Dr Michael Franklin is a Lecturer in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at the Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship (ICCE), Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is a Visiting Fellow at CRASSH in 2024.

Q: You recently joined CRASSH as a Visiting Fellow. Could you tell us a little bit about what you are working on during your fellowship?

It is a wonderful privilege to be here. I am working on a project entitled ‘Streaming’s Third Act’ which looks at how different kinds of values (economic, aesthetic, sustainability, personal expression) are understood in the film industry’s highly dynamic environment – especially as pertains to audience and performance data.

This current era of Change, following the ‘acts’ of market Capture, and Competition, is characterised by power contests concerning streaming data. This knowledge infrastructure has a significant impact on valuation processes, with important implications for national cultural sovereignty, labour conditions, and company viability. This is because new evaluative devices impact the types of films that can get made, who can make them, and how they get seen. This influences film as a public good and its ability to help us engage with the world and each other.

Being part of CRASSH allows me to expand my understanding of value. Our research practice seminars have addressed purposeful media in a variety of cultural settings including protest movements, climate change messaging, science fiction narratives and the generation of possible futures, whilst also investigating the mechanisms of engagement with such messages – be it book club or algorithm.

CRASSH has also afforded me the incredible opportunity to engage with Cambridge Digital Humanities’ work on audience interaction in digital theatre and computational approaches to movement in ballet and opera, as well as the incredible films and expert insights of resident filmmaker artist Associate Professor Igwe via Cambridge Film & Screen.

Q: What drew you to your research initially and what parts do you find particularly interesting?

I have worked on film since the start of my career, motivated by a love of the art, often viewing the field through the lens of risk and uncertainty. As crises have deepened across filmmaking sectors, prompting US strikes and a Parliamentary Inquiry in the UK, the humanity-enlarging effects of the ‘empathy machine’ as Ebert put it, seem under even greater threat.

However, there are positive technological and theoretical initiatives that provide motivation to reconceptualise the field. The potential for data innovation to unlock audiences and improve independents’ sustainability per the work of BBC R&D with Professor Sir Berners-Lee’s Solid project, and Professor Noam on an Open Video System, can be complemented by thinking at the intersection of philosophy of creativity and epistemology such as by Professor Gaut and Professor Hawley.

Drawing on lines of thinking from Dr Kaszynska who has argued for bridging the ANT-derived concentration of valuation studies on socio-technical assemblages, with more normative, critical interpretations of value from the humanities, I am extremely interested to extend that project to the platformisation of film.

Q: Is there anyone who has impacted your research in particular?

There are several people here at Cambridge whose brilliant work has inspired me and led me to this fellowship. Dr Vaughn at CRASSH has driven investigation of the sustainability of screen technology, bringing to the fore a previously under-recognised dimension of value considered by producers. Theorisation of the role of digital technology, including in the screen sector, in the work of Professor Bassett of Cambridge Digital Humanities is an incredible resource for understanding techno-sociality and the performativity of categorisation amongst many areas. The subject of risk and uncertainty is expertly examined within the art world by Dr Dempster of Wolfson College (where I am also currently based), providing a rich suite of conceptualisations that substantially expand knowledge of such a key creative force. Scholarship concerning the uncertain setting of valuation I investigate, film, has been substantially shaped by the award-winning work of Dr Hadida, Associate Professor of Judge Business School, not least through the Mallen Conference on the business of screen entertainment (this year hosted at Magdalene College). Having been so fortunate to be part of the 20th-anniversary edition at Studio Babelsberg and its resulting publication, another paper in that special issue had a great impact on my approach. Dr Hadida et al., 2021 made the key contribution to drive research beyond prior studies of correlates of film profitability, and on towards the stream of strategic decisions which mobilise the field.

Michael Franklin and the cover of his book 'Risk in the Film business'.

Q: If you are currently working on a publication, could you tell us about it?

My current working paper Promises, promises: exploring conflicting values and differential access to data in video streaming’s third act examines empirical evidence from film industry interviews and data analytics platform observations. Insight is drawn from across the value chain in the US and EU including production and development; distribution; exhibition; streamer platforms (licensing and technology); film finance; entertainment law, banking, and accountancy; film sector representative organisations; and media and communications policy. The paper examines the arrangement of knowledge, evaluation heuristics, individual and corporate dispositions and actions that co-constitute the industry, with particular recognition of the infrastructural organisational power of data and its economic and cultural value implications.

The policy import of these subjects is discussed in my evidence to the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee Inquiry into British film and High-End Television. These writings build on the work of my recent book: Risk in the Film Business: Known Unknowns. Routledge.

A note relating to the quotation by Tilda Swinton: To achieve the goals Tilda Swinton sets out in the Film Forever excerpt, to ensure independent voices bring amazing stories to our screens like those of Aftersun; Hale County This Morning, This Evening; Les Misérables (Ladj Ly); Rez Dogs; Burning; Ungentle, etc., significant work is required. It is underway in the EU and US but as the UK election announcement recently stopped the CMS Inquiry, leading to an unknown future for its report, the UK remains in a very challenging situation.

CRASSH welcomes the free expression of views within the law. Opinions expressed in this, and all other interviews and blogs published on our website are not necessarily shared by CRASSH or the University of Cambridge.



Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk