“Orphans No More: Ephemeral Films and American Culture”
A Proposal for a Theme Issue of Journal of Popular Film and Television
From the early 1900s to the present day, millions of workers, students, corporate sales
employees, and members of civic organizations have viewed nonfiction films and videos at
school, at the office, in church basements, on television and at their local theater. Ephemeral
and Orphan films refer to a wide range of non-Hollywood film genres, including but not limited
to: management and sales training, mental hygiene, science, travel and religious education
films. These films were mostly produced and funded by corporate, governmental or private
institutions and although often shown as shorts in theatres or on television in the early years,
without the provenance of the Hollywood factory system they have received minimal scholarly
attention. We propose a Journal of Popular Film and Television theme issue that addresses the
ephemeral/orphan film as a newly emerging field of research in the fields of Film and Video
Studies, Communication, Cultural Studies, and American Studies.
We welcome a variety of historical, analytical and critical approaches to this subject.
Contributions to this special issue might focus on industrial, educational or corporate films and
videos by answering any of the following questions:
* How do orphan films utilize the styles of popular film and television genres, including:
animation, film-noir, exploitation and serials, and to what end?
* How has the documentary film, which historically has shared similar funding, exhibition and
distribution venues, intersected with the forms and functions of ephemeral films?
* What has been the relationship between Hollywood and the industrial, educational,
governmental or civic structures of ephemeral production? What can we learn about the
careers of stars, directors, cinematographers and other personnel who have worked in both
* How do industrial, educational and scientific films and videos add to our understanding of the
strategies and ideologies of governmental, corporate, and educational organizations?
* How have industrial, educational, corporate and scientific films and videos helped to shape
the construction of American identity in terms of class, race, gender and sexual orientation?
Other topics to be explored might include the following:
* Critical analysis of individual films and videos
* Histories of early industrial, corporate or educational film companies
* The uses of industrial, corporate, educational and scientific films and
videos as primary source documents for historians in various fields.
* Industrial, educational, corporate and scientific films and videos
as a record of fashions, trends and popular ideas.
* The aesthetics of the orphan film
Please address any questions or submissions to Heide Solbrig at
[log in to unmask] Submissions should be limited to twenty-five pages,
double-spaced, MLA style. The submission deadline is 1 September 2008. This special issue
will be guest edited by Elizabeth Heffelfinger, Faye Riley, Robert Goff and Heide Solbrig in
conjunction with the Journal of Popular Film and Television.
Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite