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Dr James Russell

Job: Head of the Leicester Media School

Faculty: Technology

School/department: Leicester Media School

Research group(s): Cinema and Television History (CATH), Centre for Adaptations

Address: The Gateway, De Montfort University, Leicester, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 207 8257

E: jrussell@dmu.ac.uk

 

Personal profile

Dr James Russell is Head of the Leicester Media School, and a member of the Faculty of Technology's executive team.

James is the co-author of Hollywood and the Baby Boom: A Social History (Bloomsbury, 2018) and author of The Historical Epic and Contemporary Hollywood: From Dances With Wolves to Gladiator (Continuum, 2007), and he has published articles, reviews and book chapters on many other aspects of American film and TV history. His research focuses on Hollywood’s history, film economics and the role of popular entertainment in contemporary British and American society. Research for his most recent project, on the relatioinship between American movies and the 'Baby Boom' generation, was funded by the Leverhulme Trust, and involved carrying out interviews with numerous American filmmakers, including Nancy Meyers, Ivan Reitman, Jerry Zucker, Steve Kloves and Lawrence Kasdan. 

James teaches several undergraduate and postgraduate modules which focus on the economics of movies and moviemaking. He welcomes applications from prospective research students who want to work in the field of popular entertainment, film industry economics and mainstream audience trends since the 1950s. 

Research group affiliations

  • Cinema and Television History Research Centre (CATH)
  • Adaptations

Publications and outputs 

  • Hollywood and the Baby Boom: A Social History
    Hollywood and the Baby Boom: A Social History Russell, J.; Whalley, Jim Between 1946 and 1964 seventy-five million babies were born, dwarfing the generations that preceded and succeeded them. At each stage of its life-cycle, the baby boom's great size has dictated the terms of national policy and public debate. While aspects of this history are well-documented, the relationship between the baby boom and Hollywood has never been explored. And yet, for almost 40 years, baby boomers made up the majority of Hollywood's audience, and since the 1970s, boomers have dominated movie production. Hollywood and the Baby Boom weaves together interviews with leading filmmakers, archival research and the memories of hundreds of ordinary filmgoers to tell the full story of Hollywood's relationship with the boomers for the first time. The authors demonstrate the profound influence of the boomers on the ways that movies were made, seen and understood since the 1950s. The result is a compelling new account that draws upon an unprecedented range of sources, and offers new insights into the history of American movies.
  • Producing the Spielberg Brand
    Producing the Spielberg Brand Russell, J. This chapter looks at the manufacture of Spielberg’s brand, and the limits of its usage. Spielberg’s directorial work is well known, but Spielberg’s identity has also been established in other ways, and I focus particularly on his work as a producer. At the time of writing, Spielberg had produced (or executive produced) 148 movies and television series across a range of genres that takes in high budget blockbusters and low budget documentaries, with many more to come. In these texts, Spielberg’s status as branded entity is explicit. His name is used as a marker of cinematic quality, to promote the films in question as “Spielbergian” experiences, or to suggest some kind of thematic concordance with Spielberg’s directorial work. In each case, Spielberg’s name confers a kind of “value” on the production in question. Throughout the first half of the chapter I seek to outline the nature of his brand, and I focus on his early work as a producer of high profile, family-oriented productions. In the second half I look in greater detail at Spielberg’s later career as a more serious filmmaker, focusing on his role as a public figure following the release of Schindler’s List in 1993. I conclude by examining some of the Holocaust documentaries he has produced since the 1990s.
  • Hollywood Blockbusters and UK Production Today
    Hollywood Blockbusters and UK Production Today Russell, J. This piece asks how and why overseas investment dominates UK film production. I start by looking at the history of Hollywood’s investment in UK production, and move on to focus on tax relief, infrastructure and content. Rather than rehearsing concerns about the threat of “Americanization,” I focus on the impact of overseas production activities on UK-based production.
  • In Hollywood, but not of Hollywood: independent Christian filmmaking.
    In Hollywood, but not of Hollywood: independent Christian filmmaking. Russell, J.
  • Exhilaration and Enlightenment in the Biblical Bestseller: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
    Exhilaration and Enlightenment in the Biblical Bestseller: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ Russell, J.
  • Authorship, Commerce and Harry Potter
    Authorship, Commerce and Harry Potter Russell, J.
  • Evangelical audiences and "Hollywood" film: Promoting Fireproof (2008).
    Evangelical audiences and "Hollywood" film: Promoting Fireproof (2008). Russell, J.
  • Narnia as a Site of National Struggle: Marketing, Christianity and National Purpose in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
    Narnia as a Site of National Struggle: Marketing, Christianity and National Purpose in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Russell, J.
  • A most historic period of change: The Western, the epic and Dances With Wolves
    A most historic period of change: The Western, the epic and Dances With Wolves Russell, J.
  • Review of Steve Vineberg, High Comedy in American Movie
    Review of Steve Vineberg, High Comedy in American Movie Russell, J.

Selected Mainstream Writing  

“Peter Jackson’s three Hobbit films suggest he is running on empty,” Guardian , 3 Sept. 2012 

“Star Wars: Why Disney was destined to buy Lucasfilm,” Guardian , 31 Oct. 2012:

“Harry Potter – Hogwarts and all – is Britain’s Top Model,"   Guardian , 19 Nov. 2010:

“More Harry Potter or Another Year? The BFI must decide," Guardian , 30 Nov. 2010:

“Will Tron Legacy make Disney a long term game winner?” Guardian , 14 Dec. 2010:

Click here for a full listing of James Russell's publications and outputs

Key research outputs

The Historical Epic and Contemporary Hollywood (New York: Continuum, 2007)

(with Dr Jim Whalley) Hollywood and the Baby Boom: A Social History (New York: Bloomsbury, 2018)

Research interests/expertise

  • Popular Hollywood Entertainment

  • Blockbuster film production.

  • Child and family film and TV production and consumption
  • Social history and popular cinema

  • The economics of film.

Areas of teaching

  • Film and TV history
  • Consumption of popular entertainment
  • Hollywood economics

Qualifications

  • PhD in Film Studies (University of East Anglia)
  • MA in the History of Film and Popular Culture (University of Exeter)
  • BA in English (University of Exeter)

Courses taught

  • FILM1402: Film and New Media

  • FILM2403: Disney

  • FILM3406: Hollywood Now!

Membership of professional associations and societies

  • Association of Adaptation Studies (2008-)
  • War and Media Network (2006-)
  • Media, Culture and Communication Studies Association (2007-present)
  • Society for Cinema and Media Studies (2007-2010)

Conference attendance

Invited Keynote Speaker: “The Myth of the Teen Movie,” Myths in Culture, University of Leicester, May 2014.

“A Magic Kingdom on a Hill: Disney and the Baby Boom Audience,” Discussing Disney, University of Hull, 2014.

“Taking a ride with the Pirates of the Caribbean,” Children’s’ Film and Literature, De Montfort University, 1 March 2010.  

“Sensual Spirituality in Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,” Association of Adaptation Studies 4th Annual Conference, British Film Institute, London, September 2009.

“In Hollywood, but not of Hollywood: Christian Film Production and the Evangelical Market,” American Independent Cinema: Past, Present and Future, Liverpool John Moore’s University, May 2009.

“Exhilaration and Enlightenment: Ben-Hur and American Belief Since 1880,” British Association for American Studies Annual Conference University of Nottingham, April 2009.

Other forms of public presentation

Performances, broadcasts, exhibitions, etc

I have had several mainstream comment pieces published on the Guardian’s film website:

1) “Harry Potter – Hogwarts and all – is Britain’s Top Model,’ Guardian, 19 Nov. 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2010/nov/19/harry-potter-britain-model-vision

2) “More Harry Potter or Another Year? RThe BFI must decide,’ Guardian, 30 Nov. 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2010/nov/30/bfi-uk-film-council-takeover.

3) “Will Tron Legacy make Disney a long term game winner?” Guardian, 14 Dec. 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2010/dec/14/tron-legacy-disney-remake-gamble.

I was interviewed in a feature article in the Independent newspaper: Francesca Steele, ‘British-US Film, the Special Relationship,’ Independent ,12 May 2010: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/britishus-film-the-special-relationship-1971168.html

“The Metropolis Restoration,” Public Lecture at the Phoenix Square Cinema, 1 Oct. 2010.

“James Cameron and Avatar,” Public Lecture at the Phoenix Square Cinema, 21 Dec. 2009.

Various appearances as a film pundit on BBC Radio Leicester, Jan.-Dec. 2009.

Consultancy work

Consultant for The Guardian, the BBC and others on mainstream film matters.

Current research students

  • Richard Glanville, PhD

  • Cassandra Brummit, PhD

Externally funded research grants information

Hollywood and the Baby Boom, Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant, £98,600 (Jan. 2012-Dec. 2013) 

Internally funded research project information

Using Videogames in Adaptations Teaching, RIT funded project, £1090 (Dec 2008) – with Dr I Hunter. 

 

Case studies

I have been interviewed in the mainstream press (the Independent), and consulted by BBC Radio 4 as an expert on American film funding matters. 

I have published several editorial pieces in the Guardian which have resulted in further work, and in various exchanges with the UKFC and other national bodies.

The Hollywood and the Baby Boom project has engaged audiences and filmmakers across the USA. 

James Russell

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