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Small-Gauge Storytelling

Discovering the Amateur Fiction Film

Edited by Ryan Shand, Ian Craven

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What do you understand by the term 'home movie'? Do you imagine images of babies-on-the lawn, sandcastles on the beach, or travels with the family? Did you know that amateur filmmakers have also explored fictional genres as diverse and fascinating as their professional counterparts, that specific amateur film studios have risen and fallen, or that household-name directors owe their origins and inspirations to the amateur film movement?

Across a range of settings, this book offers an introduction to the amateur maker of film comedies, thrillers, adaptations and sci-fi. It records the ambitions and achievements of enthusiasts struggling to emulate the mainstream and tell their own stories, armed with limited resources and endless initiative.

Key Features

  • the first dedicated book-length study of the amateur fiction film
  • draws together established and emerging scholars from Europe, North America and Australasia
  • establishes fresh approaches to the study of small-gauge filmmaking using formats such as 8mm, Super 8 and 9.5mm
  • places amateur fiction within ongoing debates and histories
  • establishes previously unrecognised contributions to the organisational, aesthetic and intellectual history of amateur filmmaking
  • the first published bibliography of critical sources for the study of the amateur fiction film


List of Illustrations
Introduction, Ambitions and Arguments: Exploring Amateur Cinema through Fiction, Ryan Shand
Part I: Framing Fiction, Chapter One
Historical, Aesthetic, Cultural: The Problematical Value of Amateur Cine Fiction, Guy Edmonds
Chapter Two, Sewell, Rose, and the Aesthetics of Amateur Cine Fiction, Ian Craven
Chapter Three, Crafting Life Into Film: Analysing Family Fiction Films From The 1930s, Martina Roepke
Chapter Four, Framing the Welfare State: Swedish Amateur Fiction Film 1930-1965, Mats Jönsson
Part II: Studio Sensibilities, Chapter Five, Occupying a Distinguished but Lonely Place in the Amateur Movement: Ace Movies 1929 – 1964, Francis Dyson
Chapter Six, ‘High Art’ Locally: The Screen Adaptations of IuG-Film, Maria Vinogradova
Chapter Seven, Brazilian Amateur Cinema and Fictional Films from Foto-Cine Clube Gaúcho, Lila Foster
Part III: Single-Minded Scenarios
Chapter Eight, ‘This is not Hollywood!’: Peter Watkins and the Challenge of Amateurism to the Professional, John R. Cook
Chapter Nine, ‘Start as You Mean to Go On: Ken Russell’s Early Amateur Films’, Brian Hoyle
Chapter Ten, ‘The Nocturnal Affairs of Mr Miletić: Authorship, Genre and Cine-Amateurism in Yugoslavia’ , Greg de Cuir, Jr.
Part IV: Genres and Genericity
Chapter Eleven, The Aesthetic of the Possible: The Green Cockatoo as Bricolage of Heterogeneous Traditions, Siegfried Mattl and Vrääth Öhner
Chapter Twelve, The Fragile Magic of the Home: Amateur Domestic Comedies and the Intimate Geography of Childhood, Karen Lury
Chapter Thirteen, The Spence Brothers: Amateur Sci-Fi and Cine Culture in Northern Ireland, Ciara Chambers
Notes on Contributors

About the Author

Dr Ryan Shand is Research Assistant on the AHRC-funded project ‘Children and Amateur Media in Scotland’ based at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He completed his PhD, entitled ‘Amateur Cinema: History, Theory, and Genre (1930-80)’, at the University of Glasgow, and has contributed chapters to the recent anthologies Movies on Home Ground: Explorations in Amateur Cinema (Cambridge Scholars, 2009), and The City and The Moving Image: Urban Projections (Palgrave, 2010); article publications have appeared in The Moving Image: The Journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, and The Drouth.

Ian Craven is Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. His research interests include Australian cinema, film and television technology, and British amateur cinema. Edited publications include Australian Popular Culture (Cambridge University Press, 1994), Australian Cinema in The 1990s (Frank Cass, 2001), and Movies On Home Ground: Explorations in Amateur Cinema (Cambridge Scholars, 2009). Recent articles have appeared in journals including Antipodes, Studies in Australasian Cinema, Continuum and the Journal of Media Practice. He is currently researching and writing a monograph history of British amateur filmmaking, 1920-1980.


'This book is testament to the dedication, playful inventiveness and variety of those amateur filmmakers who ventured into non-realist filmmaking traditions, as well as to the enthusiasm of the scholars who are increasing our knowledge of these amateur fiction films… thirteen chapters organized into four subsections offer breadth and depth in their analysis of amateur visual practice and its relationship to wider sociohistorical, ideological and cultural issues… [Small-Gauge Storytelling] includes much excellent scholarship and many intriguing illustrations. It has opened fresh perspectives and approaches within wider literature on amateur cinema, and it will be interesting to see how ideas in this thought-provoking and well-presented collection are taken forward.'

- Heather Norris Nicholson , Screen 56:3 Autumn 2015