Beyond the screen


Theodore Brown, mid-1920s, demonstrating his invention of the Spirograph, designed to show ‘films’ on an acetate disc to educational audiences

A call for papers has just been issued for the next DOMITOR conference. DOMITOR (why do they capitalise it? It’s not an acronym) is the international body for early film studies, and it holds a biannual conference. The next conference will take place 13-17 June 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and the theme is Beyond the Screen: Institutions, Networks and Publics of Early Cinema. Essentially they are looking at early cinema beyond the confines of the cinema – films with a special social purpose (usally educational or instructional in some form) which had to be taken to where the audience was, rather than the other way around.

Here’s the full call:

The vanguard of recent film scholarship has shown that institutions and social networks established a variety of sites, contexts, and ways for viewing early cinema, not always as “harmless entertainment” or as a “business, pure and simple,” as the U.S. Supreme Court defined it in 1915. The DOMITOR 2010 Conference seeks to develop this line of inquiry by demonstrating how early cinema’s cultural function and social uses were shaped by a range of institutions, both commercial and noncommercial: How was cinema used in the domains of science, technology, education, and social uplift, and how did these applications influence its development and shape the public’s perception of the medium? What decisions and powers led to the marginalisation of alternatives to the “entertainment” model championed by the Supreme Court and pursued by a maturing industry? Which organisations and groups helped preserve and archive early cinema and its culture? How were the production practices of early film companies affected by their alliance with institutions outside the confines of the film industry? DOMITOR 2010 will be a forum to present new research into extra-filmic contexts that broaden our understanding of the institutional basis for cinema during its formative years. To that end, we invite papers that explore the following areas, among others:

• Extra-theatrical venues and publics for cinema exhibition: churches, settlement houses, social organisations such as libraries and museums, commercial settings such as department stores, and other marginal sites and marginalised audiences

• Purposes of cinema beyond entertainment: using cinema for education, uplift, religion, advertising, scientific exploration, politics, and journalism

• Networks of promotion and regulation of cinema: newspapers, the trade press, fan magazines, but also censor boards, organised labour, and court rooms

• Institutional relationships between film companies and other media and social institutions: film producers’ dealings with charities, corporations, civic and political groups, and film production by such groups

• Perpetuating early cinema through preservation and appreciation: the work in subsequent decades of archives, criticism, buying and collecting, and the study of film history itself

Although we imagine the general time frame for the period covered by papers in the conference to be the late 1890s through to 1915, we do realise that cinema developed unevenly across the global stage. For that reason, papers treating cinema after 1915 in countries where early cinema practices postdate the proposed time frame will be given full consideration. Similarly, papers that examine the history and current status of early cinema’s place in the archive and museum are also welcomed.

Proposal Submission Process
Those wishing to submit a proposal should do so no later than 31 October 2009 to: Proposals for pre-constituted panels of 3 or 4 participants will also be considered; such proposals should be submitted by the panel chair and consist of the collected individual paper proposals in addition to a brief rationale for the pre-constituted panel. Proposals for individual papers should be no longer than 500 words and be written in either English or French. Only a paper written in one of those two languages can be presented at the conference. Papers prepared for conference delivery should stay within a word limit of 2500 words and be able to fit within a 20-minute presentation format (including any audiovisual material used to supplement the paper). We request that all papers be submitted by 30 April 2010 to allow for simultaneous translation. While membership in DOMITOR is not required to submit a proposal, anyone presenting a paper at the conference must be a member.

There is as yet no further information on the DOMITOR site, but you can find out more there about past conferences and some of the organisation’s activities. And top marks to the conference organisers for not simply stipulating a time limit but a word limit as well. Too few to attend academic conferences seem to know how many words it takes to fill a 20-minute presentation. 2,500 is the answer (3,000 for me, but then I talk too fast).

One response

  1. Pingback: Looking back on 2010 « The Bioscope

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