Amateur Movie Making

Edited by Martha J. McNamara and Karan Sheldon

A compelling regional and historical study that transforms our understanding of film history, Amateur Movie Making demonstrates how amateur films and home movies stand as testaments to the creative lives of ordinary people, enriching our experience of art and the everyday. Here we encounter the lyrical and visually expressive qualities of films produced in New England between 1915 and 1960 and held in the collections of Northeast Historic Film, a moving image repository and study center that was established to collect, preserve, and interpret the audiovisual record of northern New England.

Contributors from diverse backgrounds examine the visual aesthetics of these films while placing them in their social, political, and historical contexts. Each discussion is enhanced by technical notes and the analyses are also juxtaposed with personal reflections by artists who have close connections to particular amateur filmmakers. These reflections reanimate the original private contexts of the home movies before they were recast as objects of study and artifacts of public history.

“As the academic study of amateur and home movies enters into a more mature phase, it has become ever more apparent that such films can only be understood by understanding the various contexts of their production—who shot the films when, where, and why?—and their reception in the family or larger groups. Martha J. McNamara and Karan Sheldon’s Amateur Movie Making: The Aesthetics of the Everyday in New England Film, 1915-1960, is the first volume to provide analyses of a group of amateur films which are available for study, making the volume an excellent reader for courses on amateur film.” — Jan-Christopher Horak, Director, UCLA Film & Television Archive, Professor, Critical & Media Studies, Los Angeles

“There is an old idea that amateur art is the purest, because it is made without consideration of money or fame. Here is the proof—vivid slices of real life as rich and rewarding as any gallery of Old Masters, rescued from obscurity through the extraordinary efforts of Northeast Historic Film. The essays in this volume, written in plain language, provide fresh insight into this still underappreciated art form. Like great paintings, the films themselves are impossible to forget.” —Phillip Prodger, Head of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery, London

“This book is important because it is interdisciplinary on every level, it focuses on the materiality of the films, it pays attention to how the films are constructed and what they mean, and it grounds itself in regional space as a zone of overlapping discourses.” —Patricia R. Zimmermann, author of Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film