Dr Melanie Bell


Latest Publication Learning to Listen: Histories of Women's Soundwork in the British Film Industry, Screen, Vol. 58, Issue 4 (2017), pp. 437-457.   https://academic.oup.com/screen/article/58/4/437/4772797   http://melaniebell.webstarts.com/index.html        

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.


  • Deputy Director of Research and Innovation
  • Director of Impact

Research interests

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, Womens 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, production 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 actors 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.   http://tinyurl.com/MB-JChristie

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 womens 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 womens 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 2018. 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.


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD; MA; BA

Student education

I contribute to the school's teaching in feminist media studies and film & cinema histories.

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>