2019 Symposium

Northeast Historic Film 19th Annual Summer Symposium

A is for Amateur
July 18-20, 2019

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Thursday, July 18:
6:00 pm Alamo Lobby Social Mixer / Reception

6:30 pm – Presentation of the 2018 OFarrell Fellowship winner:

Martin Johnson (UNC)

Exhibitors! Stop Being the Goat! The Curious Failure of the Advertising Film in the United States and the Birth of Sponsored Cinema

In the United States, the cinema is the only mass media developed in the 20th century that does not rely on advertising to subsidize its content. While film historians have suggested that this because of the cinemas roots in the theater, in other countries advertising films were routinely screened in cinema. Why were advertisements not welcome on the American screen? In this paper, I discuss a little-known chapter of movie industry history involving blackmail, secret payments, and other scandals, leading to theater owners resolving in late 1919 to ban advertising films from their theaters entirely. In response, corporations financed and supplied films for the nontheatrical market, creating a sponsored cinema that influenced the development of documentary and educational film.

7:30 pm

Kimberly Tarr (New York University Libraries)

+ Dr. David Barstow (one of Robbins Barstows sons)

The Craft of Robbins Barstow: Home Movie Storytelling in the Pre-Digital Era

For most of his life, Robbins Barstow was a home movie story teller.  From the time he produced Tarzan and the Rocky Gorge with his brothers and friends in 1936 until his classic Disneyland Dream was enshrined in the National Film Registry in 2008, Barstow was passionate about using moving images to tell personal stories.  His seven-decade career spanned the golden age of home movies, when producing a home movie required a lot of work, and telling a good story required a lot of skill and creativity in addition.  Over time, Barstow adapted to the changes in home-movie technology, but he never made the transition to digital.  He started with one of earliest 16mm film cameras, continued on through several generations of film stock, and eventually to video tape, but he never had a cell phone with a built-in video camera, and he never used a computer to edit his movies.  The list of films he produced reflects the changing technology, but as he adapted his craft, Barstow stayed focused on his passion, telling stories that would both educate and entertain his audience.


Friday, July 19:

8:30 am Alamo Lobby
Registration, Coffee, Breakfast, Chat


9:00 am
Ina Archer (Media Conservation & Digitization Assistant, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History & Culture)

WE Made It! Quadruple A is For African American Amateur Auteurs

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the Robert F. Smith Fund, Great Migration Home Movie Project is a free initiative that invites the public to have their analog home movies digitized by our audiovisual conservation team.  NMAAHC will present media works (circa 1940s-1990s) from animator and portraitist, Willie P. Johnson, poetic shorts by Zora Lathan and chyron-crazy, McQueen family. These African Americans amateur filmmakers portray quotidian life with creative awareness of media formats, equipment, graphic tools and lighting or lack thereof, with attention to those being looked at, how they are being represented, and by whom—signifying an intentional Black Gaze.

10:00 am
Sarah Cantor (University of Maryland, University College)

Portraitist with a Movie Camera: Philip Pearlstein as Amateur Filmmaker

Italy and Sicily Trip, 2006

Artist Philip Pearlstein (b. 1924), who is still painting at 94, began studying at Carnegie Technical Institute (now Carnegie Mellon University) after serving in World War II as an infantry foot soldier stationed in Italy. At Carnegie Tech, he met Andy Warhol (1928-87) and the two quickly became friends. During his time at Carnegie Tech, Pearlstein also met artist Dorothy Cantor (1928-2018) and the two were married in 1950.  This presentation will contextualize clips from several of Pearlsteins films, exploring his work as an artist with his view as a filmmaker. As an art historian and the great-niece of Dorothy and Philip, I am able to provide a framework for both the subjects of the films and the personal dynamics at play. My analysis will focus on how Philips work as an artist and trained art historian, along with his personal style, informed the way he approached filming cultural heritage sites, major monuments, museums, and the work of other artists.

11:00 am

Brian Meacham (Yale Film Study Center)

The Cynniewink Ciners: The Amateur Films and Home Movies of Cynthia and S.W. Winkie Childs

S.W. Childs began making films growing up in Connecticut, led the first student filmmaking group at Yale in the the 1920s, and continued filmmaking through the 1940s with a series of elaborate amateur productions, starring and sometimes directed by his wife, Cynthia Childs. The Childs collection of more than 400 reels includes extensive home movies, award-winning amateur films, and a feature-length adaptation of Tom Jones. S.W. Childs was an enthusiast of new technologies, and the collection includes Kodacolor, Vitacolor, and early Kodak sound-on-film stocks. This presentation will include footage from Childs amateur and student productions, their home movies from around the world, and the premiere of the newly-preserved film Seductio ad Absurdum (1940).

LUNCH 12:00-1:00 Alamo Lobby
12:30: Archive Tour / meet at the stairs adjacent to Alamo Lobby


1:00 pm

Michael McCluskey (University of York)

Flicker School: Making and Learning in the Films of H. A. V. Bulleid

Henry Anthony Vaughan Bulleid (1912-2009) was a prolific film-maker and writer on film from his boarding school days, to the Cambridge Film Society, to his work on original dramatic shorts throughout the 1930s and 40s. He filmed family events like other film enthusiasts of the time but also crafted experimental, at times odd, films about local life in the English counties of Derbyshire and Surrey. Bulleid used editing techniques that self-consciously imitated Eisensteins and included Surrealist-tinged moments and an attempt at film Imagism among his output. Drawing on Bulleids writings in Amateur Cine World and his complete archive of films, this presentation looks at Bulleid as a case study in amateur film, maker culture, and amateurism as educational philosophy.


2:00 pm

Home Movie Day and Home Movie Access Around the World: A Panel Conversation

Skip Elsheimer (A/V Geeks)

Home Movie Day or Bust – Wrapping our heads around a nationwide traveling Home Movie Day.

Since the first Home Movie Day, A/V Geeks and groups of volunteers have hosted more than 30 Home Movie Days or Digitizing Events and have developed a program to bring their passion, expertise, and equipment to communities around the U.S. (and Albania)

We want to take it to the next level. We would like to travel the
United States, doing at least one HMD event per a state – maybe more.

We would like to talk about how we run an event , the technology we
use, and our rough strategy on how we would do this on the road. We
hope to open the floor to discussion about this effort as we can’t do
this alone.

Karianne Fiorini (ind. film archivist and curator) & Gianmarco Torri (ind. film curator)

RE-FRAMING HOME MOVIES / HERITAGE REGAINED: A handbook for the creative re-use of home movies

While the importance of home movie collections is growing in the awareness of archivists, a constantly growing number of artists are also discovering these materials as a source for artistic re-use. How could we facilitate the dialogue between archives and artists in order to valorise the collections and produce new narrations? The Re-framing home movies training project was carefully designed to promote a conscious and creative re-use of home movie collections. The presentation will focus on the details of the training path, highlighting the main ideas in the background of the curatorial process, and illustrating the outlines of the projects developed by the participants.

Salvi Vivancos (Artivist / La Red del Cine Doméstico y Memorias Celuloides) and Clara Sánchez-Dehesa Galán (La Red de Cine Doméstico y Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola)

La Red del Cine Doméstico

La Red del Cine Doméstico (The Home Movie Network) has developed a mission to recover, appraise, and share home movies of all types by making them widely accessible online.  As of 2013, many independent and diverse initiatives within Spain have contributed to this effort. Since then, 24 projects have been involved (institutions as well as film archives), a non-profit has been constituted, and a nimble home movie database was launched.

Dwight Swanson (CHM), Moderator


3:00 pm

Kate Dollenmayer (Academy Film Archive + CHM)

A House is Not a Metaphor

A home movie can evoke the tangible or intangible qualities that make objects, people, and places feel like home, even long after those objects, places, and people are gone. This presentation ponders the erasure of home with a utilitarian yet poetic video enumerating the contents of a Florida mobile home as a dangerous hurricane approaches (Inventory by Warren Cockerham), as well as 8mm home movies from a place that no longer exists: the country of East Germany.


Special Screening and Presentation
Brian Graney (Museum of International Folk Art)

Cultural Tourism 1938: The International School of Art in Hungary

In 1938, Clara Hoover of Oak Park, Illinois, participated in an immersive, month-long workshop program in Hungary organized by the International School of Art (ISA), documenting her experiences on 16mm film.  The ISA was founded a decade earlier by Chicago-born arts educator Cora Elma Pratt to preserve knowledge of traditional folk arts and practices threatened by the destabilizing effects of modernization and war.  Ms. Pratt had by 1938 established a year-round residence in Budapest and turned her friendship there with artist and nobleman Count Gyula Batthyány into a working partnership to organize and conduct the ISA’s encounters with rural peasants across Hungary.

5:00 pm

Tina Wasserman (Tufts University)

Revisited (2016, 11 min.)

Revisited (SD, 11 minutes) was shot using a mini-dv, hand-held, digital camera at the Maudslay State Park in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The park is situated on the ruins of an early twentieth century estate once owned by Frederick Moseley. Consisting of thirty buildings, the landscape was designed in part, by Martha Brookes Hutcheson, an early female member of the American Society of Landscape Architects.  The film pairs footage of garden ruins and wooded pathways with the text of an account, written in 1901, by two women who became lost on the grounds of a similar but larger, more imposing estate.

6:00 pm Cocktails and appetizers at The Alamoosook Lakeside Inn, Orland
7:00 pm Lobster (or not) Dinner

(venue is partly outdoors, so a light jacket and maybe even some keep the mosquitos away stuff might be useful and definitely a camera because its a really beautiful spot!!!)


Saturday, July 20:

8:30 am
Registration, Coffee, Conversation


9:00 am
Corinne A. Vorster (Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive)

Amateur Travelogue Unearthed

 O Canada is a travelogue that could have disappeared into storage had it not gone through the digitization workflow as part of the IU Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative. As a moving image cataloger, O Canada came across my desk and my interests were peaked by the bright red Amateur Cinema League banner set against a backdrop of a spinning globe. With little information from the film itself, my research uncovered some information on the filmmaker, Markley L. Pepper, and some of his other amateur works. Unfortunately, I was unable to find mention anywhere of O Canada and thus arose the necessity to highlight this little trek through the Great White North.

10:00 am

Audrey Amidon and Heidi Holmstrom (National Archives and Records Administration)

Accidental Evidence: The Amateur Film in the Government Archive


The Federal archive may be the last place one thinks to look for amateur film, but among the footage shot by government employees and contractors there are numerous films collected by government agencies because they document activities or events of importance to the United States. This accidental evidence includes films of UFO sightings, a presidential assassination, and the activities of American fascists. In this presentation, we will reflect on how these amateur films came to be held as records, and how a filmmaker’s purpose did not always match how the films were used by the Federal government.


11:00 am

Hadley Kluber (University of Amsterdam)

What the Dutch Am I Looking At?: Super8 Film in The Peter Rubin Collection

Peter Rubin (1941-2015), an American-born artist active in Amsterdam beginning in the 1970s was a filmmaker, curator, lecturer, and pioneer of the video jockey scene in the Netherlands, Germany and Eastern Europe. Acquired by Eye Filmmuseum in 2016, this Collection contains a diverse range of materials including but not limited to handmade slides, hundreds of VHS tapes, small gauge film, hard drives, and t-shirts worn during live events. This presentation concerns Rubins Super8 films and will illuminate the challenges faced when processing, cataloguing and attempting to place this format within the larger context of this extensive Collection.

LUNCH 12:00-1:00 on your own
12:30: Archive tour: meet at the stair adjacent to Alamo lobby


1:00 pm

Buckey Grimm (Contract researcher)

Where Have all the Cameramaids Gone; Refocusing the Line between Amateur and Professional

In working to refine our definition of the line between Amateur and Professional Film we will use the

Camerawomen during the silent era to illustrate how this line becomes blurred.  While many of the Camera Maids began with Amateur productions, even after they transitioned into Professional careers contemporary reviews of their work still seemed to suggest an amateur component.  Even today, some historical discussions still categorize this work as Amateur.  We will examine these factors and look to re-establish this line.

2:00 pm
Sigridur Regina Sigurthorsdottir (Sigga Regina) (NYU)

Cold Storage: Icelandic Home Movies in the Archive

The National Film Archive of Iceland has (on and off, and sometimes inadvertently) collected home movies on small gauge film throughout the last three decades. These films have until now remained largely untouched in storage with only minimal cataloging. The material brought into the archive through legal deposit has been dissected by scholars but what truths are buried in these home movie collections? This presentation will shed light on the collections of 8mm, Super8mm, 9.5mm and 16mm amateur and home movie films housed within the NFAI, revealing the until now unexplored mysteries of these Icelandic cultural artefacts, and outline the potential future of the collections.

3:00 pm

Irene Rozsa (Concordia University)

Amateur Filmmaking in 1940s and 1950s Cuba: Local and Transnational Connections

Three Cuban films made the Ten Best list of the Amateur Cinema League. Such recognition is indicative of an active but unacknowledged amateur history in the island. This presentation will provide an overview of amateur cinema in Cuba during the 1940s and 1950s. I will discuss the exhibition history of Roberto Machados films, the internationally celebrated work of Antonio Cernuda, and the copious travel filmography of Salvador Solé. I will also call attention to the efforts of a young group of filmmakers towards rescuing the only known private collection of Cuban amateur films from this period.


Louisa Trott (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

The Start of the Rainbow: Possibilities of Color Motion Photography for the Amateur

The earliest era of amateur movie making offered an array of color possibilities for the film enthusiast. From the fifteen discreet colors of an Automatic Colorator and the subtlety of tinting & toning, to the subdued hues of Kodacolor and Vitacolor, and the accessory-free ingenuity of Dufaycolor. This session draws on advertisements and articles from amateur movie making publications and the popular press, to offer a richly-illustrated exploration of color effects and processes in amateur cinematography prior to 1935.


Special screening event

Charles Tepperman (University of Calgary)

The 1938 International Amateur Movie Show: A Reconstruction


Presented with an introduction by Charles Tepperman (University of Calgary)

The International Amateur Movie Show was presented at Columbia University (New York) on April 6, 1938. Amateur movie organizations around the world submitted their best films for the screening, and ultimately 10 films from 9 different countries were presented. The Amateur Movie Database Project has located several of these films travelogues, short fiction films, and avant-garde works and presents a partial reconstruction of the program. (Digital formats, 83 minutes + introduction).

Some informal closing remarks and a bit of a group think about next years symposium

Dinner and drinks on your own!!!