Student Profile

James Findlay


Doctor of Philosophy

Thesis Title

Caught on Screen: Imagining the Convict Experience in Film and Television


Penny Russell

Judith Keene

Thesis Abstract

This is a thesis about the construction of historical myth and legend in national culture. Since the pioneering days of cinema, filmmakers have re-imagined and celebrated the lives and experiences of the men and women transported as convicts to the Australian colonies. This study will traverse these representations, tracking their thematic development, exploring how a vast series of myths and legends surrounding Australia’s convict settlers have been represented through one of the pre-eminent narrative modes of the twentieth century. By historically contextualizing these depictions (many of them seemingly forgotten) alongside the changing cultural, social, political and academic discourses surrounding convict histories, the study aims to reveal how popular cinematic renderings of Australia’s settlement narrative have interacted with and directly shaped new understandings of convict history.

Professional and/or Community Engagement

Since 2001 I have worked in a variety of production roles in both film and television for organisations including the BBC, ABC, Film Australia, Screen Australia, ScreenWorld and Beyond Productions. As a writer and director, my work has travelled internationally, winning awards at festivals including winning best film at the St Kilda Film festival in 2006 and being nominated for best short at the Inside Film (IF) awards in 2006. As a producer, associate producer and researcher of documentary television, I have produced television for the ABC and SBS on various programs concerning Australian stories both contemporary and historical.

Conference Presentations

James Findlay, “They Came in Chains to Build a Television Nation” (paper presented at the Another World of Popular Entertainments conference, School of Creative Arts – Newcastle University, Newcastle, New South Wales, June 12-14, 2013)

James Findlay, “Bolters, Blacks and Bushtopias, Convict Escape on the Australian Screen” (paper presented at the Australian Historical Association Annual Conference, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, 8-12 July 2013)

Favourite Films

You the Living (Roy Andersson, 2007)

Ten Canoes (Rolf De Heer, 2006)

A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood, 1935)