British women amateur filmmakers: innovative visual narratives and early colour films

BAFTSS Amateur Cinema SIG panel, 13 April 2018, BAFTTS Conference, University of Kent, UK.

‘Hybrid Histories: Technologies of Memory and the Cultural Dynamics of Home Movies, 1895–2005’

PhD dissertation by Tim van der Heijden (Maastricht University, the Netherlands)
‘This dissertation analyzes the cultural dynamics of home movies in the twentieth century. It investigates how various generations have recorded their family memories on film, video and digital media, and, more specifically, how changes in these “technologies of memory” have shaped new forms of home movie making and screening. Covering the period from the invention of the film camera in the late nineteenth century, the introduction of 9.5mm, 16mm, 8mm small-gauges and Super 8 film technologies for amateurs, via home video to digital media technologies, this study addresses the complex interrelations between the materiality of film, video and digital media technologies, their social usages and cultural meanings from a long-term historical perspective. Focusing on specific periods of transition, it becomes clear that different media technologies, user practices and discourses not only succeed each other in time, but also increasingly interrelate, interact or even transform each other. Maintaining both a diachronic and a synchronic perspective on media transitions, this dissertation proposes an alternative form of media historiography that rethinks media histories beyond the frameworks of change and continuity by perceiving hybridity as a constant factor in media historical development.

The research for the dissertation was carried in the context of the “Changing Platforms of Ritualized Memory Practices: The Cultural Dynamics of Home Movies” project funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). It entailed a collaboration between Maastricht University, the University of Groningen, and the University of Luxembourg as well as several partners from the field of cultural heritage in the Netherlands and abroad. For more information about this research project, see the weblog.

Rescheduled British Women Amateur Filmmakers & Colour Films, BAFTSS Symposium

British Women Amateur Filmmakers and Colour Films – BAFTSS Amateur Cinema SIG Symposium, organised with the generous support of the BAFTSS, ACSN, and  East Anglian Film Archive, and is organised in collaboration with the Amateur Cinema Studies Network and ‘The Eastmancolor Revolution and British Cinema, 1955-1985’

27 April 2018
East Anglian Film Archive, The Chittock Room, The Archive Centre, Martineau Lane, Norwich, NR1 2DQ


11.00 – 13.00 Presentations
Dr Heather Norris Nicholson (University of Huddersfield) – ‘Yorkshire women’s mid-century amateur filmmaking: colour and context’
Jane Fish (Imperial War Museum) – ‘“Because I thought it was far more natural….” the early colour films of Rosie Newman’
Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes (University of Cambridge) –’Ludic domesticity and Royal family matters in colour
Dr Paul Frith  (University of East Anglia) – ‘Women, Amateur Film, and Colour Processes’
14.00 Panel discussion & Q&A
15.00 Screening – British Women Amateur Filmmakers and colour films

Additional information:
1.’Yorkshire women’s mid-century amateur filmmaking: colour and context’
With reference to private and regionally held archive material by different women amateur filmmakers, this presentation explores how colour film offered opportunities to explore personal interests and places of significance. Two Yorkshire women, Lucy Fairbank, an unmarried infant teacher and May Webb, the married manager of a York camera shop, may both be seen as pioneers in how, where and when they  filmed before colour television became widely available.
Dr Heather Norris Nicholson currently works as an independent cultural and community historian and has honorary research links with Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Huddersfield. Interests in amateur film and visual story-telling span many years and interweave with preoccupations with travel, landscape, belonging, memory and identity. Publications include Amateur Film: Meaning and Practice, 1927-77, 2012,MUP) and (co-written with Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes) British Women Amateur Filmmakers: National Memories and Global Identities ( EDUP).

2. ‘“Because I thought it was far more natural….” the early colour films of Rosie Newman’
A short presentation on amateur camerawoman Rosie Newman’s 1930 Kodacolour travel films and her Kodachrome record of her experiences of the Second World War. Additional information at Rosie Newman’s Britain at War In Colour
Jane Fish is Senior Curator – Film at the Imperial War Museums

3.’Ludic domesticity and Royal family matters in colour’
Queen Elizabeth II’s colour home movies are compelling visual records on issues of gender identity and class hierarchies.  As a visual storyteller, the Queen proved in many of her amateur films a sharp sense for significant facts, colour, light, and composition. This is evident alongside details challenging customary perspectives from which imperial and post-colonial autobiographical visual accounts are  historically negotiated. Moreover, most of the Queen’s home movies dislocate the master narratives common to the amateur filmmaking practice in the 1950s and 1960s by adding a vigorous and surprising sense of unconformity, especially when recording domestic scenes that contradict, and humorously challenge, popular expectations for stereotypical depictions of royal etiquette. This presentation will discuss several scenes belonging to Queen Elizabeth II’s home movies collection.
Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes is a Visiting Lecturer in digital and new media anthropology at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, affiliated scholar and guest lecturer at the Centre of South Asian Studies (Cambridge), Fellow of Clare Hall, and member of the Cambridge Digital Humanities Network. She is a visual and digital humanities scholar working on British imperial studies, theories of media, and issues of racial and gender identities. Her research and teaching employs new theoretical models drawing on visual culture, cognitive psychology, and postcolonial studies. She has published extensively on colonial amateur film practice, and is currently co-authoring with Susan Aasman a volume on ‘Amateur Media: Film, Digital Media and Participatory Cultures’ (forthcoming Routledge, 2018).

4. Women, Amateur Film, and Colour Processes
This presentation considers two recent projects at the University of East Anglia that have adopted a different strategy towards amateur filmmaking studies than the dominant place-based approach found in much academic work and in initiatives such as the BFI’s Britain on Film project. These projects – “Women Amateur Filmmakers in Britain” and “The Eastmancolor Revolution and British Cinema, 1955-85” – have overlapping interests around the production practices, technological choices, and aesthetic approaches of women amateur filmmakers working with colour processes from the middle of the twentieth century on. The projects have also both worked closely with the collection of British amateur films from the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers (IAC), held at the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA), and will reflect on their findings to date. In the first half this presentation, Keith M. Johnston will cover the Women Amateur Filmmakers project, including the identification, cataloguing and digitisation of over 100 films, and consider the rich vein of women-produced films that span seven decades of the twentieth century. These films feature a variety of genres (drama, comedy, animation, documentary, travelogues), modes of production (single author, team, husband-and-wife collaboration), and technological adoption. An important aspect of that technological story is around the range of colour processes found in these, and other, amateur films. In the second half, Paul Frith will cover the Eastmancolor project’s engagement with the technological opportunities and limitations of amateur colour processes: focused on the production and aesthetics of colour films from the Women Amateur Filmmakers collection, he will explore how the amateur community worked together to develop experimental techniques that were employed to duplicate the technological accomplishments of the industry.
Dr Paul Frith is a Research Associate working on the Eastmancolor Revolution project at the University of East Anglia. He received his PhD from UEA in 2015 and was employed by the British Film Institute as a Conservation Specialist (2013-16). His PhD thesis addressed the commonly held misconception of a so-called ‘horror ban’ in Britain during the 1940s through alternative approaches to both censorship and discussions of the horror film. He is currently researching the use of colour in amateur cinematography and horror film censorship during the rise in colour production in Britain during the 1950s.





Amateur media, home movies and i-Docs

See “Participatory new media and trauma ‘I’-documentaries” panel, i-Docs Conference, Bristol (UK), 22 March 2018.

Amateur films and ‘Main Street Movies’

Book launch: Main Street Movies: The History of Local Film in the United States, by Martin L. Johnson (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018)  ‘A book on itinerant filmmakers who made local motion pictures in the United States between 1910 and 1975. Several chapters discuss amateur film production.’

Registration open: British Women Amateur Filmmakers & Colour Films, BAFTSS Symposium

Registration is now open for the ‘British Women Amateur Filmmakers & Colour Films, BAFTSS Symposium’. To book, please use the link  here

Kodak new Super 8 Camera

See Kodak press release ‘Kodak Brings Functional Prototypes of new Super 8 Camera to CES

CFP Northeast Historic Film Summer Symposium, 2018

Of possible interest to those researching amateur films/media in relation to regional media, regional archives, and regional work. See CFP 19th Annual Northeast Historic Film Summer Symposium.

Amateur Movie Making: The Aesthetics of the Everyday in New England Film, 1915-1960

Amateur Movie Making: The Aesthetics of the Everyday in New England Film, 1915-1960‘ – an anthology edited by Martha J. McNamara and Karan Sheldon (Indiana University Press, 2017).

Home Movie Day, Jerusalem

Home Movie Day, Jerusalem, held by the Jerusalem Cinematheque – Israel Film Archive together with the DVD library ‘The Third Ear’, on 19 December 2017.

© 2012 Amateur Cinema Studies Network (ACSN)