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Amateur Cinema SIG (BAFTSS)

The BAFTSS Amateur Cinema Special Interest Group aims to introduce scholars, researchers, and students of amateur cinema studies to wide-ranging and cross-disciplinary evaluations of key histories and theories of amateur media production (incl. home movies), distribution and reception.  Ever since digital media and Web 2.0 became the globally dominant, almost ubiquitous mode of communication and representation, everyday amateur film / media productions have also become the centre of today’s film and media culture.


BAFTSS Amateur Cinema SIG founding members include British and international film and media scholars, archivists and filmmakers interested in advancing current cross-disciplinary studies relevant to amateur film/media studies, from film history to social anthropology, psychology, political history and gender studies.  While encouraging contributions from future members, too, the BAFTSS Amateur Cinema SIG  members will create a forum for debate and best-practice protocols (theory and practice) while aiming to develop educational approaches for teaching amateur cinema/media studies and promote their inclusion in film and media studies programmes.

BAFTSS Amateur Cinema SIG seeks to organise annual events and academic projects which they will design and develop in close consultation with the BAFTSS Executive Committee. For each BAFTSS annual conference, Amateur Cinema SIG will provide:
– One or two conference panels
– Two special screenings (amateur cinema and new amateur media respectively), each followed by a round table discussion
– One session led by British and international postgraduate students researching amateur cinema /amateur media – case studies (research and practice)
– Online publication of all the BAFTSS Amateur Cinema SIG conference proceedings on ‘Amateur Cinema Studies Network (ACSN), including podcasts when available.
– Live Videocasts of the BAFTSS Amateur Cinema SIG presentations on the ACSN website.
Additional annual contributions:
– Following each BAFTSS annual conference, several BAFTTS Amateur Cinema SIG presentations and papers will be revised for publication in selected academic journals (see, for example, the special issue on ‘Personal films in the Digital Space’ for New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, Vol. 11, Issue 2-3, 2013).

BAFTSS Amateur Cinema SIG will continue to welcome new members, especially since there is a strong global network of scholars and media professionals interested in amateur cinema / amateur media studies and who will benefit from the opportunity offered by the BAFTSS in developing this collaborative platform.

BAFTSS Amateur Cinema SIG founding members:

  • Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, Affiliated Lecturer, Division of Social Anthropology, Fellow Clare Hall, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Karen Lury, Professor of Film & Television Studies, University of Glasgow
  • Professor Andreas Fickers, Professor for Contemporary and Digital History at the University of Luxembourg
  • Professor Ian Craven,Theatre, Film and Television Studies, University of Glasgow
  • Patrick Russell, Senior Curator (Non-Fiction), and Lisa Kerrigan, BFI National Archive
  • Dr Heather Norris Nicholson, Film historian, community heritage development consultant and Visiting Researcher, University of Huddersfield
  • Dr Caroline Frick, Associate Professor, Radio-TV-Film Department at The University of Texas at Austin
  • Dr Susan Aasman, Director of the Centre for Digital Humanities and Program coordinator of the Master Digital Humanities at the Groningen University
  • Dr Frank Gray, Director of Screen Archive South East and founder of the Film and Screen Studies course at the University of Brighton
  • Dr Ciara Chambers, Lecturer in Film Studies, University College Cork
  • Dr Abigail Keating, Lecturer in Film and Screen Media, University College Cork
  • Daniel Mauro, Ph.D. candidate, Media Studies and Social Science/Humanities Research Associate II at The University of Texas at Austin
  • Dr. Kiki Tianqi Yu, Associate Professor in Cinema Studies, USC-SJTU Institute of Cultural and Creative Industry, Shanghai
  • Kevin Brownlow, film historian, documentary filmmaker and director of Photoplay Productions
  • Tim Jones, School of Media, Art and Design, Canterbury Christ Church University
  • Dr Kevin Greenbank, Archivist, Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge
  • Angela Graham, Archive Manager at East Anglian Film Archive (UEA)
  • Phillip Collins, Film archivist, Institute of Amateur Cinematographers (IAC) – The Film and Video Institute
  • Graeme Spurr, Post-Doctoral student, Film and Television Studies Department, University of Glasgow.
  • Dr Nariman Massoumi, Lecturer in Film and Television, University of Bristol.

The BAFTSS Amateur Cinema SIG is convened by Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, University of Cambridge. To join the group please contact Dr Motrescu-Mayes (amm230 [at] and register as a member of BAFTSS at


I. Amateur cinema and its multiple film sub-genres, 21 April 2017, (BAFTSS Amateur Cinema SIG panel, BAFTTS Conference, Bristol, UK)

Overview: There is an urgency to circumscribe, re-define and develop a critical language able to cope with the rapid shift between what was conventionally categorised as private and personal – i.e. home movies watched and distributed as ‘home entertainment’ – and what has become in the digital space a public, global privacy where the image-maker adopts the amateur’s creatively liberating status. The three speakers will place their core research agenda at the confluence of such clashing and yet co- dependent moving-image production and distribution practices and will consider possible new directions in inter-disciplinary scholarship. Each speaker will explore methodical, extensive approaches addressing developments in amateur cinema practice and studies while relying on the intrinsic interdisciplinary approach dictated by specific questions of technology, social and political dynamics, economic structures, changing aesthetic cannons, and contemporary cultural patterns. They will consider new insights regarding the ways in which visual and memory experiences are currently shaped, stored and re-distributed across new amateur cinema/media technologies and visual channels, and will discuss several examples of visual methodologies relevant to collective memory and representation studies within the global framework of amateur/user- generated film and media.

Paper My first Videotape: from amateur film to amateur media (Susan Aasman, University of Groningen)
This paper will trace the ways in which anthropologists, sociologists, cultural historians, and film and media theorists have explored amateur cinema and media as a rich source of new means of cultural production. From the invention of the film camera at the end of the nineteenth-century until the late 1960s, amateur film making on 16mm, 9.5mm, and 8mm film was a hobby practiced predominantly by white middle-class men. As such, it became part of the twentieth-century everyday life as a new cultural practice that primarily used the camera as a technology of memory-building an archive of idealised representations of family life.  So far, not much attention has been paid to the era of amateur video, which is a serious lack as from the 1980s onwards amateur media production became more diverse. This paper will especially address these more recent changes of the concept of ‘amateur’.   New media technologies brought new representational possibilities that were explored by different groups of users attracted to new kind of amateur media usages.  More recently, the emergence of the Web 2.0 challenged amateurship in an entirely new way, moving beyond small social circles of reception. YouTube’s initial call to ‘broadcast yourself’ individualized the possibility to express oneself to a potentially world-wide audience. In addition, a niche demographic, such as children and teenagers has quickly embraced this new visual literacy – a group who had never could produce, edit and broadcast its amateur cinema/media productions.

Paper Amateur cinema – from ethics to semantics (Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, University of Cambridge)
This paper will consider an in-depth analysis of how cultural and social networks of amateur cinema/media redefine key concepts of surveillance and media ethics. Examples selected from different amateur media genres, i.e. home movies, web-dramas, vlogs, snapchats, are central to the argument around issues of authenticity and of global, national and gender identities. This perspective becomes particularly relevant when considering amateur cinema/media as an ever-changing vernacular text within the global visual literacy and its efficacy in modelling new perspectives on media ethics and semantics. The current visual culture and its by-product literacy are constantly shared and shaped by a synchronous global network of producers-cum-audience. While studies of the rapid shifts in popular visual and digital culture have already been published and scholarship addressing home movies and/or amateur film culture is gaining momentum, the study of amateur cinema / media as a text able to challenge conventional critical methodologies is still an uncharted territory for most media scholars. The paper will advance the thesis that the study of amateur cinema/media prompts the renegotiation of established (cine/media) semiotic studies that locate film/visual culture within the logic of structural linguistics and, most importantly, within the fluid parameters of media ethics that define today’s new visual literacy. Several examples of amateur cinema/media will be discussed from this perspective with the aim to identify the ways in which visual identities, memories and histories have been negotiated within private networks (i.e. family, social clubs) of distribution and/or continue to be interpreted across online, free-access global media networks.

Paper Film Cans or Coffins?  Reframing “Amateur” Archives in the YouTube Era (Caroline Frick, University of Texas at Austin)
In his oft-cited work on the develop of professionalism in the United States, scholar Burton Bledstein illustrates the shift from amateur to professional through the experience of nineteenth century coffin-makers.  From woodworker to “mortician,” and coffin to “casket,” Bledstein argues that these practitioners strived to distance themselves from their craftsman origins to gain closer links to the loftier position of medical “physician.”  The contemporary evolution of YouTube personality into broadcasting star mirrors such shifts and harkens to the advent of the Hollywood celebrity system, grooming the unknown into well-trained studio player.  The intersections between industry, amateur, technology, and the historical media canon offer compelling evidence for a closer look at the nuances of “amateur” film and video.  With a case study of amateur “horror” genre content from the Texas Archive of the Moving Image, this paper will address the challenges of generic classification presented by repurposed “amateur” archival content online.  The 1966 feature film, Manos:  The Hands of Fate, created by a fertilizer salesman from El Paso to win a bet, offers a unique example of the ongoing life cycle of archival media:  From nearly orphaned amateur relic, to cable celebrity status, to online viral click-bait, amateur horror refuses to be relegated to the coffin-like nature of an obsolete film can.

For further information about the conference programme and conference panels see BAFTSS Conference 2017



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