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Winter 03/04


Contemporary Film and Video

Tate Britain - 27 March

Money, technology and the critical questions around creativity have impacted dramatically on the formation of British film and video. This day will explore the various avenues that have changed the production, distribution and look of the moving image. Have artists found new ways of funding their work? How has the ever shifting commercial and public sector relationship affected creative practices? What might the advent of new technologies bring to the making of new film and video? Artists, filmmakers, critics, broadcasters and historians come together to explore the many and varied influences and shifts in contemporary practice.

Key presentations will be given by Mike Figgis, director of Cold Creek Manor and Hotel, and Lynne Ramsay, director of Morvern Callar and Ratcatcher.



Regionalism and Globalised Cultures

University of Ulster, Coleraine - 28-30 July

This major international conference will explore the relationship between 'global' popular culture and various definitions of 'local' culture. Crucial to an understanding of this relationship is the concept of 'the region' as this has become reconfigured by global economic and cultural forces. Regional cultures exist in relation to and in opposition to dominant national cultures in complex and contradictory ways. National cultures themselves are often posited as regional cultures in opposition to the global and the concept of 'critical regionalism' has been canvassed as a challenge to global conformity. On the other hand, in line with the strategies of multinational corporations more generally, multinational software manufacturers have divided the global market into 'regions' for the purpose of controlling the DVD market. This would suggest that, despite the fact that regional cultures seem to offer alternatives to the global market there appears to be nothing intrinsically challenging or radical in the concept of the region.

The conference will explore the complex and contradictory relationships among the local, the regional, the national and the global and assess the implications for both media representation and local, national and transnational audio-visual policy. Central to discussions will be the concept of comparative film studies and a number of papers will address the rationale and theoretical implications of comparative media research.

Call for papers


Following Sylvia Harvey's appointment to a new chair at the university of Lincoln, the final phase of the Film and Broadcasting Policy strand will be based at Lincoln, with Margaret Dickinson as Senior Research Fellow and Kathrein Guenther as Junior Fellow.

This phase will cover the period 1985 to 2000, from the point when the Conservative Government effectively dismantled the post WW2 structure of film support and regulation, through the beginnings of co-ordinated European media policy under the MEDIA programmes, up to the formation of the UK Film Council as a new unitary body. It will cover the appearance of Channel 4 as a new force in British production, becoming a major player in brokering international co-productions (such as Secrets and Lies). The steady fall in domestic cinema attendance reversed in the late 80s as multiplex construction spearheaded a revival of confidence in exhibition, despite the emergence of home video as a potential competitor. Inter-preting the dynamics of this period of British film policy promises to be a fascinating subject.

Paradoxes of identity. Brenda Blethyn and Marianne Jean-Baptiste toast their new relationship in Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies (1996), a quintessentially English film largely financed by France.


By a timely coincidence, the London Assembly's report on current cinema provision across London boroughs, Picture Perfect?, appeared just as the Centre's' London' project got under way at the end of 2003. This project will study the growth of the moving picture industry during its first twenty years, from 1894-1914, within the area which saw its most explosive development. One important feature will be the correlation of knowledge about exhibition as well as production, and studying the emergence during this period of distribution as a distinct sector of the trade.

By mapping the growth of this dynamic new industry and entertainment medium, year by year, it will become possible to trace for the first time how moving pictures were shaped by the economic and social geography of the capital - and how they in turn helped shape the 'imperial metropolis' of Edwardian London. Such a realization has been largely missing from the accounts of London's historians, beyond a token acknowledgment of the spread of 'super cinemas'. But film was already an important business, transforming lives and fortunes for a decade before these appeared.

It has also been missing in any systematic form from the work of British film historians, ever since Rachael Low drew attention to the wide disparity of contemporary estimates as long ago as 1948. Most subsequent studies have concentrated instead on the work of individual producers (John Barnes), or on pervasive aspects of exhibition such as the shift from music halls and 'penny gaffs' to purpose-built cinema halls (Michael Chanan). As a result, we have only an impressionistic view of how production and exhibition actually developed during the period up to 1914 - a period that was crucial in witnessing Britain's early lead in both production and exhibition decline, to the point where foreign suppliers were the majority suppliers to a burgeoning exhibition sector by 1914.

The study will involve, first, collation and assessment of existing published materials, both primary and secondary. These will include the early film trade press, and major works of synthesis such as Rachael Low and Georges Sadoul; as well as sampling of contemporary newspaper and ephemera sources. A second phase is envisaged as the study in depth of selected areas of London, using local history archives, to determine through 'micro studies' the pattern production and exhibition development, together with associated factors such as transport and housing density. Where were cinemas created? And how did audiences reach them? Why did studios move and how did they develop, as production became more elaborate.

Presenting the results will involve tabulation and databases. But it should also include an accessible visual display, which will allow trends to be seen, year by year, and compared. There will be issues of coverage to decide. How far beyond Central or Greater London should the study reach? What attention should be paid to the parallel development of other forms of mechanised or 'mass' entertainment, such as music hall, theatre, dance halls? A series of seminars will convened during 2004 to canvass expert opinion on these matters; and also to identify likely members of the Advisory Panel. It is hoped to appoint a Senior Research Fellow to lead the project by March.


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