Film Theory and Philosophy

Patrick Brian Smith,
PhD Student at Concordia University’s
Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema
Jesse David Dinneen,
PhD Student at McGill University’s
School of Information Studies

Patrick Brian Smith and Jesse David Dinneen are PhD students from Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and McGill University’s School of Information Studies, respectively. Patrick and Jesse have been collaborating on a project to explore the practical and philosophical challenges of bibliometrics in film theory. Their different perspectives offer a rare insight into the multidisciplinary nature of their respective fields.


Patrick, you are studying at Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. Where does your interest in Film and Moving Image Studies stem from?

I suppose I had “cinephilic” inclinations from a very early age. I began to formally study cinema at undergraduate level, working towards a Bachelor’s degree at Anglia Ruskin Cambridge. I then undertook a Master’s degree at King’s College London. The study of film, as both an art form and social phenomenon, has always been crucial when examining larger socio-cultural shifts.


Jesse, you studied philosophy before coming to McGill’s School of Information Studies. Is there a specific area of philosophy you were most interested in before, and what motivates you to continue doing philosophical work?

Before information science I was most interested in topics in metaphysics and ethics like finding a satisfactory account of personal identity and what it would mean for how we reason about future populations, for example, when making decisions about consuming or conserving natural resources for our descendants. I still follow these topics, but I have shifted the focus of my own work to personal information management and philosophy of information. I think that philosophy complements empirical research well because it asks fundamental questions and uses interesting tools like thought experiments, broadening our understanding of the phenomena we are studying.


Patrick, film production involves so many different types of media. What kind of challenges does that present to you, as a film theorist?

From its earliest beginnings, the study of film usually came under the purview of other academic disciplines; sociology and English literature being just a couple of examples. As a result, academic study in this area has always been conscious of the multifaceted nature of film: its production, consumption and reception. As long as these various facets are productively imbricated, we can maintain an inclusive approach to the study of moving image media.


If you were asked to put your professional perspective aside and describe what first comes to mind when you encounter the word “information”, what would you say?

Jesse: I might be too close to this topic now to answer this question as it is, but perhaps my intuition would have included news, messages transferred over phone lines, or digital content like files.

Patrick: Maybe from an idyllic point of view, information seems to speak of materials that are useful and progressive. Though, of course, it’s often the opposite.


What is it like for you to collaborate on a project like “Bibliometrics in Film Theory”?

Patrick: It’s been refreshing to work with someone in an academic field that productively interrogates the applicable and useful purposes of information retrieval and knowledge production. Being reminded of the “whys” and “what-fors” always serves as a good reminder of a project’s larger goals, whilst also driving the research on and breaking new ground.

Jesse: At the outset I was interested in this project because I have some interest in bibliometrics, and it does not seem to have been applied to film studies literature previously. Furthermore, film studies is a field with which I’ve had little interaction, and so it’s been fun to think philosophically about the project’s challenges and greater implications.


If you have any questions about the interview, do not hesitate to contact

Anastasia Prozorova: