Essay Awards

Essay Awards

Screen offers two Awards running in alternate years. Both attract a £1,000 prize.

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 reopens for submissions in late 2021. See foot of page for eligibility criteria.

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 Award will next be presented in 2021.

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

Judging panel
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)
AND
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)
AND
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.

Annette Kuhn Debut Essay Award

The award is not currently accepting submissions. It will reopen in late 2021, to debut articles published between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021.

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

2018

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

Panel:

  • 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."

2017

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

Panel:

  • 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."

2016

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

Panel:

  • 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."


Previous Screen Award Winners

2019

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)