Making Your Media Matter Conference, Center for Social Media, Feb 12-13, 2009

The Center for Social Media at American University is having its 5th annual Making Your Media Matter Conference, Feb 12-13, 2009. It has a great focus on the connections between ethics, aesthetics, and funding for media makers — an important issue for all of us working in media during these tough economic times. The conference features keynotes by the noted documentary film makers, George Stoney and Gordon Quinn. Sessions planned include: a special focus on the often perilous balance between money and mission in social issue media (speakers include, Danny Alpert, Executive Producer of See3 and Kindling Group, Julie Goldman, founder of Cactus Three Films, Diana Barrett of the Fledgling Fund and Alyce Myatt, Executive Director of Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media); a panel on outreach (panelists include, Andrew Mer of Snagfilms, Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar, film makers of Made in LA; Scott Kirsner, author of CinemaTech; Wendy Levy, Director of Creative Programming of the Bay Area Video Coalition), and a session on art, ethics, and mission (with Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, film makers of War Dance, Cara Mertes, Director of the Sundance Documentary Film Program, Thomas Allen Harris, Director of Chimpanzee Productions, Sky Sitney, Programming Director of SILVERDOCS).

Here’s a link for more information on this important event.

By the way, the website for the Center for Social Media is a great resource for those of us interested in Media Literacy education, with all kinds of information on fair use and public policy issues related to media.

New Podcast with Sharon Sekhon, Studio for Southern California History

Hey everyone:
As promised, my interview with Sharon Sekhon discussing her work with The Studio for Southern California History can be found on the podcast part of the feminism 3.0 site:

Archives of Empowerment

Tucked between an electronics store and an employment agency in LA’s Chinatown is the wonderful, Studio for Southern California History, a community based cultural history museum, which focuses on overlooked histories/stories of the region. I first had the good fortune to visit the museum as part of the Imagining America conference in October 2008, when, as part of the event, the Studio‘s Director, Sharon Sekhon, took us on a walking tour of the neighborhood.

But I truly knew this was my kind of archive when I saw the website connected to the space borrowed a quotation from Marcel Proust:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”  The Studio for Southern California History is one of my favorite places to visit in LA as it is all about rethinking and reshaping the lenses with which we use to see, study, and understand our past.   Our “lenses” of history now include previously hidden, marginalized, or ignored perspectives on events as well as new ways or formats for seeing.    The Studio is a counter history of Southern California as well as an exploration in counter historical writings — using a  variety of media: photos, texts, video, audio, and assorted installation/interactive objects (my favorite being a pinball machine featuring LA landmarks!).  
I will be having more on the Studio in an upcoming podcast with Sharon Sekhon.   Sharon is truly an innovator who brings interactive archives, historical writing, and community engagement together through the Studio.   Stay tuned for our dialogue on another exciting model for the “archive for the future.”   Below is an image from the Studio’s current exhibit: Signs of Our Times.

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Site to Check Out: Institute for Interdisciplinary Art and Creative Intelligence

Here’s a cool new site to check out, the Institute for Interdisciplinary Art and Creative Intelligence that is very much in spirit with our feminism 3.0 mission of connecting the creative and critical, or as noted on the site a commitment to engage “the intuitive and the intellectual in simultaneity.”   The Institute’s Director is the artist/scholar, Jeananne Dill, who will be offering seminars on creativity through the site.   Also of interest on the site is a link to a forthcoming project/site on the artist and filmmaker, Jules Engle.   

We welcome all of these exciting and innovative efforts to forge new paths in theory/practice/research/archives/education so a big shout out to IIACI!   Below is an image from Professor Dill’s film, Paris is a Woman.

Adventures in Praxis

Coming down the homestretch for the semester here at UWM and my Multicultural Amercia class was given the ultimate challenge as they were working on their final projects — an online archive devoted to the child’s advocacy group, Kids Matter Inc. . Using the fairly new and usually nifty app, Google Site, somehow the class was trapped in a spam filter that shut down the entire site ONE DAY BEFORE the classroom presentations of their work. We all had a collective gasp and kept working and looks like the site is now emerging from the Google limbo intact. We are still working away on our collective project given the mini setback, but I wanted to give a shout out to my UWM students’ resilience and good humor throughout the experience.

I ask a lot from my students in the class, building basic to mid range multimedia making skils, media analysis, critical skills on multicultural issues, AND a service learning experience. I am excited to see their final projects and the archive completed. Their earlier assignment, a photo essay and interview, demonstrated enormous self-reflection as well as concern and respect for their subjects. I have learned so much from my students this semester and just wanted to send them a big thank you in this blog post. I will put a link up here when the archive is available, but in the meantime here’s to our adventures in praxis.

A big thanks is especially directed to our course tech assistant, Dale Kaminski, who labored all afternoon creating a parallel website for the class and then received a note from Google informing us of our release from exile.

Foto.Synthesis — Social Justice Film Showcase!

Hey all — From our friends at University of Arizona we have news of Foto-Synthesis, a student run film showcase dedicated to issues of social justice. The festival is open to undergrad, grad, community college students. The deadline is February 16, 2009.

Here are some details:

• Topic must focus around an issue of
social justice, for instance how things
like race, ethnicity, gender identity,
ability, class, religion, sexual
orientation, nationality, etc. relate to
health, law, policy, economics, art, and
other social institutions and themes
• Submission open to undergraduate
and graduate students at four year
universities or 2 year community
colleges, from all departments and
areas of study
• Film must be submitted in DVD format:
DVD clearly marked with title, name of
filmmaker, running time, which will be
kept in a permanent file
• Documentary, experimental, narrative,
animation, live action features and
shorts accepted
• Please include the informational sheet,
filled out in full, with your submission:
Download the sheet at our website,
• Submissions must be postmarked by
February 16, 2009.

Submissions must be mailed to:
Katelyn Sadler, Room 232
1000 N. Park Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85719

To learn more, email [email protected]
or visit the website at

Upcoming Events

Hi everyone — Vicki Callahan signing on this Saturday morning. I have been a bit MIA here as I have been working on other parts of the fem 3.0 website: the live blog, a podcast with the artist Cecelia Condit (check it out, a really wonderful insight into her artistic process). I will be posting in next couple of weeks about conferences I will be attending: IMAGINING AMERICA (in LA, Oct 2-4); FLOW (Austin, Oct 9-11) and THE CONVERSATION: THE FUTURE OF CINEMA, GAMES, AND ONLINE VIDEO. I have some links on the page so check these events out. I am excited to have the opportunity to hear all the ideas out there on new media tools and the transformation it is producing.

I had a productive summer with lots of travel and of particular interest was a trip to the BADLANDS and Lakota country. Off the beaten path housed in small trailer was the Lakota Visitor’s Center to the Badlands National Park. I had the good fortune to enter into the park from this direction due to a hotel worker’s information that this was the best way into the park rather than the “main entrance.” The area was minus the tourist cabins and gift shop we see at the “official” site and not far from Wounded Knee. To get to the Lakota center you travel down “Bombing Run Road,” which is land the US government took from the community for practice bombing runs in WWII. There are still warnings to leave any potential unexploded projectiles alone.

On a much more inspiring note, within the Lakota Visitor Center was a wonderful media archive of the history of the region. Photographs and text told of the community’s resilient efforts to maintain their culture and their language over the years despite external interference. The Lakota Center is great tribute to the community’s spirit and a wonderful example of an explicit counter history of the region (the “official” center focuses on geology and other scientific/technological domains, with little on the people in the area).

One last image from this stunning landscape.

Women and Silent Screen V, Stockholm University June 2008

A belated and partial report from the always inspiring Women and Silent Screen conference. This biennial event, which began in Utrecht in 1999, is for me one of best academic conferences around on topic of cinema history. Not only is the conference small enough that it has almost a family get together sort of feeling, but the quality of the research is uniformly excellent and typically addresses uncharted territory in film history. In addition, the screenings at each of the conferences (I have been fortunate to attend four of the five held) are filled with rarely or unseen gems of the cinema (and usually with jaw dropping gorgeous prints). This year was no exception, and I want to start out by sending out a big thank you to Astrid Soderbergh Widding and Sofia Bull and their crew in Cinema Studies at Stockholm University for their all hard work, hospitality, and indefatigable good cheer. Other acknowledgements for conference organization efforts should be sent out to Jane Gaines, Annette Kuhn, and Tytti Soila. In addition, the collective efforts of Annette Forster, Elif Rongen-Kaynakci from the Netherlands Film Museum and Kajsa Hedstrom and John Wengstrom from the Swedish Film Institute on the conference screenings were simply amazing to say the least — beautiful, fascinating, rare, and pristine 35mm prints were shown each day of the event.

Astrid Soderbergh Widding and Laura Horak’s presentations separately examined the phenomena of cross-dressing in the silent era. Soderbergh Widding looked at the 1926 Swedish comedy by Karin Swanstrom, FLICKAN I FRACK/THE GIRL IN TAILS (a restored version was premiered at the conference), which uses the device as a narrative strategy to question gender roles, while Horak’s talk explored the “Biograph Boy,” Edna/Billy Foster, whose roles were not so much cross-dressing but rather working from the theatrical tradition of male impersonation. Again, we were fortunate enough to see an example of the “Biograph Boy” in a screening of the D.W. Griffith film, BILLY’S STRATAGEM (1912) although the radicality of the gender role twist is countered with Griffith’s usual dualistic vision of race/ethnicity, and indeed gender, since Billy’s role is in fact to save “his” sister from marauding Indians, a plot structure we know all too well from the director’s career.

Cross-dressing could be much more stylized or performative as Victoria Duckett’s paper on Sarah Bernhardt underlined the largely overlooked or unappreciated “theatrical film” in early cinema. Often seen as an anachronism, Duckett made a compelling case for thinking of Bernhardt’s films as falling outside of the silent film classifications of “attractions” or “classical narrative.”  Anne Morey examined similarly a cross-over from the theatrical tradition in her presentation on Geraldine Ferrar, a Metropolitan Opera star who strangely enough made only one film, CARMEN (Cecil B. DeMille, 1915) which was an adaptation from the opera stage.   As Morey notes, Ferrar’s casting was an effort by Hollywood to bring in mass audiences to the cinema with an appeal to “high class” performances, but here the sheer presence of Ferrar rather than the art form itself was the designator of the “class” act.

Some of the histories discussed at the conference were dependent upon many hours spent pouring over the rich resources of  the Margaret Herrick Library (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles), and one panel was particularly inspiring for helping us to think about the many different kinds of materials found there.    Barbara Hall, Richard Abel, Mark Garrett Cooper, and Jennifer Horne all gave us insights into opportunities for research at the Herrick.   Barbara Hall noted particularly the Pickford papers, the Mack Sennett collection, early sheet music and fan magazine collections on hand, while Richard Abel pointed out the Herrick’s often overlooked collection of Selig promotional material from cinema’s earliest days.     Jennifer Horne reminded us that the Herrick could also be a treasure trove of cultural history (beyond film production material) by discussing her work on the “better films movement” and the connections between women’s clubs, public libraries, and film exhibition. 
Lastly — and I am leaving out far too many amazing panels and films at this year’s conference  — I wanted to note a panel I was fortunate enough to chair and to learn much from,  on “Film Festivals,” featuring Kay Armatage, Ingrid Stiggsdotter, and Kelly Robinson.   This panel was especially interesting in that it focused on parallels in time between women’s participation and recognition in early and contemporary cinema as well as on writing and curatorial practices that would enable women’s film history to resonate with new audiences.     In the discussion that followed we all realized how fragile women’s place in film history still is today — not only for their labor in the silent era, but also from its not so distant past (1970s women’s filmmaking and film festivals are still in need of historians, theorists, and archival documentation).   It was simultaneously a sobering (i.e., how much is to be done) and exhilarating (how much there is to learn!) conversation.    As always, I came away from the Women and Silent Screen conference energized and most importantly, fortified with the knowledge that so many wonderful scholars are working on related terrain.

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Early Woman Filmmakers

This book review was passed along by a member of the Mabel Normand Yahoo Group; I think this might be something I need to read and keep as a reference book on the growing shelf of Woman in Early Cinema. With the continued interest, perhaps Mabel will find her rightful place as one of the “Woman Filmmakers.”

Published by [email protected] (May 2008)

Karen Ward Mahar. _Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood_. Studies in Industry and Society Series. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. xii + 291 pp. Halftones, notes, essay on sources, index. $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 0-8018-8436-5.

Reviewed for H-SHGAPE by Dominique Brégent-Heald, Department of History, Memorial University of Newfoundland

From Girls on/behind Film to the Big Business Film Boys

In April 1896, the audience at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall in New York City witnessed the first projected motion pictures in the United States. By the mid-1910s, this technological novelty had evolved into one of the nation’s most lucrative industries. The rise of the film industry is a story oft told. Yet, historians typically have omitted the part women played during this transitional period both on screen and off. Karen Ward Mahar fills in this gap in the historiography by examining the significant role of women in the U.S. film industry between 1908 and 1916, and the subsequent marginalization of women in the post-WWI period within the larger context of early twentieth-century American business history.

Mahar, an associate professor of history at Siena College, New York, divides the book into two broad chronological sections. Following a prologue that considers the birth of motion pictures as a scientific invention (read masculine) at the turn of the twentieth century, part 1 covers the period of Progressive-Era uplift when women became active in the film industry. During the nickelodeon boom (1905-7), storefront theaters that showed a continuous rotation of short films, Progressive-Era reformers alleged that the nickel theaters, along with the films they screened, engendered a corruptive influence on working-class audiences, particularly women and children, and, therefore, clamored for censorship and regulation. In response to its critics, the film industry strove to elevate its craft by moving to longer films and establishing legitimate exhibition venues. As Shelley Stamp shows in _Movie-Struck Girls_ (2000), women, who were widely seen as a positive moral influence, played an important role in the attempt to achieve middle-class respectability as spectators and fans.

Mahar adds to this argument by further demonstrating that in the years following the demise of the nickelodeon, women were not only avid consumers of films but also a creative force within the industry. Though women had worked in various capacities during the nickelodeon period, as box office cashiers, theater manager/owners, and actors, the evolving film industry of the 1910s offered women novel opportunities both in front of the camera, due to the emergence of the star system, and behind-the-scenes as directors, producers, scenarists, and editors. In addition to discussing the more familiar women filmmakers of the period, including Mary Pickford, Nell Shipman, and Mabel Normand, Mahar restores to historical memory such forgotten women as Lois Weber, Alice Guy Blaché, Gene Gauntier, Grace Cunard, and Clara Kimball Young. According to Mahar, the public profile of these New Women smashed the Victorian ideology of separate spheres, while the commercial success of athletic, plucky, and comedic serial queens challenged conventional notions of proper feminine behavior. The author, however, is careful not to position this period as one free of sexism and discrimination. She maintains that it was easier for men to find work as directors and producers than it was for women. Moreover, women star-producers often worked in partnerships with men. When these relationships ended, the tendency was for the woman’s career to fail while the man transitioned to other projects.

By the mid-1920s, it had become increasingly difficult for women to find work in creative and managerial capacities in the film industry. In part 2, 1916-28, Mahar discusses the rise of the studio system, a vertically integrated oligopoly of five major and three minor studios, which resulted in the marginalization of women and the concomitant remasculinization of filmmaking. This novel business model contrasted the earlier collaborative structure of the film industry. Due to the influence of Progressive-Era professionalization and scientific management techniques, filmmaking had become not only regimented, hierarchical, and departmentalized, but also characterized by sex-segregated work roles; with only a few exceptions, the tasks of directing, producing, and editing were relegated to men. Mahar, thus, connects the disappearance of opportunities for women in the film industry to preexisting patterns in modern American business. She writes, “the industry shifted away from the goal of cultural legitimacy … toward a model that prized business legitimacy. This shift ultimately marginalized the woman filmmaker” (p. 133).

Overall, Mahar’s case is convincing, though I found the first part stronger than the second. Regardless, throughout the text, Mahar’s argument is buoyed by careful research and a sound methodology, which is a combination of feminist theories on the gendering of work and historical analysis on the culture of American business in general and the film industry in particular. As such, the monograph nicely fits within the Studies in Industry and Society series, edited by Philip B. Scranton and published with the assistance of the Hagley Museum and Library. Her prose is clear and absent of jargon. Moreover, she provides enough context for those who may be unfamiliar with film history, which makes _Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood_ accessible to undergraduates or nonspecialists in the field. This title will undoubtedly appeal to H- SHGAPE readers interested in learning about filmmaking during the Progressive Era and the role of women amid changing business ideologies in the early twentieth century. My only regret is that Mahar did not include a filmography!

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the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit,
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author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and
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contact the Reviews editorial staff: [email protected].
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Feminism 3.0

Welcome to our feminism 3.0 blog devoted specifically to theory/practice experimentation: this area is still very much under construction, but we hope will provide a lively place for information and connections.  Feminist educators and activists have long advocated collaboration, networking, and new forms of critical and creative expression as central components their practice.  How do new media tools enhance or indeed transform these feminist objectives?  In an era when the definitions and the goals of feminism are matters of considerable contention, how might digital technology and networked media create a space where we might move past paradoxes and problems and engage with what feminist scholar Elizabeth Grosz calls “thinking the new.”   This feminism 3.0 blog is designed as space of dialogue amongst artists and scholars committed to theory/practice interventions.