Dominic Lees: PhD in Film, Theatre & Television
Dominic Lees is a filmmaker and PhD student in the Department of Film, Theatre & Television.
Before coming to the University of Reading, Dominic was a director of independent film and mainstream TV drama. He had made over 30 episodes of popular episodic television, several short films and low-budget indie feature film.
Dominic didn't have a background in film studies, but he was increasingly becoming interested in it. He started to teach film practice part-time but wanted to further deepen his knowledge. He was drawn to study here because of how the Department approaches the study of these arts with a strong interest in practice.
"In particular, I had read John Gibbs: his work made film studies relevant to me for the first time. He writes beautifully about mise-en-scene, creative decision-making within film practice; he had spent time on film sets watching filmmakers and brought this into his work. As a filmmaker myself, this made me want to pursue my research ideas at Reading."
Exploring the theory of film practice
Dominic's doctoral research is on the theory of film practice, focusing in particular on an area that is currently under-theorised: the working methods and creative intentions of the film director.
The Department is home to a number of experts in film theory, and Dominic's work has benefitted greatly from the support they give to help develop his critical skills. Forums based within the Department for postgraduate students, such as the "Sewing Circle", make for a very inclusive environment too.
A stimulating, Multidisciplinary study environment
Dominic brings a lot of knowledge and technical expertise with him as a result of his professional background, but studying within the Department has nevertheless presented him with some exciting new opportunities.
"The context of film scholarship has allowed me to risk making a film of a sort that was completely new to me (a historical drama), which might not have been possible in the commercial environment that I came from."
The Department's multidisciplinary environment has also given Dominic exposure to theatre studies, which has influenced the emphasis of his own film work. For example, some of his peers are researching in the area of performance and drama, and this has led to his own film work becoming more focused on the actor. It is leading him to adopt creative practices that are enriching his approach to making films.
Bridging the thought gap between industry and academia
The integration of theoretical approaches to film with creative practice itself is what Dominic believes has benefited him most during his studies here.
"In the film and television industries, there is normally a hostility to any highbrow, scholarly attitude to production: it's a very craft-based environment. My research at Reading helps me bridge the divide between that culture and the world of film scholarship, which has so much to give to filmmakers if only they would listen (and if only scholars could find a way to communicate better)."
Developing you into a critically informed filmmaker
Dominic's time at Reading has enhanced his understanding of both film theory and practice dramatically.
"I feel that now I can look at the creative choices that I make during a production and better understand where they are coming from; I can critically assess their relevance to the creative intentions that I have for a film. At Reading, I have developed a much more sophisticated understanding of mise-en-scene and how my choices impact on the audience. So I'm a better filmmaker as a result."