Dr Melanie Bell
Associate Professor in Film & Media
Clothworkers' North, Room 1.28
BA; MA; PhD
Learning to Listen: Histories of Women’s Soundwork in the British Film Industry, Screen, Vol. 58, Issue 4 (2017), pp. 437-457.
I completed my PhD at the University of Hull’s Department of Gender Studies in 2004 and then took up a post as Film Studies lecturer at the University of Newcastle. During my ten years at Newcastle I convened the MA Film Studies programme and served as Acting Director of the Research Centre for Film and Digital Media (RCFDM). I won a major AHRC award in 2014 to research the history of women in the British Film and Television Industries. This project combined statistical analysis with oral history interviewing to examine women’s economic and creative contribution to cultural production in British film and television. I joined the University of Leeds School of Media and Communication in 2016 as an Associate Professor in Film and Media.
My principal research interest is the relationship between gender and film, with an emphasis on production and representation. Within the context of British film and cinema I’m interested in women’s involvement in the production process and questions of agency, authorship, gender and production cultures, and textual femininities/screen representations of women. I have published widely in this field including ‘Femininity in the Frame’ (2010), a co-edited collection ‘British Women’s Cinema’ (2010) and a special edition ‘Working Women, Women’s Work: Production, History, Gender’ for the Journal of British Cinema and Television (Vol. 10.3: 2013).
Gender, Cultural Labour, Cultural Production
Feminist Film History and Historiography
Archives (digital and paper) and Epistemology
Oral History Interviewing (as a practice and a feminist methodology).
I recently completed a star study of Julie Christie which explores questions of performance and creative labour. Combining archival research (film scripts, publicity materials, press packs, correspondence, memoirs), interview material and textual analysis, this project is situated at the interface between star studies, organisational studies and feminist film historiography. It understands acting as work, and conceptualises Christie as a social subject, performing a job within a labour system. It asks how that process has been informed by the actor’s feminism, and addresses wider questions about the relationship between women, cultural production and the political economy of film. The monograph ‘Julie Christie: Stardom and Authorship’ is published by the British Film Institute/Palgrave in Spring 2016.
My current project ‘A History of Women in the British Film and Television Industries, 1933-89’ is a collaboration between the Universities of Leeds (Dr Melanie Bell, Principal Investigator), De Montfort (Dr Vicky Ball, Co-Investigator) and BECTU, the film and television union for the UK.
The project has two aims: first, a quantitative survey of the numbers of women in the industries (using union membership applications and BBC staff lists); second, to explore women’s experiences of working in the industries (using oral history testimony). Through these two different types of historical source material the team will build a history of women’s contribution to, and experience of, film and television production.
Topics I am researching include: ideas about creativity in labour markets, the role of gender in the formation of production cultures, and the performance of modern female selfhood in the oral history interview.
One of the project’s major outputs is a digital resource featuring statistical information (gleaned from 67,000 union membership application forms), oral history interviews, profiles of individual women and case studies of production roles including costume design, make-up, editing, producing and script-writing. The digital resource is being designed in collaboration with the British Universities Film and Video Council and will be available to the research community in 2017.
Although historical in focus the project asks: what kind of wider impact on current working practices might follow from its research? Through our partnership with the union and other industry bodies we aim to connect the past with the present and provide evidence and knowledge which can support campaigns for change.
Module Leader for COMM3250 & COM5250 Feminism, Media and Identity.
I also contribute to COMM1970: Introduction to Media and Communication Theory.
Director of Impact (with my colleague Simon Popple)
Julie Christie (British Film Institute, 2016),
Femininity in the Frame Women and 1950s British Popular Cinema (I.B.Tauris, 2009),
British Women's Cinema (Routledge, 2009),
‘Young, Single, Disillusioned: The Screen Heroine in 1960s British Cinema’, The Yearbook of English Studies, 42 (2012), 79-79,
‘Film Criticism as “Women’s Work”: the Gendered Economy of Film Criticism in Britain, 1945-65’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 2011,
‘Feminism and Women’s Film Criticism in Post-war Britain: 1945-59’, Feminist Media Studies’, Feminist Media Studies 2011,
‘Fifty Years of Screen , 1959–2009’, Journal of British Cinema and Television, 7.3 (2010), 479-485,
‘Quality’, Cinema and the ‘Superior Woman’ Persona: understanding women’s film criticism in post‐war Britain (1945–59)’, Women's History Review, 19.5 (2010), 703-719,
‘Shop-soiled’ Women: Female Sexuality and the Figure of the Prostitute in 1950s British Cinema’, Journal of British Cinema and Television, 3.2 (2006), 266-283,
‘Fatal Femininity in post-war British film: investigating the British femme’ ([n.pub.], 2010), 98-112,
Research Projects & Grants
2014-2017 (£500,000, AHRC) ‘A History of Women in the British Film & Television Industries (1933-89)‘, a collaboration between the Universities of Leeds, De Montfort and BECTU, the UK’s media and entertainment union.
2009 (£21,575 AHRC) Research Leave Scheme
2006 (£1,190) British Academy Small Grants
2002, University of Hull, Department of Gender Studies, doctoral scholarship
Research Centres & Groups
Feminist Reading Group
Visual and Digital Cultures
Cultural Production and Media Policy
Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of British Cinema and Television.
I served as external examiner for the undergraduate Film programme at the University of Sunderland (2011-14).
PhD & Postdoctoral Supervision
Frances Galt (AHRC), ‘Women, unions and the British Film & Television Industries’ (2014-current)
Barbara Williams (AHRC), ‘The Contemporary Country House Novel’ (completed 2015)
Katherine Cooper (AHRC), ‘Nationhood and Storm Jameson’ (completed 2013)
Katherine Farrimond (AHRC), ‘The Femme Fatale in Contemporary Cinema’ (completed 2011)
Noel Brown, ‘The Hollywood Family Film’ (completed 2011)
I was Internal Examiner for the following theses:
2011 Adam Jones – Between Self and Other: Abjection and Unheimlichkeit in the Films of David Lynch (University of Newcastle, UK)
2010 Erin Hill Parks – Discourses of Cinematic Culture and the Hollywood Director: The Development of Christopher Nolan’s Auteur Persona (University of Newcastle, UK)
Out Now! Julie Christie – further information about the publication and ordering are available here:
Read about Melanie’s work on the Women and Film History Unit: http://womenandfilmhistoryunit.leeds.ac.uk/
See also http://melaniebell.webstarts.com/index.html