Research and Classroom Teaching

Contact: John Sedgwick
London Metropolitan University
Published February 2007

I bring my research in the economics and economic history of film very much into my teaching. I do this because firstly, I think that I have something to say that is novel; secondly, film is such a peculiar type of commodity that it stimulates comparison and contrast, thirdly, because students as a ready audience help you think about the nature and presentation of your ideas; and finally, almost everybody has an affinity with films as a source of entertainment and cultural reference.

My major research publications have been in the journals of economic history (Sedgwick and Pokorny 1998, Sedgwick 2002, Sedgwick and Pokorny 2005a), cultural economics (Pokorny and Sedgwick 2001), and film studies (Sedgwick 2007). I have also written a 300 page monograph (Sedgwick, 2000), and edited a book of readings (Sedgwick and Pokorny 2005b). All of this work is predicated on understanding the peculiar characteristics of film as a commodity and the empirical regularities which govern the statistical distribution of revenues, costs and returns, across the 20th Century.

Perhaps the most interesting teaching project that I am involved with is a final year undergraduate class in Industrial Economics, for which, along with my colleague Dr Guglielmo Volpe, I have received two lots of mini project funding from the Economics Network. The experiment that I run is described elsewhere on the Economics Network website.

I wanted to make students aware that often general theory does not appear to explain actual experience very successfully and that by engaging them with the idiosyncratic qualities of particular industries — in this case the film industry — they were more likely to develop critical faculties. The students are given a dataset that Mike Pokorny (Westminster University) and I obtained from an industrial source and required to make sense of the data in the light of standard industrial economics (organisation) theory.

In another final year undergraduate module that I lead, the 'Economics of Film and the Arts', students are asked to test a consumer theory that I have been developing concerning the disparity that consumers commonly experience between (ex ante) expectation and (ex post) realisation and how this might affect future decision making. This is a case in which my students help me to think through my research design, while they are encouraged to be creative as well as critical.

Finally, I have developed a MA International Business Research Methods module in which students are required to write a research paper on whether the Hofstede Index of Cultural Distance provides a good explanation for the demand for Hollywood movies across international markets — data for which students obtain from datasets held by the trade journals Variety and Screen International. Here students are responsible for their own research design. However, what they find is that demand preferences differ dramatically between cultures. In testing Hofstede's Index, students help me understand the success of Hollywood better, while they enjoy learning about the significance of cultural differences in shaping demand.

References:

Pokorny, M. and Sedgwick, J. 'Stardom and the profitability of filmmaking: Warner Bros. in the 1930s', Journal of Cultural Economics, 25 (2001) pp.157-184.

Sedgwick, J. Popular Filmgoing in 1930s Britain: a Choice of Pleasures, Exeter, Exeter University Press (2000).

Sedgwick, J. 'Cinemagoing in Portsmouth during the 1930s', Cinema Journal, 46 (2007)

Sedgwick, J. 'Product Differentiation at the Movies: Hollywood, 1946-65', Journal of Economic History, 62 (2002) pp. 676-704.

Sedgwick, J., and Pokorny, M. 'The Risk Environment of Film-Making: Warners in the Inter-War Period', Explorations in Economic History, 35 (1998) pp.196-220.

Sedgwick, J., and Pokorny, M. 'The film business in the U.S. and Britain during the 1930s', Economic History Review, 58, (2005a) pp. 79-112.

Sedgwick, J., and Pokorny, M. eds. An Economic History of Film, (London, Routledge, 2005b)

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