Dr Virginia Pitts is a an award-winning educator, filmmaker and scholar with an equal passion for all three areas.
As a writer/director, Virginia's work spans fiction, documentary, docu-drama and screendance for film, television and video. She has been commissioned or employed by, among others, Channel 4, BBC2, the New Zealand Film Commission, James Wallace Productions, South Pacific Pictures and Television New Zealand.
Varied in content and style, Virginia's short fiction films have been selected for over 35 international film festivals (including Berlin, Locarno, Chicago, Montreal, Valladolid and Edinburgh). A selection of them can be viewed here. Financed by highly competitive grants, these films have also gained theatrical release, toured art galleries and sold widely to television (including Canal+, Showtime TV & NBC). Virginia has also directed award-winning television drama and been commissioned to write short and feature length screenplays. She is currently working with the writing duo, Lambert Nagle, to develop a feature film about a single mother caught in the clash between the realities of rural life and urban ideas about food and farming.
Driven by a burning desire for social justice, Virginia began her screen production career working on documentaries (TV & video). Mostly self-shot, these have been filmed in tense and delicate environments, such as on the West Bank and Gaza Strip (for Channel 4 and BBC2), with psychiatric patients (for LSE), and, more recently, with children suffering with acquired brain injury (with the London Brain Project).
Virginia's professional activities include running workshops on working with actors. She has been invited to deliver these workshops in the UK, Finland, France and Aotearoa (New Zealand). Information and feedback on these workshops can be found here.
Virginia joined the University of Westminster as a full-time member of staff in September 2019. On the BA (Hons) Film, she contributes to film practice modules on all three years and supervises dissertations. On the MA Film Television and Moving Image, she runs the screenwriting pathway, sole teaching and leading two modules (Introduction to Screenwriting; Advanced Screenplay Preparation), and supervising Screenplay Final Projects.
Virginia began her teaching career at the University of Auckland, where she taught film production, film studies and media studies. Since then her teaching has been primarily in filmmaking and screenwriting, though she also supervises dissertations (BA & MA) and doctoral students. She has held fulltime lectureships at the University of Waikato and the University of Kent, where she was awarded the Faculty of Humanities Teaching Prize.
Collaborative and interdisciplinary practices are at the heart of Virginia's research.
Her PhD investigated cross-cultural creative collaboration and transnational funding structures in a small nation film context. She has published on this topic, as well as on adaptation, political documentary film, and the low-budget digital feature film sector of the early 2000s.
Virginia's recent practice-based research investigates collaborative creative methods that harness the potential for movement, musicality and improvisation to enrich film content development. Working with choreographers, composers and actors, this interdisciplinary work has resulted in invitations to deliver masterclasses, workshops and conference papers in France, Finland, Aotearoa New Zealand, Germany, Australia and the UK. Outputs from this research include films, screen practice experiments and related peer reviewed journal articles. Virginia is currently finalising an exposition for an online peer-reviewed journal in which she draws from cognitive sciences to investigate differences between scripted and improvised film dramas she shot as part of a practice-based research project. The exposition includes comparative extracts from these two film experiments, as will a 'sister' exposition targeted at micro-budget filmmakers, students and educators.
SAMPLE RESEARCH / PRACTICE:
- 2016 Beyond My Brain (20 mins) Documentary video about a workshop for children with acquired brain injury art-making with research scientists, artists and clinicians. Made with the London Brain Project [Director, Co-camera operator, Editor].
- 2015-16 Meeting (i) (80 mins) Improvised fiction film experiment about a young woman who meets her biological brother for the first time. Made as part of a practice-research project comparing improvised and scripted filmmaking [Co-deviser, Producer, Director, Co-camera Operator, Editor].
- 2015-16 Meeting (ii) (40 mins) Scripted fiction film experiment about a young woman who meets her biological brother for the first time. Made as part of a practice-research project comparing improvised and scripted filmmaking [Writer, Producer, Director, Editor].
- 2015 ‘Character, Performance, Dialogue & Structure: a Comparative Analysis of Improvised & Scripted Filmmaking’, a work-in-progress paper delivered at the 8th Screenwriting Research Network conference, University of London, September 9th-12th.
- 2014 ‘Contestations of Intercultural Collaboration: the Case of Whale Rider’, Chapter 3, Impure Cinema: Intermedial and Intercultural Approaches to Film, Eds. Lucia Nagib & Anne Jerslev. New York/London: I.B. Taurus, pp.43-64. 978-1780765112.
- 2014 ‘Lost and Found: Musicality and Screenplay Development’, 7th Screenwriting Research Network Conference, Film University, Potsdam, October 17-19th
- 2013 ‘Writing from the Body: Kinesthetics and Entrainment in Collaborative Screenwriting’, Journal of Media Practice Vol 14, No.1 , pp.61-78. ISSN: 1468-2753. This article analyses the interdisciplinary process involved in the making of Virginia's film, Beat, and comparable processes adopted by script consultant, Joan Scheckel.
- 2013 ‘Beat: Artist’s Statement’, The Soundtrack Journal, Vol. 5, Issue 1.
- 2012 ‘Writing from the body: kinesthetic empathy and screenwriting’, 5th Screenwriting Research Network International Conference, Macquarie University, Sydney, September 14-16th.
- 2011 ‘Technologies of Culture: Digital Feature Filmmaking in New Zealand’ New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp. 3-17. ISSN 1474 2756.
- 2010 Beat (15 mins) Narrative dance film. Practice-based research project drawing on the languages of music, dance, narrative and film style to explore the potential for dialogic interaction to resolve tensions between individual and collective impulses [Writer, Producer, Director].
- 2010 From Process to Product: Intercultural Collaboration in the Making of Whale Rider. Impure Cinema Conference, University of Leeds.
- 2008 Igniting the Peripheries: Digital Cinema in Aotearoa New Zealand. Screen Studies Conference, University of Glasgow, June.
-2006 'Intercultural Short Filmmaking', Metro: Media and Education, Australia No. 148, pp.140-146. ISSN 0312 2654. This article examines intercultural processes adopted in the making of Virginia's film, Fleeting Beauty, and Zia Mandviwalla’s film, Eating Sausage.
- 2004 Fleeting Beauty (10 mins) Short fiction film about an Indian woman who paints an alternative history of India’s colonization on the body of her New Zealand lover. Part of a practice-based research project with writer/producer/academic, Shuchi Kothari.
- 2000 Trust Me (10 mins) Short narrative film about how power is negotiated when trust is asked for and given, conveyed through a story involving two sisters on the cusp of teenage-hood and womanhood [Director, Co-writer].
- 1999 'Form and Politics in Punitive Damage', Australian Screen Education, Double Issue No 20/21, Summer, pp. 18-23. ISSN 1443 1629.
- 1997 ‘From novel to film : Le journal d'un curé de campagne and the art of adaptation’, The European Connection, No. 3, pp.31-39. ISSN 1173 5457.
- 1996 Illumina (8 mins) Butoh-inspired dance film performed by Lemi Ponifasio and the Mau Theatre Company [Director].
- 1991 Hassan (15 mins) Short fiction film about a family trapped under curfew on the West Bank [Director, Co-Writer, Producer, Editor].
- 1989 State of Danger (30 mins) Documentary about Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace in the Middle East, for BBC2's Open Space [Camera, Associate Producer]
- 1988 Palestinian Women Documentary piece about the role of women and children in the Palestinian intifada, for Women in View, Channel 4, England [Writer, Director, Camera, Voice-over]