On location

Well, this is good to see. Having bemoaned the fact that there were few silent film-related conferences on the horizon, here’s news of another. It’s the Second International Berkeley Conference on Silent Cinema, happily building on the promise of the First from last year. It’s entitled On Location, and the conference runs 21-23 February 2013 at the University of California Berkeley, with complementary film screenings at the Pacific Film Archive. The call for papers has just been issued, and here it is:

Call for Papers

Format: A two-and-a-half day conference that combines plenary lectures, concurrent paper panels, workshops, and film screenings with live accompaniment at the Pacific Film Archive.

Concept: This conference will address the emergence and historical development of “location” as a cinematic concept as it underwent a series of important transformations in the first few decades of the twentieth century. Concepts of location have become more interesting in recent years as digital artists increasingly render well-known and entirely fictional urban and natural landscapes using sophisticated digital tools. Studio sets have given way to green-screen spaces, and iconic landmarks are subject to new forms of digital manipulation. Reflection on contemporary media practices has created intellectual curiosity about the idea of cinematic place as a historical phenomenon in all of its various manifestations.

During the silent era, filming moved from interiors to exteriors, and from low-tech production sites such as the Black Maria to studio cities like Cité Elgé, Babelsberg, and Universal City. Whereas some national and regional cinemas became closely associated with natural location settings, others were identified with the manufacture of locations through in-studio simulations or the effects of montage— “creative geography” in the widest sense. In turn, location-dependent genres such as Westerns, travelogues, ethnographic films, documentaries, and city films developed specific attachments to place. Exhibition locations shifted from vaudeville theatres to nickelodeons to picture palaces and from urban centers to small towns. Hollywood’s simultaneous development as a real and imagined place affected models for studio filmmaking and cinematic geography around the world.

This conference asks: How was the idea of “location shooting” developed alongside and sometimes in opposition to “studio set”? When and how did “location” emerge as a complex site of production, a lure for audiences, a generic rubric, and a guarantee of realism, as well as a site of artifice and fantasy? How was the cinematic articulation of a broad range of locations influenced by pictorial traditions such as the picturesque, landscape painting, and photography? What are the social and political implications of these varied sites of production and exhibition?

We welcome proposals from scholars in a variety of disciplines and will consider both silent-era and historically comparative approaches. International perspectives are especially welcome.

Possible lines of inquiry include but are not limited to:

  • Audience localities
  • Hybrid exhibition places and practices
  • The historical development of “on-location” shooting
  • “Universal geographies” (as in: California contains all landscape types)
  • “Creative” geographies (as in: Kuleshov’s montage-produced “artificial landscape”)
  • Shooting locations vs. studio locales
  • “Site-specific” film aesthetics and practices
  • Ethnographic framing of film location
  • The phenomenology of the film set (tricks, facades, mixed-media mise-en-scène)
  • The production of place through genre
  • Imaginary places/animation locations
  • Censorship and locality
  • Studio cities
  • The registration and production of landmark locations
  • The locations of film distribution
  • The relationship between “diegesis” and “location” in film-analytic discourses
  • Depth, stereoscopy, and place
  • “Place” as enduring history in psycho-geography

Submission process: Proposals should include a title, an abstract (500 words max), a short bio (150 words max), and mention of any A/V needs. The papers themselves will be limited to 20 minutes, including any audio-visual material. Proposals should be submitted by October 15, 2012 to theconference@berkeley.edu, with notification by mid-November.

So there you are. Get scribbling (if you are so inclined), and let’s hope that the Berkeley conference becomes an established part of the silent film studies landscape.

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