FACULTY PROFILE: SHANNON BROWNLEE

What do you do?

I teach and do my research in Film and Cinema and Media Studies.

What do you think is the best part of being a film and cinema and media studies scholar?

It’s a privilege and joy to be in a classroom in which everyone enjoys the subject matter – not every film or TV show or video we study, of course, but the medium. Moving images are important to people. And when you analyze moving images, you’re analyzing what makes people tick, what they fear, what they want. They’re a window onto individual psychology and onto societies.

Shannon Brownlee

What areas of research do you specialize in?  

My main areas of research are animated film and film adaptation.

Which publication or project of yours would you describe as your favourite? 

I’m not sure if it’s my favourite, but I’ve had the most enthusiastic and positive reception of my work on LEGO stop-motion animation. The topic itself is funny and perhaps even a bit embarrassing, but people really respond to it. And these quirky, amateur videos are a disarming way of starting a conversation about some serious topics like gender inequity and systemic racism as well as questions that are important today around non-professional content creation and the workings of sites like YouTube.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a couple of articles that emerge from cross-disciplinary collaborations. One is on uses of animation by the Dallaire Institute, housed here at Dalhousie. They use animation for teaching peacekeepers and raising awareness about their work, and they use it in adventurous and creative ways. It’s been exciting and eye-opening to understand more about their work and to engage with this very high-stakes application of animation.

Screenshot from Dallaire Institute website.

I’m also working on an article on sound and animation in Virtual Reality games. This research comes out of a directed reading course I did over the summer with three Cinema and Media Studies students and the Graphics and Experiential Media Lab at Dalhousie, in which the CMS students wrote Augmented Reality screenplays that the lab is realizing. We had really fascinating discussions with undergrads, grads, and faculty members in Computer Science that inspired my own research.

Screenshot from Graphics and Experiential Media Lab website at Dalhousie University.

What do you like best about living in the City of Halifax?  

Two things.

Professionally, I love that the independent film community is open and welcoming, and if there’s an event you envision, there’s a good chance you can make it happen. For example, you can work with organizations like the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative or the Animation Festival of Halifax or the Mayworks Halifax Festival of Working People & the Arts (I’m involved with all three) to invite a filmmaker you admire to give an artist talk or conduct a workshop or present their work in some other way.

The second thing I love about Halifax is personal: I love that the city is so walkable. You can reach a lot of places on foot, and it’s a beautiful trip to get there.

What advice can you offer any students interested in the performing arts?

Don’t let perceptions that there are very few careers in the arts put you off. First, this perception is ignorant: it’s true that it may be hard to work consistently in some roles such as (in the film world) director, but there are lots of other roles that the general public hasn’t even heard of that can be satisfying as well. You don’t have to do only one thing; being able to step into multiple roles is an asset.

Where can we find/read/see/hear some of your work?

Here’s one of my LEGO articles, published as open access with lots of embedded video. And in this video you can hear me talk about the independent course that my students did with the GEM lab.

Layout and editing by Jennifer Bain.

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