of costuming film: Gordon Conway, 1930s British cinema and the collaborative world of Mayfair sewing, Screen (64:2), Summer 2023

Melanie Bell’s piece is a model of innovative research. With remarkable depth and archival rigour, this article plumbs the collaborative and feminist nature of costume design in film. From the archival discovery of designer Gordon Conway’s diaries and scrapbooks, the author develops a cogent argument on the importance of costume design for film in 1930s Britain, which was a realm exclusively inhabited by women, from the modest seamstress to the sagacious socialite designer, whose specialist skills define the female star’s own acting style. Bell excavates through extensive archival research the nature of the contract work Conway carried out on British films to reconstruct the elaborate workflows and depth of expertise that went into costume design in the 1930s. Helping to deconstruct the idea of the male director as the supreme creator of a film, the paper unveils a fascinating facet of cinematic authorship, grounded in the society of the time but leaving a lasting legacy in cinema worldwide.

Honourable Mention

Ariel Rogers, Framing VR, Screen (64: 3), Autumn 2023

Focussing on the VR documentary Traveling While Black (2019), in which both reflexive mediality and illusionistic transparency are simultaneously played out, Ariel Rogers’ essay theorizes the nature of the virtual reality frame in relation to its formal as well as political and racial horizons. Rogers challenges the understanding of VR as an open space by locating and defining its peculiar framing devices. Embedding the analysis an expansive history of the frame in film and media, Rogers expertly delineates the specificities and possibilities of racial address in virtual reality.

Honourable Mention

Luca Caminati: Italian anti-colonial cinema: global liberation movements and the third-worldist films of the long ’68, Screen (63: 2), Summer 2022

Caminati’s account of third-worldist films in 1960s Italy maps out a remarkable and little-known body of radically engaged political cinema. The movement’s importance in supporting and responding to revolutionary currents elsewhere, including Brazilian Cinema Novo and Third Cinema in Latin America, shines through the analysis of a treasure trove of filmmakers, films and publications, hitherto largely neglected in Italian cinema scholarship. Moreover, the analysis importantly centres the anti-colonial emphases of these films from the 1960s and 1970s in ways that puts them into dialogue with the current moment of decolonial efforts.

Previous Screen Award Winners


Panel: Professor Karen Lury, Professor Alison Butler from Screen, Professor Richard Rushton from Screen’s advisory board, and Professor Malini Guha of Carleton University

Kirsty Dootson and Zhaoyu Zhu

Did Madame Mao dream in Technicolor? Rethinking Cold War colour cinema through Technicolor’s ‘Chinese copy’ (Screen 61/3, Autumn 2020)

Ariel Rogers‘ article, Screen Practices and Hollywood Cinema in the 1930s (Screen 60/2, Summer 2019) was highly commended.


Panel: Tim Bergfelder, Corey Creekmur, Mette Hjort, Sarah Street

Winner: Diana W. Anselmo for 'Betwixt and between, forever sixteen: American silent cinema and the emergence of female adolescence' (58:3)

"This article truly delivers on its stated intentions, which are to sketch an alternative historiographical method to survey how girlhood was both performed and experienced in American culture during the second decade of the twentieth century. This is an excellent piece of film history, taking an underappreciated source as its central concern, as well as the social dimensions of the ‘sweet sixteen’ phenomenon in American culture. It delivers new insights about a period that’s been written about extensively, as well as drawing on a new source of material requiring a particular methodology. In all it is an original and meticulously researched piece that offers a new perspective on silent cinema history. It is argumentatively compelling, methodologically current, and highly readable."

Honourable Mention: Melanie Bell for 'Learning to Listen: histories of women’s soundwork in the British film industry' (58:4)

‘This essay is the first sustained academic analysis of women’s contributions to soundwork in the British film industry. The scholarship is rigorous and wide-ranging, forming the basis for a well-argued position that makes a significant contribution to our understanding of practitioners’ agency, as it relates to women in film, especially in below-the-line roles. The research presented is part of an important project on women’s work in the film and television industries. It presents a very thorough historical analysis, firmly and explicitly grounded in feminist historiography and new developments in that field’.

Earlier winners

2006/07: Chris Cagle for 'Two modes of prestige film' (48:3)

2004/05: Helen Piper for 'Reality TV, Wife Swap and the Drama of Banality' (45:4) and Malin Wahlberg (Stockholm University), for 'Wonders of Cinematic Abstraction: JC Mol and the Aesthetic Experience of Science Film' (47:3) 

2002: Jodi Brooks for 'Ghosting the machine: the sounds of tap and the sounds of film' (44:4)

1998-9: Julianne Pidduck for 'Of windows and country walks: frames of space and movement in 1990s Austen adapations' (39:4)

1996-7: Lalitha Gopalan for  'Avenging women in Indian cinema' (38:1)

1994-5: Ravi Vasudevan for  'Addressing the spectator of a 'third world' national cinema: the Bombay "social" film of the 1940s and 1950s' (36:4) and Shelley Stamp Lindsey for 'Is any girl safe?: female spectators at the white slave films' (37:1)