Editor’s Choice

Selected projects/artworks using amateur films (footage)

  • British Women Amateur Filmmakers and Colour Films – BAFTSS Amateur Cinema SIG Symposium, 2 March 2018

The Symposium has received generous support from 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’. Poster

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  & Dr Keith Johnston (University of East Anglia) – ‘Women, Amateur Film, and Colour Processes’
14.00 Panel discussion & Q&A
16.00 Free Screening – British Women Amateur Filmmakers, Cinema City (Screen 3), Norwich. Book tickets here

Additional information about the Symposium is available here

  • Amateur cinema and its multiple film sub-genres, 21 April 2017, (‘Amateur Cinema’ 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


  • Research on Amateur Cinema/media in China by Kiki Tianqi Yu, Associate Professor in Cinema Studies, Institute of Cultural and Creative Industry, Shanghai.

“Camera activism in contemporary People’s Republic of China: provocative documentation, first person confrontation, and collective force…” in Studies in Documentary Film, 2015

“Towards a communicative practice: First person filmmaking in twenty-first century China.” In China’s iGeneration: Cinema and Moving Image Culture for Twenty-first Century, edited by Matthew D.Johnson, Keith B. Wagner, Tianqi Yu, Luke Vulpiani, Bloomsbury, 2014

China’s iGeneration: Cinema and Moving Image Culture for 21st Centuryedited by Tianqi Yu, Matthew D.Johnson, Keith B. Wagner, Luke Vulpiani, Bloomsbury, 2014 

“An Inward Gaze at Home: Amateur documentary Filmmaking in contemporary China” In Amateur Filmmaking: The Home Movie, the Archive, the Web, edited by Monahan Barry, Laura Rascaroli and Gwenda Young, Bloomsbury, 2014

  • ACSN is pleased to announce the publication ofPersonal films in the Digital Space’, a guest-edited special issue (New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, Vol. 11, Issue 2-3). This volume was prompted by the need to sample some of the themes, methodologies and critical developments currently explored in the field of amateur cinema/media studies and digital humanities. In choosing the term ‘personal film’ it has become possible to address the variegated film/visual sub-genres that constitute the current research corpus of amateur media studies. As a result, the articles selected for this issue address in a wide-ranging and cross-disciplinary framework constructions of private and/or public memory across 8mm home movies, video and digital amateur films, Skype and YouTube recordings, and experimental films. As a guest editor, and on behalf of ACSN, Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes has invited the contributors to reflect on how personal films function as visual agents of private, national and global intimacies in the digital space of online archives and social networks, and to explore questions of research methodologies, archival practices, audience reception, self-reflexivity and cultural heritage. Please see below for additional information about this special issue:

Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes

Video-making, Harlem Shaking: Theorizing the interactive amateur.
Abigail Keating.

Impossible family portraits: Users, new media technologies and the writing of amateur media history.
Susan Aasman

Close to home: Privatization and personalization of militarized death in Israeli home videos.
Laliv Melamed

Of national ‘Significance’: Politicizing the home movies of the US National Film Registry.
Daniel Mauro

Ayisha Abraham’s Straight 8.
Lalitha Gopalan

From the roof top into the mine.
Ayisha Abraham

How to keep our memories safe: ‘Changing platforms of ritualized memory practices. The cultural dynamics of home movies’ project, 2012–2015.
Susan Aasman

Subscribe to the current volume, Volume: 11 http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-Journal,id=129/view,page=1


Escuela Audiovisual Infantil (Colombia) is a unique open-house educational and media project for children (8-16yrs old) who are encouraged to make (amateur) films based on their own stories. For more information see the project’s Facebook page and a detailed article and interview here.


Staging the Amateur Dispositif’ – Home movies project ‘performs’ media archeological experiment at upcoming International Orphan Films Symposium.
On March 31st, the research-team of the project ‘Changing Platforms of Ritualized Memory Practices. The Cultural Dynamics of Home Movies’ will be giving a special presentation at the 9th edition of the International Orphan Film Symposium, held from March 30-April 2 in the EYE Film Institute, Amsterdam. In the presentation Andreas Fickers, Jo Wachelder, Susan Aasman, Tom Slootweg and Tim van der Heijden will collectively perform a media archaeological experiment in which they reconstruct the changing dispositif of home movie screening practices. In three ‘tableaux’ it will be explored how past media usages of film, video, and new media have altered the practices of home movie staging. The experiment is based on the project’s research which aims to trace how changing technologies of memory production have shaped new practices and rituals of memory staging. For more information about the concept of ‘experimental media archaeology’, see Andreas Fickers’ recent publication called ‘Experimental Media Archeology: A Plea for New Directions’ (2014). Watch the promo of the event’s performance here. For more information about the event, see the project’s weblog.


From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf (dir. Shaina Anand, Ashok Sukumaran, IN, 2013)
“A film based on actual events, and videos of actual events.’ Four years ago the Indian artists’ collective CAMP started to work with the boats that crisscross the Arabian Sea from the Gulf of Kutch between India and Pakistan to the Persian Gulf. This film draws from these years of dialogue, friendship and video exchange with sailors, most of whom are from Gujarat in India, Southern Iran and Pakistan. Rather than directing, the filmmakers act as editors, deftly compiling from the sailors’ mobile phone footage an authentic grassroots picture of the experiences of these usually invisible sea workers. But, with the impressive wooden boats and the joyous soundtrack (chosen by the sailors themselves), this humble material is ultimately transformed into a modern adventure on the high seas” (BFI review).
See also CAMP for additional information about this unique collaborative project that explores independent artistic and media projects.

Ongoing Research Projects

Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI), founded by Dr Caroline Frick, Austin, TX. TAMI’s online archive includes alongside commercial, advertising and instructional films a large collection of home movies and amateur films. Moreover, TAMI collaborates with the Office of the Governor’s Texas Film Commission to administer the Texas Film Round-Up / Texas Moving Image Archive Program. TAMI is one of the few film archives/projects to be currently and actively involved in supporting the use of home movies and amateur films as primary educational sources for the social studies curriculum.

Private Pasts and Future Publics‘ by Daniel Mauro (University of Texas at Austin, US)
Mauro is exploring research questions such as whether home movies are ‘truly “representative” of the everyday on a larger scale?’ and  ‘Do curators/filmmakers/scholars/etc. have the goal of making these films representative, or, is it the context of their selection that necessarily positions them on a representative scale?’. For ongoing feedback relating to this project see the respective in media res webpage.

Ephemeral Films: National Socialism in Austria
Among the goals of the project are the preservation, scientific exploration and analysis of a unique collection of “ephemeral” films on National Socialism in Austria. The group includes more than fifty films, largely unknown and in need of restoration, which relate to the rise of the NSDAP since 1932, Austria’s “annexation” in 1938, the war period from 1941-42 as well as Jewish everyday life before the expulsion and the Holocaust. These documents – mostly amateur films, but also “Kulturfilme” and other types of sponsored films – derive from the collections of the Austrian Film Museum and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. The two institutions have, in 2011, begun to intensify their collaboration in this field. During the course of the project, the preserved films will be contextualized and made accessible to a broader public in order to complement and correct a discourse which has been dominated to an extreme degree by the imagery of propaganda film.



20th October – the 10th HOME MOVIE DAY. Highlights:

Vienna: event hosted by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute and the Austrian Filmmuseum.

Amsterdam: Special Home Movie Day events at EYE

Tokyo: 最新のお知らせ

– Canary Islands: at the Filmoteca Canaria

– Los Angeles:  Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre

Bologna: organised by Home Movies-Archivio Nazionale del Film di Famiglia

Paris: ‘L’inversible’, at Café L’affiche de L’Espace Saint-Michel (Paris, 5e)

– Vasa(FI):Biblioteksgatan 13, Vasa.

Berlin: Zillestr. 9,(Charlottenburg)


News from the Archives

September 2012: ‘Pageant of Ashdown Forest 1929′, film belonging to the Nightingale Family Collection held by Screen Archive South East, shows Christopher Robin Milne dressed as Winnie-the-Pooh character ’Christopher Robin’ alongside children dressed as Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and Kanga.

September 2012: Farming at Gifford, 1953. Scottish Screen Archive.

August 2012: Lance House Collection, Screen Archive South East, University of Brighton.

August 2012: Amateur films of Mexico, 1935-1941, ‘Stefan Hirsch and Elsa Rogo papers’, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

August 2012  ‘Lever-Karst family home movies‘ collection held by the Moving Image Research Collections, University of South Carolina.

July 2012  ‘Discussion of personal film’: Several art and cultural historians have been recently invited by the Northeast Historic Film to discuss amateur film culture and to consider aesthetic intent, audiences and interpretive strategies.

July 2012  ‘Enthusiasts: archive‘– a collaborative artwork based on extensive research amongst the remnants of amateur film clubs in Poland under socialism.

See more News from the Archives

Amateur vs Independent

July 2012  Cameron Jamie’s black-and-white ‘BB’ (Super 8, 2000), the first film in his trilogy on ‘ritualized social theatrics in America’. The film is currently screened at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

See more Amateur vs Independent

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