2020 Paris Conference (Online)

Partner Archives: Paris (France): Cinémathèque française and Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé

Crafts, Trades, and Techniques of Early Cinema

In November 2020, almost 125 years after the Lumière brothers projected their first motion picture at the Grand Café in Paris (December 28, 1895), Domitor is proud to hold its first virtual conference. The conference features more than 50 Domitor member participants. Starting on Nov. 2 with two weeks of pre-recorded presentations, as well as screenings and other attractions from our archive partners, Cinémathèque française and Fondation Jérôme-Seydoux Pathé, the conference will culminate with a series of Live Discussions Nov. 17-20, and a General Assembly and Virtual Cocktail on Nov. 19!

We hope you will join us! The conference is free and open to all.


Paris Travel Information (ARCHIVE, the conference is now online) >>

The Call for Papers

Download the CFP in pdf >>

Crafts and Technologies of Early Cinema: An International Graduate Workshop

ONLINE, 2021

Call for participants >>

On the 125th anniversary of the first projection of Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon (1895), this 16th international conference turns its attention to all that occurs behind the factory doors: that is, the crafts, trades, and techniques that, while not always represented on screen, shape our experience of it.

Long part of Domitor’s mission, this reevaluation of the skills and practices that defined the cinema in its early decades aims to gain a better understanding of the medium in its varied industrial and professional aspects. The art, techniques, and gestures of craftspersons – such as performers, camera operators, editors, directors, designers, engineers, projectionists, programmers, and critics – like those of the factory or laboratory worker, had to be developed in their new specificity and in relation to existing cultural and technological forms.

We are interested in discovering how the industrialization of cinema, professionalization of workers, and standardization of techniques, alongside developing technologies, led to the creation (or at times, the diversion or subversion) of norms, legitimizing certain skills, crafts and techniques at the expense of others. Such fluctuating practices and professions, and their accompanying discourses and representations, merit further historical inquiry across hierarchies, divisions of labor, and lines of class, gender, race, ethnicity, region, and nation.

We welcome proposals engaging with the widest possible range of methodologies, objects, and case studies that shed light on various aspects of crafts, trades, and film techniques in the early years of cinema.

Possible topics include:

  • new theorizations of and new approaches to craft, trades, gestures, and techniques
  • neglected and/or forgotten crafts, trades and techniques: lenscrafters, equipment distributors, colorists, editors/cutters, ushers and cashiers, barkers, benshi and other bonimenteurs, travel lecturers, publicity agents, handbook/manual writers, venue managers, industrial camera units, professional societies
  • exchanges between professions: inventors, engineers, manufacturers, users of technology
  • professionalization across intermedial networks: actors, costume and set designers, lighting technicians, lanternists, accompanists, critics
  • tools, techniques and skills inherited from pre-existing forms like magic lantern shows, vaudeville, circus; and the process through which new professions and trades developed and became autonomous from antecedents of cinema
  • professionalization and training through studios, laboratories, schools, manuals
  • working environments of early cinema and their ecologies of labor: studios, labs, projection rooms, film exchanges, etc.
  • infrastructures of professional practice, such as department positions, production contracts, the physical circulation of trade journals, the emergence of guilds and collective bargaining; architectures or organization of actors consortia, editors guilds, rental exchanges, and exhibition venues; immigration movements and labor; the division of labor, and the rates at which it progressed in different countries; the extraction, delivery and consumption of resources and energy
  • backgrounds, methods, and itineraries of inventors, manufacturers, designers, performers, projectionists, programmers, distributors, exhibitors
  • appropriation and repurposing of technology and techniques beyond prescribed norms and use (including in amateur and avant-garde practices)
  • discourses on and representations of professions and techniques in the press and in the films themselves, early historiographies of professions

We also are interested in papers that examine the history and legacy of early cinema’s place beyond the temporal frame of 1890 through 1915. As cinema developed unevenly across the globe, we welcome papers that take an expansive view of early cinema in relation to crafts, trades, and techniques.

Proposal Submission Process

Send proposals to domitor2020@gmail.com no later than September 22, 2019. Questions about the submission process should also be sent to that address. Proposals for individual presentations should be no longer than 300 words, plus a bibliography of three to five sources, and a brief biographical statement. Proposals may be written in either English or French. Only papers written in one of those two languages can be presented at the conference. Conference papers should be no longer than 3,000 words and must fit within a 20-minute presentation time (including audiovisual materials). Conference participants may be asked to submit final drafts by 20 May 2020 to allow for translation.

Proposals for pre-constituted panels of three participants will also be considered; such proposals should be submitted by the panel chair and consist of the collected individual paper proposals in addition to a brief rationale for the panel.

While membership in Domitor is not required to submit a proposal, anyone presenting a paper at the conference must be a member: domitor.org/membership/